Blue & Orange, Thornton Heath, London

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Every area should have its local great restaurant, and for Thornton Heath, this is Blue & Orange. I live in Thornton Heath, so I have visited this restaurant many times. For me, it is the best and most reliably good restaurant in South London.
The food is always excellent, we have eaten from all parts of the menu and it is consistently very good. The menu is varied with an Eastern Mediterranean inclination. The Borek is excellent as a starter and the Kulbasti is a fantastic main course. They also do pasta (the chicken liver tagliatelle is delicious), pizza and various hamburgers.
The chilli sauce is made on the premises and is really good – it is worth the trip for the chilli  sauce alone!
Blue and Orange is fully licensed, the house beer is Efes. I have noticed recently that they are serving lots of cocktails with dinner, although to be fair, I haven’t tried one yet. It is open all afternoon as well as at night, so it is handy if you are looking to eat early or to have a late lunch.
It is probably worth ringing ahead to book if you are intending to go at peak times as it is usually pretty busy at night.
Heartily recommended!
Try the homemade chilli sauce!
 

Manchester Museum, Manchester

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Manchester Museum has got such a wide variety of exhibits that any visitor is likely to find something that they find fascinating. It is particularly good at providing a story behind the items it has on display.
It contains the skeleton of the elephant that walked from Edinburgh to Manchester. It has a, stuffed and mounted, Tigon that lived in Manchester zoo. It has a beautiful, live, Panther Chameleon. It even has some gilded bees!
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It is free to enter, with plenty of helpful staff. It is surprisingly large and did not feel crowded even though there were many people there on the Friday morning that I visited.
There is a very good and interesting Egyptology section with various mummies and a granite head of Rameses II.
It is well worth a visit if you have a couple of hours to spare when you are in Manchester. I really enjoyed it.
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The Café in the Crypt, St-Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London

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If you are near Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, St Martins Lane or the National Gallery, there is a lovely little hidden café underneath the St Martin-in-the-Fields church.
You enter by going downstairs in a circular glass structure in the wide alley just to the North of the church.
Once you are downstairs you will be in a large atmospheric crypt with beautiful arched vaulted ceilings. The acoustics are great, even when it is full you can hear your party’s conversation without difficulty.
The floor is flagged with large stones and some very old gravestones. There are busts of famous ancient Londoners  dotted throughout, in hidden alcoves.
It serves very good food; soup made on the premises, nice hot dishes that change from day to day, lovely cakes and biscuits and it is licensed, if you fancy a glass of wine with your lunch.
There is a good choice for vegetarians too.
If you a looking for somewhere that is right in the centre of tourist London that, perhaps, most tourists might miss, then this is just the place.
A real hidden gem!
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The picture above is of the entrance, in case you miss it. It has Jazz evenings on Wednesdays. Oh and the church that it is beneath, St Martin-in-the-Fields, is not to shabby either!

Picasso Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London 2016/7

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There are a lot of pieces of art in this exhibition, and many pieces that I haven’t seen before. Picasso was prolific, he had a very long productive span and it is interesting to see pieces here from each part of it.
His portraits are representative of his career in general, in that some of them appear disposable, some are sublime, but all are interesting. Some are interesting because they show his amazing technique, others because they give us insight into the character of the model and some because they shed light on his own disposition.
There are probably close to 100 portraits here. A cubist bust of Fernande Olivier is technically wonderful, a childlike painting of his daughter, Maya, at 2 is moving. A metal 2 dimensional bust of Jaqueline is clever and inventive.
There are many portraits of Olga, his wife, showing varying aspects of their relationship. The most famous of these is probably “Woman in a Hat” painted towards the end of their marriage which manages to be both beautiful and cruel.
There is also a doctored photograph of Esther Williams that is misogynistic and insulting.
I left the exhibition thinking that I really like Picasso the artist, but I doubt that I would have liked him in person.
Perhaps, this is what made him a great artist – he was able to display to us how he felt, but did not care how we felt about him.
It is a show that I would consider returning to, but £17.50 (without the expected £2 donation) a time, would discourage repeat visits. However, I felt it worth the money overall.  The National Portrait Gallery is free (expected £2 donation) for general entry and is packed with lovely stuff.
The pictures at the head and foot of this article are self-portraits, at 15 and at 90.
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Locke (dir. Steven Knight) 2013

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This is basically a single-room, dialogue only film. Except that the room is a car being driven from the Birmingham to London, and there is only one person in the car.
Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man organising change on his phone after making a life altering decision.
The concept does not sound promising but Steven Knight shows off his immense skill as a scriptwriter here and Tom Hardy turns in a monumental and understated performance, making this a movie that will stay with you long after the titles roll.
This is not a film to get you in the mood to go out or even to see with a group of friends and pizza, because it is not a light easy watch.
If you are in an introspective mood and want to see a thought provoking film, this will repay your time many times over.
Great writing and a great performance. I really enjoyed this.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Apollo Theatre 2016/7

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This production is just coming to the end of its Christmas 2016 run, but I am pretty certain that it will return next year, because although Captain Hook keeps asserting that this is not a pantomime, well……(all together now!) Oh! Yes it is!
This is not the show you should choose if you are looking for the full-on traditional British panto experience, but it does have some elements of the genre, along with some slapstick and a lot of physical comedy.
If you take note of the title, you will know, generally what to expect, everything that you can think of does go wrong, but I’ll bet that they manage to find a few extra disasters that never even occurred to you.
A version of this was performed for the BBC and shown on television over Christmas. This was quite entertaining but it is a play that comes across much better live.
The show is very funny and the characters are very likeable, even the villain. It is great for kids and adults alike, in fact it would be a fantastic first time theatre experience for a youngster, both memorable and enjoyable.
It is great that London finally has a Christmas show to come back to every year!

"Art", The Old Vic, London 2016/7

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I saw Art in 1996 when it first played the West End. Back then I loved it and gave it 5 stars. It is still a really good show, discussing interesting themes; aging, friendship and art. It has dated a little bit, some of the references are old fashioned, a couple of the arguments are a less convincing now, society is less in awe of money than it was then. Having said that, most of the lines are still funny and none of the questions it raises have been resolved.
This production is (if I remember correctly) almost identical to the one from the 1990s and might have benefited from a couple of small tweaks. The acting is good, Paul Ritter as Marc was wonderfully aggressive and argumentative, I was less convinced of Rufus Sewell’s love of his painting and Tim Key played it for laughs and was genuinely funny.
Overall, I enjoyed this production and will happily go to see it again in another 20 years!

Golden Years (dir. John Miller) 2016

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This is a British comedy, with a great cast full of familiar faces. The concept is good and it has some nice funny touches. It has a wonderful British sensibility, in that it is a little bit subversive and sticks up for the underdog – it also has the British tendency to be slightly politically preachy and has a love of the double entendre.
The writing and plotting is dreadful and takes the shine off the whole movie. There are huge holes in the plot and some of the storyline is so implausible that it takes a lot of effort to suspend your disbelief. This is a shame because so many other elements of the film are enjoyable. The film felt lazy, or rushed, because some of the plot holes could have been easily rectified with a little more thought.
However, there are some lovely and lively performances, the characters are all likeable, there is a few good one-liners and funny slapstick moments. So watch with a forgiving frame of mind and you should enjoy it.

Half a Sixpence, Noel Coward Theatre

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This is a revival of a 50 year old show. It has been done with so much love and a nice attention to detail.
There are new songs and a tidied up storyline but it still does not feel current and it doesn’t attempt to.
It looks and feels like an early 1960’s musical and that is its charm.
It has the early 60s obsession with class, it has the big boisterous dance numbers of the time and it has some great songs. There is an innocence and optimism about this show that one doesn’t find in contemporary musicals.
The whole cast are fantastic but Charlie Stemp is outstanding as Arthur Kipps. How he manages to maintain that energy throughout the whole show is remarkable.
Some of the songs have been moved around and there have been new ones added. “Pick Out a Simple Tune” is a particularly memorable new song. Moving “Flash, Bang, Wallop” to the close is a master stroke, finishing the show on a glorious high.
This is a great show with a wonderful finale and I will be amazed if it does not win a host of awards in the coming season.
Go see it while you have the chance – you will leave the theatre elated!

Dead Funny, Vaudeville Theatre, 2016/7

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24 years on is a difficult time at which to attempt the revival of a play. It’s long enough ago for the jokes and attitudes to appear dated and out of touch, yet not distant enough for us to see the play as an interesting period piece, or for us to indulge the mores of a different society.
This show has a great cast and they perform very well. The play itself has not aged well. The storyline and many of the lines feel old, the characters are not developed. The female roles in particular are one dimensional stereotypes – the hysterical woman desperate for a baby and the flirtatious, glamorous eye candy. There is an inherent sexism throughout the play that is uncomfortable to sit through now.
The male characters are caricatures too and we have come to expect more subtlety from the dialogue. The parts of the play that set out to shock us are no longer outrageous, the tasteless joke was neither shocking nor funny and the nudity was superfluous.
The acting was of a very high standard though, you could tell that Steve Pemberton loved the play and Ralf Little and Katherine Parkinson were a joy to watch.
It is very possible that in another 25 years this play will be an antique heirloom but currently, it is just out dated and out of fashion.