Latest Posts

harry potter book night copy

Event 2 #HarryPotterBookNight (a Night of Spells)

Today Feb 04, is #HarryPotterBookNight (a Night of Spells) Schools, libraries, bookshops and Community Centres across the world have organised their own events to mark it.

The idea behind things is so to pass on the passion for the Harry Potter series of novels to young readers (those who haven’t yet discovered J.K. Rowling’s famous books), so the books continue to play a big part in popular culture.

This is the second Harry Potter Book Night to take place, and there will be other ongoing events and activities to get involved in over the coming months. At the first event a favourite spell vote was launched.

Harry Potter Patronus credit Jonny Duddle

Harry Potter Patronus by illustrator Jonny Duddle

Here are the results: With over 2700 votes the Expecto patronum spell took first place followed closely by Accio in second place and Wingardium Leviosa in third.

Expecto Patronum is key throughout the entire Harry Potter series of books. It first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and is taught to Harry Potter by Professor Lupin.

The top ten favourite spells is below. Full of inventiveness and cunning, these famous magical incantations protect and challenge Harry and his friends in all sorts of ways.

  1. Expecto patronum
  2. Accio
  3. Wingardium Leviosa
  4. Expelliarmus
  5. Lumos
  6. Alohomora
  7. Avada Kedavra
  8. Sectumsempra
  9. Obliviate
  10. Riddikulus

Visit Bloomsbury for lots of related news and information about these special nights, enter competitions etc. and please join in with the sharing fun on Twitter and Facebook using #HarryPotterBookNight 

Patronus quote asset

sisterhood image 1

Review of The Belgrade Theatre’s THE SISTERHOOD

Les Femmes Savantes/The Sisterhood by Molière is presented as classic satire.

While the French feel is barely recognisable, the idiomatic English is well phrased and rhyming words are really nice on the ear.

The content is the best thing about this play because it is the catalyst for the comedy. Feminism is a major theme. Set in the 1980s, with the ‘new’ feminist movement being around 20 years old by then, women were finding they could have it all. They could be a wife, mother and have a career. The comedy therefore, is because of a serendipitous pairing between the main topic and a character at any one time.

Let’s look at some of the characters: Philaminte can only be described as an academic snob and she has unjust reasons to ban both Clitandre and Martine from the house, and for the very same reasons, Chrysale attempts to exert his male dominance. Meanwhile, Henriette battles to wed for love; while the principled, Armande comes to realise she’ll probably be left on the shelf. Poet Trissotin is a scoundrel who is seizing the advantage, while Vadius is working to expose him – so you see the satire is played in tune with the original. As for Ariste, he is crucial to the ‘all is well that ends well’ ending, and I will say no more about that.

Pictured: Julia Watson (Philaminte) Katherine Manners (Armande), Paul Trussell (Trissotin), Joanna Roth (Belise)

Pictured:Julia Watson (Philaminte) Katherine Manners (Armande), Paul Trussell (Trissotin), Joanna Roth (Belise)

Highlights are Paul Trussell as Trissotin (Belgrade Theatre, Film, TV) I thought his stage moves to be a cross between Blakey from On the Buses and Rick from The Young Ones and someone else who I couldn’t quite nail. I enjoyed his send up of the arty farty brigade and the responses from the other characters in his poetry reading scenes were very amusing. One or two little digs at the critiquing world in the script and so especially apt for press night, a touch of the laissez-faire from the playwright with the message being:  if a review is good, fantastic! If it’s bad – who cares!

The play does not have you in stitches and you wouldn’t be wrong to hope that it might, nonetheless, there is much substance to it and the result is entertainingly good. An excellent wardrobe ensemble which is worth a mention: Trissotin’s get up is very funny, and I remember having a black and red dress similar to the one Belise wears so authentic is the time matching, as for the oversized shoulder pads on the jackets the women wear they are a real hoot!

I like the B2 at The Belgrade as it is such a modern setting in contrast to the traditional that the main auditorium offers. The sound quality is always excellent. The inclusion of the 80’s hits blasting out was really cool, and the play does not outstay its welcome. I enjoyed it!

Miriam Edwards - The Sisterhood

Miriam Edwards – The Sisterhood

Photography by Robert Day

Featured top image: Paul Trussell (Trissotin), Julia Watson (Philaminte), and Miriam Edwards (Martine)

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall, who attended press night of The Sisterhood at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry on Tuesday 02 February 2016


Chalkboard Chocs

Chalkboard Hearts from Asda


Chalkboard-ChocsA warm welcome to those in WordPress land who are always ‘creating the spark’ and ‘fanning the flames’ with their inspiring words and poetic contributions.

I ask that you be a bit more frivolous today and join in with finishing the famous ‘Roses are Red’ Stanza.

I will process one or two of your couplet contributions (that you leave as a comment) onto the images of the Chalkboard Hearts like I’ve done so below.

By the way. what a novel gift idea from Asda don’t you think? Packaging has a chalkboard style front made from card and a stick of chalk is included. Chocolate and Verse together for Valentine’s… Sweet ♥


from Nathalie Taylor via TSS on Facebook

from Nathalie Taylor via TSS on Facebook

John Heffernan (Macbeth) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Lady Macbeth) in Macbeth. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith (5)

Stage Review – MACBETH at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, UK

This Macbeth is both tangible and imaginative. It is the result of a well planned and well thought out creative process involving a variety of art forms, mainly contemporary, yet the fantastical and the gorgeous insanity of Macbeth remains comfortably (or uncomfortably) apparent, depending on your viewpoint!

John Heffernan is a Macbeth of the first order. We see that he is up for the fight. We see him relish his hero status and his new popularity, and we see him being easily persuaded to engage in a deadly conspiracy. We are witness to him becoming a narcissistic and a murdering power-crazy; we see him lose his grip, and know that he is the main cause of such miserable chaos, all in a two hour straight-through performance in which he shines as Macbeth. Heffernan has a clear and rich toned voice and he is an exceptional stage actor.

John Heffernan (Macbeth) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Lady Macbeth) in Macbeth. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith (2)

Figure 1: John Heffernan (Macbeth) and Anna Maxwell Martin (Lady Macbeth) in Macbeth

Anna Maxwell Martin, arguably better known for her high profiled TV and Film work, plays Macbeth’s brow beating instigator and partner in crime just the way as she herself says so in an interview. Martin says she serves the play and simply plays the text. This she does so very capably; nevertheless, I felt her Lady Macbeth should have been pushier, and more malevolent, especially in early scenes. Martin’s performance however, is extremely polished and she plays a blinder around the fabulous dark and scary ACT II SCENE II.

Clemmie Sveaas, Jessie Oshodi and Ana Beatriz Meireles in Macbeth. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Figure 2 – The three Witches, Clemmie Sveaas, Jessie Oshodi and Ana Beatriz Meireles in Macbeth

The two main actors mentioned are supported by a talented cast and all roles are key. Even minor characters in the play, named as Porter and Murderer (as described in the cast list), are often present alongside three other professional dancers (the three Witches), in zombie-like dance sequences where they move rigidly, their bodies contort and convulse, and these moves they intersperse with bursts of dancing to high energy music in the form of high leaps, sharp turns and full body stretches. These act as lively inserts.

My son was my theatre buddy last night at Birmingham’s Repertory Theatre. He has not seen as much theatre as me, but the number of stage shows he has seen are now mounting up. He said that this Macbeth was the most professional production he’s seen to date, and we were in agreement that the funnel-like set was pretty spectacular. We loved the austere setting, and thought that the long people shadows cast on the panels at the wide end added to the drama and made the chilling moments, even more chilling, especially when Macbeth creeps toward the side wall with dagger in hand.



Anna Maxwell Martin – Lady Macbeth (TV’s Bleak House, Baby Cow Films, National Theatre)

John Heffernan – Macbeth (RSC, National Theatre, BBC)

Thomasin Gulec – Murderer (Rambert)

Ira Mandela Siobhan – Porter (Warner Bros, National Theatre)

Ana Beatriz Meireles , Jessie Oshodi, Clemmie Sveaas (three Witches/Children)

Prasanna Puwanarajah – Banquo (Working Title/Sky1/NBC, Arcola Theatre)

Nicholas Burns – Duncan/MacDuff (BBC Films, Working Title, West End)

Mark Ebulue – Ross (Arcola Theatre, RSC, BBC)

Ben Lamb – Malcolm (Sheffield Crucible, BBC)

Cassie Layton – Lennox/Lady MacDuff (Universal Pictures, BBC radio)

Photography by Richard Hubert Smith

Reviewer, Debra Hall attended the press night performance of MACBETH at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 26 January 2016. A repeat of this publication appears online at Remotegoat Stage


BRIO world

Our attributes for BRIO – TSS Business of the Month for January 2016

BRIO and Wood (a long time connection)

the osby horse

The Osby Horse

After moving to Osby, Southern Sweden in 1884 Ivar Bengtsson and wife, Sissa enjoyed continued success from selling woodchip baskets and other goods. They went on to produce their first wooden toy in 1907 (the Osby horse). After their three sons Viktor, Anton and Emil took up the reins, the toy manufacturing remained prominent. Later, once Anton’s son, Lennart Ivarsson became CEO, the company went international and BRIO was a top wooden toy manufacturer with a range which included the famous train sets. BRIO is still ever-present in the development of new wooden toys for children. Wood is natural, workable, clean, long lasting and tactile and BRIO makes the most of its qualities. Since 2014, all wooden toys have been made from traceable wood coming from responsibly managed forests

BRIO and Design (toy designs are timeless, uncomplicated and fun)

a Design meeting at BRIO Head Office, Sweden

Daniel Mauritzson (pictured right) BRIO Head Office, Sweden

Imaginative play and child development have always been and remain a key consideration in any design concept through to fruition. When asked how he knows a new toy will be compelling to children, ‎Senior Product Designer, Daniel Mauritzson says (and we quote from the websiteA crucial part of my job is to watch how children play, and to understand how children think and react. Therefore my colleagues and I spend a lot of time testing new toys by observing how children use them, and we try to learn from this before we complete a design. This is incredibly exciting because you are always surprised. Children’s imagination is a marvellous world.

BRIO and Education (the teaching and the learning happens more autonomously in play)

The very nature and make up of a BRIO toys means that Education happens naturally through play. When it comes to participating in imaginative play, a child’s learning style is not necessarily a top consideration. Toys made from wood has long been popular in early years education, vital even in some teachings. And for the educational benefits of the wider community 1984 saw BRIO open a toy museum inside its former warehouses in Osby . The museum is called the BRIO Lekoseum and it celebrates the company’s long heritage of craftsmanship and the product

BRIO and Imaginative Play/Learning through Play /Role Play

railway set
For BRIO, Play is vital. Play has developed BRIO as a company and as people for over thirteen decades. Play enriches lives, in childhood and beyond. BRIO says: ‘The day we stop playing is the day we stop developing. When we leave behind our inner child, we leave behind part of humanity’. BRIO believes very much in the concept that a successful toy is able to stimulate a child’s imagination.

BRIO and Child Development


BRIO toys aid children in their development in many ways which includes:

  • Physically: as toys like the Toddler Wobbler (see above) can help the child learn to walk and to stack and store things in
  • Emotionally and Socially: because in role play, for example, children can form bonds with others young or old
  • Intellectually: toys can be used at different intellectual levels as the child grows

The BRIO Company Set-Up Today

ravensburger BRIO Malmo

Ravensburger/BRIO Head Office in Malmö

BRIO´s product portfolio currently consists of numerous toys but also games for the whole family under the brand Alga. We know BRIO is not Sweden’s biggest brand by a long chalk, but it has been a Purveyor to the Royal Court of Sweden since the 1940s. Today, BRIO is owned by Ravensburger (another successful family business) and who are a leading manufacturer of puzzles, games and activity products in Europe, and a high ranking publisher of children’s and youth books in the German-speaking region. The head office is in Malmö, Sweden

BRIO AB is a global company, represented in over 20 countries, with Malmö an independent subsidiary, with subsidiaries in Germany, France and Japan too and distributors around the world


let toys be toys

To mark the retirement of the now late Lennart Ivarsson in 1990, the Lennart Ivarsson Foundation was established in recognition of his lifelong work at BRIO ABA. Every year, since 1992, the Lennart Ivarsson Scholarship awards the BRIO Prize. The aim of the BRIO Prize is to promote scientific research and development linked to children and toys. This scholarship is given either to a distinguished researcher or to a non-profit organization focusing on children and play.

Next month, on 3rd February, the organisation Let Toys Be Toys is to be awarded the BRIO Prize 2015 in recognition of their outstanding grass roots campaign. It is run by volunteers and to all intents and purposes is a pressure group designed to persuade retailers and toy manufacturers to stop categorising toys by gender. The prize will be awarded by the Lennart Ivarsson fund


Leibster award logo

Nominated for the Liebster Award!


If you are not familiar with the Liebster Award these are the rules:
Thank your nominator
Show the award on your blog
Answer 10 questions asked to you
Ask 10 questions to 10 new nominees (who have less than 200 followers)
Notify them

Thank you to InnerVoice for your generosity of spirit in nominating me for the Liebster Award.

My replies to the questions that were put to me (and nine other InnerVoice Nominees) are below:

Why did you start blogging?
I’d been working in community arts and home educating my two children, but by 2010 both these major roles in my life were moving toward a natural end, and so I started writing an educational/creative themed blog on another platform. Over at Not Compulsory I share examples of my own creativity and the creativity of others, and it has been known that I can get a little shouty about stuffy attitudes and the many maddening things to do with schooling and Education. While here at tssreviews on WordPress however, the vibe is very different as I wear a professional blogging/reviewing hat at all times

How do you feel about being nominated?
really flattered actually, I’ve never been nominated for any kind of blogger award before!

What is your opinion about Blogging101?
although I’ve been editor of this review’s site since 2011, there have been one or two things that I did not know would enhance tssreviews so I’ve made a few changes. The main thing is it has encouraged me to get social on WordPress which has been a real positive experience for me this month

What are your hobbies other than blogging?

all kinds of arty related pursuits, plus I am a new runner (I run 4 to 5K three times a week). I also enjoy history, music, film, Netflix and cooking.

What inspires you the most?
My never ending curiosity about everything

Is this your first/only blog or do you have other blogs too?

as I have mentioned already I have one other blog, a couple of profiles elsewhere and a presence across various social media platforms

How would you describe your blog?
as the tag title says: the talk and the opinion is never fake or biased. I try to convey the true customer experience and to communicate the nitty gritty basics to others, so that they can make an informed choice on whether a show, a trip, a service, a visitor attraction, or a consumer product, for example, is the one for them

What are the things that annoy you?
as a critic it may people hard to understand that the two things that annoy me the most is negative thinking and people who judge!

who would you want to be if you were reborn?
always thought that I’d like to be a bird if I were reborn

What is the message you want to give to your readers through your blog?

though it is important that my artistic eye is apparent in the writing and presentation of the posts I publish, when it comes down to the reviews especially, I do not necessarily wish for readers to hear my voice, but to sense an air of detachment and enjoy reading opinion that is unbiased and balanced


I nominate for the Liebster Award the following bloggers, all of whom I have have had a long time association on WordPress, but some may have more than 200 real subscribers so my apologies if I’ve broken the rules

Say hi to:


…and here are the 10 interview questions for those above who wish to take part:

Can you remember what it was that inspired you to set up a blog?
When was it that you published your first ever blog post?
How would you describe your blog?
Do you blog as a profession or for fun?
What is your preferred setting when you sit down to blog and publish your writing/photography?
Are there any hard and fast rules you set for yourself when it comes to blogging?
What aspect of the ‘bloggersphere’ do you most enjoy?
What aspect of the ‘bloggersphere’ do you find the most daunting?
In your view, who is the main reader audience for your blog?
What do you do in your spare time that is not reflected/associated with your blogging pursuits?

Carmen (OperaUpClose). Flora McIntosh (Carmen), Anthony Flaum (Jose). Photo Andreas Grieger

Stage Review – CARMEN at The Belgrade Theatre, Coventry UK

About OperaUpClose This production company is a registered charity which produces new English versions of opera, and who also premiere a brand new opera every year. The company makes the genre more accessible to the public by touring its shows and by working a programme which involves various communities (including schools). Credit them too, for their work in developing the careers of artists and performers (whether established professionals or just starting out), and all of this happens on a shoe string it seems and so is extremely commendable. Centrally, my excitement to review, was around the very fact that a version of Bizet’s wildly popular opera was appearing locally, so congratulations to OperaUpClose for making what is often invisible outside London, and the like, visible.

CARMEN Set outside a cigarette factory in an outback setting in South America, the female workers take a ‘fag’ break and attract the attention of a small group soldiers who are milling around. Carmen is flirtatious and the men are bewitched by her. Don Jose’s thoughts however, are elsewhere, and it is not until Carmen tosses a flower his way that his head is turned.  After a month spent in prison, Jose meets again with Carmen, he feels duty bound in his serving role within the barracks but the sexually confident, Carmen is a complete distraction. She teases him, and it is deliberate provocation on her part. Jose gets physical and slaps her down to the ground, and we get our first glimpse of his inability to control his aggression. Earlier a card reading predicted death for Carmen, and, sadly, death comes to her at the end. Carmen is said to be a story of obsession rather than love.

I understand it to be the case that Carmen is the best-known example of Opéra-Comique, and, in this version anyway, the comedy is present but more through the visual than the words. Carmen’s drunken swaggering and her constant leaning in on the male characters went on too long without change, that it almost became something to giggle at. If they were to track Carmen’s movements with some kind of computer technology over the small central area of the stage it would make a very busy map! And the costume design is quite absurd it seemed to me to be more Molière than Gypsy Flamenco, but, again, this may be the design intention.

It is impossible for a quartet of talented musicians to resonate those stunning songs to the soul pricking heights that a full on orchestra would manage. Sitting at the rear of the auditorium the operatic score and the singing met with my ears in the same way as if were being played over radio waves; so though the words were in English they were not that clear and I wanted to really feel the music to my very core, but it never arrived. The opera singing is very sweet, and as it should be, of course, is the real winner and the main delight about this show.


Pictured: Flora McIntosh (Carmen)  Anthony Flaum (Jose) Photograph by Andreas Greiger

Review by Debra Hall in an official capacity attended the press night showing of Carmen at The Belgrade Theatre on 19 January 2016


UK Blogger required to guest review

In the office today, I have a new, premium jigsaw puzzle (5oo pieces) that I would like to pass on to a UK based blogger to review. I’m looking for a guest reviewer, a he or she blogger, to submit their words and a couple of quality images, to me, for publication here at tss and for the publishing of the same review to be followed and repeated on the participant’s own blog once it has appeared at tssreviews. Interested?

Details: The puzzle is NEW, sealed and in original packaging, it is entitled An Evening Walk. So sorry, but interest can only be considered from UK based bloggers as I’ve not the budget to cover shipping the item abroad. Please email expressing your interest with Evening Walk in the subject line. The draw will happen in the next couple of days and will be random. The chosen participant will be notified by email and will be required at this point to pass on their full postal address. This call out for participation will also appear on other platforms. Please write between 250 – 500 words and include a couple of pics with your submission. Submission required by February 15


Combo Apps/Cloth-Clip Pro 37mm Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL)

Sharing a review by Combo Apps on WordPress of a Cloth-Clip Pro 37mm Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL) for a mobile phone which will ‘cut glare out of taking photos or making movies’. Includes a really good little demo video.

COMBO APPS: Mobile Extreme Editing

Dckina Cloth-Clip 37mm CPL

The first review of the year so I’ll kick it off with the DCkina Cloth-Clip Pro 37mm Circular Polarizer (CPL). It seems to work better than the smaller mobile circular polarizer filters out there. I like the cloth clip very much which makes it universal for just about any mobile device on the market. I made a little video with this 37mm CPL with my iPod Touch 6.

You will see a huge difference in the water but the clouds and sky were not working so well with this filter. It’s been kind of overcast type of day. Overall I prefer this filter over the smaller mobile filters because the results are a little better. The CPL with cloth-clip sells for $14.34 and without the cloth-clip $12.55. This is a great filter to have to cut glare out when taking photos or making movies. If you have any questions…

View original post 16 more words