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A Night at the Circus – Stage Review of CIRQUE BERSERK

Cirque Berserk is an extremely reputable version of a circus troupe touring theatre land and there is much more than just a tipping of the hat to the traditional in their work. Gymnastic, acrobatic, and agility talent is evident in all performances, as well expert timing and the sharp minded actions of trained minds. Much strength and concentration apparent in set skills and it is very obvious how much of a life’s work this is for most.

This show will present its audiences with a lot of visual fun wherever it goes. The ‘Berserkers’ are made up of a multicultural array of circus performers mostly from South American and Eastern European countries, also, France, Mongolia and Kenya. Many are similar in their physicality within their individual ethnic groups so the stage had a real feel of the exotic.

Supporting acts are the Berserk Dancing girls who hip roll and step left-and-right stage front, while the performers make those all-important stage prop changes behind.

Odka 'Lady from the bottle' and the most flexible archer you will ever see

Odka ‘Lady from the Bottle’ and the most flexible archer you will ever see

I would never wish to be pinned down to a conclusion where I have to state that I either like or dislike this art form. Though it is second nature for me to conduct a risk assessment if anything is potentially dangerous, because it seemed quite possible that the Bolas Argentinas duo could have flung their swinging clackers into the audience by mistake. Or that the dreadlocks from any one of the Timbuktu Tumblers might have caught fire. I fretted, be it very briefly, for the very life of the knife thrower’s assistant! And when I saw the Globe of Death move off its feet under the strain of the whizzing bikers inside, I looked around incredulously wondering if anyone else had noticed.

Seeing everyone clapping and cheering however, I thought this is it, Exactement! Without the threat of danger there wouldn’t be a show, and though I can always recognize and have an appreciation of artistry whenever and wherever it is present, there’s a layer that remains undefinable to do with this particular form of entertainment, even with animals being out out of the picture as is the case with Cirque Berserk.

On the other hand I see that it gives the people attached to the circus a good life and that they are absolutely dedicated individuals who enjoy peak body fitness, the thrill of performance and the chance to tour around. Who is complaining? I’m not, not really! It’s great!

Despite all of the wild activity present, it was the balancing act, and the slow and controlled movement of the toned torso and strong limbs of, Jose and his partner the gorgeously supple and graceful, Gaby I found to be the most captivating.

The show stealer however, is the slapstick comedy of, Tweedy who seems to incorporate all kinds of circus skills in his clowning around. Scottish man, Tweedy makes his routines look easy , yet he is so incredibly clever. The audience loved him. I heard children giggling every time his slot came around.

An enjoyably different theatrical experience for me. One in which etiquette was more relaxed and the rules attached to matters of Health and Safety and Intellectual Property were waived – for one week only at The Rep!


Theatre critic, Debra Hall attended the press night performance of CIRQUE BERSERK at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, UK on Monday 20 Feb 2017

Dr Anjali Mahto

Pollution and how it affects the skin

We chat to Dr Anjali Mahto, a Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Spokesperson. who explained how pollution can affect the skin:

“As skin is your outermost barrier, it is one of the first and largest targets for air pollution. So, what exactly is air pollution? Air pollutants include the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), volatile organic compounds (VOC), oxides, particulate matter, ozone, and cigarette smoke. Prolonged and repetitive exposure to these agents can have negative effects on the skin.
Scientific studies in both animals and humans have shown that these components of air pollution can contribute to premature skin ageing (wrinkling, pigmentation spots) and worsening of inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. One major mechanism is via the generation of reactive oxygen species that can damage DNA in skin cells.” She adds “For many of us settled in city life, it is worth thinking about taking extra precautionary measures to protect against noxious chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. We may not be able to control the environmental factors that lead to skin inflammation and ageing, but it is in our hands to try and limit these.”

A recent report reveals pollution levels as being ‘very high’ or ‘high’ in eight regions across the UK. Dr Mahto tells us that short of leaving the city and moving to the countryside there are measures one can take at home to protect your skin and limit damage

1. Cleanse your skin every night to remove dirt and environmental toxins from the skin surface

2. Exfoliate once weekly (less if you have dry or sensitive skin) to give your skin a deeper clean. This will also improve the penetration of any products that are later applied to the skin.

3. Use an antioxidant serum – antioxidants such as vitamin C and resveratrol have the ability to neutralize damage caused by reactive oxygen species. They certainly have a role in your anti-ageing armory.

4. Use a regular sunscreen (SPF 15 or above) – don’t forget your skin also needs UV protection to help reduce risk of skin cancers and signs of premature ageing.

5. Moisturise daily, particularly if you have a tendency to dry, inflammatory skin conditions e.g. eczema and psoriasis. This will keep your skin hydrated helping to maintain the integrity of the barrier function of your skin




Review of Dark Horse – The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance

Image Source : Pixabay

There is nothing more the silver screen loves than an underdog story, and the only thing better than a fictional ‘rags to riches’ is a real one. Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance is a documentary funded by the Channel 4 sister channel Film Four, that follows the story of a small mining village community in South Wales who bred a racehorse called, Dream Alliance and went on to astound the racing community.

Barmaid, Janet (Jan) Vokes is the woman who started this incredible story. She was inspired to breed a racehorse after overhearing a conversation about raising racehorses while working. After buying a mare and breeding it with a stallion, Dream Alliance was born in 2001. 23 villagers funded the horse’s training and upkeep by forming a syndicate and chipping in a tenner every week. Dream Alliance, after moderate success, won at Chepstow and again at the Perth Gold Cup. The next big competition was to be the Grand National when disaster struck and Dream Alliance sliced a tendon. As many will be aware when a racehorse suffers a serious injury they are normally put down. However, the village pulled together the winning’s pot to fund stem cell treatment. DreamAlliance not only recovered but also raced again at the Welsh National winning it by three quarters of a length.

The film will resonate in today’s Britain, where this sport is still very much elitist. How many race winning thoroughbreds were brought up on an allotment! Owners and trainers were completely dumbfounded at Dream Alliance’s success. Dream Alliance is called a “working class horse” in the film.

The film was directed by Louise Osmand and produced by Judith Dawson. In an interview with Rialto Channel 39, the pair explained how they fell in love with the story: “it’s about a community that had lost everything, who felt forgotten by the world; it’s about the irrepressible spirit of barmaid, Jan who bred the racehorse, and who persuaded others to share the outlandish dream…above all it’s about the extraordinary bond the characters forged with a beautiful animal that seemed almost like something from a fable.”

It certainly struck a cord and won the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary competition. Horse racing has always been a popular screen story to tell and has been explored numerous times.

Racing holds a special place in many people’s heart and the popularity of events such as the Cheltenham Festival demonstrates how much the sport means to people. The event will be held this March and “features a trio of major hurdle races,” according to Betfair. Cheltenham is one of the biggest races in the UK race calendar and attracts thousands each year with the dream of seeing a horse like Dream Alliance compete in real life.

There is something about Dream Alliance that elevates it above the normal racing stories. It is a story of both human and animal strength in the face of great adversity. This documentary is highly recommended and as good as any fictional rags to riches story you will see on the screen.

Dark Horse: The Incredible True Story of Dream Alliance is available on DVD



TSS Selection of Travel Themes in/on other formats

JOURNEY Pendant... 'with you all the way'

JOURNEY Pendant… ‘with you all the way’

Journey from the Friendship Collection by 'My Sphere of Life'

Journey from the Friendship Collection by ‘My Sphere of Life’


from Prestat – Union Jack mini chocolate bars



Sentry Box by Prestat London

from a wider collection of Bill Bryson's best selling travel books

from a wider collection of Bill Bryson’s best selling travel books by Black Swan

from the cover of the Bill Bryson title 'Notes from a BIG COUNTRY' By Neil Gower

from the cover of the Bill Bryson title ‘Notes from a BIG COUNTRY’ By Neil Gower


Bill Bryson’s Small Island, Big Country, Made in America, and Little Dribbling

Vintage Travel Guides - a Jigsaw Puzzle by Ravensburger

Vintage Travel Guides – a Jigsaw Puzzle by Ravensburger

500 piece jigsaw puzzle with a travel themed pictorial

500 piece jigsaw puzzle with a travel themed pictorial by Aimee Stewart


travelling back in time to 18th century London

travelling back in time to 18th Century London with this keepsake leaflet/map by

pocket sized map of Handel's London available from Handel House Museum and the website Handel & Hendrix in LONDON

pocket sized map of Handel’s London available from Handel House Museum and the website Handel & Hendrix in London



Stage Review – What’s in a Name? At Birmingham Repertory Theatre

In this rather fine Peckham home, French teacher, Peter is somewhat fixated with words, names and their meanings and he falls hook line and sinker for brother-in-law, Vincent’s wind-up about baby naming, and so ends up accusing him of being egocentric. Throw the all-seeing, all-knowing minds of their wives (Elizabeth and Anna) into the mix. Plus, a surprise confession by old friend, Carl and that evening of convivial speak and social pleasantries turns somewhat savage – suddenly the gloves are off!


Jamie Glover as Peter, Raymond Coulthard as Carl and Nigel Harman as Vincent

Definitely an echo of a family sitcom, with a touch of Abigail’s Party and Absent Friends in respect to being a social get-together which turns into a mighty barney.

I like the split thinking of this play’s structure. Firstly, there’s something perpetually fascinating about names. The title immediately gives away the fact that ‘names’ are going to be explored.

The other thread is nodding to the fact that people, in their huddles, pass judgement on others, share private jokes about others, and they hide such familiarity and bias from those involved.

It is toe curling then in various scenes when tensions are rising, that at any one time it is a spouse, a sibling, or a friend who is suddenly letting the ‘cat out of the bag’ in regard to a secret opinion that one pairing (or set) has held for another (or others) from within this party of five, and we laugh out loud at the reaction of the unfortunate, whoever it might be, when those words meets with the ears of the his or her who was never meant to hear them!

For example, take Carl and the revelation that for years he has been referred to by the others as ‘The Banana’ without his knowing! So funny!

Sarah Hadland as Elizabeth Photography Robert Day

Sarah Hadland as Elizabeth

Best of all we see the somewhat ensconced, Elisabeth deliver a wild rant, having had years of pent up anger and resentment toward her nearest and dearest all of which she has largely kept to herself and not shared with any of the others. Actor, Sarah Hadland’s speech earned her the biggest individual round of applause just before her character took herself off to bed in a strop.

I must say, I wasn’t chuckling that much for a long time. For a while it was one joke that went on too long. When I started laughing however, I was laughing all the way to the end.

Incredible set design and an experienced, professional cast. Recommended!


Nigel Harman – Vincent 

Jamie Glover – Peter

Sarah Hadland – Elizabeth

Raymond Coulthard – Carl

Olivia Poulet – Anna 

Photography by Robert Day

Theatre critic, Debra Hall attended press night of What’s in a Name? At Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tues 31 Jan 2017.

Country House in Spring jigsaw puzzle review and giveaway

Country House In Spring 300 pcs Ravensburger Puzzle

Country House In Spring 300 pcs Ravensburger Puzzle

Sharing news of a Rafflecopter giveaway at Yet another Blogging Mummy on WordPress. Click on the link below

Source: Country House in Spring jigsaw puzzle review and giveaway


Last year at tssreviews

I sailed through 2016 blogging away quite happily. I have a new blog too But as far as TSS goes I think it is still relevant in both the creative industry and the business world, though I think the bubble has very much burst between bloggers in general and their PR partners in a commercial sense. The water has been muddied somewhat. Despite this,  I have managed to publish regular posts under an array of different categories. More importantly, I very much hope I’m still entertaining and inspiring readers

Here’s a few highlights from 2016


suite on the top floor of Hotel Miragem Cascais

Top review was of Portugal’s Hotel Miragem Cascais. Read it here

Image is from '365 Little Things' A Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzle (500 pcs) Artist Mike Spike

Image is from ‘365 Little Things’ A Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzle (500 pcs)
Artist Mike Spike

I like ‘things’ and I talk about ‘things’ a lot. I have probably featured more than 365 little things over the course of 2016 if you were to add them up. There’s the jigsaw puzzle reviews of course, but there were also things like paperback books; scented candles; subscription box bits; shiny things; pretty things; practical things; technical things; large things with small components, potatoes (yes potatoes), and chocolate hearts

Golden #heart and sophisticated luxury that's @prestatfinesttruffles #valentines

A post shared by Debra Hall (@picture_personal) on

Talking of hearts, we make no secret of the fact that all TSS tester’s have loved the fine and wonderfully crafted chocolate by Prestat of London not just in 2016 but for a good few years now.  If I am allowed to recommend any luxury brand at all, it’ll be this one. Try these chocs from the latest Valentine boxes for 2017, and you’ll be hooked!



As well, 2016 saw me partnering with a few carefully selected brands who happily supported my home feature projects with the supply of big things that I believe were nicely showcased. I hope you liked seeing them. A selection is shown above

3m automotive wraps

3m automotive wraps

The profiling of businesses happens monthly. These are always popular articles with my readers. Top TSS read under this category in 2016, was March’s Business of the Month which was the American Worldwide Enterprise Multi-Industry giant 3M

Hairspray 1

Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company (SCMTC)

Less about industry now, and more about The Arts and 2016 was my ninth year writing and publishing stage reviews, so once again I was presented with fine opportunities to cast a critical eye over Midland’s theatre in the UK. However, it was an amateur production of Hairspray at The Garrick in Lichfield by a muscial theatre company based in Sutton Coldfield (SCMTC) that achieved the most views in 2016 at TSS. Read it here

from the book Title: Embroidered Landscapes (Australia) Author: Judy Wilford

from the book Title: Embroidered Landscapes (Australia)
Author: Judy Wilford

I am greatly interested in these four Cs: Creativity, Crafts, Countries, and Celebrations. I have tried hard to incorporate these themes in much of my writing to date, and would like to continue to do so in 2017

I’ve been meaning to write a little overview of 2016 at tssreviews for a while; finally gotten round to it!


Debra x

Editor at


An Interview with Actor, Writer and Producer, Daniel Taylor

About Daniel Taylor

Daniel Taylor is known for playing Sammy in Blood Brothers (West End and national tour). Read our previously published review of that tour date in Coventry here. Also Mickey in Alan Bleasdale’s production of Down the Dock Road (Royal Court, Liverpool). In Autumn 2016, Taylor toured the UK, US and Canada in the title role of stage production Lennon: Through A Glass Onion.

About The Tommy Cooper Show

Daniel Taylor is currently touring the UK with his own production The Tommy Cooper Show, a three-hander based on the life of the late comedian. Co-written by Taylor himself, along with playwright Ian Carroll, The Tommy Cooper Show takes us on a journey from Cooper’s days in the army right up to the height of his national TV stardom. The Tommy Cooper Show remains a celebration of what made Cooper such a national treasure who brought joy and laughter to the British public. Note: The production has the blessing of Tommy Cooper’s estate and his daughter Vicky. The show returns to Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn on Sat 4 Feb 2017

Daniel Taylor as Tommy Cooper in the Stage Production of The Tommy Cooper Show

Daniel Taylor as Tommy Cooper in the Stage Production of The Tommy Cooper Show

We held a Q&A session with Daniel Taylor to find out more about The Tommy Cooper Show

Can you give us a brief rundown of the show and what to expect?

It’s first and foremost a celebration of Tommy’s life and the events that led to his television stardom and the people who shaped him. It goes right back to his time in the army, and meeting his wife, Gwen, who he affectionately named ‘Dove’. Gwen is played by the lovely Sharon Byatt (Blood Brothers, My Kingdom, Bread). We also take a look at the relationship Tommy has with his long-suffering manager Miff Ferrie. Tommy really was quite a handful for both of them at times.
We acknowledge the trying times, and the impact Tommy had on those around him, but the show isn’t a negative piece. It’s not what the play is about. It’s about bringing to life an incredibly funny man, as best I can, and celebrating his rise to fame and the people who supported him throughout. Expect lots of Tommy’s trademark tricks gone wrong, and lots of laughs.

The show is produced and co-written by yourself. Why did you decide to put on a show about Tommy Cooper?

At the time I had the idea, I was working with Ian Carroll. I just decided I wanted to do something different. Ian wrote the script, and I developed it from there. There’s just something I find so intriguing about the character of Tommy Cooper. I think I play him with ease – if that doesn’t sound too egotistical. I just feel very comfortable in his skin, we share a sense of humour.

Tommy Cooper was famous for his magic tricks gone wrong, what was it like to play the ‘hapless magician’?

It’s a fascinating part of Tommy’s character, and that’s not how he started out. He was into magic tricks from a young age, his Aunt Lucie gave him his first magic kit at the age of 8. He was a very well respected magician, and a member of the Magic Circle.
There are a few different stories about how he realised he could make people laugh by getting the tricks wrong. The story I like is one from performance in his early days at in the shipyards in Southampton. He was performing the trick of the upturned milk – Instead of remaining magically in the bottle when overturned, the milk split everywhere. Tommy was absolutely mortified, but the audience were in hysterics.
His biggest break of course was in television. Up until then, he faced numerous rejections. He had an extraordinary attitude towards work, and was meticulous in planning every trick, and crucially, planning exactly how to get them wrong to get a reaction from the audience.

Do you have any favourite jokes or routines?

I always get asked this, and once I start I can’t stop. The ‘Glass Bottle, Bottle Glass’ routine is a classic that lots of people will remember. Of course, I love ‘Spoon Jar, Jar Spoon’. I love doing the ‘Hats’ routine – because it’s just chaos. I love the chaos of it!
As for jokes… how about?
I backed a horse at 20:1. It came in at 20 past four.
I went to see the doctor today, I had to – he’s not been well.
I went to see the doctor today and said ‘doctor, I’ve broken my arm in three places’. He said ‘Well stay away from those places.’
Just like that!

You seem to be developing a habit of playing much-loved icons of entertainment, last year playing John himself in Lennon: Through A Glass Onion. What was it like playing such an iconic, but controversial figure?

It means a great deal. It’s a role I love – I’m very grateful to have got the chance to play one of my heroes in a job and a business that I love.
I grew up listening to Lennon’s music. Personally I wouldn’t say he was controversial, at least not intentionally. He was simply honest. He wasn’t necessarily right, of course, but he spoke his mind. Lennon’s opinions are controversial because they didn’t sit well with all people, but he believed in what he was saying and he felt it needed to be said. He tried to use being in the limelight in a positive way, and was probably very naive about how his opinions would be received.

Finally, why should people come to see the show?

Come and have a good laugh with us – it’s a great night out. Tommy’s humour is timeless and suitable for all ages, so bring the kids. It’s also an opportunity to reminisce for all the oldies (like myself!). It’s good light-hearted entertainment for the whole family, and we aim to make you laugh from the beginning to the end.