THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales

This review will be unusually brief, as the feelings of intrigue and mystery created by Philip Pullman’s masterful reimagining of the fairy tale is better experienced than described. This is theatre-in-the-round at its best, with characters weaving in and out of the clusters of audience members scattered throughout the perfectly eerie performance spaces. The performers’ fluid transition from narration to acting creates a seamless chronicle that flows at a good pace. This pace is what makes the minimalist storyline fly, unencumbered by the trappings of modern storytelling like backstory and description. To borrow from Einstein, storytelling “should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. Suffice it to say that, of the five stories, the ones you think you know beforehand you’ll see in a new light, and the ones you hadn’t known existed previously – here I am specifically thinking of the half-man half-hedgehog who rides on the back of a cockerel, playing his bagpipes – will be left engrained in your memory. Get yourself down to the Shoreditch Town Hall basement, and let yourself be carried away by the ambience, the acting, and above all the reinvention of stories handed down generation to generation.

Continues until 24 April, book here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.

The Wind in the Willows, Duchess Theatre

At Christmas many charming productions reinstate themselves after their summer hibernation. One such show is the Royal Opera House‘s ‘The Wind in the Willows‘ which is currently enjoying a run at its new home, The Duchess Theatre. This short show was first performed in the Linbury Theatre in 2002, and after four sold-out runs has now transferred to London’s glittering West End.

Kenneth Grahame’s popular tale is loved by both young and old. Originally written for his son (known affectionately as ‘Mouse’), it was the author’s only lasting literary success. Often realised on stage, this production, directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett, combines dance, music, puppetry and theatre.

The famed national treasure Tony Robinson acts as Kenneth Grahame and is a wise and animated storyteller from start to finish. He follows Ratty, Badger, Mole, and Toad on their adventures on the riverbank. Cris Penfold is wonderfully manic as Toad of Toad Hall and Clemmie Sveaas is particularly endearing as the timid but thoughtful Mole.

The light and lyrical music is written by Martin Ward in the style of George Butterworth, with folky melodies that perfectly evoke the atmosphere of the tranquil river bank, and faster passages for the more frantic scenes.

This production of The Wind in the Willows is an enjoyable show for all the family – escape the cold streets of London and take a trip down the river with Ratty and friends.

The Wind in the Willows continues until February 1st 2014, more information and book here.

Things to do in Tiverton

Tiverton lies in a lovely area of Devon, easily reached from London Paddington with the speedy First Great Western Trains and ideal for a family weekend away.  Here are five of the top things to do and see for the perfect Tiverton trip:

Knightshayes Court – National Trust

A Gothic mansion from the Victorian era, this National Trust property has some of the best gardens in Devon with over a thousand unique plant species. The rich décor of the mansion itself makes it worth a trip in the cold winter months as well. Nice tearooms in the old stables and orangery. Kids visiting with an adult have free entry.

Tiverton Canal Co

The last horse-drawn barge in the south-west, you can float along the Grand Western Canal in style. There’s also plenty of other things to do on the canal, including boats and kayaks for hire, and the Ducks Ditty Café Bar where you can stop for a quick snack and hot drink. There’s a newly opened visitor centre at the canal basin too.

Bickleigh Mill

This scenic spot on the River Exe features three floors of shopping to satisfy your retail cravings. There is also a lovely bistro in the renovated Old Mill House which offers anything from a snack to a 4-course celebratory dinner and a great Sunday roast. The outdoor waterside gardens are lovely during the summer, and the stream flowing through the centre of the building is a point of curiosity.

Tiverton Museum of Mid Devon Life

This family friendly museum has much to offer. Packed full of objects and artefacts from the past to present day, and with lots of child-oriented exhibits, it is well worth a visit. Longlisted by the Daily Telegraph for Family Museum of the Year in 2012.

Yearlstone Vineyard

A huge selection of coffee blends as well as homegrown wines makes Yearlstone’s café a great stop any time of day. Currently hosting an art exhibition by a local artist too. You can pick up a leaflet with a guided walk through the (hilly!) vineyard. Amazing views down the River Exe when the mist rises.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with First Great Western trains.

Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at or 08457 000125.