Category Archives: Theatre

Theatre Review – Romeo & Juliet

While I had majored in Literature during my Junior College (High School) days, the text I read for my syllabus didn’t expose me much to Shakespeare. In fact, the only text I had read through and through was King Lear, with only excerpts from other masterpieces such as Hamlet, Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While Romeo and Juliet have now been typecast in the contemporary English language as archetypal young lovers, I had not read once the tragedy that told the tale of a sweet forbidden love. If there was any association at all with me and the brilliant text that the bard had written over four centuries ago, it would be that I had visited Verona once before, touring Juliet’s House, the site where the famous balcony scene was filmed for Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film adaptation of the tragedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles.

Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy

Juliet’s Balcony in Verona, Italy

With news that this could be the last Shakespeare In The Park event for many years to come, I thought it will be worth taking some time out from my hectic schedule to go catch the play. Shakespeare In The Park is a term used for outdoor festivals featuring productions from none other than the bard himself. Before this year’s staging of Romeo & Juliet, this event had been presented in Singapore 8 times prior by the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT), with Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice among its mainstage repertoire. The event is normally marketed with a carnival-like atmosphere, where one can bring in your own picnic basket and enjoy Shakespeare under the moonlight with your family, friends and loved ones.

Picnic Basket by Official Partner Providore - I did pretty well myself, making smoked salmon canapé, german sausages and a bottle of Malbec for me and my date

Picnic Basket by Official Partner Providore –
I did pretty well myself, making smoked salmon canapé, german sausages and a bottle of Malbec for me and my date

I picked up my lovely date at City Hall before making the short walk over to Fort Canning Park. Despite having arrived more than an hour before the opening, there was a long queue already at the park’s entrance waiting to enter the event premises. I was also worried about the dark clouds and faint whispers of thunder heard in the background as the show would be cancelled in the event of adverse weather. My worries were however unfounded as the skies soon cleared and the play commenced on time as members of the audience cosied up and settled down with their picnic essentials.

The audience settling down as the skies cleared

The audience settling down as the skies cleared

Gaurav Kripalani, SRT's Artistic Director, addresses the crowd before the start of the play

Gaurav Kripalani, SRT’s Artistic Director, addresses the crowd before the start of the play

With its contemporary take on the famous classical text, the first acts of the play may come off as confusing for the audience. Instead of expecting the cast to be in Elizabethan outfits, the cast are dressed instead in modern clothing such as hoodies, sweatshirts and tailored western suits. Modern modes of transport such as motorbikes are featured, while swordfights were replaced with tussles that involved batons, guns and kickboxing. While it is good that art moves along with the times, such modifications seek to cause more confusion than order. This is especially so when most of the dialogue used were kept true to the original text.

SRT's modern take on Romeo & Juliet

SRT’s modern take on Romeo & Juliet

While the production preserved the compelling plot and powerful script, me and my date can’t stop feeling that the cast were suffering from split personality or some form of identity disorder. The language used did not quite gel with the stage setting and avant-garde backdrop. Nonetheless, the cast did a pretty decent job at portraying their respective characters. The two stars of the show are no other than Thomas Pang and Cheryl Tan, both who are taking on a major production of Shakespeare for the very first time. Pang manages to depict the rash, impulsive, and at times foolish (but romantic) Romeo that Shakespeare had envisioned him to be, while Tan manages to personify the subtle wantonness that a young and hormone-raging Juliet possesses. Daniel Jenkins, as one of the most experienced member of the cast, also put in a credible shift as Friar Laurence, his self-flagellation scene perhaps being one of the darkest and outstanding moments of the play.

Cheryl Tan as Juliet

Cheryl Tan as Juliet

Despite my misgivings over the modern direction of the play, I must however admit that the set design is one of my favourite among the various stage performances I’ve seen thus far. The multiple sets of stairs, along with various secret entrances and light effects, makes this set a truly unique and memorable one that will etch in the minds of audiences for time to come. That said, I did experience somewhat of an internal struggle during Act II, Scene II, as they played out the now famous balcony scene without the set having any form of semblance of an actual balcony. As much as I liked this new set design, some things classic just cannot be changed.

SRT Presents - Romeo & Juliet

SRT Presents – Romeo & Juliet

Overall, SRT’s 2016’s edition of Shakespeare In The Park manages to tell the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet, two star-crossed lovers embroiled in a tale of sweet forbidden love, in what I would label as a modern dystopian Verona. For a truly Shakespearean experience, I would suggest catching a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, or at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-Upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s birthplace in the English Midlands. But if you are looking for an extravagant evening to impress your significant other, why not come to Fort Canning and spread your picnic blanket under the stars and relish in one of the greatest love stories ever told? Canapés, a bottle of red and Shakespeare for company would no doubt be a memorable and romantic evening for all lovebirds out there. Do catch it before Shakespeare In The Park’s final curtain call.

The cast taking in the plaudits at the Curtain Call

The cast taking in the plaudits at the Curtain Call

★★★☆☆Event Details

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Theatre Review – Chinglish [Sold Out]

I first came across the term Chinglish during a business module class at NBS where my professor was trying to illustrate the importance of international business communication in a dynamic and fast changing business landscape. Since then, instances of Chinglish have been a source of amusement for me, with bad translation and incorrect usage of grammar causing me to break out in hilarious fits of laughter. When Pangdemonium announced that they will be doing David Henry Hwang’s critically acclaimed comedy, I must admit I was pretty hyped. Though I’ve yet to see the play, given the accolades it received at Broadway (where I’m assuming the audience would be less familiar with the East-West divide), I would believe that it should fare even better in a multicultural society like ours, where even our minority communities are able to understand basic phrases of Mandarin and dialects.

Chinglish - by David Henry Hwang

Chinglish – by David Henry Hwang

Just after the conclusion of The LKY Musical, I took advantage of the early bird offer to purchase a pair of tickets for Chinglish at a 15% discount. I had originally planned to ask a special somebody to catch the comedy together, hoping that it would provide her with some respite from her demanding workload back at school, while I might have an opportunity to improve my standing as a potential date candidate of hers one day. However, heaven’s will dictates that that was not to be, and I was left dateless for the afternoon matinée. I did however win two additional tickets later at a contest by Raffles City Singapore (lucky me), where I was helping out with SATS’ sales of Singapore Airlines Mooncakes at the Market Place. With four tickets now on hand, I decided to forgo any chance of a dreamy romantic date and bring my family for the play instead.

I won two extra tickets to Chinglish! Courtesy of Raffles City Singapore

I won two extra tickets to Chinglish!
Courtesy of Raffles City Singapore

Anyway, Chinglish serves as Pangdemonium’s concluding production for its 2015 Season. It is their first foray into a bilingual play, and Guo Liang’s Singapore theatre debut. The cast included theatre veterans such as Adrian Pang, Daniel Jenkins and Matt Grey, with Audrey Luo and Oon Shu An rounding up the remaining of the highly talented cast. The play opens with Daniel Jenkins’ character (Daniel Cavanaugh) giving a presentation to fellow businessmen about the perils of doing business in China, as well as conquering the differences in the English-Mandarin language barrier. The scene then changes to Cavanaugh’s first experience in China, where he is attempting to conduct business in Guiyang. There, he learns from his “consultant” (Matt Grey as Peter Timms) about guanxi, or forming a network of mutually beneficial relationships, and so begins his adventures in the capital of Guizhou province.

The cast of Chinglish - Making light of the Haze Situation

The cast of Chinglish – Making light of the Haze Situation

Daniel Jenkins and Matt Grey both put in credible efforts in their respective characters, with the latter having started his pre-production preparations by taking Mandarin lessons a whole year before the show opens. Pang also put in a fine performance as Minister Cai; his mannerisms of a typical Chinese businessman and his surprising accurate enunciation of Mandarin taking much of the plaudits. Audrey Luo was a hint of fresh air, playing three different bungling Chinese business translators, yet able to represent the same nucleus of incompetence and blundering features of each individual character.

A scene from Pangdemonium's production of Chinglish. (From left) Daniel Jenkins, Matt Grey, Audrey Luo and Adrian Pang. Photo - ST

A scene from Pangdemonium’s production of Chinglish. (From left) Daniel Jenkins, Matt Grey, Audrey Luo and Adrian Pang. Photo – ST

The shining star of the performance for me, was probably Oon Shu An’s portrayal of the femme fatale, Vice-Minister Xi Yan. Yes, her delivery in Mandarin wasn’t as spot on as the seasoned speakers of the language such as Guo Liang and Audrey Luo, but she more than makes up for it with her appeal and comedic timing. She also wowed audiences with the more sensual side of hers, disrobing to just a set of sexy black lingerie in the bedroom scene that she shared with Daniel Jenkins. A truly alluring stage seductress gifted with grace, elegance and poise, yet at the same time, showcases enough aloofness and jest required of a comedy.

Guo Liang, Daniel Jenkins and the multi-talented Oon Shu An

Guo Liang, Daniel Jenkins and the multi-talented Oon Shu An

Other than the performance of the cast, I would like to also praise the set design. The set of Chinglish is one of the best I’ve seen, with a revolving stage floor that allows for a smooth transition from scene to scene while the backdrop is enhanced by multimedia screens that supports the already very impressive stage set.

The Cast and Creative Team behind Chinglish

The Cast and Creative Team behind Chinglish

On a whole, while Pangdemonium’s adaptation of David Henry Hwang’s play would probably not win us a Tony Award, it is still nonetheless a commendable effort by the hardworking and charming cast. Never have I felt so good to be lost in translation.

★★★★☆

Chinglish runs from 9th to 25th of October. For more information, visit http://pangdemonium.com/productions/chinglish.


Theatre Review – The LKY Musical

A lot of people have voiced their disapproval at the making of The LKY Musical and the period film 1965 just months after the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Many felt that doing so was an insult to the late Mr Lee, with entertainment companies accused of cashing in on his death. For me however, I felt that having such art productions is an honour and tribute to a great man that helped shaped modern Singapore. When the media first announced the production of the musical, I had set my mind to go catch it when it is released. However, some of the casting choices left me doubtful that the production would be a worthy one. While the cast includes theatre veterans such as Adrian Pang and Sebastian Tan, the casting of Sharon Au raised eyebrows due to her lack of experience in theatre as well as aptitude in singing. Many (including myself) felt that she did not have the necessary poise and finesse to pull off playing the late Mrs Lee née Kwa Geok Choo. So although I had bought tickets to the opening, I didn’t really have very high hopes for the production, especially when it is produced by a relative unknown theatre company – Metropolitan Productions.

1965 & The LKY Musical were released just months after the death of Mr Lee

1965 & The LKY Musical were released just months after the death of Mr Lee

My first thought after I caught the opening was that it was a good, not great production. Having already lowered my expectations, I must say that the final product was better than I had anticipated. That said, it must be noted that much of the play was carried by the brilliance of Pang, who played Mr Lee with much flair and grace, capturing the man’s fears, infuriation and unwavering desire for a better Singapore during the tumultuous times of pre-independence.

Adrian Pang was brillant in his portrayal of Mr Lee

Adrian Pang was brillant in his portrayal of Mr Lee

Au, on the other hand, while valiant in her efforts, was the cast’s weakest link, with her singing capabilities falling well short of the rest from the team. Even secondary characters such as Toh Chin Chye (played by Tan Shou Chen) and Goh Keng Swee (played by Edward Choy) sang with more gusto and better musical harmony. As the play wore on, it kind of felt that the writers had rewritten parts of the musical to accommodate Au, as her musical numbers were comparatively lesser to Pang’s, despite both actors given equal star billing.

Sharon Au as Madam Kwa and Adrian Pang as Mr Lee in The LKY Musical

Sharon Au as Madam Kwa and Adrian Pang as Mr Lee in
The LKY Musical

Other than Pang’s stirring performance, new-to-the-scene Benjamin Chow, who recently graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts, also put in a worthy and laudable performance for his portrayal as the musical’s anti-hero, Barisan Sosialis’ Lim Chin Siong. Alongside Pang, the two shared a chemistry that riveted throughout the play – not easy, when you consider that they were playing characters that were often at loggerheads with one another. In the space of just over two hours, the two have transitioned from quintessential BFFs to BFFNs. That said, the role of Lim was notably not consigned to being the prototypical baddie of a story. Lim was portrayed as a charismatic leader of the left-wing party, whom like Lee, had great hopes for Singapore. However, difference in ideology had forced them apart, bringing an end to what might be a harmonious political matrimony.

From quintessential BFFs to BFFNs

From quintessential BFFs to BFFNs

As the score goes, I do have an issue with it. Written and composed by Dick Lee, the musical score although charming, it does not entrance one enough to stick in your minds. I’m talking scores from productions where the musical numbers strikes the hearts (and ears) of the audience, with something so outstanding that it becomes synonymous with the production (cue Memory from Cats, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera from The Phantom of the Opera, and many more). The LKY Musical however, while pleasant, it was filled with non-memorable tunes and was largely forgotten once I stepped out of the MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.

Dick Lee was part of the creative team behind the production

Dick Lee was part of the creative team behind the production

On a whole, while the musical is a decent production, I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, though I would think it does enough justice to honour the legacy of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Personally, my favourite moment from the musical was Pang’s re-enactment of Mr Lee’s Proclamation of Singapore media conference in 1965. While the scene elicited some laughs from the audience (I honestly didn’t think that that was the intention of the production team – to create laughter in that scene), for me, it was an emotional and poignant reminder of a historic moment which Pang had managed to recreate. Playing such a multi-faceted character like Mr Lee is no mean feat, and Pang certainly did a commendable job. As for his co-star Au, while she bore the brunt of the criticisms, I do laud her effort and dedication to the role, having taking on method acting and staying on the set despite spraining her ankle on opening night.

Curtain Call (Photo Credits: METROPOLITAN PRODUCTIONS)

Curtain Call
(Photo Credits: METROPOLITAN PRODUCTIONS)

★★★☆☆


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… Europe (Part I) – Back “home” at Old Trafford, missing out on Hadrian’s Wall & being mesmerised by the Phantom of the Opera!

If you had read My footprints in… USA (Part I), you would have seen that I had mentioned that the trip to the States was likely to be the final time I could travel under SQ for free. However, that proved to be untrue, as I was able to fly under my dad’s umbrella for one final time, as long as my return was before I start working full-time or the day of my convocation (whichever is earlier). As such, I was able to fly Singapore Airlines for my grad trip – a journey which will see me cover 5 countries in 24 days. Here’s Part I of My footprints in… Europe! and I hope you’ll enjoy the read!

Day 1 – 6 Jun – Bon Voyage!

As my departure was on a Saturday, the family was able to come send me off at the airport. This trip will be the first time that I’ll be travelling alone for an extended period, hence the mix of excitement and fear that was going through my mind as I waited to be checked-in by one of the SATS passenger services staff at T3. As the seconds ticked towards the scheduled time of departure, I bid my family farewell as I headed to the gate where the plane was parked. It has been quite awhile since I flew on a B777, with the last couple of long haul flights that I’ve been on being serviced by the A380 or the A330, and so was pretty hyped to be back on one of the most popular long-range jet airliners ever produced.

Flying to Manchester on Singapore Airlines

Flying to Manchester on Singapore Airlines

The flight time would take approximately 16 hours, with a layover at Munich. The first leg of the flight was pretty full, with many travellers using Munich as a hub to connect to other parts of Europe. The second leg, however, was quite empty, and I was able to have the entire row of seats to myself, giving me the opportunity to get some shut eye before I start my day in Manchester when my flight arrives in the morning.

Transit in Munich

Transit in Munich

Day 2 – 7 Jun – Tracing Back My Footsteps

I’ve been to Manchester once before, back in 2008 with my aunt, where we toured parts of the United Kingdom and Paris. With the U.K. and France both on my agenda again this time around, I was ready to retrace my footsteps, seeing the changes and/or simply reminisce on the wonderful memories of yesteryear.

Slice Of The Past - Manchester circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Manchester circa. 2008

Back in 2008, the metro system was not extended to Manchester Airport. Today, Manchester’s Metrolink has services that ply between the city centre and the airport, providing much convenience for the journey to my accommodation for the night. Alighting at Old Trafford Metrolink Station, it took me about 10 minutes to walk to Hotel Football where I will be staying. While there are many cheaper alternatives around the city centre, I had intentionally choose to stay at Hotel Football, given the rave reviews of its overlooking views of Old Trafford and superb service. Furthermore, the hotel is owned by the members of The Class of ’92, and I was crossing my fingers that I might bump into one of them during my short stay there.

Hotel Football - The Brainchild of The Class of '92

Hotel Football – The Brainchild of The Class of ’92

As I arrived way before the time for check-in, I left my bags at the baggage room and headed off to the city centre in search for food and to explore the sights. My first stop was at Red’s True Barbeque, a BBQ restaurant at the recommendation by a friend of mine. Located at 22 Lloyd Street, Red’s True Barbeque is famous for its signature Donut Burger. Consisting of two flame grilled beef patties, melted cheese, smoked bacon and onions set between two glazed donuts, it is an unique take on both the donuts and burgers. While the first couple of mouths were good, I soon found the course to be quite jelak, though I do have to declare that the accompanying sides (a spicy bacon-wrapped jalapeño and sweet potato fries) and the 5 different dipping sauces are really good. Better than the donut burger itself I’d say.

Red's True Barbeque's Signature Donut Burger

Red’s True Barbeque’s Signature Donut Burger

5 Superb Dipping Sauces To Go With Your Meal

5 Superb Dipping Sauces To Go With Your Meal

After brunch, I walked around the city centre, retracing my footsteps from the last trip, popping by places such as Town Hall, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Cathedral and Manchester Arndale. I also visited the National Football Museum (free entry), where exhibits featuring both British and international players were on display. The museum is said to hold the world’s greatest football collection, with over 140,000 items currently in their care. One can discover and relive moments such as Pelé lifting the Jules Rimet trophy and Giggs scoring against Arsenal during that FA Cup Semi Final Replay as well as learn about football hooliganism in the United Kingdom.

The National Football Museum, where over 140,000 items are currently in their care - Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The National Football Museum, where over 140,000 items are currently in their care – Photo Credits: Wikipedia

Chinatown was my final stop for the day before I made my way back to Hotel Football to finalise my check-in. Although it has only been less than 48 hours since I left Singapore, I was already craving for Asian food, so being at Chinatown was a reprieve and I promptly ordered a roast duck rice box from one of the restaurants for dinner that night.

Slice Of The Past - Manchester Chinatown circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Manchester Chinatown circa. 2008

Back at Hotel Football, I couldn’t wait to check out the facilities and the views from my room. As a lifelong United fan, I couldn’t ask for anything more than the magnificent sight of the stadium that would greet me in the morning. Other highlights includes the interior decor, with montages of football legends, that cover the walls of the common areas within the building. Also, the rooftop pitch, which is aptly called “Heaven”, is decked out in astroturf barricaded with safety glass, allowing hotel guests to have a kickabout alongside a panoramic view of Old Trafford. Despite not having brought boots, I couldn’t resist in some target practice, where I started my own little crossbar challenge, lofting balls towards the goal post though I’ve to admit I was a little rusty at this!

The view of Old Trafford from my room

The view of Old Trafford from my room

Target Practice at Heaven

Target Practice at Heaven

After sweating it out, I headed back to my room where I cooled off under the rainforest shower, which comes fully equipped with bespoke class of ’92 toiletries, before tucking into my roasted duck rice box dinner and then to bed, looking forward to the next day where I’ll be doing the stadium and museum tour.

Each room came with a set of class of '92 toiletries

Each room came with a set of class of ’92 toiletries

Day 3 – 8 Jun – Panic at Manchester!

I was only due to head down to Edinburgh at midnight, so not wanting the burden of dragging my luggage around, I left my bags with the concierge at the hotel so I could continue the day hands free. The first stop was just a stone’s throw away at Old Trafford where I’ll be doing the stadium and museum tour. With my Maybank Manchester United Card, I was able to purchase the tour tickets at a discount. I had visited the stadium the last time I was here in Manchester, but was unable to do the tour as they were preparing the venue for a Champions League match the next day. This time round, with my visit during the off-season, there was no excuse for not doing the stadium tour. The tour lasted approximately an hour, during which we covered areas such as the dressing room, press room, VIP lounge and the technical area. After the tour, I grabbed lunch at the Red Café, where I had a Ribs & Wings Combo, which was served with chips and onion rings. While the meal was average, the service and restaurant setting was top-notch. Not only were the servers attentive to my needs and requirements, I was also impressed by the dining sets used at the café. I continued with the museum tour and the Megastore after lunch, where I bought myself some souvenirs of my beloved red devils.

Glory Glory Man United!

Glory Glory Man United!

The dining sets at Red Café features current players as well as red legends - Photo Credits: Manchester United

The dining sets at Red Café features current players as well as red legends – Photo Credits: Manchester United

Slice Of The Past - Stretford End circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Stretford End circa. 2008

Following the conclusion of my Old Trafford experience, I took a leisure stroll to the Imperial War Museum North (IWM North), which was about 15 minutes away from Old Trafford by foot. The IWM North is part of the Imperial War Museums, which records all conflicts that the British and Commonwealth forces had taken part in since 1914. One of the highlights of IWM North is their Big Picture Show, whereby moving images and photographs are projected digitally onto the 27-foot high walls of the Main Exhibition Space, accompanied with a state of the art surround system that immerses visitors into the experiences of conflict and warfare.

IWM North's Big Picture Show

IWM North’s Big Picture Show

As it was still quite early when I left IWM North, I decided to walk along the Manchester Ship Canal towards Salford Quays where MediaCityUK was located. The 200-acre mixed used property was opened only in 2011, giving the dockyards there a new facelift and more vibrancy. What was supposed to be a leisure stroll around the wharf, quickly became a nerve-wracking ordeal. I had left my phone in flight mode for the day in order to preserve its battery in light of the overnight journey into Edinburgh. Whist at MediaCityUK, I decided to tap into the free Wi-Fi that was available to access my social media platforms and to check my emails. However, I got a shock when I was connected to the hotspot – I was bombarded with numerous missed calls and text messages from my family back home, asking me to check my coach ticket to Edinburgh. I had apparently booked my ticket for May instead of June! Realising my error, I quickly rushed back to the hotel to see if I could arrange for an alternative into Edinburgh without jeopardizing my travel schedule. It was too late for me to head down to National Express’ ticketing office located in the city centre, so my best bet was for the concierge at Hotel Football to help me book the next available coach/train to the capital city of Scotland. Luckily for me, the staff at Hotel Football were very helpful in offering their assistance in helping me arrange the necessary required for me to get into Edinburgh without any other additional delays. Otherwise, I’ll most likely be stranded in Manchester for the night for sure.

View of IWM North from MediaCityUK

View of IWM North from MediaCityUK

My new reservation will see me leave Manchester only at 0110 hours. With a couple of hours to spare, I decided to grab dinner at Cafe Football before heading to the coach station. Dining at Cafe Football is an experience in itself, with a diverse, rounded menu and subtle nods to the beautiful game. The menu is designed by Michelin star chef Michael Wignall, who is also a creative director at the Hotel. Items such as The Wizard (Welsh Lamb Burger) and El Clásico (Pizza topped with Chorizo Sausages) which honours Giggs and the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is a fun take on the traditional menu format. I ordered the Nev’s Noodle Pot, which consisted of egg noodles, roasted chicken, mushrooms and bok choi, served with a pot of broth/tea/sauce (which I must say was a little confusing as to how the meal was intended to be consumed) and ending the meal with a cup of hot chocolate finished with a latte art piece featuring the trademark of Cafe Football.

Nev's Noodle Pot from Cafe Football

Nev’s Noodle Pot from Cafe Football

I marked the end of my stay in Manchester with a quick farewell to Old Trafford on my way to the coach station at Chorlton Street. Looking at the “Manchester United” neon lights light up in the dusk of the evening light, I know I’ll be back at the Stretford End one day, hopefully fulfilling my dream of watching a match alongside the Old Trafford faithful.

Goodbye Manchester!

Goodbye Manchester!

Day 4 – 9 Jun – Missing out on Hadrian’s Wall

I arrived into Edinburgh a little behind schedule because of an incident on the coach which required intervention from security personnel. That said, I still got into Scotland way earlier than the check-in time for The Carlton Hotel where I will be staying. I left my bags with the reception and began planning for the four days that I’ll be spending in Edinburgh. My original plan was to explore the city on Day 1, travel down to the Anglo-Scottish border to see Hadrian’s Wall on Day 2, visit Loch Ness on Day 3, and cover Edinburgh Castle on my final day before heading down South to London.

The Carlton Hotel

The Carlton Hotel

However, when I tried to make arrangements for the trip to the border, I was informed by the concierge at the hotel that all tours to Hadrian’s Wall for the week were fully booked. One alternative was to go to St Andrews (the university town where Prince William met the current Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton) or to just split whatever I had on the agenda for Day 1 and 4 into three slower paced days. As I had not much of an interest in visiting Fife, I decided that I’d rather spend more time exploring the sights in the city instead.

St Andrew's was a possible alternative to Hadrian's Wall, but I decided to give it a miss

St Andrew’s was a possible alternative to Hadrian’s Wall, but I decided to give it a miss

After finalizing the plans for the next couple of days, I headed out to explore the city of Edinburgh on my own. Much of the day was spent at Scott Monument, the Scottish National Gallery, St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, St Andrew Square as well as window shopping along Princes Street. I then proceeded to 10 to 10 Delhi (recommended by Jun Wen who had recently ended his exchange over there) for dinner. Located along Nicolson Street, 10 to 10 Delhi is a laid-back, quaint tea house that serves classic Indian dishes with a twist. It is also very student-friendly, as it offers discounts to diners who can produce a valid student ID. As I couldn’t decide on what to eat, I opted for the Mixed Meat Plate, which comprises of Pakora, Samosas, Chicken and Chana Masala Curry with Couscous and Naan. In addition, I also ordered a glass of their famous Mango Lassi, a cool, smooth and creamy concoction that was perfect for a warm summer day. The whole meal was a satisfying one, and value for money too, with the bill coming to less than £10.

Mixed Meat Platter and Mango Lassi from 10 to 10 Delhi

Mixed Meat Platter and Mango Lassi from 10 to 10 Delhi

Day 5 – 10 Jun – 21 Gun Salute and Meeting New People

Missing out on Hadrian’s Wall meant that I was able to shift my visit to Edinburgh Castle forward to today. Keen to avoid the crowd, I left The Carlton early to make my way to the castle via the Royal Mile, where I caught sight of St Giles’ Cathedral en route. Some quick information on Edinburgh Castle – Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which sits on Castle Rock (a volcano plug) at the head of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Although the site had been occupied by human civilization since the late Bronze Age, the earliest parts of the current castle was built only in the 12th century. Many battles and sieges were fought over control of the castle over the years, where it also serves as a royal residence to the royal family (although the Queen’s official residence in Scotland is The Palace of Holyroodhouse, and not Edinburgh Castle). Today, Edinburgh Castle is not only one of Scotland’s leading tourist attraction, but also serves as an officer’s mess, preserving a military presence within its walls since the Wars of Scottish Independence.

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

View of Edinburgh from Edinburgh Castle

With the guards from the Royal Regiment of Scotland

With the guards from the Royal Regiment of Scotland

Edinburgh Castle offers free guided tours that departs every half an hour or so. It was during the guided tour that I found out that there will be a 21 Gun Salute at noon to mark the birthday of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. So as opposed to just the One O’clock Gun that is fired daily (except on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day), visitors were treated to a total of 22 cannon fires instead. After covering the rest of the castle, I headed to Oink for lunch. Highly recommended by Jun Wen as well as many online reviewers, Oink specialises in Hog Roast Rolls – carved hog roast served in bread rolls and topped with relish, sauces or haggis. One can choose from three different sizes, The Piglet (£2.95), The Oink (£3.95) or The Grunter (£4.95). I bought a serving of The Oink with chilli relish and haggis. While I wasn’t exactly too overwhelmed by it, it was no doubt a cheap and value for money lunch option for travellers on a budget. Oh, and for those who don’t know what haggis is, it is a traditional Scottish delicacy made from sheep’s pluck (liver, lungs and heart), hence somewhat of an acquired taste. So for those not adventurous enough to have offal in their pulled pork sandwich, I would recommend topping their rolls with sage & onions and Oink’s deliciously addictive apple sauce.

Oink - Specialising in Delicious Scottish Hog Roasts

Oink – Specialising in Delicious Scottish Hog Roasts

I made my way to Calton Hill after lunch, where the Nelson and National Monuments were located. Included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the views of, and from, the hill are one to behold. It was at the National Monument of Scotland that I met the Drummonds, a family of five on holiday from the United States. It was a chance encounter; I had asked them for help to take a photo, and we began chatting from then on. We ended up exploring the hill together, and even went for a pint (or two) at a local pub. I had a great time with the family, and we exchanged contacts before we went our separate ways. Hopefully we’ll keep in touch with each other, and I’ll be more than willing to play host should they ever come visit Singapore in the future.

The National Monument of Scotland @ Calton Hill

The National Monument of Scotland @ Calton Hill

With the Drummonds

With the Drummonds

Day 6 – 11 Jun – Nessie Spotting and The Highlands of Scotland

I had booked myself on a day tour to Loch Ness & The Highlands of Scotland operated by Gray Line Tours. Picked up by the driver at about 0730, we drove north pass the town of Callander, Stirling before reaching our first stop of the day – Glen Coe. Often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland, Glen Coe is a glen of volcanic origins, located within the Scottish Highlands. While at Glen Coe, our guide shared with us the story of the famous 1692 MacDonald massacre, which took place simultaneously in three settlements along the glen.

The Highlands of Scotland - Glen Coe

The Highlands of Scotland – Glen Coe

The next stop of the tour brought us to Fort Augustus, located at the south west end of Loch Ness. With a population of less than 1000, the economy of Fort Augustus is highly reliant on the tourism dollar. Lunch was a simple affair of a sandwich takeout from a convenience store as I strolled along the Caledonian Canal watching the sailboats navigate the locks along the loch. I then went on a cruise equipped with a sonar underwater imaging system that provides information on what really lies at the bottom of Loch Ness.

Fort Augustus Canal Locks

Fort Augustus Canal Locks

Loch Ness

Loch Ness

After Loch Ness, we returned south towards Edinburgh, taking in the magnificent views of Loch Laggan as we passed through the district of Lochaber. We then stopped for a quick photo call at the Commando Memorial, which offers views of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr before reaching the picturesque resort town of Pitlochry, Perth. While at Pitlochry, I had ice-cream with Miki, a Japanese exchange student whom I befriended on the cruise at Loch Ness. She was a little shy at first, but after talking a little bit more, we started easing into longer conversations as we shared about our experiences travelling alone in Europe.

The view seen from The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

The view seen from The Commando Memorial, Spean Bridge

It wasn’t long before we had to re-board our coach for our drive back to Edinburgh. Arriving back into the city just before 8 at night, I bought a simple takeaway dinner on the way back to the hotel after a long day out Nessie spotting and admiring the beautiful Highlands of Scotland.

Day 7 – 12 Jun – Holyrood Palace and Conquering Arthur’s Seat

After a good night’s rest, I was ready to explore the rest of Edinburgh city before heading to London at night. There were only two things left on my agenda – Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat. As mentioned earlier, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, it sits directly on the opposite direction of Edinburgh Castle. The Palace, being the official residence of the monarch in Scotland, has hosted a number of foreign visitors, with Pope Benedict XVI the most recent high profile dignitary to visit in 2010. While at the Palace, one can also read about the life of one of the most famous residents of the Palace of Holyroodhouse – Mary, Queen of Scots, who acceded the throne of Scotland at the tender age of only six days old.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse - Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The Palace of Holyroodhouse – Photo Credits: Wikipedia

The Gardens of Holyroodhouse

The Gardens of Holyroodhouse

Leaving the Palace of Holyroodhouse, I walked towards Queen’s Drive in order to get to Holyrood Park, where Arthur’s Seat was located. Arthur’s Seat, at over 800ft high, is possibly the highest point in Edinburgh, thereby providing excellent panoramic views of the city. It is a relative easy climb for beginners, with a simple gradual ascent, bar the last couple of feet to the summit, which is a little steep and requires careful navigation. I completed the climb up in a little over an hour and was rewarded with one of the best views of Edinburgh one will ever get. Sitting right at the top, I held a mini picnic of juice and Biscoff cookies, while enjoying the breeze, sunshine and city sights.

Climbing to the peak of Arthur's Seat

Climbing to the peak of Arthur’s Seat

I timed my descent to avoid the dinnertime crowd as I went in search for food before my long journey to London. Craving for Chinese food once again, I checked the Edinburgh visitor map/guide for any offers/discounts that I could make use of. Saigon Saigon Chinese Restaurant, situated in the heart of Edinburgh, offers a 10% discount to their à la carte menu for diners holding an Edinburgh visitor map. Furthermore, with its location not far away from The Carlton, I decided to make Saigon Saigon the place where I’d settle my dinner needs. I had a Seafood Udon fried with XO Sauce, which was served with many succulent prawns and plump and juicy scallops. However, it still lacked a tad bit of wok hei that defines a good Cantonese stir-fry. My verdict for the meal at Saigon Saigon is that while it is good, it is not great enough to be memorable. It certainly can satisfy one’s craving for Chinese food, but having had so many good zi char over the years, it is not quite among the same standards.

Day 8 – 13 Jun – “Seduced” by the Phantom at a Cold, Wet & Gloomy London

After 9 hours on the road, I finally arrived into London’s Victoria Coach Station in the dawn of the morning. Despite it being summer, I was greeted by the most typical of London weather – dark clouds and rain – the type of conditions that would plague my entire trip from here onwards. Nonetheless, I was not gonna let a little rain derail my travel schedule, and so went ahead with my plans for the day. First leaving my bags at the B&B’s (once again too early for check-in), I headed out to the travel information centre at Victoria to book a tour for the next day as well as to purchase an Oyster Card for my travel needs whilst in London. I then proceeded to Westminster, where I saw the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, before walking along the Thames towards Tower Bridge, as I passed by other landmarks such as The London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London Bridge, among many others.

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe

Slice Of The Past - Tower Bridge circa. 2008

Slice Of The Past – Tower Bridge circa. 2008

Tower Bridge Today

Tower Bridge Today

London was part of my itinerary during my last trip to the U.K., so many of the places of interest I’ve visited and done before. However, one new addition to the London’s skyline is The Shard, which was opened only in 2013. Standing at over 1,000ft high, it is one of the tallest buildings in the world. I had originally planned to go to the observation deck (the View from the Shard), but decided against the idea, knowing that the dark skies would limit my experience 70 floors above the ground.

The Shard© - Changing the outlook of London's skyline

The Shard© – Changing the outlook of London’s skyline

As I had not had a single bite since my meal at Saigon Saigon, I decided to go for an earlier lunch at Rock and Sole Plaice, a Fish and Chips eatery at 47 Endell Street that I had previously visited. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal of Haddock & Chips as well as the London Pride that I ordered. Easily one of the best fish and chips around, I exceptionally liked the simplicity of the place and the wide range of fish choices one can opt from.

Fish & Chips from Rock and Sole Plaice

Fish & Chips from Rock and Sole Plaice

Leaving Rock and Sole Plaice, I took the tube to Pimlico as I headed back to the B&B to freshen up before the highlight of the day – Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Truth be told, I had wanted to catch Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre instead, but was unable to get the tickets. That said, The Phantom of the Opera remains one of theatre’s most mesmerising and unforgettable productions, with jaw-dropping scenery and breathtaking special effects. Despite being in its 29th year of production, the musical continues to captivate audiences around the world, cementing its status as one of the most beautiful and spectacular productions in history. I was seated up at the balcony, which somewhat restricted my view, but was no doubt still entranced by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s amazing score and the performances by The Phantom, Christine, Raoul and co. Judging from the cheers and applause from the crowd, “The Phantom of the Opera“, “The Music of the Night” and “Masquerade/Why So Silent” are undoubtedly the most popular numbers from the blockbuster production, and I no doubt enjoyed the entire of the approximately two and a half hours long performance. Only qualms I have is not having a date to make the night out in the West End of London a perfect one.

The Phantom and the stunningly beautiful Christine

The Phantom and the stunningly beautiful Christine

Day 9 – 14 Jun – Stratford, Oxford and the Cotswolds

The day started early with a pickup at Victoria for a day trip out to the city of Oxford. The tour, by GoldenTours, will first begin at Warwick Castle, where one can be a part of Britain’s greatest Medieval experience. The castle is famous for being the home of one of the world’s largest siege engines. Built in 2005, the trebuchet is an authentic recreation of one of the most deadly military catapults of all time. The attraction is still being fired from time to time and is the highlight of most visitors to the castle every time it launches.

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

View of the Trebuchet on top of the castle walls

View of the Trebuchet on top of the castle walls

The next stop of the tour is one of my favourites of my entire trip. Leaving Warwick Castle, we headed for Stratford-upon-Avon, which is famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. I visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace at Henley Street, where it is now a museum which offers a tantalising glimpse of Shakespeare’s early world. The adjacent Shakespeare Centre adds some drama to the visit with their own troupe of professional actors, where one can request excerpts from any of Shakespeare’s plays and watch the characters come alive in front of their very own eyes. I caught the brilliant cast do A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew, while I requested for King Lear (reliving my JC literature days), as the female lead re-enacted Cordelia’s famous “Unhappy that am I, I cannot heave” soliloquy from Act 1, Scene 1 of the famous tragedy. It amazes me as to how the actors can remember so many lines from so many of Shakespeare’s plays from the many impromptu requests from the audience. The “Bard of Avon” would certainly have been proud of his legacy.

Shakespeare's Birthplace at Henley Street

Shakespeare’s Birthplace at Henley Street

With the Amazing Actors from Shakespeare Aloud!

With the Amazing Actors from Shakespeare Aloud!

We then drove through the beautiful Cotswolds, enjoying views of the breathtaking countryside as we left the county of Warwickshire for the city of Oxford. There, we embarked on a walking tour of the city, following the footsteps of Oxford’s students, as we strolled through the courtyards and cobbled lanes of the historic university town. GoldenTours and Gray Line has a partnership with Brasenose College to allow visitors free entry to the campus, where one can get to see the college dining halls, library and other facilities used by the college community. We also got to see one of the major locations for the Harry Potter films, as Oxford was used as a filming site for Hogwarts.

Radcliffe Camera - University of Oxford

Radcliffe Camera – University of Oxford

The tour then ended with a drive back into London Victoria, where I bought roasted chicken wings from Sainsbury’s for dinner. The chicken wings came as a huge surprise with them being really well marinated and absolutely delicious. It was also really cheap (can’t remember the exact price, but couldn’t have been more than £5 for 8 pieces (4 mid-joints + 4 drumlets)), and thus a perfect meal option for budget travellers out there.

Day 10 – 15 Jun – Buckingham Palace and Madame Tussauds

Given the fact that I had another long overnight coach journey to Paris at night, I had originally wanted to sleep in late after the long day out at Oxford the day before. However, with the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace beginning at 1100am, I had to abandon that plan in order to catch one of the must-sees in London. I had missed the ceremony the last time I was here due to adverse weather conditions (unsurprising, given it is London and during winter), so I was hoping I could catch at least a glimpse of the action this time round.

Slice Of The Past - Missing out on the Changing of the Guard back in 2008 due to bad weather

Slice Of The Past – Missing out on the Changing of the Guard back in 2008 due to bad weather

I checked-out from the B&B at about 10 in the morning, thinking that an hour’s head start would leave me in good stead to get into a prime position to see the changing of the Queen’s life guard. However, while walking along Buckingham Palace Road, I could see a throng of people already there surrounding the palace grounds waiting for the Horse and New Guards to arrive. In the end, I could only manage to squeeze myself somewhere along Buckingham Gate, with an obscured view of the procession.

The Victoria Memorial with Buckingham Palace in the background

The Victoria Memorial with Buckingham Palace in the background

Though a little disappointed at not being able to catch the entire changing of the Queen’s guard, I kept myself in high spirits knowing that I’ll be heading to Madame Tussauds next. Readers of the series will know that I’m a fan of the attraction, having been to the ones in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Las Vegas and more. While many of the wax figures are repetitive, they are still dressed differently from season to season, and each Madame Tussauds location has their own unique segments to differentiate itself from the rest of the franchise. Madame Tussauds London for example, has a segment dedicated to the royal family, with the waxworks of HRH Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge among others of the British Royal Family, as well as the Spirit of London ride, where visitors hop onto one of London’s famous taxicabs and take a journey through the capital’s history. My favourite figures would undoubtedly be those of British film royalty, such as Sir Patrick Stewart and Dames Helen Mirren & Judi Dench, as well as other British personalities like Emma Watson and Jessica Ennis-Hill.

The Royal Family at Madame Tussauds London

The Royal Family at Madame Tussauds London

After being in the company of stars, it was time to go grab a quick dinner before bidding goodbye to the United Kingdom as I made my way to the coach station for the 9 hour long journey to Paris via coach and ferry.

Last Thoughts - Old Trafford (Manchester), The Highlands of Scotland (Edinburgh) & Tower Bridge (London)

Last Thoughts – Old Trafford (Manchester), The Highlands of Scotland (Edinburgh) & Tower Bridge (London)

Click here for part II of the series: My footprints in… Europe Part II (Paris – The City of Romance)


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… USA (Part IV) Snowfall at the Big Apple & A Broadway Spectacular!

Day 14 – 4 Jan – Stranded at Newark

United was my original choice for my flight to New York as their arrival time fitted my schedule better. However, for some reason, I wasn’t able to complete the booking online as the system kept rejecting my billing address. As a result, the next best option was to fly by Virgin America once again. Given the 5 hour long transcontinental night flight, flying Virgin wasn’t a bad choice, given its purple coloured themed mood lighting, which was perfect for tugging passengers to sleep. I hadn’t actually planned to travel to New York, but since I had time before the new semester reopens, and with Bryan and Germaine (whom I was originally supposed to meet up in Berkeley) touring the east coast, I thought I could pay them a visit. Furthermore, they had rented accommodation via Airbnb, so I could crash in with them without having to find my own lodging arrangements. The only problems were that (1) The Airbnb rental was located at Staten Island, which meant I was better off flying into Newark, New Jersey, rather than JFK or LaGuardia; (2) Bryan and Germaine were coming into New York from Boston via the 7:45am coach, which meant that I would be stuck at Newark for (at least) a good 8 hours until they arrive into Manhattan.

The cabins in Virgin America features mood lighting

The cabins in Virgin America features mood lighting

I touched down in Newark at around 05:30am. With nothing to do, I loitered around the arrival hall, looking for information on New York while scouting for breakfast. With much time to spare, I tried to catch some sleep while waiting for time to pass, but the presence of hobos at the airport prevented me from doing so. For an international airport like EWR, I was pretty surprised that quite a number of homeless vagabonds used Newark as their roof over their heads.

I was stuck at Newark Liberty for at least 8 hours

I was stuck at Newark Liberty for at least 8 hours

Anyway, it was almost 03:00pm when Bryan and Germaine’s party arrived into New York. With Newark just a couple of miles away from our Airbnb lodging, it was decided that I should rendezvous with them at Staten Island directly, instead of making a pointless and expensive detour to downtown Manhattan to intercept them. It cost me 70USD (including tolls and tips) for the cab ride from Newark to Staten Island, which was pretty expensive given the relatively short ride (20 minutes).

It was easier coming in to Staten Island from Newark, NJ, rather than JFK or LaGuardia in NY

It was easier coming in to Staten Island from Newark, NJ, rather than JFK or LaGuardia in NY

Nonetheless, it was nice to see Bryan and Germaine once again, having not seen each other since they left on exchange a semester ago. I was also formally introduced to the rest of their travelling party, Leon and Jia-Min, both of whom are also students at NTU. As evening approached, we headed out to the mainland (via the Staten Island Ferry) for dinner, as I caught the first (of many) glimpses of the Statue of Liberty (it’s smaller than I expected it to be!) as we cruise across the Upper New York Bay.

The Statue of Liberty was smaller than what I expected it to be

The Statue of Liberty was smaller than what I expected it to be

Day 15 – 5 Jan – Pancakes, Pizzas, Cheesecakes & My First Broadway Musical!

Due to the added travelling time required from Staten Island to Manhattan, we had to wake up early to ensure that we had time to cover all the places on our New York wish list. Our first stop was at Clinton Street Baking Company, where we had their famous Blueberry Pancakes, Fried Chicken & Waffles and Eggs Benedict for breakfast.

Phenomenal blueberry pancakes, salty-sweetness of the buttermilk fried chicken, and a hollandaise sauce to kill for from the eggs benedict - Clinton Steet Baking Co.

Phenomenal blueberry pancakes, salty-sweetness of the buttermilk fried chicken, and a hollandaise sauce to kill for from the eggs benedict – Clinton Steet Baking Co.

Being foodies, we went to Lombardi’s for lunch straight after breakfast. Lombardi’s been established in New York since 1905, and is highly regarded and rated as one of the top pizzerias in the world. We ordered their original coal fired Margherita; the slightly burnt mozzarella undoubtedly the highlight of the dish. Personally, I found the pizza at Lombardi’s to be good, but to call it one of the best in the world would be an overstatement. An additional peeve of Lombardi’s is that it only takes cash as payment. No cards or travellers cheques will be accepted!

The Margherita from Lombardi's

The Margherita from Lombardi’s

After lunch, we began our own sightseeing tour of the city, starting with the Empire State Building. Generally regarded as an American cultural icon, it was once the tallest building in New York until the completion of the new One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) following the September 11 attacks. We then walked through Bryant Park to get to the New York Public Library, which was the setting for the film The Day After Tomorrow. Being a huge fan of the film, I was pretty hyped to check out the library, but was sorely disappointed when told that the Rose Main Reading Room was closed to the public.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building

Next on our agenda was the Grand Central Terminal (colloquially known as the Grand Central Station), which was unquestionably one of the quintessential places of New York City. With its monumental spaces and meticulously crafted detail, it is no wonder BBC called it “the world’s loveliest station” in one of their news features. After we took in the marvels of this architectural gem of New York, we went to yet another historic landmark – Rockefeller Center. Built by the Rockefeller family, Rockefeller Center is a complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings, and is one of New York City’s top tourist attraction. There are many things to do at Rockefeller Center; one can take in the view from Top of the Rock (an observation deck 70 floors into the sky), relive your childhood at LEGO, or visit the NBC Experience store and grab merchandises from TV programmes like “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and the iconic “Saturday Night Live”.

Relive your childhood at LEGO - at the Rockefeller Center

Relive your childhood at LEGO – at the Rockefeller Center

We were joined by Danny, who had just flew in from San Francisco, and will be with us for the rest of the stay in New York City as we made our way to Times Square, where we were to catch Mamma Mia! at the Broadhurst Theatre in Broadway. Theatre’s one of my passions, but sadly, the prices of shows in Singapore tend to be quite exorbitant. Even for those productions that were within my budget, I was, more often than not, unable to find company to catch the show with.

At Times Square with Bryan and Germaine

At Times Square with Bryan and Germaine

Anyway, Mamma Mia! is a jukebox musical based on the songs of Swedish group ABBA. The brainchild of Judy Craymer, Mamma Mia! tells the tale of a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father in an enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship. I caught the film adaptation of the musical (starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried & Colin Firth) when it was released in 2008, which was negatively reviewed due to the cast’s non-existent singing abilities (Streep and Seyfried were the only ones that escaped criticism), but there was no doubt that the Broadway cast, with the impressive Judy McLane (as Donna) and the up-and-coming Elena Ricardo (as Sophie), would be more than capable to hold the stage. After their final bows to the audience, the cast returned for the encore, as they performed three of ABBA’s most popular songs; Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Waterloo, with the crowd all clapping, dancing and singing along to the hits.

Mamma Mia! The Smash Hit Musical

Mamma Mia! The Smash Hit Musical

It was an outstanding show, and one that I most certainly enjoyed. The cast was awesome, with the theatrics of Felicia Finley (as Tanya) and Lauren Cohn (as Rosie) often sending the crowd into hysterics. However, what impressed me the most was actually the work of Catherine Johnson, the British playwright who wrote the script for the musical. I had tried writing a play during my days in ELDDS, so I know it takes some hard work to actually complete one. To incorporate the songs and relate it to the main storyline would take additional creative juices to accomplish. So kudos to Catherine Johnson (and Judy Craymer of course!) for making Mamma Mia! a reality.

Donna and the Dynamos perform Dancing Queen during the encore

Donna and the Dynamos perform Dancing Queen during the encore

With the songs of ABBA still ringing in our heads, we left Broadhurst for Junior’s, which was located just across the theatre for dinner/dessert. Famous for their cheesecakes, Junior’s offers a variety of flavours; Red Velvet, Strawberry, Devil’s Food among others. But the star was the Original NY Cheesecake, which was light, smooth and creamy. Each bite of the cake was simply heavenly.

The Original NY Cheesecake from Junior's

The Original NY Cheesecake from Junior’s

It was way past midnight by the time we got back to our lodging at Staten Island. Having been out since 09:00am, it didn’t take us long before we all fell asleep as we recuperate for another long day out in New York City.

Day 16 – 6 Jan – Snowfall in New York City!

Just as what the weather forecast predicted, we woke up to a scene of white as the temperatures plummeted to below freezing. Bryan and Co. had began their road trip from Alaska, enduring temperatures as low as -22 degrees Celsius. Hence, they weren’t quite excited at the sight of snowfall. I, on the other hand, was like a eager child, who couldn’t wait to get outdoors and have a feel of the snow falling to my skin, this being my first snowfall ever.

Waking to a scene of white

Waking to a scene of white

We left Staten Island at about the same time the day before, with the National September 11 Memorial our first stop before brunch. Located at the former site of the Twin Towers, the memorial consisted of a plaza and museum, with two square pools in the center where the two towers once stood. A couple of white roses were found left at the memorial, and with snow falling lightly on the names engraved on the pool panels, it was a sombre and solemn moment for us present there.

A White Rose at the Memorial

A White Rose at the Memorial

After leaving the memorial, we headed to Totto Ramen for brunch. A bowl of hot ramen was just what we needed on a cold and frigid day like this. For me, what defines a good bowl of ramen is the soup, and the one at Totto didn’t disappoint. I ordered their Paitan Ramen with an extra topping of Char Siu Chicken. The broth was rich, fresh and noodles are cooked nicely al dente style. One of the best I’ve ever tried.

Ramen and a side of Avo Tuna

Ramen and a side of Avo Tuna

Central Park was the next destination for the day. With the temperatures hovering below zero, The Lake was in a semi frozen state, with a thin layer of ice covering part of the water surface. As snow was still falling lightly, the landscape of the park was in a beautiful state of white, hence presenting us with a picturesque scenery. After checking out some of the arches and bridges in the park, we made our way to the American Museum of Natural History, which was the setting for the film Night at the Museum. We didn’t stay long there though, as the admission didn’t come cheap and we were quite tight in terms of time. As a result, we left after viewing a few free exhibits to our next destination – Chelsea Market.

The Lake was in a semi frozen state

The Lake was in a semi frozen state

Bow Bridge

Bow Bridge

Winter at Central Park

Winter at Central Park

Located in an area of Manhattan known as the Meatpacking District, Chelsea Market is a food hall, shopping mall and office building all found under one roof. One can find an assortment of goods there, from specialty breads to wines to cold cuts and even books. You can definitely stumble upon some unique finds down there.Chelsea Market

We had dinner at Cha-An, a Japanese Tea House that is known for their specialty sweets, home-style dishes and extensive tea selection. We ordered the highly recommended Tea-Smoked Salmon Toast and ended the meal with their famed Matcha. The meal was a little on the pricier side, but the serene surroundings, awesome ambiance and friendly staff was worth the premium. Just the atmosphere alone would be a good enough reason to make a return trip to Cha-An. A perfect place for a casual date.

Tea-Smoked Salmon Toast from Cha-An

Tea-Smoked Salmon Toast from Cha-An

With that, we made our way to the ferry terminal for our trip back to Staten Island, marking the end of the last full day we’ll spend together in New York City.

Day 17 – 7 Jan – Saying Farewell to the Statue of Liberty

We woke up early this morning to prepare for our check-out from our Airbnb lodging. I was due to fly back to Singapore on the 08:25pm flight from JFK, Leon will be heading back to California, Danny’s travelling north to Canada, while Bryan will play chaperone to the ladies as they move on to Hoboken, New Jersey. After sending Bryan, Germaine and Jia-Min off at the bus stop, Leon, Danny and myself set out to look for things to do before our respective departures. Options were however limited as we had to bring our luggage along, meaning that most attractions were out of the question.

Before they left for New Jersey - Clockwise from top right: Leon, Jia-Min, Germaine, Bryan and myself

Before they left for New Jersey – Clockwise from top right: Leon, Jia-Min, Germaine, Bryan and myself

Boarding the Staten Island Ferry for one last time as we headed towards Manhattan, we bid farewell to the Statue of Liberty as we sailed past Ellis and Liberty Island. The three of us decided to go to Chinatown, and scout for a dim sum place that was recommended by friends. The restaurant, served dim sum in the traditional Hong Kong style, with dishes carted around for customers to choose their orders while seated at their tables. The three of us ordered a variety of items; Siew Mai, Har Gow, Char Siew Bao, Spare Ribs, Pork and Century Egg Congee, Radish Cake, Glutinous Rice among others. While the final bill came up to over 50USD, we thought it was well worth it, as we managed to taste over 10 different dishes, satisfying all of our taste buds.

Saying Farewell to the Statue of Liberty

Saying Farewell to the Statue of Liberty

It was almost 03:00pm when we finished our yum cha session. I decided to head to JFK early to avoid being stuck in New York City’s peak hour traffic. I hopped into one of New York’s iconic yellow taxicabs and got whisked to JFK within an hour (70USD including tolls and tips). A quick bite at Shake Shack for their famous ShackBurger and before I know it, I was on the A380 for the 22 hour transatlantic flight to Singapore via Frankfurt, Germany.

Flying out of New York via JFK

Flying out of New York via JFK

Day 18 – 8 Jan – En-route in Frankfurt

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Nothing beats the sight of the Singapore Girl in their Sarong Kebayas after a long trip abroad, their smile and timeless elegance making me feel as though I’m already back in Singapore even when I’m still miles away from home. With a long flight ahead, I looked forward to catching some movies on KrisWorld, where I watched a couple of classic Hollywood films such as The Seven Year Itch, which starred Marilyn Monroe; a fitting finale to end the entire trip given her status as an American cultural icon.

I caught The Seven Year Itch on the flight back to Singapore

I caught The Seven Year Itch on the flight back to Singapore

Day 19 – 9 Jan – Final Thoughts

I touched down in Changi just before 07:00am in the morning. On the train ride back home, I gathered some of the final thoughts regarding the trip. Overall, I would say it was an enjoyable trip, although I must admit that I was a little underwhelmed by some of the attractions (i.e. Walk of Fame, Statue of Liberty). That said, the highlights of the trip would be catching my first Broadway Musical, experiencing my first snowfall, and I was really happy to catch up with my friends in the United States, where I very much enjoyed their company. Throughout the duration of the trip, I was also in constant correspondence with my professor from my Fables, Folklore and Literature module, who is based in Arizona, and it was great to share my progress in the States with her. To sum up, a well-deserved holiday, filled with fun and excitement and I look forward to revisiting the States again, perhaps to D.C., Florida or maybe even Hawaii!

Clockwise from top left: its a small world (Disneyland), One World Trade Center (New York), Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco) and the Grand Canyon (Arizona)

Clockwise from top left: its a small world (Disneyland), One World Trade Center (New York), Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco) and the Grand Canyon (Arizona)


~ yearningforlove Series ~ My footprints in… USA (Part II) Vegas, Sin City and A Grand Canyon Adventure!

Day 6 – 27 Dec – Las Vegas, The Entertainment Capital of the World!

The next leg of our tour saw us travel to Las Vegas, where its tolerance for numerous forms of adult entertainment had earned it the title of Sin City. Leaving Anaheim at 09:00am, we travelled aboard one of Lux Bus’ state-of-the-art modern motor coaches for the 5 hour long journey into Las Vegas, with a stopover at Barstow. As Lux Bus terminates at Harrah’s, we had to make our way down the southern end of the strip to Luxor, where we were booked for 3 nights. Named after the city of Luxor (Thebes) in Egypt, Luxor’s one of the largest hotels in Las Vegas and was featured in the George Clooney and Anna Kendrick movie, Up in the Air. The hotel is also known for its sky beam, claimed to be visible from as far as Los Angeles when operating at full power on a clear night.

The Pyramid of Luxor along with The Great Sphinx of Giza

The Pyramid of Luxor along with The Great Sphinx of Giza

It was almost 05:00pm by the time we completed our check in. Since the day began back at Anaheim, we hadn’t had anything to eat except for a burger during our stop at Barstow. With our tummies screaming for food, we went to Luxor’s buffet spread, MORE, for dinner (24USD per pax). Other than casinos, adult entertainment and its vibrant nightlife, Vegas is also famous for their buffets. Featuring a 30 foot long salad bar, a pizza station, a carving station and specialties from around the world, MORE provides a casual Vegas dining experience that was sure to fill our hunger.

MORE - The Buffet at Luxor

MORE – The Buffet at Luxor

After dinner, we headed back to our rooms to prepare for our early morning pick-up to Grand Canyon for a day out at the Mojave Desert.

Day 7 – 28 Dec – Crossing Time Zones into Arizona – Hoover Dam, Skywalk and the World of Chocolates!

We left Luxor before daybreak as the Grand Canyon tour would take over 11 hours to complete, hotel to hotel. Booked on the West Rim tour by Sweetours, the trip would first see us do a quick stop over at Hoover Dam, before driving through a Joshua Tree forest, and finally arriving at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Hoover Dam, although named after President Herbert Hoover, was actually commissioned by FDR. The dam, which was heavily featured in the first Transformers film, was constructed during the Great Depression. A unique feature of the dam is that it has two clock faces on the intake towers, given its location along the border of Arizona and Nevada – due to the two states sitting on different time zones.

Hoover Dam - Commissioned by FDR but named after President Herbert Hoover

Hoover Dam – Commissioned by FDR but named after President Herbert Hoover

After the photo stop at the Hoover Dam, we drove past rows and rows of Joshua Trees (named after the Biblical story of Joshua) before arriving at the West Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. There are three places of interest at the West Rim; the Hualapai Ranch, Eagle Point and Guano Point. The first, the Hualapai Ranch, has nothing worthy of mention, bar a few wagon rides and old west activities. Eagle Point on the other hand, offers more for visitors, with a better view of the vast barren landscape of the canyon. It is also home to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped transparent glass bridge that extends beyond the rim of the canyon, giving visitors a full view of the Colorado River on the canyon floor. It is however quite expensive to enter the attraction (35USD), and the view from inside the skywalk does not differ much from what you can see outside of the ledge. Hence, my recommendation would be to give the skywalk a miss, unless you really have cash to spare. The last of the lot, Guano Point outshines both the Hualapai Ranch and Eagle Point. One can hike to the summit of the valley where the scenic vantage offers a majestic view of the Grand Canyon, grab a bite at the cafe run by the Hualapai Tribe, or inspect the remnants of the old mining operations that once ran there.

The Magnificent Grand Canyon

The Magnificent Grand Canyon

The West Rim of The Grand Canyon

The West Rim of The Grand Canyon

After the exertions out at the Mojave, we hopped back on the coach for a long drive back into Nevada, where everyone on the coach caught a bit of shut-eye. Traffic in Vegas was a nightmare as we exited the freeway and into the strip. It took us nearly half an hour to cover the distance of 4 blocks. With Luxor located near the end of the strip, it was decided that travelling by foot would be a faster option. We thus asked to be alighted near New York New York, where we visited the M&M’s World and Hershey’s Chocolate World for some chocolate fun on the way back to Luxor. Despite the rather expensive prices (in addition to a unfavourable exchange rate), I couldn’t resist myself and bought an assortment of M&Ms as well as Hershey’s Kisses for friends and family at both chocolate worlds. In addition, I also bought some souvenirs such as shot glasses, fridge magnets and poker cards to give away to my mates in USP as well as the boys from Dynamo.

A M&M's featured NASCAR on display at M&M's World

A M&M’s featured NASCAR on display at M&M’s World

Day 8 – 29 Dec – Madame Tussauds, Outlet Shopping and Zumanity!

With the day’s activities all centred around the Las Vegas strip, dad and I decided to sleep in a little late, leaving Luxor only around 09:30 in the morning. Walking down the strip and taking in the sights of the various hotels and structures, our first stop of the day was at Madame Tussauds located inside the Venetian. I mentioned in In The Land Down Under that Madame Tussauds have become a must-see for me whenever I visit cities with the attraction, and Vegas was no exception (I had to give the one in Hollywood a miss due to time constraints). The stars of the Vegas outlet are the icons that shaped the history of Las Vegas, with the likes of Elvis Presley, Liberace, Celine Dion and the Blue Man Group. Being Vegas, it was fitting that one of the more popular figures was Jenna Jameson’s, an adult film actress who had been quoted as the world’s most famous porn star by Forbes. Other favourites of the museum would include those from the Hollywood A-list, with Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry and Jessica Alba leading the pack.

Madame Tussauds Las Vegas

Madame Tussauds Las Vegas

Jenna Jameson - The First Pornographic Actress to be Immortalized at Madame Tussauds

Jenna Jameson – The First Pornographic Actress to be Immortalized at Madame Tussauds

A trip to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets was next on the agenda. We bought a 24-Hour pass which allowed unlimited access to the Strip and Downtown Express (SDX) and the Deuce on the Strip buses. A 20 minute ride on the SDX from the strip will take you to either the LV Premium Outlets – North, or LV Premium Outlets – South, depending on the heading of the SDX. We boarded a northbound SDX to the premium outlets located north of the strip, where we spent the bulk of the afternoon shopping. Dad decided to surprise mum and sis with a Michael Kors handbag each, while I purchased a pair of Oakley sunglasses at the request of a friend of mine. I had wanted to get myself a messenger bag from Coach, but considering I was travelling on a student’s budget, I was unwilling to pay a premium for the luxury product.

The Deuce - A Cheap and Affordable Way to Explore the Strip

The Deuce – A Cheap and Affordable Way to Explore the Strip

With a couple of hours to spare before dinner, we headed back to Luxor to put down our purchases for the day and to freshen up for the night’s activities. We had earlier purchased a discount for The Buffet at Monte Carlo (14USD, usual price – 24USD) at a Tix4Tonight booth. While the buffet spread is largely similar to that of MORE, there were a few food items that delighted my palate. The fried spring rolls were quite good and tasted similar to what one can find in Singapore. Also notable was the mushroom sauté, the slight hint of garlic completing the simple dish. The dessert served also deserved a mention, with a cookies and cream mousse dessert my personal favourite. That said, despite it being a buffet, dad and I had to make sure that we did not get too full, since the night was still young and there was a great show awaiting us at the Zumanity Theatre.

We had dinner at the Buffet at Monte Carlo

We had dinner at the Buffet at Monte Carlo

A trip to Las Vegas isn’t quite complete without watching one of the many adult themed shows on offer. For ladies on a girls night out, there’s the choice of Chippendales (Rio) or Thunder from Down Under (Excalibur) which features Australia’s hottest exports. For something more provocative, one can choose from the daring and scintillating burlesque beauties at X Burlesque (Flamingo), Stratosphere’s Pin Up, starring Playboy 2011 Playmate of the Year – Claire Sinclair, the Crazy Girls topless showgirl revue at the Riviera, or catch the strip’s biggest tease – Fantasy, at Luxor.

Clockwise from top left: Fantasy (Luxor), X Burlesque (Flamingo), Pin Up (Stratosphere), and Crazy Girls (Riviera)

Clockwise from top left: Fantasy (Luxor), X Burlesque (Flamingo), Pin Up (Stratosphere), and Crazy Girls (Riviera)

Having said that, watching a risqué revue with my dad would however be somewhat awkward. Hence, we decided to leave the striptease behind and catch something a little more mainstream, Zumanity by Cirque du Soleil. Billed as the “sensual side of Cirque du Soleil”, Zumanity is a seductive twist on reality and features sensational acrobatics and naughty fun. The first act (Waterbowl), sees two topless female contortionists splash erotically in a bowl of water, striking an amazing array of sensual poses as they taste love for the first time. Other acts include a schoolgirl playing with hula hoops, a dominatrix in an exercise of self-inflicted pleasure and pain, a couple pouring milk suggestively on each other, while the final act sees the cast draw audience into their hedonistic play, as they touch, stroke and moan to an orgasmic conclusion.

Zumanity - The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil

Zumanity – The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil

Who knew Cirque du Soleil had this naughty side?

Stay tuned for part III of the series: My footprints in… USA Part III (Golden Gate Adventures and A Reunion in Berkeley!)


Back To Writing… Finally…

It’s been more than three months since I last wrote anything on yearningforlove, and I must say it’s great to be back. In fact, it’s almost like it’s a relief to be back writing here, where I can forget all about Statistics, Qualitative Reasoning, Financial Management and those ridiculously complicated formulae that Business students have to memorize. Anyway, if you’re wondering why haven’t I publish a post earlier, given the fact that exams ended a good two weeks ago, it’s because I had to send my laptop for servicing after encountering the dreaded BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) and was only able to retrieve it back two days ago. With the Fujitsu back, I can now finally get back to writing more posts, and I shall begin by sharing my thoughts on Pangdemonium’s production of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Rabbit Hole.

Pangdemonium Presents - Rabbit Hole

Pangdemonium Presents – Rabbit Hole

I was rather excited when Pangdemonium announced the production of Rabbit Hole last year. The Hollywood adaptation of Rabbit Hole (Starring Nicole Kidman & Aaron Eckhart) had been on my list of must-watch films, and being a Pulitzer Prize winner, I was pretty sure that the theatre version would be a blast. Furthermore, this production would be at the DBS Arts Centre – Home of the SRT, a venue which I have yet to catch a performance at. (See From Babi Buah Keluak to Brunei Sucker Punch!) That said, with the production slated to run from 25th April to 12th of May, I nearly wasn’t able to catch Adrian Pang and Co. in action, with the finals ending only two days before they end the run. Besides, it was going to be hard to find a partner to accompany me within such short notice. In my circle of friends, not many are interested to watch a play or a musical. My intended date had prior commitments, while my long term theatre partner Jin Mei would be working and was thus unable to make it. I had contemplated asking MGN1 (See My birthday gift to myself and Singapore), but decided against it. Just when I was about to forget about catching the play altogether, I received a text message from a secondary school classmate, Xin Yi, who was asking if I knew her brother’s platoon sergeant in NS. With no one else in mind, I thought I would just ask her if she was interested in watching Rabbit Hole with me. With her papers over, and nothing to do for the day, Xin Yi accepted my invitation for the afternoon matinee on the 11th. Since we graduated from Fuhua 6 years ago, I hardly spoken to Xin Yi, except for the occasional festive greetings via SMS or Facebook, so I was quite surprised that she would agree to go out with me, and to watch a play what’s more.

I met Xin Yi at Lakeside MRT at about 1pm to make our way to Merbau Road. During the train ride, I learnt that this would be her maiden theatre show, which was one of the reasons why she didn’t mind going with me to the production. I also found out that she had wanted to watch The Lion King (musical) at MBS in 2011, but wasn’t able to find the time or company to go with, and that she was pretty interested in watching the upcoming production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera which opens on the 16th of July this year. It would probably be a good farewell gift to take her to the Phantom before she heads to China in August for a year to complete her degree in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).

Anyway, we reached SRT with time to spare, and we lingered around the foyer, admiring the memorabilia from past productions by the SRT before being led to our seats when the doors open. For those who isn’t familiar with Rabbit Hole, it is a play which deals with the ways family members survive a major loss. And for a play which deals with a theme so emotional, poignant and powerful, it is surprisingly humorous, with comedy being subtly laced throughout the script, providing a few laughs in what would otherwise be a heart-wrenching, teary affair. The cast consisted of the multi-talented Adrian Pang (as Howie), thespian and Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Janice Koh (as Becca), veteran stage artist Lok Meng Chue (as Nat), LASALLE Hottie Seong Hui Xuan (as Izzy) & Eden Ang (as Jason).

Adrian Pang needs no introduction to those familiar to the local entertainment industry. Trained as a lawyer, Adrian ditched his court robes to star in various stage and TV productions. I’ve had the honour of meeting him in person once while I was still in Fuhua when the debating team was invited to catch a preview of The Arena, a debating programme which he hosted. In Rabbit Hole, Adrian gave yet another career-high type of performance, in a role where he has to deal with the death of his child while juggling his responsibilities as a husband.

Janice Koh plays Becca who makes some harsh decisions throughout the play because of grief. The chemistry between Adrian and Janice from their days on The Pupil was clear for all to see through Becca’s actions of shoving Danny’s belongings away, trying to get Howie to sell the house, sending the family dog away and denying Howie even the most basic form of intimacy. As a stage performer in school productions myself, I know it’s quite hard to effectively portray these emotions of pain and misery to an audience. So kudos to Janice, who probably had to manage between her NMP role and the gruelling rehearsals for the production.

The chemistry of the two leads were very much evident throughout the play

The chemistry of the two leads were very much evident throughout the play

More known for her directorial and production abilities, Lok Meng Chue returns to the stage to play the role of Nat, who serves as the guiding star, where she helps Howie and Becca in the healing process as well as providing the voice of reason for her daughters Becca and Izzy.

Seong Hui Xuan, for me, was the surprise of the cast. The LASALLE graduate proved that she was not simply eye candy as she takes on a role which not only required her to appear pregnant, but also deal with the tensions created between Becca and herself, with Becca seemingly suspicious of Izzy’s ability to raise her own, given Izzy’s irresponsible behaviour. Can’t wait to see more of her in future productions, where she is slated to star in yet another Pangdemonium showpiece, Gruesome Playground Injuries, which is expected to open later this year.

LASALLE hottie Seong Hui Xuan proves she is not just some eye candy

LASALLE hottie Seong Hui Xuan proves she is not just some eye candy

The new kid on the block, Eden Ang plays Jason Willette, a teenager who accidentally killed Danny after hitting him with his car. Although Jason first appears only in Act One Scene 4, his role is quite challenging, with the highlight a five minute monologue on his feelings about the death of Danny. In this monologue, which was written in a form of a letter, Eden had to display the right amount of emotions, and speak at a suitable pace in line with the sentiment of the play. Eden’s portrayal of Jason Willette however, was abit raw for me, especially in the light of veterans such as Adrian Pang & Janice Koh, but he nonetheless put in a respectable shift and many great things are expected from this new kid on the block.

The wonderful cast & crew of Rabbit Hole

The wonderful cast & crew of Rabbit Hole

Overall, Pangdemonium’s Rabbit Hole, directed by Adrian’s lovely wife, Tracie Pang, is one of the best productions I’ve ever seen on the local scene. To have people clutching onto tissues and tearing during the play just shows how much the cast made an impact on the audience through their acting. It reminded me of when I was watching Les Misérables and the ladies were all weeping as the movie progressed. A production that can affect its audience to such an extent is what I’ll call a success. That said, I would have preferred that the play be adapted to a Singapore context, just like what W!LD RICE did for Boeing Boeing. Some of the references in Rabbit Hole regarding American pop culture as well as the Kennedys might be too foreign for the locals to understand, unless one have done some homework beforehand. All in all though, it was a blessing to watch such a wonderful production and overheard at the end of the show was, and I quote: “Rabbit Hole’s just fucking beautiful”. Couldn’t agree more.