It takes 86 technicians eight days to transform the Royal Albert Hall for the Cirque du Soleil performance of Amaluna, and it’s their eighth production at the Victorian Concert Hall.
Before the performers start rehearsals, 730 seats in the arena are removed to fit a new raised floor, 2 metres higher. A scaffolding grid and a 7 and a half metres revolving ring suspend from the ceiling. From this grid lighting clusters and anchor points are placed for the flying acrobatic performers. The winch in the centre of the Carousel can lift almost 500 kilogrammes at 3 metres per second. Exhausted? Have the heart for the Cirque du Soleil athletes and musicians performing throughout the 2-hour show.
Cirque du Soleil, Amaluna: The Story
It’s a celebration of love and a tribute to the work and voice of women. A very loose interpretation of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Amaluna is written and directed by Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus. It follows the original play, although some names are changed and dialogue replaced with set pieces, including the four elements.
For anyone who’s read Shakespeare (in school, or for pleasure) Act One opens with Prospero, a Magician and the rightful Duke of Milan. Put out to sea in a boat to die, Prospero and his daughter Miranda survive and are found exile on a small island. In this production, expect a Queen instead of a Duke because Amaluna is doing it for the girls. Seventy percent of the cast are female performers, and they’ve got an all-female live band. The Shaman is named Prospera and sticking with the Shakespeare text; they live on an island.
Keeping up? Good.
Cali is short for Caliban a lizard -cum-juggler. And he’s the disabled son of a sorceress raised by Prospero in the play. Their relationship does turn ugly when Caliban tries to abduct Miranda.
A storm, thunderous Cello score and a daring trapeze act replicate The Tempest after Prospero discovers his brother is on a nearby ship.
The ship, sinks and all passengers are washed up on the island. Ferdinand or ‘Romeo’ is the young Prince and one of the survivors.
A comedic thread runs throughout; these two carry out their courtship throughout the night.
Amaluna: A Love Story
Miranda and Romeo meet and fall head over heels in love. Romeo performs amazing feats of strength to impress her.
It’s here, faced by a company of dancers dressed in black and silver, representing Cali’s ally, Romeo and Miranda meet the island’s Peacock Goddess with a thousand arms. Cali imprisons Romeo in a water bowl and performs a multiple-ball juggling act with flames. Miranda is kidnapped by
Prospera frees the young lovers and marries both. All the performers come on the stage together.
Two hours flew by, punctuated by a fifteen-minute interval. Book tickets and go.
Be quick; Cirque du Soleil, Amaluna ends on Sunday 26th February.
I first stumbled across Noble Isle at The Gallivant Hotel, a beautiful beachside hotel on the south coast in Camber. I’ve been dying to do a beauty review on their products. I’m a massive fan of quality in hotels, and I think you can judge the standard of place you’re staying, generally, by the toiletries on offer.
I remember they had the Perry Pear Shampoo and Conditioner and something wonderfully bubbly for the deep bath and I have a distinct recollection that my hair smelled of beautiful orchards for days after. I then tracked it down and became a fan.
Beauty Made with Real Rhubarb
Rhubarb Rhubarb! Hand wash and body hydrator was sent to me to review and as I suspected it smells simply wonderful. The rhubarb grown for these products is from E Oldroyd & Sons, a sixth generation rhubarb farm in the famous Yorkshire Triangle. Chosen no doubt because of the vegetable’s natural cleansing properties and natural antioxidants.
In fact, you must visit their website to take a good look at their collection. They pick the very best, from the best producers throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to make their products and it is evident from the moment you use them well into the day or night.
From home fragrance to hair products, if you like the smell of nature to linger, you will love the products on offer from Noble Isle.
Since writing, Noble Isle have added Willow Song to their collection. With top notes of rose petal and ivy, base notes of Cedarwood and Musk and heart notes of Lily of the Valley and Watermelon, it’s something of a romantic fragrance.
My plans of eating better this year didn’t start too well. Then I discovered the prepared vegetables from Sainsbury’s. When you embark on any change in diet, preparation is essential, certainly when you work full time. I need to eat more fruit and vegetables, and my prepared frozen smoothie mix isn’t going to cut it. Step forward Sainsbury’s who’ve thought about our time poor eaters.
I used my vegetable spiralizer to death; now it sits in the cupboard because I can’t face another plate of courgette pasta. Butternut Squaffles, Coursagne and Swagliatelle are the next generations. These bags of prepared vegetables couldn’t be easier to prepare, and for those looking to avoid the carbohydrates, these alternatives are a godsend. Even if you’re not, the range is an excellent way to help you with a meat-free Monday. I’ve made lasagne sheets from courgettes before and found it virtually impossible to cut even lengths. Cut by what looks like a food preparation band-saw, and the slices are even and incredibly neat. Perfectly sized for your pan or baking dish. Worth £1.50 if you’re a bit OCD like me. I can put the silly names to one side if it speeds up my day.
Vegetables – New Products
Butternut Squaffles (£1.25) come in a 300g bag and are washed and ready to use and need simply a drizzle of olive oil and to be placed into a hot oven for 20 minutes. These are brilliant if you’re missing potato chips or crisps.
Broccoli Rice (£1.25) is the equivalent of one medium broccoli finely chopped and ready to use. It’s a great alternative to rice and couscous and comes in a 300g bag. I threw in some Improper Butter Garlic Butter, and this lifted an otherwise bland vegetable.
You can add a little parmesan and red chilli flakes for another alternative, whisk in an egg and make into patties and fry. SO many recipes, so little time.
Courgette Lasagne sheets (£1.50) are perfect to stack and layer like lasagne sheets. They need 45 minutes to cook through. If courgette isn’t your thing, try the Butternut lasagne sheets. I used a recipe for lasagne, replacing the pasta sheets with a little of each. Both come in 400g packs.
Sweet Potato Tagliatelle (£1.25) comes in a 300g bag and is cooked in the microwave. It’s a great alternative to any long pasta and is washed and ready to cook. I threw in some fresh pesto and hey presto a quick after-work meal which took no time at all.
Choose from Sweet Potato Tagliatelle (£1.25), Butternut Squash Lasagne Sheets (£1.50), Courgette Lasagne Sheets (£1.50) Crinkle Cut Squash Chips (£.25), Butternut Squaffles (£1.25), Broccoli rice (£1.25), Souper Green Soup (£2.00) and Black Kale (£1.00).
Our holiday in Florida was coming to an end, and I needed a ‘wow’ hotel to stay on our last night, to end it with a bang. I stumbled across the Hotel Tonight App offering a great last-minute deal at the Mondrian, South Beach. As a journalist, I don’t book the first thing I see, so to say I’ve got a few apps, like this, would be an understatement.
Hotel Tonight App: How does it work?
The Hotel Tonight app is simple to use, and because they select only a small number of hotels in the area you choose, your screen isn’t full of options. In fact, the best are those on offer, and it takes 10 seconds to book a room. Although it’s called Hotel Tonight, in reality, you can book rooms in advance as well as on the day you need it.
Hotel Tonight App: Mondrian, South Beach
I paid $199 for the room for a night. Allocated on arrival, it would be for two people, and I would pay a tourist tax of almost $40 to the Hotel directly. After a little digging on the Mondrian South Beach site, I knew the rooms were decent, and the bed was likely to be king size. Fundamentally the rooms cost at least $100 more booking directly on their site. Often, it’s cheaper to book directly with the Hotel but Hotel Tonight offered a better rate, even with additional taxes.
When we arrived, we were looked after by Rachel who was fantastic. We had London in common, us living there and her visiting friends so when we were given our key we were a little surprised to have received a Penthouse Suite. Also, she’d given us a voucher for two welcome drinks (worth $32). When we took the lift to the top floor, our room was a one-bedroom flat. It had a kitchen area, complete with seating area, coffee maker, microwave, a huge television in a lounge area, a large bedroom, separate bathroom, shower and toilet. Result.
An online concierge or ‘HT Pro’ even sent a message to ask if I needed help booking a restaurant. Luckily we’d already spotted a Japanese at the end of the street and secured a spot. Nonetheless, it was a nice touch from someone who knew the area and was on hand to help.
The more you use the app, the better the reward with Levels 1, 2 and three which offer additional discounts, exclusive offers and VIP support.
Check out was a breeze using Apple Pay. Use the code REWILLIAMS22 to get £15 off your first booking.
Mondrian South Beach, 1100 West Avenue, South Beach, Florida
It might not be what you expect. A restaurant selling barbeque food, set up by a British man, living in America. Rock N Roll Ribs is far from the expected. It’s co-owned by the drummer of one of the most successful metal bands in the world. Alongside touring the world and playing golf, this is Nicko McBrain’s passion and very serious hobby.
Now, I grant you Rock n Roll Ribs doesn’t look much on the outside. Inside it’s a cross between an Iron Maiden concert and the Third Circle of Hell.
Rock N Roll Ribs: A shrine to Iron Maiden
Rock N Roll Ribs: The Music
You won’t hear Barry Manilow, Rod Stewart, Kiss or Guns N Roses; it has to be classic metal, and it plays on a video loop. There are huge stage props, direct from their concert stage, and include sarcophagus and cats and evidence of the band’s massive success.
Rock n Roll Ribs: The Food
It’s a destination for fans, and locals alike. For those who are here on a ‘pilgrimage’ hoping to catch a glimpse of him, today they’re lucky as he’s in to eat lunch.
Rock N Roll Ribs: What to Eat?
Next, to the food. Again, don’t judge when the plastic menus arrive because what comes from the kitchen is something very very different.
You may be thinking what does an English bloke know about American barbeque. Don’t. Trust me on this one.
The ‘Road Crew Onion Stack’ ($7.45) onion rings are some of the best I’ve tried. Huge sweet Spanish onions, cut caveman knuckle-thick, are deep-fried with a seasoned panko breadcrumb. Dip, if you will, into their spiced Grammy Sauce, think paprika spiced mayonnaise.
I know, I know, I’m not a huge fan of menus like this but that aside, you can’t argue that the food is spot on and that’s what matters most. Here, a theme isn’t in the least necessary yet on the same hand; I can see why Nicko is taking full advantage of his rock roots.
As he joins us in our booth, he makes it very clear to me it is all about the food and how it tastes. Perfecting his ribs and sauce is something he’s always striving for, they fall off the bone, and the sauce is both sweet and tangy and smoked for 7 hours.
We tried the chilli, mild, with a super not-too-spicy kick and. ‘Gone With The Wind Beans’ sat in a delicious tomato sauce, sweet yet with a lovely kick of mild paprika.
Sauces are vital to any good platter, and there are a few to choose from, all available to buy at Rock n Roll Ribs. I particularly liked the tabletop Spice Drums with Moby Rick’s very own secret spice blend.
Rock n Roll Ribs: The Appetite of the Beast
The Appetite of the Beast platter is for four people ($61.95) and features a little of everything. A full rack and a half rack of baby back ribs, 1/2lb of pork and beef, 1/2 chicken, homemade fries, beans, slaw, corn on the cob and garlic toast.
The Rock n Roll Burger ($10.50) had a nice grind of beef and held together well, topped with candied bacon, sauteed onions and a melted Swiss cheese topping. I chose to have it without the bun, served medium rare with salad. A really good burger, without any need for the bread. The Power Slave Slaw was sweet and thinly shredded, and that alongside the hand cut fries finished this plate of food off entirely.
Others on our table had half rack of ribs, coleslaw, fries and garlic toast.
Generous chunks of hickory-smoked Pork fell easily off the bone. Coated with a sweet, sticky sauce not too heavy on the sugar. Great chips or Aces High Fries, superb coleslaw and a garlic-smothered piece of bread made the Baby Back Ribs ($11.50) a joyful lunch.
Service is relaxed, and the waitresses know the menu inside out, many have been with the restaurant since its inception, which says a lot.
Rock n Roll Ribs: Merchandise
Trooper is the Maiden beer, ‘Eddie The Head’ the band’s Mascot is the figure on the label. Brewed by Robinsons in the UK, it’s on sale as you’d expect with a few other alcoholic and soft drinks.
There are t-shirts, spice kits and aprons to buy, all featuring the restaurant and some reference to Iron Maiden.
Every year the owners hold a ‘thank you’ concert for locals and Maiden fans in the car park. This year they’ll be celebrating their eighth birthday.
You’ll need a car to get here, but if you’re in the area, it’s worth a detour if you love good ribs and metal.
Rock n Roll Ribs, 4651 State Rd 7 (US441), Coral Springs FL, 33073