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Friday, 24 March 2017

Goodbye Magic on Parade

Today, Friday 24th March 2017 sees the end of an era at Disneyland Paris. The end of the wonderful daily Parade, Magic on Parade which runs right across the Disneyland Park and the nighttime spectacular show Disney Dreams which is projected on to Sleeping Beauty castle at park closure time. Both of these shows make way for a new parade, Stars on Parade, and a new nighttime show Disney Illuminations, both of which are coming in for the Park's 25th anniversary celebrations.

Magic on Parade will always hold a truly special place in my heart. Finding a spot, waiting there for around 45 minutes, every minute the excitement and the buzz building. Then the countdowns from 15 minutes every 5 minutes until it starts in your section of the parade route and finally when the music, Magic Everywhere blasts over the speakers. You can't help but tap your feet to the tune. You can't help but be taken away by the magic. The approximately 10 minutes it takes for the parade to pass such a joy filled with character interactions and fun.

A few Magic Moments.
It's so hard for me to simply pick out individual memories as there is so many from the parade, but one that stands out is from on our final day of our break in October 2016 and it was absolutely pouring it down with rain. It was raining from around an hour before the parade even started. We asked a cast member would the parade still go ahead as usual to which they assured us the parade runs whatever the weather but there might just be a few less characters. Every character was on the parade, the princess, the blue fairy and the fairy godmother all had umbrellas but no other characters did. They all had a great time, characters like the mad hatter took great joy in jumping in puddles and having fun! No way was the rain going to stop any of the magic.

Holding plush toys of specific characters can give great interactions, on that rainy October day I had my plush toy of Piglet and when Piglet himself spotted the plush he ran over and cuddled us and the plush! Getting waves, kisses and whatever else from characters is always fun, and when Mary Poppins blew me a kiss I was floating for ages after!

More Magical Memories

Getting unusual characters on the parade was always such a buzz. In July 2016 on a boiling hot summers day on the princess carriages we had Belle and Adam which was a real treat and then in October we had the extra princess and princes walking along the parade route.

All of us who have seen Magic on Parade pretty much know the words to the song backwards! But it really is such a catchy and special song. For those who never saw it, it basically plays on loop for the whole parade. You're left singing it long after the parade has passed by!

As much as having a change is good I shall really miss Magic on Parade. It was always the highlight of the day on any trip, whether it was in sun, rain or just the bitter cold. Magic on Parade will always live on in my heart. So thanks for the memories and let's remember that magic lives on inside us all.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Honest Thoughts.

The biggest fear. The great unknown. No control over when. The end of life. Death is the end. It's something we don't really talk about, but it's something that is awaiting us all. Our days are numbered. It could happen at anytime.

I shall be honest that it's probably the thing that gives me the biggest anxiety. It gives me the biggest panic attacks. It scares me the most. I know I have no control of it and I know I should simply be enjoying what I have but honestly it scares me so much. Even writing down this blog gives me a massive panic. I shake as I type these words.

The fear of the darkness keeps me awake at night. The fear makes me hugely anxious during the day. Sometimes I can keep me fears within but sometimes I can't. I truly wish I could bury theses thoughts and just enjoy what I have for the time I have it but my mind doesn't seem to want to allow this.

I recently had a major panic attack at the cinema, I think it was an advert that made me over think and that sent my really into a spiral. I nearly had to leave but thankfully I managed to calm before the film began. I then had another major panic attack on Tuesday morning. I've managed to keep myself calm the past couple of days.

The darkness at night time can really be the toughest time for me. I've spoken before in blog posts about how I struggle to get to sleep. My mind struggles to switch off. Even if I am tired then it can still take me a considerable amount of time to get off to sleep. What I tend to do is just stay up watching television till really late, 1 or 2am and then I'm usually able to get off quicker.

The past few months have been really difficult and the start to this year has been really quite dark. Every day the trouble seems to brew harder in my mind. Money worries are a major problems now. As currently I have no income and things like my phone contract to continually pay off monthly. It makes things really hard. I'm trying but really struggling to get a job. It's so hard. I'm continuing to have my CBT sessions fortnightly at the doctors, I've currently had 3 sessions and hopefully they'll help me in the long run.

Being alone is another problem that really makes me mind wander. Week days my amazing partner Megan gets up at 6am, I get up with her and help her get ready by making her lunch. She's then gone out the door by 7.10am and then she's not home until 6.30pm. This means I've currently got a huge void. The days can feel long and quite empty and that's quite a challenge as this is where my mind can wander the most.

My skin is again recently causing problems. My face is dry, itchy and peeling, this makes me anxious when I go out because obviously people are going to look at me funny. My body can be agony. My back, my arms. It's hard to constantly keep creaming my skin. Creaming it can help the dryness etc but it can also just feel like a mask over the problems and I know they'll return. 

People may think it's strange that at 25 years old that I love Disney and going to Disneyland Paris, but honestly that is my escape. As soon as I step into Disneyland my mind seems to go back to being a child, okay I still have my moments of problems but it's my 'happy' place. It's the same with Disney movies, I get such an escape from them. It gives me the feel that I'm a child again and I'm just free and escaped. It's very much the same with theatre, the escape it gives me takes away my problems.

I guess I need to continue to work harder on my mental strength, cause most days I continue to lose. I hope you guys deal with your problems better than I do!

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Going Forwards.

Recent times have been difficult and dark, and those who have followed me on any form of social media or had a conversation with me will know how hard I've found things. It's been going on for a number of months now some days can be really good or really bad, some days too are just average. I just wanted to write this blog to hopefully inspire some of you guys.

One of the most difficult things with anxiety or depression is that it can feel like the roof is just falling in. That the weight of the roof is destroying you mentally. It can feel like you have no way out or forwards. I've had plenty of these feelings in the past months. When these feelings come on its hard to know what to do. You do just want to give up or in some cases that I have experienced is that I just felt so low that I just wanted to punish myself, and that on a couple of occasions I unfortunately did.

Self harm is a difficult subject to talk about. It's a difficult thing to explain. For me it felt like doing physical harm to my body would take away the mental pain away. I'd even say at the time it did achieve that. When I attacked my self physically, my mental pain was lifted in that moment for my mind was only thinking of the physical pain that I had created. Of course on reflection and I knew after a couple of minutes when the rush had gone that I had been completely stupid and me harming myself really wasn't achieving or helping. I am proud of people who manage to to get through this. I honestly feel like it's something that I'll never ever do again. I'd say to those people who consider harming. Stop and think for a second. Is it what you really want is it what you REALLY want to do. Is the physical pain worth it. Even if you have one one small doubt let that doubt win. Self harm really isn't worth it. I'm not saying if you do it that you should feel ashamed, not in the slightest. What I do just want to say is that if you feel the need to harm, see if you can find another option. Make it your last option.


Away from harm, honestly for myself things have really got a bit brighter over the last month. Firstly of all we decided to go ahead with our Disneyland Paris, which was as always magical. We went during the Christmas season, and everything was just wonderful. Then there was Christmas itself which was lovely, and spent at home with my family and then we had Christmas again over new year with Megan's family.

Just before going to Disneyland in December I handed my notice in from my workplace. It was a hugely difficult decision to make, but I do believe for myself I have made the correct decision. Working in the NHS for just over the past two years has been difficult, challenging but enjoyable. providing the public with a service like that is impossible at times but hugely rewarding. I feel immensely proud of myself for the job I did. I do honestly believe the NHS is really in trouble, health demands do seem to be getting higher and higher, even during my 2 years I'd say things got worse and worse. It's hard to know whats the right thing for the health service, but I will say the people I worked alongside, the doctors and nurses are truly excellent, the admin, fellow reception staff and the wonderful management too are utterly superb. The difficult job they do on a daily basis and continue to do is something I feel lucky to have worked alongside. I have nothing but respect for those people I've worked with.

On Monday I went again to the doctors for a check up, the check up was really positive and I left feeling really upbeat and positive. Yesterday I did something I never ever thought I could manage, first of all I went down to London on my own, something which I used to be able to do with ease but now I find quite difficult. I went to London to attend an open audition for casting at Disneyland Paris, in the days coming up to yesterday I thought I was crazy and even when I was in there I felt a bit out my depth but I went, I had a go, I didn't get through the animation round but I had fun, and that's the most important thing. I truly feel enriched and proud of myself for going and trying. After the audition I had a brilliant time in London with lovely Jenna who I met on the internet is is a big Disney fan like myself. It just felt like such a good and  happy day.

So for me I feel that I'm on the right track again, things are getting to be lighter rather than darker. There's more good days than bad days now. I just wanted to say to you all that no matter how hard things can became the good times will come back. The good days are there. I wholeheartedly  encourage anyone struggling to make the first step and the most difficult step and seek out any help you can get. Whether that be seeing your doctor, speaking to a councilor or even just opening up to a friend or a loved one. Don't be afraid to hold your hands up and say that you're struggling. A really important message is to know that it really is okay to not be okay.

I again want to thank every single person who has been supportive and who has been there for me. The love and support of those people has meant the world to me and has really aided me in my recovery. Not a lot of the wonderful people that I know are aware how truly special they are. I am very thankful. Always know that I am here for you too.

So as I said don't be afraid to be sad or low, but don't bottle it up inside. There is good out there. It might not always feel like it but trust me there is. Lots of love to you all.

Thanks for reading,
Mark

Thursday, 29 December 2016

My 2016 Theatre Awards.

Again as with previous years, my theatre awards from the theatre shows I've seen in the year 2016. All for a bit of fun and are my personal opinion.

Winners are in bold.

Best Supporting Actress In A Play: (2015 winner - Nadia Albina)
Eleanor Wyld (Lucifer/Scholar/Friar) - Doctor Faustus (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Lucy Ellinson (Puck) - Midsummer Nights Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Laura Riseborough (Helena) - Midsummer Nights Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Danusia Samal (Jailer's Daughter) - The Two Noble Kinsmen (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Laura Riseborough (right) as Helena in Midsummer Nights Dream

Best Supporting Actor In A Play: (2015 winner - Larne Malaolu)
Joshua McCord (Samson Currasco) - Don Quixote (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Sandy Grierson (Mephistopheles - Doctor Faustus (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Joe Dixon (Calaban) - The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Mark Quartley (Ariel) - The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Sandy Grierson as Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus. photo by Helen Maybanks


Best Leading Actress In A Play: (2015 winner - Catrin Stewart)
Ayesha Dharker (Titania) - Midsummer Nights Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Frances McNamee (Emilia) - The Two Noble Kinsmen (Royal Shakespeare Company) 
Jenny Rainsford (Miranda) - The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company)

Frances McNamee as Emilia in The Two Noble Kinsmen

Best Leading Actor In A Play: (2015 winner - Alex Hassell)
David Threlfall (Don Quixote) - Don Quixote (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Rufus Hound (Sancho Panza) - Don Quixote (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Oliver Ryan (Doctor Faustus - Doctor Faustus (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Barry Green (Bottom) - Midsummer Nights Dream (Royal Shakespeare Company)
James Corrigan (Palamon) - The Two Noble Kinsmen (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Jamie Wilkes (Arcite) - The Two Noble Kinsmen (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Simon Russell Beale (Prospero) - The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company) 

Simon Russell Beale as Prospero in The Tempest. Photo by Tristram Kenton
 Best Set Design: (2015 winner - Bunny Christie):
Ti Green - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Tim Shortall - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Simon Higlett - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour)
Bob Crowley - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Michael Pavelka - Funny Girl (Savoy Theatre)
Anna Fleischle - The Two Noble Kinsmen (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Stephen Brimson Lewis - The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company)

The Cave of Wonders Set in Aladdin.


Best Lighting Design (2015 winner -Kenneth Posner): 
Tim Deiling - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Ben Ormerod - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Natasha Katz - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Lee Curran - Doctor Faustus (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Simon Spencer - The Tempest (Royal Shakespeare Company)

The Tempest. photo by Topher McGrills

Best Costume Design: (2015 winner - Gregg Barnes)
Ti Green - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Paul Wills - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Robert Innes Hopkins - Don Quixote (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Gregg Barnes - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre) 

Agrabah Costumes in Aladdin.
Best Choreography: (2015 winner  - Mitch Sebastian)
Bill Deamer - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Andrew Wright - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Casey Nicholaw - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Lynne Page - Funny Girl (Savoy Theatre)
Matthew Cole - Footloose (UK Tour)


Best Understudy Performance: (2015 winner - Ryan O'Donnell)
Jessica Parker (Kate Monster/ Lucy The Slut) - Avenue Q (UK Tour)
Callum Francis (Lola) - Kinky Boots (Adelphi Theatre)
Robbie White (Dave Davies) - Sunny Afternoon (Harold Pinter Theatre)
Luke Thornton (Willard) - Footloose (UK Tour)
Lisa-Anne Wood (Christine) - The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty's Theatre)
Charlotte Scott (Miss Honey) - Matilda (Cambridge Theatre)
Jermaine Woods (Iago) - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)

Lisa Anne Wood as Christine backstage at The Phantom of the Opera
Best Supporting Actress In A Musical: (2015 winner - Lara Pulver)
Catherine Tate (Myrna Ranapapadophilou) - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Arina II (Christmas Eve) - Avenue Q (UK Tour)
Sam Bailey (Mama Morton) - Chicago (UK Tour)
Joanna Sawyer (Rusty) - Footloose (UK Tour)
Rebecca Caine (Mother Abbess) - The Sound of Music (UK Tour)

Joanna Sawyer (centre) in Footloose. photo by Matt Martin

Best Supporting Actor In A Musical: (2015 winner - George Maguire)
Simon Lipkin (Lou Lubowitz) - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Jamie Foreman (Arthur) - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Stephen Arden (Trekkie Monster/ Nicky/ Bad Idea Bear) - Avenue Q (UK Tour)
Jason Donovan (Sam Phillips) - Million Dollar Quartet (UK Tour)

Simon Lipkin (right) in Miss Atomic Bomb. photo by Tristram Kenton.
Best Leading Actress In A Musical: (2015 winner - Imelda Staunton)
Florance Andrews (Candy Johnson) - Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Tracie Bennett (Laura Henderson) - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Emma Williams (Maureen) - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Jessica Parker (Kate Monster/ Lucy The Slut) - Avenue Q (UK Tour)
Jade Ewen (Jasmine) - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Hayley Tamaddon (Roxie Hart) - Chicago (UK Tour)
Sheridan Smith (Fanny Brice) - Funny Girl (Savoy Theatre)
Lisa-Anne Wood (Christine) - The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty's Theatre)
Zaris-Angel Hator (Matilda) - Matilda (Cambridge Theatre)
Lucy O'Byrne (Maria) - The Sound of Music (UK Tour)

Emma Williams as Maureen in Mrs Henderson Presents


Best Leading Actor In A Musical: (2015 winner - John Dagleish)
Ian Bartholomew (Vivian Van Damm) - Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Matt Corner (Frankie Valli) - Jersey Boys (Piccadilly Theatre)
Richard Lowe (Princeton/ Rod) - Avenue Q (UK Tour)
Jason Manford (Caractacus Potts) - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour)
Dean John Wilson (Aladdin) - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Darius Campbell (Nick Arnstein) - Funny Girl (Savoy Theatre)
Luke Baker (Ren McCormack) - Footloose (UK Tour)
Ben Forster (The Phantom) - The Phantom of the Opera (Her Majesty's Theatre)
Trevor Dion Nicholas (Genie) - Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Martin Kaye (Jerry Lee Lewis) - Million Dollar Quartet (UK Tour)


Trevor Dion Nicholas as The Genie in Aladdin.

Best Royal Shakespeare Company Production: (2015 winner - Love's Sacrifice)
Don Quixote
Doctor Faustus
Midsummer Nights Dream - A Play for the Nation
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Tempest

 

Best Touring/Regional Musical: (2015 Winner - Mary Poppins)
Avenue Q (UK Tour)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour)
Chicago (UK Tour)
Footloose (UK Tour)
Million Dollar Quartet (UK Tour) 
The Sound of Music (UK Tour)



Best NEW* West End Musical: (2015 Winner - Sunny Afternoon)
Miss Atomic Bomb (St James Theatre)
Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre)
Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre)
Funny Girl (Savoy Theatre)



*NEW - first time I'd seen this production, not necessarily a new show.

Thanks for reading, Please share your favourite moments of theatre in 2016 in the comments section.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Life update.

So as you know I've been suffering a lot lately, the past few months have been such a dark time. Ever since the end of the summer I think things just have been getting darker and darker. Obviously those of you who follow me on social media will know a bit about the last few weeks but I wanted to just fill you in a little bit more.

A few weekends ago I had the darkest day, the blackness was all over my mind. I couldn't see any light. Although by this stage I was around 4 weeks in to having taken my tablets I didn't see much improvement. The darkness was creeping in more and more. I was walking, on my own, away from my home and although there was no intention when we set out I had a moment where I thought I could just walk in front of a car, and yes it then hit me that maybe just maybe I should and could do it BUT I knew inside of me that I couldn't do it. I wouldn't do that to those I love, those I care about. After extending my walk to places I'd not been to for years, places I'd spent many happy hours in  my teenage days I returned home.

That day was still very much a tough day from there, it wasn't just that, that evening I had rage at home, and I was sorting a box of DVDs and I began to throw them on the floor, the box and DVDs went everywhere. I was in a pure mad rage, and whilst I'd never have hurt anyone I care about I hurt the items. I threw my phone down hard on to the floor causing it to crack, I then proceeded to throw my phone out of my opened window and onto the wet grass below. I calmed as much as I could, but then I decided to go out cycling on the bike that evening. In my mad rage I decided to go out without helmet or protective gear. I realise how stupid I was looking back. I calmed that evening and just returned to bed.

The following Monday I saw the doctor and we discussed all these things and adjusted my treatment accordingly. That same day saw me begin my counseling through the Lets Talk Wellbeing service that is provided locally here. The first session was an hour phone call, we discussed all my problems and issued and it was decided from there that I'd require CBT, which I am know on the waiting list for. The list has around a 3 month wait but I've been assured the wait might be less. At the time of my first session on the scale of 0-10 on how much I thought I'd act on thoughts of harm or suicide I put myself then on 6 on the scale. Having previously self harmed I guess then I thought I knew I could very much easily do it again, and as recently as last Monday I had thoughts of things like throwing myself down the stairs or whatever harm I could do.

Another major issue for me and it's still an ongoing problem is my sleep. I can't sleep at night, even if I'm tired. My mind seems to just wanted with fear or worry. I've begun writing stories of my phone or coming up with ideas or things in my mind trying to distract myself till I totally drift but that's not happening always either. One of my current problems is a complete loss of my sleep pattern. As I'm finding it increasingly difficult to sleep at night, so say it's not until 2am or later, my partner Megan gets up at 6am every work day for her work, so I get up with her, meaning every morning I'm literally not there, and pretty much every morning I go to bed after Megan has gone. I set alarms some days so I can try and get back up after a couple of hours extra sleep but most days I end up just sleeping through these alarms and end up not waking up till 12pm meaning I've lost most of my day. Even yesterday I'd gone back to bed in the morning and woke around 11.45am but that evening me and Megan fell asleep on our bed at around 9pm, and although I kept waking in the night we didn't then wake till the alarms of this morning and then I felt okay this morning but I went up to read my book and next thing I know I woke up and it was 12pm! I'm very sure this will affect my sleep tonight.

I've felt a real lack of confidence and self belief these past days too, like I've felt quite alone, not in the way that I don't so much have people to speak too but I don't have people to actually see any spend time with, and I also don't have that confidence to see people. I really wish more than anything to be able to spend more time with the people I speak too online but I know most are a distance away and that makes it hard. I wish I could just spend many hours with the friends I have but most I've not even met and that makes it hard.

Onwards though, and as I say I've continued to take my tablets and I know I've got my doctor who I can go and see if I need too, but I do see 2 weekly in my continued efforts to improve and get myself better. It's a  difficult road but I'm making steps forwards. The last few days have been brighter and I've felt more positive. So hopefully I can keep that going. I've taken to reading and that's been very distracting and helpful. I went to the library yesterday and took out 6 more books which I will read, being part of the library is such a wonderful thing and there is so much to read.

I'd like to add a continued thanks to everyone who has been there for me and continues to be there. It's very much valued and very much needed. I hope to continue talking to you and spreading love and my positivity to you where possibly. It's something I've taken to on Twitter and will continue too, spreading love is vital and I enjoy doing it.

My final thought is that if you are suffering any mental health issue, depression, anxiety or anything similar then don't be afraid to say so, suffering in silence can make it worse, burying your feelings can make it darker. It might not feel easy to get help but if you can manage it then trust me it'll feel much more positive and will be a step in the right direction. There are lots of ways you can get help. There is light in the darkness. If you ever needed anyone to talk to then please don't be afraid to approach me I am always here for a chat or talk.

Many thanks for reading and take care.

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Parcels of Positive .

Today I'm delighted to announce a very exciting idea, The Parcels of Positive.


The Concept
A monthly themed parcel that is going to be available full of goodies and treats that are hand picked by myself. The parcel will also contain messages of love and of positivity and inspiration. Each parcel is going to be unique, no parcel will contain the same thing.

Below are listed the details and how you get yours.

December parcel - available NOW until December 10th.
This parcel is going to be Christmas themed parcels and filled with treats of the season including ornaments and delicious festive food.

Price - £20 includes postage and packaging for UK, £5 extra for Europe


To Buy Your Box -

Etsy - COMING SOON
E-mail - ParcelsofPositive@hotmail.com
Contact me on Twitter - Dedicated Twitter Page  or My personal Twitter account.
Contact me on Facebook - Like My Facebook page.

If you have any questions then please don't hesitate to contact me on any of the above.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Aladdin London.

In June of this year Me and Megan took a trip to see the West End musical production of Aladdin. It had only opened a month earlier and unfortunately in moments of the show there was moments you could almost tell that it wasn't perfected yet. I'm not saying that in a negative way but there was just moments where cast members stumbled over lines, parts of the sets weren't working and just little things like that. I still absolutely loved the show though.

Yesterday I went back to see the show with my dear friend Emily. Emily is almost like a sidekick to me, think of Aladdin and Abu or Jafar and Iago! Emily to me is my Aladdin expert having seen the show on Broadway as well as recently in London. We're often talking about the show too so being able to see the show with her was wonderful. Especially as she'd sorted the tickets out and we were sat front row.

After this second viewing of the show I must say it's truly a fantastic show. It's hard to describe the show as Aladdin. It's almost worth calling the show 'The Genie Show'. Trevor Dion Nicholas who plays the Genie is simply unstoppable. Being the first character you see leading the opening number of Arabian Nights. He's totally in control of the performance and the character. Every time he's on stage you can't help but watch him. He's absolutely first class. Although after the opening number you don't see the Genie again till the very end of the first act when Aladdin gets the lamp from the Cave of Wonders.

The show enters the city of Agrabah, and along the way you meet the fantastic characters of this city. Aladdin, played by Dean John Wilson, brings youthful charm, a handsome figure and a good voice to the role. As much as I like Dean, having really enjoyed him in Miss Atomic Bomb which we saw earlier in the year in London's St James Theatre. I'm not 100% sure if he's entirely the character. There's a lot to like about his performance but his voice doesn't always have the power. I'm not sure if it's simply the microphone for him isn't too loud or what but just moments I found it a bit weak vocally. Jade Ewen plays Jasmine. Jade is an absolutely beautiful human and portrays Jasmine really well. I really enjoy her portrayal. Although I do find Jasmine's scenes the weakest, but I think that's partly due to the songs. I'm not really a fan of the new song 'palace walls'.
Dean John Wilson as Aladdin and Jade Ewen as Jasmine.
Three fantastic new character additions to the stage version are of Aladdin's friends, Babkak, Omar and Kassim. These are played by Nathan Amzi, Rachid Sabitri and Stephen Rahman-Hughes respectively. These characters add fantastic humour and have two of my favourite songs in the show. 'Babkab, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim' which they sing in the Market place in order to raise some funds by busking and also the number in the second half 'High Adventure' which the three friends sing as they decide they'll go and rescue Aladdin from the palace who has been locked up by Jafar. I love both of these songs and these characters are perfectly portrayed.

Don Gallagher brings a great menace to Jafar and is clearly having a fun time playing the role. Yesterday we had the understudy for Iago, so the role was played by Jermaine Woods who was excellent and both characters had great chemistry with each other. In fact I prefered Jermaine's portrayal of the role, he stole pretty much every scene between him and Jafar. He was so watchable. The entire ensemble are fantastic and full of high energy.

The magic sets are superb to look at, especially the cave of wonders. The costumes, especially from the front row are beautiful. The magic carpet scene is totally magical, although now I've worked out how they managed to do it, I won't spoil it, it doesn't lose any of the charm for me. The orchestra sound fantastic, I love the overture. The songs, with ones from the classic Disney film and new ones written for the stage are great, particular favourites from the new ones are 'Somebody's Got Your Back', 'Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim' and 'High Adventure'.
Trevor Dion Nicholas as The Genie
The show as I say is excellent and I think this is most in part to Trevor's Genie. The whole cave of wonders scene is so memorable, the build up and then the big number 'Friend Like Me' is a showstopper. I don't think I've seen a performance of such brilliance from a male in a musical, I compare his performance to that of Imelda Staunton in the recent revival of Gypsy, you just can't not watch him. He has such a strong stage presence. Everyone I know that has seen the show raves about him and rightly so. He makes the show. A truly incredible performance. If you thought the Genie is Robin Williams, think that no longer. Think Trevor Dion Nicholas.

Get yourself along to London's Prince Edward Theatre and see the show for yourself. You'll be swept away on a truly magical ride. I LOVE it. http://www.aladdinthemusical.co.uk/

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Importance of Understanding Mental Health.

Today is World Mental Health Day, and I think its a subject that is of vital importance. I think it's a subject that's not really understood, a mental problem can be as debilitating as a physical problem. Whether it be anxiety, depression or whatever problem suffering a mental illness can be torture.

I'm currently battling with depression and anxiety. My problems stem from problems in my childhood as well as the events of my teen years. I've always been quite a shy and quiet type, and pretty much everyone who knows me will know this. It can take me time to build confidence especially when with somebody face to face. Online is different but I think most people are confident behind a screen.

My worst problems especially anxiety related an assault in January 2009, it was a real life changing event for me, it effected me socially, it effected my mentally. I'll be honest I still struggle every time I go out, especially in the evening. I know it's hard because everyone tells me it's not but I still blame myself for the whole thing and even as I type this I can visualize the whole horrific incident. It wasn't until yesterday that I'd walked the same route that we'd walked on that night, and I found it really difficult.

Basically what happened that night, Me and my friend Lucy had been at mine just watched telly and it got a bit late, around about 11.30pm and then it was time for Lucy to go home, we walked home the way that we usually did, maybe not this late usually and I think it was more my fault that we'd stayed that late. We got along the main road and there was a bus stop where 3 lads were, we obviously thought nothing of it. We kept walking, the bus stop getting nearer. The 3 lads came over to us and asked if we knew the time or if they'd missed the last bus. We checked the time on our phones and next thing I knew I'd been punched so hard in the face, it floored me. The next part was a bit of a blur, I wasn't sure what had happened to Lucy at the time, as I came back around I had a heavy nose bleed, my nose has been knocked out of place. I was frantic in fear and I just ran to the first house, and knocked on the door. A chap answered, and I guess he was as horrified, a stranger bleeding on his doorstep. After this thankfully we'd got back to Lucy's house with the help of the police. We did statements the next day but nothing ever came from that, these people who effected my life so much are still out there, oblivious to the pain they've caused.

Following on from the whole incident it really effected the following months, I had counseling from Victim Support, I only had one session as the initial session I attended I found really difficult and unhelpful and I couldn't engage. Obviously for a period everything was really difficult, going out, attending football matches, and just life in general but in time I guess the fears and problems just disappeared a bit, whether I'd just found a coping mechanism or just grew out of it a bit I'm not really sure.

So time passed and things had been okay, obviously a lot of things have happened in the last few years, we've moved house, I've met the love of my life in Megan and now through circumstances we live together, I've gotten a new job and I guess in some ways found stability. With the stability though has come great darkness. I think there has been a cloud hanging over for me some time. In the job I do it can be very stressful and can involve dealing with people who are rude or aggressive. In some cases you can understand it but in someways it's very difficult to take, I'd love to reverse the situation for the person who was being aggressive, how they'd cope doing the job and see if they cope or if they had a full understanding of the situation.

After an incident with a patient over the telephone last year I had a complete breakdown, I literally broke. I had a period of time off and came back stronger from that, but I guess the last few months the demons in my mind have been getting worse and worse. I've had times when I just want to run away and hide. If I'm honest then I've had time were I've hidden away and just had a cry. The demons have been getting worse and worse. My fears include people, a fear of what they'll do and that terrifies me, I feel like I'm always looking over my shoulder when I'm out, even when I'm perfectly okay and safe. The nighttime terrifies me, I struggle greatly with the dark, I sleep with the television on so there is some light in the room. I really have a fear of nighttime and I really struggle, it's why I'm not great at socialising, I've never been one for nightclubbing or anything like that and the whole things I've written about already are the reason why. I've a fear about mortality, thinking about it gives me horrific panics and grips me with fear. There's more things but I'd like to keep them to myself.

What I decided a few weeks ago was to get some help, I took it upon myself to give in and took myself to see a doctor, after a chat he'd prescribed me onto some anti-depressant medication, Ranitadine, I continued at work that week, hiding all my problems so as nobody could tell but the fears grew and grew and after just over a week I had to take myself to see the doctor as things were getting worse and not better. The doctor changed my medication and laid me off work for a couple of weeks, I'm currently half way through this and am just over a week through my tablets. I'm just taking every day at a time at the minute. It's been really difficult. This past weekend was horrific, and Saturday I had the worst panic attack that I've ever had, I had to go to the hospital and see the out of hours doctor as it was so bad. Following that today I had to go and see my doctor again and discuss further, I've been put on more calming medication and got to see how it goes. I've planned a day out this week with my Dad which will be nice because since I've been laid off work I've pretty much only spent time in the bedroom. We've got a few days at Disneyland next week, but I've yet to decide if I'm going to go or not.

I'm very fortunate that in my situation that I've got such warm and love surrounding me. I've the most wonderful partner in Megan who is always by my side to offer me love and support and she's been so strong when she's got her own problems to deal with. My family, although my family weren't really aware what was going on since they've known they've been so loving. My friends and basically just everyone has been so kind and sweet and it means an awful lot. The lovely comments or messages I've had have deeply touched me. I've found it very hard to approach people back, I've had quite a few messages saying talk to me anytime but I just find it hard to start that conversation as I just don't want to annoy anyone with my problems. Thank you to everyone who has been there and I promise when I'm feeling good again I'll make it up to you all. I must also say sorry to anyone this is affecting, I'm sure it's causing problems for others and I'm very sorry that it is.

That's my story but mental health is a hidden problem, most people who suffer with a mental problem are probably hiding it, I hid mine for so long and I guess that's whats made it all worse in a way. I'd like to say this to anyone who is suffering any problem, do NOT be afraid to seek help and do NOT be afraid to speak to someone, a friend, a family member, a doctor or just anybody, cause sometimes even just unloading a little can lift it a lot. There's a lot of places out there where you can get support and help. Don't be scared to admit you're not okay, we all have problems in life, nobody's life is easy, if you're suffering with whatever problem, big or small then don't worry it'll get better. I'd like to offer anyone who reads this who has any similar problem my love and support. I'm always around, you can find me on Twitter, my username is @leicestermark or just click here for my Facebook. I'll always try and be available, where possible for a chat.

I'm getting my help and hopefully in due time I'll be feeling confident and okay again, the dark clouds are very much over me and the minute but I can see the sunshine, I just know it will take time. I've self referred myself back to counseling today so that's another positive move. Like I say don't be afraid to say you're not okay, but don't suffer in silence. We ALL matter and we are ALL important, YOU are important and YOU are wonderful. It's okay to talk, I've found writing down things the best way of coping, hense if you're a friend of mine on Facebook then you've no doubt seen quite a few posts but that's just been a way of easing.


Everyone needs to understand that mental health is as important as physical health and we all need to love and support each other in life.

Sending you all lots of love and good wishes.
Thanks for reading.
Mark.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Meeting Disney Characters.

One of the best things about a trip to Disneyland is character meeting. Getting a special moment or interaction is magic. Me and Megan have been very lucky that over our trips to Disneyland Paris we've enjoyed some really memorable character meets, I've chosen a few of my favourites in this blog.

Donald Duck 
During our first ever trip together and on our first day we encountered the fantastic Stars 'N' Cars parade in the Walt Disney Studios park. During the parade, basically a set of characters came out, some on foot and some in a themed car, they paraded around in a circle and then parked up and basically the characters went around the crowd which was circled around the parade area. On this parade we met the most lovable Donald Duck who took a real shine to Megan, every time they came out Donald would give special attention to Megan with looks and waves. Megan's always had a special place for Donald ever since.


Snow White

This was a special meet with the lovely Snow White for a different reason, when we went through to see her in the pavilion the Photo-pass photographer was having a little problem so we got extra time with Snow and we had a lovely interaction. This happened on our October 2015 trip and when we saw Snow on the parade again in July 2016 she recognised us.


Mickey Mouse
Meeting the main mouse is always magic, and we've had numerous great meets with him, whether it be at Cafe Mickey, during Magic hours or in his house in the park. One of the stand outs happened during our Halloween-y trip last October. We did the character breakfast at Cafe Mickey, something both of us really enjoy doing as you tend to get a decent breakfast and thrown in you get to meet some characters too, it's always a good start to the day. On this occasion Mickey came to our table, Megan took a photo of me ad Mickey on my phone, Mickey noticed himself on my phone case and wanted a closer look, upon doing this he decided to take a couple of selfies of himself. After this he went off and after the changeover of characters Mickey came back out and immediately came and sat with Megan and they had a really cute interaction. 

 
 

Anastasia and Drizella.
The two Tremaine sisters are probably one of my favourite characters that you can meet in Disney, they're always wonderful to watch and interact so well with people. Having met them on a couple of trips, the meet during October 2015 after the 'It's Good To Be Bad With The Disney Villains' show involved a bit of a scrum, which I really don't enjoy but it was worth it in the end, and I'm not going to lie I think I'm a little bit in love with Anastasia...!


Gaston
One more for Megan this one, meeting Gaston was a huge part of our October trip last year, we got to meet him most days but the best interaction came in the evening when the villains tend to come out in the square where the band stand is. Megan was already a huge fan of Gaston and by this meet she was pretty much
putty in his hand. He could have asked her to go anywhere and she'd have gone! Like me with Anastasia, Gaston is certainly a favourite of Megan's and I must say he's a fantastically fun villain.




Chip and Dale
I don't think you could write a Disney character blog without mentioning the Chipmunks, Chip and Dale. The character meet that you're always guaranteed a fun interaction with. On this occasion with the two troublemakers we met them during Extra Magic Hours near Casey's Corner, they begun to steal Megan's scarf and her Belle ear's that our lovely friend Vivi made for her.

Being their usual naughty selves Chip and Dale then began to ignore the cast members requests to return the items and then Chip decided to walk off and try and behind one of the bins! 

Pocahontas and John Smith
We were very fortunate to get a quick selfie with Pocahontas and John Smith during the last day we could see The Forest of Enchantment. It was such a quick moment but a magic one all the same.

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen
 We had a brilliant meet with the two main characters from the movie The Princess and the Frog, Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen, during our July 2016 trip. We had a great long conversation about all their traditions and all ours back in England. We offered to show them fish and chips and they offered us Gumbo. Naveen was going to play piano for us, and I offered my poor services on the guitar.


Baloo and King Louie
 Meeting my two favourite Disney characters was a treat and a special occasion. On our July 2016 trip we were fortunate to stumble across the pair of them together in Adventureland. Megan explained to the cast member that they were my favourite characters, and the cast member made sure the characters knew this! This made the interaction so much more magic, Baloo even wrote in my autograph book that I was his favourite!




So there you go, that's just a few of my favourite character meets from Disneyland Paris. I hope you enjoyed reading this. What have been your favourite character meets? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.