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Book Review – A Dangerous Crossing

A Dangerous Crossing

Author Rachel Rhys

Published by Doubleday

Release date 23 March 2017

RRP 12.99 (Hardback)

An Adult Fictional Book – Crime Thriller


Set in 1939, just before the outbreak of WWII, and young, Lily Shepherd takes an ocean liner journey from England to Australia. Compelled to get away from the dark shadows of near past events, her plan is to live in Sydney working in domestic service for a couple of years. Once aboard the good ship Orontes Lily makes her friendships and acquaintances with a small band of people almost straightaway. As a single woman, travelling alone, Lily is thrown into new experiences. Early in the voyage she suffers a bout of sickness, and is home sick at times, especially as news filters through of Germany’s growing aggression. Lily is cliquey with certain people. Her attentions go to a couple from the first-class deck to whom there is much gossip and scandal attached. The pair load luxury upon her. In the meantime, she is having flashbacks, she’s trying to cope with her anxieties and is hoping too that the love she has found for fellow traveller, Edward Fletcher does not end up being unrequited.


Rachel Rhys (the author) has based this story on the real life journal entries of a young woman who embarked on a voyage like this one a year earlier than Rhys has settled on. Rhys decided to use the diary mentions and produce this fictional story using the diarist’s references to geographical places, her social circumstance and other first-hand observations. The mechanics Rhys has used in making those links in her structuring is sometimes too apparent which affects the flow. The structure too is almost lending itself to being halfway adapted for silver screen showing, or for film or stage. There are director style pointers in the descriptions which seem out of place and the third person narrative is confusing because we hear too much of Lily thoughts in the text. I wonder if Rhys had other plans for this work from the off rather than concentrating wholly on it being a fiction book format.

I sometimes refer to a play being ‘a play of two halves’ meaning there is either improvement or deterioration in Act II to what went before in Act I. The same analogy applies to this book. When I arrived at the middle section I had enjoyed reading it very much and was thinking that this was all set up for suspense building on the intriguing bits that had been presented. It is at this central point the story telling loses momentum. Characters continue to be stereo typified and hopes of being surprised by any one of them quickly falls away. Everyone is suddenly getting hold of the ‘wrong end of the stick’ and I cannot count how many times Edward seems to be missing from Lily’s eye-line. I had worked everything out long before the ending so there’s not much mystery attached. I was bored with reading it long before the confirmations arrived.

This is largely a story about class differences and relationships. It’s about infatuations and sensibilities within pairings and groups. It includes a couple of weak story threads trying to deal with big issues like fascism and people prejudices, as well it is attempting to inform of actual world events over two months of the summer of 1939. Rhys’s decision to interweave real history and happenings from a relatively short time span, with the fickle and somewhat naive reactions of a rather wishy washy central character of fiction does not work. Sub-plots are non existent. Try to imagine British Pathe, meeting Downton Abbey, meeting Murder on the Nile!

Book review by Reviewer and Critic, Debra Hall


Stage Review : Betrayal (A Derby Theatre Production)

The story of Jerry, Emma and Robert is told in a kind of reverse chronology of events as to how the trio’s love lives were once intertwined. Betrayal is a memory play.

Jerry and Emma meet in a bar in the opening scene. Conversation is polite and a little awkward. They haven’t seen one another for a long time, nevertheless, they are old friends who met many years previous through association with Emma’s husband, Robert. Actually, we learn that the two men, Jerry and Robert, have remained in regular contact. They still meet for lunches on occasion as they both work in publishing.

So, Jerry and Emma’s café catch-up is similar to when someone meets up with a Facebook friend. They appear interested to hear news about each other’s spouses and of the well-being of both sets of children, but as Robert remains a ‘mutual friend’ the pair are already, to some degree, aware of what has been occurring in each other’s lives. It’s that kind of conversation. As the talk progresses however, and tongues loosen after a couple of drinks the things they say becomes more intimate.

By the end of the first scene we have learned that Jerry and Emma were once engaged in an extra-marital affair and we know to some degree how that affair had been handled in secret from Robert, and from Jerry’s wife (who we never see).

Much of what is revealed in that first scene is hugely relevant to how the play is structured. In my mind, I landed on the mid-80s being the earliest time setting which happens overall, I only use the funk group Cameo vibe played as a clue to arriving at that assumption! This is the time when Jerry first ever makes a move on Emma at a party she is hosting, and it is this same social occasion that forms the final scene of the play. Actually, designer, Neil Irish has attempted to create a setting freed from a specific period, and because of his efforts, this fine production has a real contemporary feel.

Ben Addis as Robert and Philip Correia as Jerry Photography by Robert Day


With the exception of Scene One which takes place in front of the stage curtain, the rest of the play is performed within a giant, revolving Perspex ‘Memory Box’. As scenes change, those cast members that are not involved in the action at any one-time use hand-held cameras to zoom-in for close up shots of the character’s faces which are projected on massive screens up high and behind in black and white. Depending on the time setting and whether Robert is in the company of either Emma or Jerry at any one time, those faces at any one time can be of: the two faces of lovers-in-love; or the one face of an ex-lover confessing to a friend; the poker face of a lover deceiving her husband; the hurt faces of a couple breaking up, or a face with probing eyes. Technology utilised this way is a powerful addition to the story telling. Theatrical devices used and Lekan Lewal’s direction is expert.

Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Emma. Ben Addis as Robert.
Photography by Robert Day

Matthew Curnier plays the role of the Italian waiter at a restaurant where the two men meet for lunch, and he also has continued presence as a scene changer and is the main camera operator inside the box. I report strong performances by all three male cast members, and, having seen the stage work of Kemi-Bo Jacobs before, I, again, found her speech to be very monotone, but her acting finesse exceptional. An enjoyable first night reviewing theatre at Derby Theatre!

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall who attended press night of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal at Derby Theatre on Tuesday 21 March 7.30pm

Victoria Beckham says London 2012 was enough of a Spice Girl Reunion

The Spice Girls reunited for the London Olympics in 2012 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Victoria Beckham thinks the Spice Girls performing at the London 2012 Olympics was enough of a reunion. Victoria reunited with bandmates Mel B, Emma Bunton, Geri Horner and Mel…

via Victoria Beckham says she’ll ‘always be Posh Spice’ as she dismisses the Spice Girls reunion — Metro

Stage Review of ‘What the Butler Saw’

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What the Butler Saw
All scenes take place in a clinic room. Doors off lead to and from the garden, a backroom, and to other parts of the larger building. The opening scene begins quite sedately with Dr Prentice conducting an interview for a secretarial position. Interviewee, Geraldine is soon stripping from behind the curtains at the request of the doctor. This she does unwittingly and without question.

In the meantime, the doctor’s sex starved wife enters unexpectedly and she is wearing only underwear under her coat. Another medical ‘professional’ Dr Rance comes along and provides a madcap diagnosis of the couple’s marital problems. Later a black mailing bell boy, accused of sexual harassment, enters. Finally a policeman and we think the whole thing will settle down.

Of course, it doesn’t settle down, the six make their entrances and exits at different times. The two doctors are the only two characters who remain in their day clothes/white coats throughout. The two youngsters swap identities and therefore their genders too. The policeman is drugged and bloodied by the end. For all of the time Dr Rance continues misdiagnosing everyone to the sordid and most outrageous degree, and so it goes…

Positive comment

This production of ‘What the Butler Saw’ is well cast, the physical work and dialectal skills is exceptional by all players. The subtle interchanges between characters, plus and the full-on tussles are timed to perfection.

Negative comment
The work encompasses all the elements of a farce, but despite all the good work associated with it I was turned off greatly by the script. Written back in the day when sexual innuendo and blunt indiscretion featured high in comedy. I found the humour to be very base; therefore the comedy was boring for the larger part. It wasn’t that I was bored watching, but I wasn’t happy, happy with it either. I’d not left my sense of humour at home particularly, it is just that the play is a product of a time past. I doubt it will appeal when performed in future years. What it will do is act as an exposé perhaps of the kind of social injustices that people once found to be a source for amusement.

Review by theatre critic, Debra Hall who attended press night of What the Butler Saw at The Curve Theatre, Leicester on Wednesday 08 March 2017

Production Photography by Catherine Ashmore

The Curve
My first time reviewing a stage show at The Curve and what a stylish venue for Leicester central! The curved architecture brings a different vibe within its walls, the seating in the auditorium is spacious and allows a little extra leg room than some traditional theatres. The late and highly revered playwright, Joe Orton, having been Leicester born and raised, meant there was much local interest and high anticipation from last night’s theatregoers so the venue had a full house feel; it had a buzzy ‘spirit of place’ about it.

Review of CALEB’S CAB – An Illustrated Storybook for Children


Author Sally Chomet

Illustrated by Sylvain Chomet

Published by Walker Books in Hardback

Release date 03 November 2016

RRP 12.99

A Children’s Fictional Book – for 8 years +

Overview: Caleb’s Dad has vanished. Caleb has one clue of his Dad’s last movements and so he tries to solve the mystery. The Money Mongers might snatch him but Caleb is determined to solve the mystery of his Dad’s disappearance.

Comment and Guide:
A French tale but in some ways it feels British, yet, it is a neither nor kind of place. The text containing colloquial speak from a time long gone will be unfamiliar to young children or to their parent reader even i.e. ‘Mongers” ‘Greasy comb overs’; trestle table; camphor, Spam, canteen, bingo halls. In most cases, it is not always wise for a children’s author to even try to be authentic in writing their story of the past using language and referencing things using old terminology, as there can be a real possibility of ending up with something irrelevant and unappealing for its child audience. That said, if you’re going to attempt it, then do it like the Chomet’s have done in this story. Modern day life is switched on enough to engage a child and a child does not need to know or understand everything to get a handle on things and to enjoy it. The narrative can leave one feeling rather quizzical whatever the age. The language is lively throughout and words like ‘Pleb’, ‘computers’, ‘DNA’, ‘microwaves’ etc fill the lines too. This eccentric story is well written and the writing flows well. Illustrations by animation film director, Sylvain Chomet. Chomet’s illustrations are fab and oldie world authentic in their muted tones. This is a book that is best read out loud and if an older/adult reader gets to grips well with the lively dialogue this would make for an enjoyable shared reading experience! However, if selected for a short bedtime story read, then this would probably be something that would run over a couple of nights.

Photography by Greg Shepherd for Ravensburger Puzzles


Glittering Gemstones by Ravensburger


image captures all the colour and glamour of costume jewellery and is No.8 from the Perplexing Puzzle range by Ravensburger

img_4503Greg Shepherd is a Devon UK based photographer who takes shots of various collections of unique items that are theme based. The images he then sells for commercial uses. The image above has been commissioned by Ravensburger and is No 8 from their Perplexing Puzzle range. The puzzle is called ‘Glittering Gemstones’ and, like all from the range, it is a difficult and challenging puzzle to tackle. The product has achieved 100% 5 star awards for published reviews on Amazon

Click on the following link to read our full artist profile of Greg when tss reviewed the ‘Cooking up a Feast’ jigsaw in Jan 2016 Source: Blogging 101 #4 a Review of the Cooking up a Feast jigsaw puzzle

Stage Review of Amédée By Eugene Ionesco. Freely adapted by Sean Foley

I saw and heard everything but I’m none the wiser of what the play is meant to represent or any closer to making any sense of it, and this, evidently, is the thinking space conclusion that playwright, Eugene Ionesco first intended.

I overheard someone say when asked if they liked it ‘yes, it was good…’ then a slight pause followed by the reaffirmation ‘bizarre, but good’.

Reflecting on what we saw:

We saw a strange couple (Amédée and Madeleine) trying to cope with a shared problem. One that has been growing and growing. One that they have failed to get to grips with over a fifteen-year span and because of it they both appear to have lived a very insular and frugal existence inside a one bed-roomed flat.

Though the title suggests this is going to be about Amédée. I think we did not really get to know him. We know ‘the problem’ had made Amédée terribly indecisive and he possessed no ability to concentrate. We see a weird, scatter-brained character living on his nerves and who accomplishes nothing, nothing at all, until he floats away at the play’s end; quite literally.

As for Madeleine, well she is at odds with herself as to how she and Amédée had got in to this predicament in the first place, and is relying on to him to make things right. She works hard to keep on top of ‘the problem’ but she is plainly exhausted. She has a job too, because she is the bread winner. Madeleine works as a telephone operator, who sits at a switchboard to filter calls, but she does not appear to leave the flat to do it! She routes queries from and to royalty and political figures, war officers and democrats across different realities and different time frames.

If there is any bluffing, or double bluffing intended in the script, Sean Foley is fully engaging with the exactness of that activity as well as the surreal, in this, his very fine adaptation of the original. Talk about going off on tangents though! I wonder if Amédée (the play itself) was meant to represent a state of mind, or a noun of some sort. Who knows!

I have mixed feelings overall. The script is a little pedestrian with not much escalation because of deliberate repetition, but there is no taking away from the fact this is blackly funny and the two main actors handle the dialogue and the physicality expertly. Theatrically, Ti Green’s set design is rather good, and ‘the problem’ (the elephant in the room) in other words, is represented visually, and rather stunningly. I’d be a spoiler if I mention what that is exactly, but know its inclusion and the creative work to do with it raises the quality bar, and I settle comfortably at an award of 4 stars for this stage production.

Theatre critic, Debra Hall attended press night showing of Amédée at The Studio theatre at The Rep, Birmingham on Tuesday 28 February 2017


Photography: Ellie Kurttz

How To Wear : Hi-Waist Slip by Miraclesuit

Miraclesuit Sheer Slip. A Shapewear undergarment with double panels for Extra Firm Control designed to flatten the tummy and shape the hips. Made from Nylon, Elastane and Spandex and has a Gusset that is 92% Cotton.
Colour: Black (also available in Nude)
Size S,M,L,XL,2XL
Design and Decoration: Plain. High waist. Double sheer panels. Built in Panty. Elasticated waist. Flat seams and hemlines. With Edge technology designed to create a smooth look under clothes


Hi-Waist Slip £43 from Figleaves

Online retailer of intimate apparel FIGLEAVES



Miraclesuit Look 10 lbs lighter in 10 seconds


Sheer panels adjust to fit your body – Miraclesuit Hi- Waist Slip


Promotional shot from Miraclesuit

The tester is female with a full figure (size 16 UK). In the morning of the test she put on the slip (size XL 14-16 UK) to trial. She reports that this was not a strain to do and that the sketchiness of the fabric immediately felt comfortably light, figure hugging and secure across the body. Over the top she pulled on a close fitting to-the-knee pencil skirt. The tester reports that the lining of the skirt glided smoothly up over the hips and she was able to fasten the zip to the top more easily than usual. She states that it was immediately apparent that the skirt’s waistline was a looser fit and there was a seam free and firmer appearance around her bottom and hips, and, when looking in the mirror, the Tester thought her side profile was smoothed and straightened around these areas; but says her usual tummy bulge was not any flatter or noticeably reduced at all.

Our tester reports that the hook fasteners around the gusset area (like those on a bra strap) can be completely undone for ease when visiting the bathroom or to do away with having the inbuilt panty in place. She stated that when opting to wear this item as a slip only that one’s usual panties can be worn underneath. This, however, does change the look and to some degree the performance because it is suddenly more ‘open’ and the gusset is then two short flaps that hang loose  (one to the front and to the back) but they are tucked away still and are not outwardly visible so that is a good thing.

The tester wore the item for many hours as part of the trial. The tester believes this is not a 24 hr performing garment. The tester found that after her evening meal and being in a centrally heated home environment that she was getting slightly uncomfortable and restricted by evening time. However, during the day, she found the fabric to be cool and that her movements i.e. bending down, stretching up, sitting, stepping etc. were not restricted at all; in fact she very much liked the sensation and security of the bands and panels doing their work. The edge technology being a real plus point because she found that the slip did not ride up or the waistline did not roll down and her figure outline was enhanced.

Tester concludes that the slip flattered her figure and that made her feel good, and that wearing this slip under her choice of every day or occasion wear she knows she would be enhancing her style and look every time.

1. This Sheer Hi Waist Slip is not designed to be worn under trousers.
2  Always buy nude shape wear if you are going to be wearing it under white clothes. It will not show though whereas white underwear will

See 1.1 Disclaimer