Category Archives: Words and Sound

W&S Scares – Alien Escape

Urgh… where to begin?…

Well, first of all, my disappointment has faded a lot since I visited Madame Tussauds last week. And I was toying whether to actually write this post. But while researching what other people thought of this attraction, I became furious again, and felt I just had to put this together. Some caveats. Alien Escape is part of the whole Madame Tussauds experience (which is genuinely excellent). So it is short and it shouldn’t be viewed in isolation. So why are you bothering to write this negative post Chris? I’ll tell you at the end!

Let’s start with a positive. What it does, it does well. You do feel like you could be on an alien ship, it’s believably atmospheric and the hulking Xenomorph was pretty good too. But that’s it.

The experience is far too short. I know its part of a longer day but still, it’s about 2 minutes long. I found the whole thing very dark, so it was difficult to see much of anything. I saw pictures afterwards of a man with a ‘face hugger’ but I didn’t see that in there. They also cram you in with far too many people. I was at the back, and several times I heard screams but I have no idea what they were screaming about, I didn’t experience anything remotely scary. There are no animatronics at all. The ‘face hugger’ (if it was there) should have tightened, the egg pods should have opened and the Xenomorth should have moved.

But I could forgive all of that if it wasn’t for one thing. You have to pay for it. That’s right, it’s not included in the admission price… and it used to be! When it first opened it was free entry! It costs you 5 pounds per person to queue up for a 2 minute no scare experience. Don’t waste your time or your money! Unless Tussauds include it in the admission price again and stop forcing people through in large numbers, then avoid like the plague.

1/10 stars (it’ gets 1 because of the feeling of anticipation I had on entering… nothing came of it!)





Thriller Live

On Saturday night, I had a very rare night out alone with my wife without our children. And although being parents of young children there is nothing more we would love than just getting some extra sleep, we reluctantly went out instead. Oh boy am I glad we did, because we saw Thriller Live.

Thriller Live has been at the Lyric theatre for so long that it’s signage of Michael in one of his many signature poses, on Shaftsbury avenue has almost become a tourist attraction itself. I have always wanted to see this show, and now I want to see it again. It is quite simply one of the best live experiences I have ever had, and I really can’t fault it.

So what is Thriller Live? That’s what I was thinking right up to the start. I knew obviously it was something to do with the music of Michael Jackson, but was there a story to it? Actually there is, but it’s not a narrative of Michael’s life, it’s the story of his greatness, his impact on the World and just how much he still means to people.

Thriller Live is a celebration of the artistry of Michael Jackson. His incredible voice, his genius creativity, his amazing videos and performances and last but not least his World class dancing. Thriller Live is 2 and half hours of pure Michael Jackson greatness.

I won’t spoil it by giving you a rundown of tracks played, but obviously Thriller is in there and I will say my favourite performance was Smooth Criminal (how on Earth did they do that leaning dance move!?) But there is also some more obscure stuff as well as songs spanning his entire career. My only criticism is Michael’s career was so full that everyone will have their own song where they will say ‘oh they should have played that.’ But it is just impossible to fit it all in.

The staging is fantastic, the dancing is brilliant but the 4 main singers are simply incredible. Each of them had a different quality to their voices that replicated perfectly a certain aspect of Michael’s. They were amazing and I urge all Michael fans, even vague fans of his music…. go and see this show. You will not be dissapointed. Don’t blame me though if you try and moonwalk your way home!… Blame it on the Boogie 😉

5/5 Stars!



My Favourite Christmas Films

Ahhhh tis the season. Smiles on children’s faces, a glow in everyone’s heart… and A LOT of telly! Don’t know how to navigate all of the film choices that will be before you over the festive period? Fear not! Here are my top 5 films that mean Christmas for me.

5 – Elf (2003)

I was pretty late to the Will Ferrell party. I think quite a few years of ‘Elf’ enjoyment passed me by before I got on board with what a funny guy Will Ferrell is. In my defence, a human baby raised by Father Christmas’ elves – who then goes in search of his real parents, didn’t feel to me like my kind of Christmas film (I do like a streak of darkness in most things). But what we have here is a beautiful family film that is already a Christmas Classic. It makes you feel great and Will Ferrell is hilarious. My favourite bit – When Buddy first finds out Father Christmas is visiting the shop he is working in.


4 – Home Alone (1990)

Kevin McCallister A boy at war with his parents and unappreciative family, is left at home for Christmas, where he can do anything he likes! What could go wrong? Well… plenty. Kevin soon realises that it’s hard being a grown-up, and the World can be a scary place. Whether it’s his creepy next door neighbour, the monster in the basement or hapless burglars Marv and Harry (The Wet Bandits) Kevin has a lot to deal with. Home alone screams Christmas, and what kid doesn’t want to see a boy getting the better of the adults. Best bit – Marv gets a tarantula on the face!


3 – Gremlins (1984)

If you haven’t seen this one, a word of warning. It’s not for kids. Striking a perfect balance between Christmas, comedy and horror, Gremlins is unlike any other festive film offering. In places it is very dark (Kate’s story about her dad and Father Christmas or when Billy’s mum first finds the Gremlins in the house for instance). It is also very Gorey at times, though the Gremlins blood is green so they seem to get away with it. At it’s core though this is a film about family and supporting each other and everyone in the community at Christmas. And despite all of the horror, it actually makes you feel good and remember that Christmas isn’t just about getting the best present. Some presents are better left unopened.  Keep them out of sunlight, don’t get them wet and never feed them after midnight! Favourite part is Gremlin in the Christmas tree.


2 – Scrooge (1951)

My absolute favourite adaptation of the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. For me Alistair Sim is Scrooge, no one else comes close. This adaptation oozes Victorian Gothic, and if you can, it’s best viewed in its original black and white format. Even though this film isn’t my number one, it is the only one on the list that I must watch every year. It is a tradition for me to watch it late on Christmas Eve when everyone is in bed, preferably ending just after midnight. I have never seen Scrooge done better than this. Best bit – when Scrooge won’t pay for more bread!


1 – Scrooged (1988)

My number one Christmas film is Scrooged. Bill Murray at his finest. This is a modern update of the character very loosely based on a Christmas Carol, where Scrooge is replaced by wicked and ruthless TV executive, Frank Cross. Frank is visited by 3 ghosts throughout the course of Christmas Eve, though not just at night, and the Dickens ghosts are push overs compared to these ones. Bill Murray is brilliant in this role, with his very dry humour and deadpan face. This is a Scrooge for today. His journey to redemption is believable, and his treatment of his family is one that unfortunately we all recognise from time to time. Its triumph though outside of the comedy is the ending. Heartfelt and powerful, Bill Murray is teary eyed when he delivers his closing speech when he realises that mankind should have been his business. Best bit… all of it, but Frank Cross vs the Ghost of Christmas present.


Merry Christmas all!



W&S Scares – Rise of The Demon

The last time I went to Thorpe Park, I did so explicitly for one thing… to ride on Derren Brown’s re-imagining of the classic ghost train in, Rise of The Demon.

I have been a fan of Derren’s work for some years, and though I think he has had some hits and misses, I have largely been very impressed with what he can do, and I am pleased to see he is branching out, using his techniques in other ways.

derren 3

Rise of The Demon is Thorpe Park’s ghost train, but with the obvious connections with Brown, it’s fair to say it is nothing like you expect. A word of warning from the outset, I think you will either love this ride or hate it. There is no in between with this one.

I’m not going to give anything away, as you really have to experience it first hand. This is the second version as feedback from the first run was ‘make it scarier.’ I never experienced the first version, so can’t say if it worked, but I did find it very scary to a point.

All of the action takes place either walking around a subterranean platform, outside the train or on the train itself. The main thing here (which I don’t think gives anything away as most people know this) is that on the train you use virtual reality headsets to experience most of the ride.


This is where Brown’s ghost train triumphs. He has really pulled out the stops to give as an immersive experience as possible. The live actors are believable in their parts and convince you as to your location at the time. The VR is slightly different for everyone, so in theory you would not get exactly the same ride. How many variations there are though, I don’t know. You really have to appreciate the sheer ambition of what has tried to be created here. Unfortunately it doesn’t work – and the biggest mistake is unacceptable.

The story is quite confused. It has a basic premise, but it doesn’t seem to follow. Also i’m not sure why the time period jumps other than to shoe horn in a period that doesn’t fit the rest of the story, because Derren has an obvious fascination with it. The biggest gripe though is the technology. The VR headsets failed time and time again. It’s just not good enough and doesn’t do justice to the ride. I went on twice and there were at least a quarter of the headsets out of action. You use the VR sets twice each ride, so I used them 4 times, and every time (including myself) people complained of no video,  no audio or the screen freezing. That simply is not good enough and I can’t imagine what Thorpe Park’s excuse for this is.

derren 4

But… when it did work, it was amazing. I loved the VR experience, it was really convincing, and the way they worked it into the story to justify the equipment was excellent. They ramped up the scares nicely between the VR and live action with a huge one at the end. I absolute loved this ride and would highly recommend if you get a working headset. However, the inferior equipment really lets it down…and for a ride that has been open for quite some time, there is really no justification for using inferior equipment.

Unfortunately, purely for the equipment issues I can only give it 5/10 stars… but who knows, if you are lucky and get a fault free experience, then this ride is something very special.



Beauty & The Beast Review

It’s panto season! Oh no it isn’t… Oh yes it is… Oh no, well you get the idea!

This week I took my daughter to the wonderful Queens theatre Hornchurch for a sell out (the theatre was PACKED) night for this years pantomime, Beauty & The Beast. This will be the third year running that I have had the pleasure of reviewing their annual pantomime and I think Beauty & The Beast may just be the best yet.

L-R Oliver Beamish, Daniella Piper, James Lawrence, Molly-Grace Cutler & Young Company Beauty and the Beast Queen's Theatre Hornchurch Photo Credit Mark Sepple

The set design was very clever and even before the performance started the scene was set. A forest is made out of the pages from a book and a spotlit rose bush takes centre stage as we wait for it to begin.

There are no surprises here, evil witch, beauty falls in love with the beast but must leave him and return home to her sick father, before all reunite at the end for a happily ever after. But it doesn’t need surprises. What it needs is slick production, brilliant vocals and hilarious comedy – and this production of Beauty & The Beast has all 3!

Sarah Mahony as Spite - Beauty and the Beast - Queen's Theatre Hornchurc. Photo credit Mark Sepple

The support comedy cast of Souffle, Nanny Bon Bon, Cupid (and Super goat) were very good… and there were plenty of more adult jokes to keep the parents entertained the the children would definitive not understand.

The musicians and all the vocalists were brilliant, but the stand out star for me though was Daniella Piper who plays ‘Beauty’ Amorette. Her vocals were stunning, and if I had one criticism, it would be that I could have listened to much m ore of her solo work. But that is minor gripe in a  very good production.

L-R Oliver Beamish & William Brand - Beauty and the Beast - Queen's Theatre Hornchurch. Photo credit Mark Sepple

Go and have a lovely festive evening out at the Queens Theatre. But don’t take my word for it, take the word of my 6 year old:

“My favourite bit was ‘don’t dip your fingers in the cream.’ I also loved Super Goat!”

4/5 stars


Words & Sound S1 E2

Welcome to the latest episode of the Words & Sound Podcast. In this episode I chat with Christina Oakley Harrington, owner of Treadwell’s Books London and Wiccan Priestess. Christina and I talk, books, witchcraft, life, love and The Universe. I feel so lucky and privileged to have been able to spend an hour in her company. The wisdom, and compassion of Christina, flows out of her effortlessly and this is, at times an emotional conversation, that I will remember for the rest of my life. Please enjoy and share the thoughts of the remarkable, generous and truly inspirational; Christina Oakley Harrington.

Christina has selected all of the music for this episode of Words and Sound and has been kind enough to give her thoughts and feelings on some of them below:

“One of my earliest spiritual memories is from when I was about three, and I was listening to my parents play their vinyl record album ‘Wildflowers’ by the folksinger Judy Collins. The song I hummed to myself was the track ‘Sisters of Mercy’, about whom I imagined three gentle Goddesses, who were like kind Madonna’s. It astonishes me now that I was little more than a toddler, yet my sense of my inner life was so complex. If I had to, I could trace my sense of a comforting Goddess to that song, and that year. The sense of a universal Goddess, nature as Goddess, is intensely comforting to me l – as a Pagan I feel her in all the heroines and Goddesses of old religions and myths — multi-faceted, ever-evolving. I was in my twenties, riding in a car with a friend late at night, when I first heard the Pretenders’ ‘Hymn to Her’. It stopped my heart.

Folk-songs contain embedded stories, sometimes cautionary, about the dangers of the woodland creatures, the spirits, and – sadly – of enjoying love. ‘Gay Green Gown’ is a song about a young women who goes into the woods to get a ‘green gown’, which in Tudor times meant actually a gown of the colour of fairies, and simultaneously, a skirt that was green from grass-stains due to making love on the forest floor. The young woman in this song wants so much to make love (get a green gown) with ‘the wicked one’ — the devil – that she goes into the forest with him. The so-called Wicked One, or Old Horny, is actually Pan, the embodiment of erotic desire. For pagans, that is a positive force, so we celebrate the young maiden’s urges to get a green gown from him.

I was fortunate to enough to attend Ryan Adams’ recent gig at the Albert Hall in London, where Ryan was supported by Karen Elson. They are both people who have a vivid sense of unseen realities. ‘Call your Name’ and ‘I See Monsters’  are songs which talk about solitude and inner separation — what goes on in ourselves when someone can’t reach us any more – the things that we can feel when it’s just us alone, and the universe — an inner and outer universe. These are tracks I listen to when I stay late alone at the bookshop: if it’s midnight at Treadwell’s, and I’m there alone in the office with a single light burning, I’m probably playing their albums.

Dave Carter’s ‘Tanglewood Tree’ was given to me by my sister Kate on a mix-tape she made for me many years ago when she lived in New York. She was living in something like 126th Street in the Nineties, in a little apartment, and I remember sleeping on her couch when I was visiting her, listening to this song in the small hours. The song is ostensibly about love, but my reading of it is my own: for me, it’s about my magical vocation — it’s that love, that particular aching love of the invisible world.

Mariza’s song Oxala is her love-song to her land and to its guiding star. Her love for Portugal mirrors the tender care I wish for each person to feel for the part of this earth that they live on. I wish for each of us to cherish the part of the Earth Goddess’ body which we are living in.  A sort of Goddess love which operates on a principle of ‘Love Globally, Cherish Locally’.”




How WWE should have booked Survivor Series Main Event

Last night’s Survivor Series main event, was enjoyable enough, we saw some great wrestling. Unfortunately there’s a ‘but’… It could have (and should have) been so much more.

Here is how WWE’s 5 on 5 brand match main even, should have been booked.


First up, let’s look at the teams.

On Team Raw, we have Kurt Angle as team captain, Triple H, Fin Balor, Samoa Joe and ‘The Monster Among Men’ Braun Strowman. The Smackdown team had John Cena, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura, Randy Orton and team captain was Shane McMahon (because of course a McMahon needs to be involved.) I think this is a really interesting team structure, although it brings me to my first issue with the match. On paper, Braun Strowman gives Raw a huge advantage, and looking at the line up, 4 on 5 would have been much better balanced – which implies that they have stacked team Raw too heavily, or rather team Smackdown is lacking their 5th member. Shane McMahon should have been replaced with someone else, and I think that someone should have been Kevin Owens. This is nothing against Shane, but if you match up the members of both teams, they fit reasonable well (still slightly heavy in Raw’s direction) but it leaves Strowman matched to Shane, which is obviously ridiculous and highlights the issues within the teams.

That aside though, there is plenty of talent on both sides to create a brilliant main event. Unfortunately that never came to fruition, and what should have been great, was just OK. This was largely because of what WWE is doing with alarming frequency now; burying new talent. Kurt Angle, Triple H, John Cena and to a certain degree even Randy Orton, should now be handing the baton to the next generation. They should be there in the match for nostalgia and the excitement of seeing them wrestle occasionally, and more importantly they should be putting over todays talent to make them the legends of tomorrow. Instead Orton, Cena, Triple H and Angle, buried them and they were the force of the second half of the match. What does that achieve, other than stroking their egos?

Here is what should have happened:

Triple H should have crossed Angle early in the match. ‘Accidently’ striking him and causing him to be pinned. This would set up a match between them at Wrestlemania. I would have loved to have seen Cena taken out by Strowman, further cementing his dominance, and Orton would have been brilliantly taken out by a double team of Balor and Samoa Joe. It would have been fantastic to see Triple H pinned by Shinsuke Nakamura, but of course no one pins the Game! Nakamura, Balor, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode should have without question, been the last 4 men in the match. I would also have loved to have seen interference from Kane as payback for last week’s Raw, with him helping to eliminate Strowman, which would have further fuelled the legitimacy of their feud. Instead we were left with Strowman, Angle and Triple H vs Shane McMahon. Angle was about to make Shane tap from The Ankle Lock, but was taken out by Triple H as a double cross, which should have happened much earlier. Triple H then picked up the pin to win Survivor Series for team Raw. Talent, buried by Triple H to make him look good. This is happening so often now. Amazing talent from Ring of Honour, NXT and New Japan are being buried by WWE veterans. This is exactly why Kenny Omega will not go to WWE anytime soon. Omega is one of the hottest wrestlers in the World at the moment and if he goes to WWE he knows he will get buried. Hence Chris Jericho facing him at NJPR Wrestle Kingdom 12 next year.

A very disappointing main event, because of what it could have, and should have been. Roode, Nakamura, Samoa Joe and Fin Balor should have shone, and unfortunately creative deemed it more important to have the likes of Cena and Triple H stand tall, despite the fact their wrestling careers are long behind them. That said, it was fun to watch. Man of the match was easily Fin Balor, he was a wonder to watch and his running kick to McMahon was insane. Say what you like about Shane, but the man is not afraid to take a bump. A final downer for me though was the abilities of Triple H and Kurt Angle. Both men did very little, and Angle had to rest for a moment between German Suplex’ 2 and 3 on Roode. This gives me serious concern over their inevitable clash.

What WWE did do well was in the way they booked Strowman. Since his Raw transfer they have not put a foot wrong with him. They have slowly and steadily built him into a star, and it was excellent to see even Triple H felled by him at the end. Strowman was the once again shown as ‘The Monster Among Men’ and the last left standing. Let’s hope creative give equal care to the rest of the upcoming roster from now on.




W&S Scares – Terror Tower Scarborough

Welcome to the second in our concessional Words and Sound series, the W&S Podcast Scares, where we take a look at some of the frighteningly fun (haha see what I did there?) scares from around the country… This week, we look at at Scarborough’s Terror Tower!

The Terror Tower is set over 3 floors and spans 2 buildings, though you wouldn’t suspect so from the small stature of the front of the building. Each room is a replica of a famous horror film set and in between each is near darkness as you wind your way through.

terror 2

I can’t remember exactly which films are covered because I was genuinely terrified and tried to get through as quickly as I could. It didn’t help that there was only 2 of us scrambling through the darkness and being jumped at by the live actors who always seemed to be in front and behind you!

I remember very definitely though, Freddy Krueger’s head and voice descending from the ceiling. Norman Bates skeletal mother coming down the stairs in her wheel chair. Michael Myers electrocuted in a chamber and best of all, a metallic space station corridor with liquid dripping from the ceiling leading you to the hulking Xenomorph.

terror 3

Fans of horror and scares, this one is excellent and I burst out the door laughing and very very scared. Very highly recommended!! 8/10

Chris @CW_Stagg

Treadwell’s Books

Down an unassuming street, off Tottenham Court Road, amongst the bars and restaurants, you will find Treadwell’s bookshop. It’s difficult to categorise Treadwell’s as just a bookshop, because from first stepping through the doorway, it is obvious that it’s so much more. “This is the all-surpassing Lady Wisdom, who with her right hand penetrates the East, with her left hand the West, and who embraces the whole Earth.” So writes Michael Maier in his 1617 alchemical work, ‘Atalanta Fugiens’. A fitting patron spirit then, for Treadwell’s to adopt. Because at its core, it is a place of spiritual learning, discovery, exploration and tolerance.


I first learned of Treadwell’s about 18 months ago, but I only plucked up the courage to actually visit the shop fairly recently (I have been a regular now for 3 months or so and have met some wonderful people). When I first visited, I actually hung around outside, concerned with what I might find within. What would they be like? What would they make of me and my questions? My worries were of course completely unfounded. I had become over anxious with an irrational fear of what a stockest of occult books might be like, and I greatly regret now not visiting sooner, as it has become a favourite haunt of mine after work.


This might sound rather cliché, but when I first stepped inside Treadwell’s, it just felt like home. Warm, relaxing, comfortable and welcoming. These feelings are created by the soothing low music, the dragons blood incense, perfect lighting and most importantly, the friendly staff. I can’t emphasis enough how brilliant the staff are. Treadwell’s could be in a warehouse or a market stall and it wouldn’t matter, because all the people I have met who work there, have been wonderfully welcoming, knowledgeable and friendly.


I feel I have to expand on the staff at Treadwell’s a little more, because they are a hugely important part of what makes it so special. Treadwell’s Books was founded and is run by Christina Oakley Harrington, who clearly has a loving passion for the exploration of knowledge within paganism and wider spirituality. It is to Christina’s credit that she has created a working environment that has attracted devoted staff, who share her love and passion for the shop. It is more akin to a family than a team of colleagues, and it is that relationship that has made Treadwell’s the incredible place that it is.


Treadwell’s has a huge stock of books on subjects as diverse as traditional religion, history, folklore, magic, divination, spiritualism and contemporary culture. They also stock rarer books and regularly refresh their stock, with a larger collection online. They have a large apothecary section and also stock a number of magical items for spellwork and ritual.

Like many independent bookshops, Treadwell’s offer a host of other functions beyond book selling. They have a very vibrant (and often sell out) programme of talks, classes and workshops. In addition, they host book launches and even music events. They can also offer a unique space for hire for corporate meetings or private events, and are a great choice for a film or TV bookshop location.


At the beginning of this article I said it is difficult to categorise Treadwell’s as just a bookshop. This is a place of discovery, where you are made to feel incredibly welcome and have your questions answered. They are a hub for a community of spiritual explorers, and you will find many leaflets and postings on a whole host of exciting topics. So step in, enjoy the atmosphere and have a chat with Christina and her wonderful team. As bookshops go, this one is simply magical.



Look out for Christina, joining me on the Words & Sound podcast for Phoenix FM very soon.

Treadwell’s Bookshop, 33 Store Street WC1E 7BS, London

Hours: 11-7pm weekdays | 12-7pm Saturday and Sunday

Telephone: 020 7419 8507


The Invisible Man Review

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending an adaptation of H G Wells classic tale, The Invisible Man, at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. If you are unfamiliar, The Invisible Man is set in the late Victorian period and follows physicist Jack Griffin, as he completes his refraction obsession by turning himself invisible and then tracks his quest to make himself seen again.

This is an absolutely stunning production. I have rarely (if ever) seen a production anywhere else that has put more effort into it’s staging. The performance comes with a sharp warning that should you leave the theatre, you cannot return until the end of the act because of the complexities of the performance.  This is justified as throughout the play, there are frequent uses of light and shadow to give the invisibility affect.

Matthew Spencer in The Invisible Man - Queen's Theatre Hornchurch. Photo credit Mark Sepple

Unfortunately I found the performances a little flat and I found it hard to engage and empathise with the characters. I also found the frequent musical breaks quite jarring too and felt they slowed the pace of the story. Which is unfortunate, because it is clear this is a really well considered piece of theatre.

That said, it is still a great production and an enjoyable play to watch. Paul McEwen and Sophie Duval as Dr Kemp and Mrs Hall are excellent and the runaway unintentional stars of the show. I found myself longing for their next scenes. For me though, it does fall short of previous 5 and 4 star shows I have seen here.

3/5 stars.



Performances | Mon – Wed | 7.30pm

Thu – Sat | 8pm

Matinees | Thu 2 Nov & Sat 11 Nov | 2.30pm

Audio Described Perf | Sat 11 Nov | 2.30pm Sign Language Interpreted Perf | Wed 15 Nov | 7.30pm Talk Back | free | Wed 8 Nov (after evening perf) | A chance for audiences to meet and question cast and creatives.

Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, RM11 1QT Tube: Hornchurch Tickets: £12.50 – £29 | Under 26s £10 at certain performances Box Office: 01708 443333 Website:

All images (c) Mark Sepple used with permission of Queen’s Theatre.