2018 was a tremendously tough year for me, but that made it vitally important for me to find things to put a smile on my face. Sometimes life is hard and there’s not much you can do to change things. That’s why it’s so important to prioritise the things that bring us joy, because that is what gets us through the hard times. Hopefully you can share those things with others, but if not, it’s still worth doing them alone too.
Guys and Dolls at the Royal Exchange
I went to see Guys and Dolls at the Royal Exchange theatre with my mum in January. It was a really impressive production, set in 1940s Harlem with a cast completely made up of people of colour. The cast were very talented and I left humming the tunes. Personally I got a kick out of the men’s colourful, period appropriate suits.
I waited to see Hamilton for so long and it lived up to the hype. There is almost too much to say about this, but I loved it. Some of the songs were quite intense for me, seeing it weeks after my mum’s funeral, but overall I had a positive experience and I am itching to go back. Hamilton was my favourite musical before I saw it on stage and watching it in March only solidified this. I am glad that I was able to see the Original West End cast. My favourite song if I’m pushed is ‘The Room Where It Happens’ and seeing Giles Terrera from the third row out of breath because of the energy he had put into the show (only the second show of eight that week!) was unforgettable.
Whilst I was in London with my sisters, we visited the Natural History Museum and saw an exhibition about wildlife photography, which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to. The standard of the photography was very high, with interesting perspectives from each of the photographers. The photographs were exhibited on digital screens, which allowed them to be presented at their very best. We also visited the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. It was great to revisit some famous paintings at the former and experience the latter for the first time.
Flight of the Conchords
I’ve been waiting years for the Flight of the Conchords to tour the UK again, and then I had to wait even longer when Brett fell down the stairs and broke his arm and they had to reschedule the date. It was a thoroughly hilarious show with some old favourites, as well as some new material. I’m fortunate to have seen most of my favourite living artists live. Flight of the Conchords was another one, and the perfect antidote to much of the shittiness of 2018.
I went to see Matilda The Musical for the first time when it came on tour to the Palace Theatre in Manchester. It was twice as enjoyable because I went to see it with a good friend. We both love musicals but it was our first time seeing a show together. I love the creativity in the staging of the show and the message of taking control of your life and fighting the bullies. Matilda really highlighted how magical theatre can be, and I encourage you to see it if you can.
Seeing Cam twice
It was great to see Cam, a country artist I hadn’t seen before, live in April in London, and then again in Manchester in September. She has a lovely voice and a take-no-shit personality that makes her gigs so enjoyable. Diane, a reply to Dolly Parton’s famous Jolene, is one of my favourite songs of last year, despite the pressure of its association with Jolene. My love for the song mainly comes from Cam’s passionate, honest live vocal.
Pride and Prejudice in the park
It’s always fun to see an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but it isn’t always as convenient as a performance in the park behind your house! I had such a pleasant evening with a good story at a point in my life when there wasn’t a lot of joy. They let us try on bonnets before the show and I had never realised that this was something I wanted to do until it happened and made me so happy.
View this post on Instagram
Bonnets at Dusk! Going to see Pride and Prejudice at Longford Park by @heartbreakproductions and had some surprise bonnet dress-up. Pun inspired by @bonnetsatdawn #janeausten #darcybreakshearts #prideandprejudice #theatreinthepark #bonnets #theatre #literature #classics #austen
Bee in the City
This past summer, Manchester held a public art trail called the Bee in the City. This entailed over 100 large bee sculptures (see featured image for one at Clayton Hall) and many more small ones scattered across the city. I managed to see them all over the course of the summer. I have so many pictures to share, which I must do in a future post. For now, I just want to say how much this trail meant to me. I was at a point when I didn’t think I could achieve much of anything anymore and it meant a lot for me to collect the bees. Trudging through the rain in the other side of the city to collect bees made me realise how determined I can still be to achieve things. It was also a chance for me to bond with my dad and explore more areas of the city.
I spent the Christmas period at Limmud Festival, which is hard to explain, but it’s basically an event held at a hotel full of talks and activities for Jews. It was a nice distraction from my first Christmas without my mum, but it was also a chance to reconnect with my culture and discover new things about the Jewish world. I mainly focussed on sessions about history and the arts, but I tried to break outside of my comfort zone a little too. Highlights for me varied from ceilidh dancing to learning about Jews from Central Asia.
Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre
I made a return visit to the Hope Mill Theatre to see a former Broadway hit Spring Awakening. The story was a strange one, but just as with Little Women, the performers brought so much energy to the performance that I couldn’t help falling for it. If you’re in Manchester, I recommend a trip to the Hope Mill Theatre.
Bonnets At Dawn Meet-up
Bonnets At Dawn is one of my favourite podcasts (I need to do an update on my previous post!) and the organisers held a meet-up event in Manchester. The podcast focuses on Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and their books, but they often talk about other Victorian era female writers such as Louisa May Alcott and Elizabeth Gaskell. Last year I went to a podcast recording of their show, which I really enjoyed. At the time I hadn’t listened to much of the podcast so it was great to go to a second event as a proper fan. They held a pub quiz at Gaskell House and then we carried on to have drinks in an actual pub afterwards. It was so lovely to spend an afternoon with such like-minded people.
For my birthday, we went to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibition in Liverpool. It was really cool to see the ancient sculptures from the other side of the world up close. I don’t really know anything about Chinese history so it made me curious to learn more. I also went for a meal at a Moroccan restaurant with my dad and sisters and the food was lovely.
I went to see Kacey Musgraves tour her first album in 2013. Back then, she stayed and took pictures with anyone willing to wait after the show. Since then, I’ve seen her at Country to Country Festival (C2C) in 2016 (I was living in India when she toured in 2015) and in October 2018 I saw her live for the third time. Her latest album Golden Hour is doing so well, winning Album of the Year at the CMA Awards and it’s also nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year. It’s actually not my favourite of her albums but I’m still so proud of her. Seeing her live I was once again reminded that not only is she a terrific songwriter, she’s also a wonderful singer.
I’ve done a lot more baking this past year and I feel like I’m pretty good at making cakes. I can finally make biscuits and not one giant biscuit. I’m hoping this year I’ll continue to bake, hopefully find more friends to eat my baked goods and maybe even try to make bread.
Hairspray and Legally Blonde
I’ve wanted to see these two shows live since I was a teenager because I loved the films. I was finally able to see them both on tour this year. Hairspray wasn’t the most high budget production and a little underwhelming, however, it was still lots of fun to bring back the nostalgia. Legally Blonde was what I had hoped for: a feel good musical with some solid songs and a lot of wit.
I ticked another musical off my bucket list with Kinky Boots at the beginning of December. As you can tell from this list, musicals brought me lots of joy this year and I wanted that feeling again, so I returned to the theatre. Kinky Boots was uplifting and all the performers were very talented. The actor I saw play Lola is now heading off to Broadway!
I’d heard so many good things about Six that I was really pumped to see it. Fortunately it lived up to the hype, being both extremely clever and really fun. I was in a restricted view seat though, and one of the performers had a back injury so was unable to perform at 100% so I would like to see it again to get the full experience. Nevertheless, the fact that I enjoyed it nonetheless shows what a high calibre show it is. Anne of Cleves was definitely my favourite Queen.
The Flyers Lovers of Vitebsk
I saw this show in the Spring at HOME and it focussed on the life of the painter Marc Chagall and his wife, Bella. It was a love story but it also covered the upheaval of their lives as European Jews in the early 20th century. It used staging, music and dance in a creative way to make the show very distinct.
I’m not sure what 2019 will bring, but I’m hoping that I’ll at least be able to look at the year and pick some highlights like the ones above. At the moment, I’ve got some more musicals booked in. I’m going to see Waitress on the West End in February and The Book of Mormon in Manchester in June.
Please let me know your highlights of 2018 in the comments below. Even if your year as a whole wasn’t that great, I’d love to hear what got you through it. However you’re feeling about the new year, hopefully you can find something to make you smile.