Claire goes classical

Always up for trying something new, when I was invited along to Middlesbrough Theatre to celebrate their 60th anniversary with a very special concert, I signed up immediately. It’s not every day that the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra will be playing, after all! As it was going to be my very first experience of a classical concert, I decided that the first thing to do was ask someone in the know to join me – step up Love Middlesbrough Dad. 

Over the years I’ve seen loads of live music. Loud, indie-rock, guitars and drums accompanied by lots of jumping about in the mosh pit and woohoo-ing and hollering my appreciation of each and every song. Bear this in mind and be grateful that I took my dad when I tell you the next bit. Turns out that sort of behaviour is not at all acceptable at a classical concert. There’s all kinds of rules about not applauding in between movements, patiently waiting for the conductor to completely bring the orchestra to rest before you start the clapping and definitely no woohoos or the more polite, oh-so-British ‘Bravo’ allowed. Who knew?!  

The first thing that blew me away was that the stage was absolutely filled to the brim with seats! I couldn’t count them all – there were definitely some brass instruments tucked away in the wings – but it looked to me like there were well over 100! I’ve never seen the stage so full! The photograph below, even though it’s from a different theatre, gives you an idea of the sheer size and scale of the orchestra *wow*

st petersburg symphony orchestra

Right from the very start I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty special evening. The polite applause as the orchestra sat down and the conductor appeared, followed by the immediate hush before the first notes danced up to my ears. From that point on, it’s fair to say I was completely and utterly swept up by it all, delightedly chuckling each time the conductor leaped off his feet, my eyes darting around the stage to see if I could figure out which instrument was the one making all the beautiful sounds…it truly was a joy for the senses! 

If I had to pick my absolute favourite part of the programme, it would be Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 – forty six minutes of total magic! Four movements, each more animated and rousing than the last, cymbals crashing, drums rolling, the frenzied bows of the string instruments back and forth, back and forth, and the conductor jumping and leaping into the air like there was someone up above him pulling on puppet strings…I had to physically sit on my hands to stop them from rising high into the air to applaud, applaud, applaud. You could physically feel the energy from the stage and as they reached the end of the third movement, you can only imagine my total joy when some courageous rule breaker defied the stuffy rules and shouted BRAVO before breaking into loud applause. Which of course was immediately followed by everyone else in the audience joining in! The atmosphere was incredible.

As the rowdy applause died down and the orchestra began the final movement, I found myself leaning forward in my seat to soak it all up – I really didn’t want it to end! Luckily it wasn’t over too quickly as they did not one but two encores, each to more applause that got louder and louder – my hands are still sore from all the clapping! As they took their final bow, it was pretty obvious to me that the whole audience loved it as much as I did. And guess what? I let out a (slightly reserved) Wooooo! #rebel I just couldn’t help myself! If I’d have had my way I would have woohoo-ed every single time they stopped. I definitely think the polite applause only rule should be reconsidered…

St Petersburg Symphony at Middlesbrough Theatre

If you’ve never been to a classical concert before and are open to trying out new experiences I can highly recommend it. Even if your normal choice of music veers more towards loud and rock, you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. The vibrant energy of the St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra was up there with any band I’ve ever seen; more civilised for sure, but don’t let that put you off. The passion and joy for the music and their instruments was there for all to see. 

Love Middlesbrough Dad, man of few words, also loved it. Later that evening I got a text thanking me for a fantastic night and I would like to say the same to Middlesbrough Theatre. Thank you! You have a new fan of classical music concerts now and I’m already planning what I’ll try out next. And a very Happy Anniversary too – cheers to 60 more years! 

The Lasses get scared by The Book of Darkness and Light!

Three chilling tales. Two ghostly performers. One thrilling night.

Legend has it that many years ago a book of terrifying tales was found. Now, you are invited to discover the secrets of The Book of Darkness and Light … if you dare.

Join The Storyteller and The Musician for an evening of spine-tingling tales and haunting live music. Three ghostly stories to delight and horrify, accompanied by the beautiful sounds of the violin.

Book of Darkness and Light 1

Be thrilled, chilled and thoroughly entertained by this charming storytelling experience. But, be warned, once the pages of the book are opened … anything could happen!

Claire 

If you’re going to see something that promises chills and thrills you couldn’t get a better time than right now. You also couldn’t ask for a better venue than the beautiful Reference Library, especially when said show involves clever lighting from floor level that casts the most excellent shadows up to the highest corner in that stunning room! 

Right from the start, as the lights went down, I was completely immersed in the atmosphere. The Storyteller was all kinds of spooky, with his long black coat and fingerless gloves, the old book flopping open to exactly the right page to begin the evening’s tales…and The Musician, oh! Can we just talk about shadows again for a minute? I couldn’t take my eyes off the shadow in the high corner that danced as The Musician played – it was like something out of an old fashioned toy theatre, stuttering, stop start motion, like something from another world – utterly brilliant! 

Book of Darkness and Light 2

Each tale was more compelling than the last, and by the third and final one I had actual goosebumps and chills down my spine! So, so clever. What a truly amazing performance piece! If you’ve not already guessed, I can highly recommend finding your nearest show and booking up quick!

Rachel 

October is the month of all things spooooooky  , so of course I was very excited to see this show!

The Storyteller made me think of a slightly creepy Victorian undertaker, so straight away I was backstorying (yes, that’s a verb) how they could have acquired said Book of Darkness and Light from a dead person. It reminded me of one of the stories from Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma’s book Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror which I read as part of the Lasses’ summer reading challenge.

I enjoyed the first two stories, and although in both cases it quickly became obvious (to me anyway) how the story would end, I still enjoyed the storytelling, the music and the atmosphere. But the third one! Excuse me while I run away and hide somewhere!  

Book of Darkness and Light 4

The third was much longer and more detailed than the first two, with a fantastic build up where you were just waiting, knowing something bad was coming, but not knowing what. Obviously my inner history geek got excited when it mentioned the witch trials!  Even I didn’t manage to guess where the story was going and how it was going to end, so I was seriously impressed! (And frightened, so we went for late night ice cream to make it better! ) 

I’d definitely recommend going to see any drama or music performances you can at Central Library; it’s such an intimate but overlooked venue which has a great atmosphere. Not to mention it really lends itself to something gothic like this, especially since, intentionally or not, a weird chill crept across us part-way through the show! *shivers*

And I’d also definitely recommend seeing The Book of Darkness and Light if you fancy a bit of a roadtrip – Hexham and Harrogate are your nearest venues for the rest of their tour.

Book of Darkness and Light 3

Visit their website for more details.

We didn’t take any photos ourselves during the performance as we were so completely absorbed! We’ve borrowed the photos for this post from The Book of Darkness and Light Facebook  page – go and give them a follow, the photos are awesome! 

The Nightmare Room – you might have nightmares too!

There’s nothing like kicking off Autumn with a trip to the theatre! Arriving at Middlesbrough Theatre just as it was starting to get dark, it was fab to see the new sign lit up and looking lovely! 😍 The newly decorated foyer looks amazing too! Head to the Theatre Facebook page to see a sneak peek – spoiler alert: it looks so nice! 

Middlesbrough Theatre nighttime

Now that we’ve fangirled all over the shiny new foyer, it’s time to talk about the main feature: The Nightmare Room! Written by John Goodrum and presented by Encaustic Theatre Productions, the tagline describes it as:

Two women. 
One locked room.
One bottle of poison…

…I was definitely looking forward to this one, and I wasn’t let down! Right from the get-go as the intro music started, it felt eerie and sinister, and I knew I was in for a good night! It won’t come as too much of a surprise that it’s based on a tale by the master of terror and mystery himself, Arthur Conan Doyle! There’s twists and turns, cheating husbands and best friends, all culminating in a massive revenge plot that will have you on the edge of your seat!  

Nightmare Room 2

The two lead actors, Sarah Wynne Kordas and Sylvia Robson, both played their roles to perfection. Sarah particularly had that sinister, teetering on the edge of madness thing down to a tee – genuinely terrifying! #wuss 😂 I loved watching the story unfold and the characters spiral their way into more and more twists and turns. My favourite thing of all was how the set, a simple white room, was used – just by standing at the very edge it looked like the actors were shrinking into corners that weren’t actually there – highly effective! #theatregeek 

Nightmare Room 4

The first act ended on a big twisty cliffhanger and I couldn’t wait to get through my ice-cream (mint choc chip in a tub since you asked, completely delicious) so that I could find out how it was all going to end…which of course I’m not going to reveal! You’ll have to go and see it for yourself to find out! Lucky for you that there’s plenty time to do just that. 

You can see The Nightmare Room at Middlesbrough Theatre tonight at 7.30pm, and tomorrow either at the afternoon matinee, 2.30pm, or the evening show at 7.30pm. Call the theatre box office to book tickets on 01642 81 51 81 or book online. In case you haven’t already figured it out, we highly recommend it! 

A big thank you to Middlesbrough Theatre for the tickets – a great night out for Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire who likes nothing better than watching scary stuff, even though she’s a total wimp!