Theatre Royal Newcastle Panto Review 2017 | Peter Pan

*Press review

One of my most vivid memories of growing up in Newcastle was being allowed to stay up late on a school night and being taken into Newcastle City Centre in the dark to watch the pantomime at Newcastle's Theatre Royal with my aunt, uncle and cousin. It was a real treat back then (actually it still is a real treat) and as a child, it's pretty much the only time I went into Newcastle at night (the only other time was to visit Fenwick's Window). I remember walking down Grey Street with wide eyes at the big city lights and holding tightly onto my cousin's hand as if it was yesterday. The theatre seemed so grand and we always had such a magical night filled with laughter, fun and ice cream. We literally used to skip from the theatre back to the car afterwards. To me, that's what panto should be like and I really hope my children grow up with their own special memories of trips like this too. 

Theatre Royal Newcastle Panto Review 2017 | Peter Pan

So it may come as a surprise to hear that I've never taken my own children to watch the panto at the Theatre Royal. Yes, you read that correctly. Despite it being a bit of a North East institution, it's just something we've never experienced together. There is a very good reason behind this though and that's because our lovely school always take our children to watch panto at the Theatre Royal on the last day of term as a treat for all those who have followed the school rules (and us parents don't have to pay a penny - how cool is that!). Harry, Heidi and Jack always rave about how much they love this special treat and Jack even got asked up on stage last year which is something that the whole school still talks about today. H, H and J talk so fondly of Danny and Clive that I am pretty confident it's going to be annual trips to the Theatre Royal with school that they're going to look back on with fond memories when they're older too. We're pretty lucky to have such a fantastic duo who perform in the North East year after year with such enthusiasm and fun. My friend who lives elsewhere in the UK mentioned she was jealous that Danny and Clive starred in our local panto as their household are huge fans and after watching them in action again last night, I can certainly see why this cheeky duo are loved by us Geordies so much. 

This year we were kindly invited along to press night. I did worry about whether taking the kids to see this show before they go with school might spoil it a little for them but when I mentioned it to them there was no way we couldn't go. They were dying to share the fun with Steve and I and for us to be part of their tradition. 

Peter Pan at The Theatre Royal Newcastle 

Most people you talk with will say that panto at the Theatre Royal is the best in Newcastle. I know plenty of people who buy their tickets as soon as they're released, over a year in advance and have been going as long as they can remember. For many families, visiting the Theatre Royal at Christmas time is the same as Brussel Sprouts on their Christmas dinner - Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without it. So I had super high expectations. I was surprised to see so many grown-ups at this panto without children too - probably the most I've ever witnessed. There were couples and groups of friends as well as families and groups in the audience, it was a real mix. 

Onto the show......

We've watched the show's main stars Danny and Clive perform at Butlin's a few times before and the children obviously watch them every year with school. Their catchphrases are pretty common in our household throughout the year. I will say that their humour isn't necessarily my cup of tea - it's very silly with lots of innuendoes that are just on the right side of ok for a family audience. Despite this kind of humour not normally appealing to me, I still managed to have a really good night which I think really speaks volumes about how this panto caters for everyone. 

I think 7-12 year olds are the perfect age for this kind of humour and the older children will love starting to understand some of the more grown-up jokes too. Harry, Heidi and Jack laughed the whole way through the show - from curtain up right until the end. At one point Jack said he was going to die from laughing so much. They were jumping up and down in their seats and they really had the best time ever. Again, I think their ages are just perfect for this show. Despite myself not being fond of too much silliness, I couldn't help but laugh along with the kids and the show is packed with jokes that I hadn't heard before. There is so much adult humour in this show too and Steve and I caught each others eyes above the kids' heads on more than one occasion and it was nice to raise our eyebrows and share our own personal jokes that the kids weren't aware of. 

There were quite a few stand-out moments from this panto and it was super entertaining throughout for all ages - I never once considered looking at my watch and checking how much time was left. The Tibuktu Tumblers as The Neverlanders and Sascha Williams and Stephanie Nock as The Drunken Pirates really raised the bar - I had to watch some of their stunts through my fingers and they had us on the edge of our seats.  The theatrics of the crocodile were truly outstanding and akin to a West End show (he is pretty scary and if you're sitting in the stalls I would pre-warn your younger/more sensitive children and reassure them that he's not real beforehand) and yes, Peter Pan really does fly and there are some fantastic visual effects throughout. 

I've watched over 50 pantomimes in my lifetime and I will say that I didn't see much ad-libbing like you get in other shows - it all felt very much scripted and I also didn't feel any real connection from the actors to the audience like I have in other shows either - perhaps this is because I was a first timer? I'm not sure.  I am a massive fan of villains too and love it when they really come into their own. Steve Arnott played the part of Captain Hook really well but I would have loved to have seen more encouragement for us to boo when he was present on stage and I was surprised that there was no mention of 'he's behind you'  either which surely has to be part of every panto? 

For me, it was the final scenes that were the funniest. The audience participation section is where I laughed the most and it was fab to see some very good sports taking part. I'll not give too much away but you'll not believe how far things go.  I loved all of the music too and there's something special about watching a pantomime with a live orchestra. There are plenty of songs for you to sing along to and I found myself dancing in my seat on more than one occasion. The scene with the ensemble of pop song snippets really had me giggling along and we were all hanging on Danny Adams' every word at this point. 

We left the Theatre Royal saying that we'd all had such a fun evening together - Peter Pan is a panto packed with variety that will wow families with its stunning visual effects, have you on the edge of your seats and will provide you all with an evening full of laughter to remember.

Here are the scores on the doors:

Harry (11) - 10/10
Heidi (8) - 9/10
Jack (6) - 11/10 (that's not a typo)
Sam - 8/10
Steve - 8/10 

I am honestly so happy that we have finally experienced a Theatre Royal panto with the children. They were so thrilled to show us what all the fuss is about and I can really see why this panto is dear to so many. Harry, Heidi and Jack loved it so much and are already counting the days until they're going to watch the show for a second time with school.

Key facts you need to know 

  • Two beers, two cokes and a blackcurrant juice in the theatre bar = £16
  • Ice cream and flashy toys for sale in the interval and prior to the show (sorry I didn't catch the price)
  • There are seat booster cushions available from stewards for younger children
  • The official word on the street is that you can't take your own food or drink into the theatre (we did spot people do this though including one guy with a full takeaway from the Christmas markets - very random)
  • Bag searches are in operation. Do not bring shopping bags, large bags or wrapped presents (they will need to be unwrapped)
  • Strictly no photography allowed (stewards will tell you to put your phone away)
  • If you're sitting in stalls, prepare to get a little wet
  • The crocodile is pretty scary - prepare younger children beforehand
  • Running time = 2 hours 25 minutes incl20-minute0 minute interval (our 7pm performance ended at 9:20pm)
  • Captioned and Audio Described performances 12 December at 7pm
  • Relaxed performance 9 & 16 January at 12noon
  • Panto continues until 21 January - there are still tickets available although they are limited on some dates. 

You can read our other 2017 Panto reviews here: 

  • The Lambton Worm at The Customs House South Shields - 46/50
  • Alice in Wonderland at Northern Stage - 44/50 (if you change Heidi's score of 10,000 to 10)
  • Peter Pan at The Theatre Royal - 45/50 (if you change Jack's score of 11 to 10)
  • Robinson Crusoe at Gala Theatre Durham (guest review)
  • Cinderella at Whitley Bay Playhouse (guest review) 35.7/40

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    What's on in the North East for kids and families | 2 & 3 December 2017

    It's December! Yeah! and there's lots of festive fun to be had across the North East this weekend. I'm off to Manchester Christmas Markets on Saturday and we're off to visit Father Christmas at Wallington Hall on Sunday followed by The Lambton Worm at The Customs House. I can't wait!

    In case you didn't know, I'm taking part in my own version of Vlogmas this year - I'll be shooting 20 mini videos throughout December featuring lots of festive fun across the North East. They'll be published every evening at 9pm from 1-20 December and will feature the likes of ice skating at Beamish, a debate on what the best Christmas film is (obviously Love Actually) and us buying a real Christmas Tree from a local farm. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here and remember to visit every evening from 9pm to check out what we've been up to.

    1 - 4 December | Corbridge Christmas Tree Festival | Find out more here

    2 December | Santa is visiting The Bowes Museum | Find out more here

    2 December | Jazz Carols at Cornerstone Church, Newcastle | Find out more here

    2 December | Get Your Christmas On with Gateshead Libraries | Find out more here

    2 December | FabLab in Christmas Action at The Word, South Shields | Find out more here

    2 December | Santa Saturdays at Gateshead Central Library | Find out more here

    2 December | Christmas Card Booth at The Word, South Shields | Find out more here

    2 & 3  December | A Christmas Adventure at Seven Stories | Find out more here

    2 & 3 December | Santa Specials at Stephenson Railway | Find out more here

    2 & 3 December | The Elf Trail at Hardwick Park | Find out more here

    2 & 3 December | Live Farm Nativity & Carols at Broomhouse Farm | Find out more here

    2 & 3 December | Dick Whittington by Seaton Delaval Pantomime Society | Find out more here

    2 & 3 December | Christmas Chaos at Gibside | Find out more here

    2 & 3 December | Make a Tree Decoration at Cragside | Find out more here

    3 December | Home Alone in Concert at The Sage with Royal Northern Sinfonia | Find out more here

    3 December | Musical Christmas in the Atrium at The Word | Find out more here

    3 December | Carols in the Chapel at Wynyard Hall | Find out more here

    3 December | The lighting of the Yarm Christmas Tree | Find out more here

    3 December | A Fairytale Christmas at Seven Stories | Find out more here

    3 December | Create a Christmas Tree Star at Seaton Delaval Hall | Find out more here

    Looking for more inspiration? Check out these posts:

    Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and check out my Christmas videos - every evening from 9pm 1-20 December. 

    Let me know what you're up to this weekend and have a good one! 


    Wynyard Hall Ice Skating 2017 - All You Need To Know

    *This is a collaborative post

    Today we have a guest post by my lovely friend Katie Byram. Katie is a super talented wedding photographer (in fact she shot my friend Chloe's wedding which you can read about here) and has featured in multiple magazines and publications so it's an honour to have Katie write for us today. Find out more about hiring Katie via her website here. Over to Katie: 

    We were super excited to get the opportunity to attend a figure skating show as part of the launch of Wynyard Hall On Ice.  My partner Chris and his daughter Penny, 5, both love ice skating and Chris is a keen ice hockey fan so I jumped at the chance for us to check it out on Saturday.

    For the first time, Wynyard Hall is offering an outdoor, real ice skating rink as part of it's festive offerings. The rink is situated set back from Wynyard Hall itself, surrounded by trees and parkland.

    We didn't know quite what to expect beforehand, but were completely wowed by some young ladies who are part of the cast of 'Aladdin on Ice'. We certainly got a taste of their talents, as they put on a flawless performance for around twenty minutes.

    The highlight for me was to see them dancing to a medley of songs from Home Alone, which is one of my all-time favourite Christmas movies too. They made skating look SO easy, with spinning, speed skating backwards, and dancing with ribbons as well. As well as some solo performances they also took to the ice altogether. I definitely had my heart in my mouth a few times wondering if they were all going to suddenly crash into each other, but of course they didn't!

    I love a good panto, and after seeing the talented cast members I am definitely going to grab some tickets for it as soon as possible. It's an interesting alternative to a traditional panto!

    After the figure skating show, we had around half an hour before the next skating session, so decided to check out the cafe. I'd never been to that part of Wynyard Hall before, and was really impressed by the farm shop and cafe. The cafe was, as expected, fairly busy and we did have to wait a while to get a table and queue for drinks. However, it was worth the wait as the hot chocolate certainly was the perfect warming drink to have after standing next to the ice rink. The gardens were also next to the cafe and looked fabulous, and I made a mental note to pay a visit another time for a wander around.

    After warming up a little, we headed back to skate, and Penny was offered some children's skates that attach to the bottom of her shoes, apparently making it easier for balance. However as she's been ice skating a few times now we opted for the 'proper' ice skates for her, which they do have available in children's sizes too. There were also some really cute penguins that can be hired for children to hold onto, to help make their way around the ice. Being a really busy session, there weren't any more of these available, so you should definitely book one in advance if you think your little one may need a helping penguin buddy!

    The sessions take place on the hour, for forty-five minutes. As it's a real ice rink, staff spend the other 15 minutes preparing the ice for the next time slot. The session that Chris & Penny took part in was very busy, to be honest I thought there were probably a few too many people on the ice at once, which could definitely add to the anxiety of any nervous beginner skaters! However, i'm not too sure whether that was more of an exception than the norm, with it being a special opening event.

    There were certainly lots of smiling faces, young and old, making their way around the rink, and the Christmas music really added to the festive atmosphere. I did think to myself that some festoon lighting around the rink would add a little more wow factor, maybe something for them to consider for next year!

    Booking for the ice skating sessions is strongly advised, advance booking is £8 per person (including children) and to pay on the door is £9 per person, including hire of skates. The support penguins are an extra £3 to hire. Booking can be done online via the Wynard Hall website.

    The ice rink is running until 31st December. Times vary depending on the days, but there are some evening sessions on Friday/Saturday/Sunday too.  


    Testing the 28 minute cycle function on a new Beko Washing Machine | Review & Giveaway

    *We were sent this item for review & post contains affiliate links

    You know you're getting old when the thought of a new washing machine excites you. When Beko got in touch and asked if I'd like to review one of their new washing machines with a 28-minute cycle it was as if all of my Christmases had come at once AND they are giving one away to one lucky reader too (just scroll to the bottom of the post to enter). 

    You can check out the full range of new Beko Washing Machines here, I opted for model WY 124854MW. I was drawn to the fact that it can hold a 12kg load which can be washed in just 28 minutes. There are also a few features such as SteamTherapy which reduces the need for ironing (handy for me as I am not known for my love of ironing).

    Delivery was arranged through KnowHow who I have to say weren't the best and there were a few issues that had I have been a paying customer I wouldn't have been happy about (eg messing up delivery dates and then having the wrong info on the delivery sheet which took around 30 minutes to sort out). We got there in the end though and now my machine is installed, I honestly could not be happier. 

    Key Features of the Beko WY 124854MW Washing Machine 

    My new Beko Washing Machine replaces my Whirlpool washing machine which was around 2 years old, cost around £300 new and didn't have any fancy features. It was also only 7kg in capacity which in my opinion was far too small for a busy family of 5. 

    1 - 28-minute wash cycle (although it took longer for me)

    I've owned washing machines with shorter wash times before but they've always been for smaller loads. The Beko WY 124854MW Washing Machine states it can wash a full 12kg load in just 28 minutes. It's worth pointing out that this wash will only be at 30 degrees and times may differ ever so slightly due to things like water pressure.

    First of all, I wanted to wash my chair cushions but didn't really want to go a full day without them - the 28-minute cycle worked perfectly. There is a clock on the front of the washing machine that counts down how long is left and I trusted it. But then after I'd used the 28-minute cycle a few times, I realised that it seemed to take longer than 28 minutes so I decided to time it using my phone stopwatch too. Then I timed it again to be sure.

    I discovered that a 28-minute cycle actually takes closer to one hour for me and the clock on the washing machine self-adjusts so isn't a true representation from the start. I use the 28-minute cycle with around half a load of washing (school uniforms mostly) and using a washing capsule in the drum rather than washing detergent. Beko say water pressure, temperature, the detergent used and unbalanced loads can all cause the length of this cycle to be increased which is clearly the case in our house.

    Although the fact that our quick daily wash cycle takes longer than the promised 28 minutes, a one hour cycle is still shorter than my older machine and I'm happy to take it. I can now wash the kids' school uniform when they're in the bath and have it washed, dried and put away before they go to sleep which is unheard of in the past. 

    There is an even quicker cycle which allows you to wash a couple of items (up to 2kg) within 14 minutes. This washes at 30 degrees and only spins at 600 rpm. In reality, it takes around 20 minutes for this cycle to complete for me which is perfect for washing 1/2 items when you're in a real hurry. I use this cycle every couple of days to wash the kids' packed lunch bags and it's perfect for this. 

    2 - Easy to use

    This machine is the easiest piece of tech I have used in a long time. It's pretty fool-proof. The large LCD display is easy to read and follow. To start a wash, simply add your usual detergent, touch 'on' then spin the dial to the programme you'd like to use.

    There are 12 programmes to choose from including the quick daily wash, cotton, eco-cotton, night mode, synthetics, steam therapy and more. Then hit 'start' and wait for the wash to end. There is a clock on the LCD display which keeps you informed with how long is left, if the door is locked and at what stage the cycle is at. 

    3 - Customised Programmes 

    I like that this machine has been designed to fit into your life. A lot of the programmes can be customised to fit in with your lifestyle or needs. Some of the programmes can be reduced in time, temperature or spin speed at the touch of a button, there's a snazzy night mode which is quieter and uses less energy.You can also set a wash end time - I work from home so I probably won't use this too much but I imagine it's a fantastic function for those who work away from home and want to set a wash to finish just before they get home from work.

    There's nothing worse than a load of wet washing having to stay in a machine all day before you can empty it. There's also a waterproof care programme which has been designed to keep your waterproofs in tact for longer. As a family who loves the great outdoors and owner of multiple waterproofs, I love this function and can see me using it a lot when I wash our coats.  

    4 - Large Drum

    Moving up from a 7kg drum to a 12kg drum has been significant for us! It's fantastic being able to get a lot more washing done in one go and I love that I can wash the kids' winter coats together and even our duvets now too. The door is nice and big too so the machine is super easy to load - no more trying to cram everything in and hope for the best. 

    5 - Steam Therapy

    I love, love, love this function. Steam Therapy can reduce iron time by 50%. It's designed to reduce creases and eliminate odours - basically give something a quick refresh. This function is perfect if you've realised your kids don't have a clean school shirt over breakfast or if you want to wear a dress that has been hanging in your wardrobe for a while and needs a quick refresh rather than a full wash. I am somebody who hates ironing and I know I'm going to use this programme a lot.

    You put your clothes in dry and 15 minutes later (I timed it - it does actually take 15 minutes), your clothes will come out refreshed and with a lot less creases. I don't feel like this picture really does the technology the best justice but my dress went from looking like a crumpled mess and unwearable to looking like it had just been pulled out of a tumble dryer with minimal creasing. 

    It's not perfect though......

    For us, the cycles take longer than specified. We often select a 2 hour 20-minute cycle and in reality, it takes over 3 hours and our 28-minute cycle actually takes around an hour. I know this won't be the case for everyone as it depends on a lot of factors but it's worth pointing out that your water pressure/temperature ect.... can increase the time taken to wash. It is disappointing that our washing won't be completed in 28 minutes as described. 

    The machine also uses an energy efficient motor (it's rated A+++) and claims to provide a quieter wash - I have found the spin cycle to be just as loud as my previous machine and it's definitely not what I'd call quiet. It doesn't last for too long but it's not something you'd want in the background if you're entertaining guests for example. 

    But despite this, I love my new Beko Washing Machine and it's the best washing machine I've owned by far. Being able to wash a full 12 kg of washing within 1 hour saves us SO much time. I love the Steam Therapy programme and can see me using this a lot to refresh dresses that have been hanging in my wardrobe before a night out when time is of the essence and I don't have time to search for my iron and ironing board.

    The Beko machine is super easy to use and uses less energy than my previous machine plus it looks a lot more stylish with it's LCD display. I'd also like to point out that although I haven't tested this in any way, shape or form, my clothes do appear to come out very clean - the whites in particular look a lot brighter. This could be my imagination of course but to me, my clothes definitely seem brighter and fresher now. Despite my niggles, I would whole-heartedly recommend this machine to families of 5 who need to keep on top of their washing and are looking for little every day short cuts. 

    Make sure you join TopCashBack here before purchasing online - you could save up to 25% when shopping at Currys. 


    Making the most of one last quiet weekend before the festive season

    Last night I counted no less than 17 festive events in my diary between now and 22 December. Yikes! We're going to be busy bees that's for sure. This week alone we're off to watch pantos at the Theatre Royal, Northern Stage and The Customs House, we're going to visit Father Christmas at Wallington Hall and I'm off to Manchester Christmas Markets. We aren't going to have any quiet weekends in December (we will be having a very chilled time from 22 December onwards) so I decided that as Steve was working this weekend, we'd try and keep it low key. I've written about the importance of downtime so many times before and I'm a big believer in planning time to relax into your diary - especially at this time of year!

    So Saturday morning and afternoon was declared a PJ day. We watched The Chronicles of Narnia and the kids played LEGO. We enjoyed a living room picnic for lunch and then they spend the afternoon playing on X Box.

    I think it's important to get some fresh air even on chill weekends so at 3pm we popped our coats on and walked to Manor Walks for their Christmas Light Switch on event.

    The events at Manor Walks are always canny and we arranged to meet our friends there. I'd popped into Poundland and bought some chocolate coins and glow sticks to keep the kids entertained as we waited. H, H and J enjoyed pretending to be Daleks in this ride below before Heart FM, Elsa, Ana and Olaf pressed the big switch on button.

    It was lovely to see Cramlington hosting such a nice event - there were stilt walkers, face painters, the smell of doughnuts for sale, festive songs playing, live music, characters to pose with, a visit from Father Christmas, photo was fab.

    The big countdown saw lots of confetti, cheering and excitement. Christmas in Cramlington has officially started! Yeah! We popped along to McDonalds afterwards where the kids enjoyed a burger and a play with their friends and the grown-ups warmed up with coffee and had a nice little catch-up. It was the perfect low-key Christmas trip out.

    We walked home in the dark and spotted the first few house with their Christmas lights and decorations up. Walking in the dark on a crisp night and looking at twinkling lights always puts me in a festive mood and I can't wait to put our tree up now.

    Onto Sunday and another lazy morning. The kids are obsessed with playing Lego on the X Box at the moment so they did that and I just faffed about on the internet and watched Sunday Brunch drinking coffee. It's lush having nowhere to be on a Sunday morning. But then all hell broke loose and I posted this rant on Facebook about how the kids constantly argue and fight! Urgh. It kind of reminded me why we don't have lazy weekends more often.

    My mam picked us up to take us to my brother's restaurant Evan's Bistro for Sunday lunch. Mark put my favourite dish (sausage and mash - I swear their sausage and mash is the best ever) on the specials menu especially for me which put me straight back in a good mood again.

    After lunch we spent some time at Whitley Bay Lighthouse. It was my grandma's birthday and this is where her ashes are scattered so we put down some flowers and talked about how we bet H,H and J would have been able to do no wrong in her eyes. . It was super chilly but the lighting was gorgeous and it was nice to get some fresh air.

    Then we were back home for 3:30pm and enjoyed a super lazy night where we watched Wonder Woman and ate Minstrels (thanks Grandma).

    Despite the kids fighting I did enjoy our relaxing weekend. It's kind of a shame the next one isn't going to be until next year now.......


    Gala Theatre Durham Pantomime 2017 - Robinson Crusoe Review

    *Press review

    Woohoo! I am so, so excited that today marks the start of Panto season. It can be tough deciding which panto to visit and I promise to always provide reviews which are 100% honest. Our first review for 2017 features Robinson Crusoe which is playing at the Gala Theatre in Durham until 6 January. The Gala Theatre is super easy to get to via public transport (I recommend Durham's fab park and ride).

    Written and directed by the same team behind last year's Jack and the Beanstalk (that's Neil Armstrong and Paul Hartley), Robinson Crusoe takes audiences on a swashbuckling adventure with lots of laughs, pirates and audience participation. Just watch out for Captain Blackheart -  the maddest, baddest pirate of them all!

    There were a few technical issues on opening night which led to the first performance being cancelled. These issues have been resolved now and everything went without a hitch. 

    Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make press night but I sent my friend Kim and her family along to post this guest review. Over to Kim.......

    Tonight we went to see Robinson Crusoe at the Gala Theatre. We were really looking forward to it as we saw last year’s pantomime at the Gala, and thought it was great. I have to say we weren’t disappointed. I love how the cast are all local, and make references and jokes to the local area. There were some cheeky adult jokes in there, but just cheeky enough to go over the heads of the children which makes this panto a fab trip out for the whole family - not just the kids. 

    The songs are a mix of original songs and covers, and were just as cheesy as pantomime songs should be! There was some audience participation involved, which my 8 year old son joined in with, and he never joins in with anything! - living proof that Panto can still be cool. 

    The stage school dancers/actors were great too, they kept up really well with the older ones, especially with all the moves. 

    The Gala Theatre is smaller than most, so you feel more comfortable and the performance feels a lot more intimate than some other pantomimes and no matter where you’re seated, you’ve always got a good view of everything that’s going on. The prices are very reasonable too, with family tickets priced between £50 and £58. I would definitely say that the Gala panto is worth a trip and offers fantastic value for money for the whole family.

    Tickets to watch Robinson Crusoe are priced between £6-£17 with family tickets being available from £50-£58. It's worth noting there's a BSL performance at 1pm on Sunday 10 December and a relaxed performance on Thursday 14 December at 6pm. 

    The Gala Theatre also produces a Christmas show for under 5s. This year, it's Mrs Claus' Kitchen and tickets are priced at £6.50/£7.50 - you can find out more here

    If you're super keen you can book tickets to The Gala Theatre's 2018 Panto online now and receive a £5 ticket discount on certain performances. 

    It sounds like Robinson Crusoe went down a storm and like we missed a good night of family fun. Let me know if you have tickets and your thoughts on the show. 

    You can check out our other 2017 Panto Reviews here: 

  • The Lambton Worm at The Customs House South Shields - 46/50
  • Alice in Wonderland at Northern Stage - 44/50 (if you change Heidi's score of 10,000 to 10)
  • Peter Pan at The Theatre Royal - 45/50 (if you change Jack's score of 11 to 10)
  • Robinson Crusoe at Gala Theatre Durham
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    Give the Gift of Experience this Christmas with these North East Gift Vouchers & Annual Passes

    *This post contains affiliate links

    I love giving experiences as a gift over an actual present - memories last forever and spending time with loved ones is the best way you can treat someone I think. I've put together a few vouchers and annual passes from across North East England that I feel will make wonderful Christmas gifts. Please always check terms and conditions carefully before ordering and note that some of these deals are only available for a limited time. . 

    Annual English Heritage Membership for 2 adults and up to 6 children - £57.60 - buy here

    We love our English Heritage Membership and think this will make a fab deal for a family - there are lots of properties to visit across North East England from Belsay Hall, Warkworth Castle and Tynemouth Priory to Dunstanburgh Castle, parts of Hadrian's Wall and Lindisfarne Priory. The membership will really come into it's own in the summer when English Heritage host lots of fab events from kite flying to Roman Soldier Training and Medieval Combat. You can also travel further afield and visit places like Stonehenge or Whitby Abbey.

    Spa Day, Two Treatments Each and Afternoon Tea for Two at Holiday Inn Gosforth Park for £89 - buy here

    I think this would make a lovely gift for a mum and daughter this year - two treatments, afternoon tea and time in a spa for this price is a mega bargain.

    John Bishop Tickets - buy here

    I LOVE John Bishop and think tickets to his new show will be much appreciated by parents, friends or couples.

    Black Friday Deals at Rockliffe Hall including Champagne brunch for 2, spa and foodie breaks - buy here

    Rockliffe Hall is one of the best hotels in the North East. It oozes 5 star luxury and visiting their spa, restaurant or staying over feels like a real treat. Save this gift for someone you really wish to spoil this year.

    Zoo Keeper Experience at Kirkley Hall - buy here

    Suitable for ages 12+, this makes a wonderful gift for teens who are interested in animals or want to gain some hands-on experience.

    Three course meal with a glass of wine for 2 at Prezzo - £22 - buy here

    This is a fab gift to buy a friend this year if you're in need f a catch-up. Prezzo isn't my favourite restaurant but they are convenient and this price is fantastic.

    21 Group Taste Tour - £45 - buy here

    The 21 Group Taste Tour is probably the best gift you can buy a North East foodie this Christmas. We recently reviewed the tour over on Mrs Mulled Wine and I'm secretly hoping someone has bought me the experience again for Christmas - yes it is that good!

    Tickets to see Jack and the Beanstalk in Times Square - £10 each - buy here

    Jack and the Beanstalk starring Denise Welch is a brand new panto in the Times Square Pantodrone this year. Showing until 30 December, it's the perfect gift for families to enjoy between Christmas and New Year.

    18 holes of golf for 2 people with a bacon roll and hot drink each at Macdonald Linden Hall - £29 - buy here

    Macdonald Linden Hall is always very special to me as it's where Steve and I were married. This deal is fantastic value (it would normally set you back over £100) and perfect for any keen golfers out there.

    Family Annual Pass - Life Science Centre Newcastle - buy here

    Life Science Centre is super easy to get to and hosts a huge variety of events throughout the year. I love that it's all indoors too and is a gift that can be used in all weathers. From Dino Jaws to Planetarium Shows and the chance to take part in real experiments - this gift will be loved by families with children of all ages.

    BrewDog Beer School, Tutored Tasting and Cheese Pairings for 2 - £19.99 - buy here

    I'm super tempted to buy this for Steve as beer and cheese are two of his biggest loves! I think this is a fab gift for beer lovers.

    Become a friend of Tyneside Cinema - £35 - buy here

    This is the perfect gift for cinema lovers. As well as receiving 2 cinema tickets, you're supporting the cinema and will receive £2 off film tickets for a full year.

    Afternoon Tea for 2 at Patisserie Valerie - £19 - buy here

    I've yet to try afternoon tea at Patisserie Valerie but with a city centre location, it's a fab gift choice for those who love cake and rely on public transport.

    Visit Ouseburn Farm and support their Wish List - details here

    Toddlers especially love a trip to the farm and Ouseburn Farm is a local favourite. It's free to visit but they rely heavily on donations. Why not pledge to take a toddler you know to the farm for a visit and buy a gift from the farm's donation wishlist to show your support?

    1 hour Bird of Prey Experience with North East Falconry - £16 - buy here

    No matter how many times we visit a Birds of Prey experience, we always love it and never get bored. I think this makes a wonderful gift for animal lovers or tricky to buy for teens.

    Steak dinner and a bottle of wine for 2 at The Copthorne Hotel for £29 - buy here

    2 steaks and a bottle of wine on the Quayside will make a lovely gift for couples - throw in babysitting too if they've got kids and they'll love you forever.

    Overnight stay for 2 at The County Hotel Newcastle with a bottle of Prosecco, breakfast and late check out - £69 - buy here

    I remember when my mam bought Steve and I voucher for a stay in hotel one Christmas and it was honesly one of the best gifts ever. This deal includes a bottle of fizz, breakfast and late checkout and is a massive bargain.

    G&T Afternoon Tea for 2 at The Copthorne Hotel for £19 - buy here

    This will make a lovely gift for any Gin lover out there - I love the twist on afternoon tea and the location offers wonderful views of the Quayside.

    Burger, chips and a drink for 2 at The Northumbrian Piper - £10 - buy here

    My parents love a drive out to a country pub and I think this voucher makes a fab little top up present or stocking filler.

    Spa day and 2 course lunch for 2 at Doxford Hall - £55 - buy here

    One of my friends was married at Doxford Hall last year and it's a gorgeous place - a spa day and 2 course lunch will go down a treat with couples or your friends this year. 

    Let me know if you'd like to receive any of these North East Experiences under the tree this Christmas. 


    Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

    *This is a collaborative post

    I will begin this review by saying that Turtle Bay in Newcastle is one of our favourite restaurants - the staff are always fantastic, the food is spot on (and they're not shy of spice if you pick a hotter dish), the reggae music and Caribbean decor are both fun and relaxing and there's a decent selection of cocktails which are buy one get one free during happy hour. What's not to love? We were recently invited along to preview their All Day Caribbean Christmas menu which is available from 11:30am - 11pm every day for groups of 8 or more from now until the end of December. It's super easy to book a Christmas get together or party online - simply use the online booking system here and you'll be emailed a booking form where you can pre-select your dishes. 

    Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

    Last year I think I managed to wade my way through no less than 8 traditional turkey dinners from the end of November to Christmas day and to be honest when Christmas Day arrived I was sick of the sight of it and it didn't feel nearly as special. Like most of us, I'm a busy girl and I have a few Christmas parties to attend this year - most of them are a traditional affair with turkey and all the trimmings and while the first turkey dinner of the year tastes like heaven on a plate, after this it kind of gets a bit boring. I love that Turtle Bay offer something a little different and their Christmas menus are probably the most interesting I've seen.

    Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

    With the all-day dining package (£24 for 4 courses), you'll be welcomed with individual platters of nibbles - perfect if you've rushed straight from the office to get ready and starting to feel peckish. Garlic and Herb Flatbread, Baked Chickpeas and Spicy Pork Rinds were all super morish - the Pork Rinds were my favourite. Kind of reminded me of a bacon flavour quaver but in a good way. They weren't too hard on the teeth either. We dined during Happy Hour so obviously, I made the most of BOGOF cocktails. I went with the Koko Colada this time as the sprinkling of nutmeg on top reminded me of Christmas. They were delicious and pretty strong too. Happy Hour is until 7pm every day and from 9:30pm-close Sunday-Thursday and 10pm until close Friday & Saturday.

    Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

    Of course for the non-drinkers, there are a range of soft drinks available too. I love the attention to detail. The atmosphere in Turtle Bay is definitely aimed towards having a good time. I've dined with the kids here a few times in the past (under 14s are welcome before 9pm) and have never had any issues with drunkenness but it still feels like a party atmosphere - we love the music in Turtle Bay and all of us always end up singing and dancing along. If you can't stand the thought of the best of Christmas Hits being played in the background during your festive get together this year, Turtle Bay provides a very refreshing alternative. I swear it took all of Steve's willpower to not stand up and have a little dance when Murder She Wrote by Chaka Demus & Pliers started playing. I highly recommend keeping the party going and listening to the Turtle Bay playlist on Spotify during your journey home.

    Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

    The food at Turtle Bay never disappoints and I was all set to say my chilli squid was the best squid I've ever tasted but then I ordered squid from Longsands Fish Kitchen the following day and that was even better so I can't make that claim now. It's a strong 9/10 though - not at all chewy, nice and spicy and a generous portion. It does not feel or taste like the kind of squid you normally get in a chain restaurant. Steve went for the Mango Pit Wings which had been marinated for 24 hours. He declared them some of the best wings he's ever had - the meat just fell off the bone and there was just the right amount of char on the skin.

    Turtle Bay Christmas Menu 2017 - A Review

    Onto mains I could not resist the Guyanese Curry Duck. Packed with scotch bonnets (but actually not too hot that it's unbearable - it was milder than the curries I normally eat) with a nice hint of orange, this dish tasted nice and festive and again was generous in size. Served with Caribbean bread to mop up the juices, this is a dish I wouldn't mind replicating myself as an alternative to Boxing Day Turkey Curry.

    Seve was torn between pretty much everything on the menu and had taken a while to decide. He ended up with the Tomahawk Pork Chop which had been marinated with cinnamon allspice and served with fries and pineapple chow. I had a little bite of this and I do think it was on the dry side (although I didn't try the pineapple with it which is perhaps what's intended). Steve absolutely loved it though and said the spice was unusual and it was nice to have something a little different. Fries at Turtle Bay always go down a treat and there are plenty of them too. 

    A slight breather between courses and our server brought us over a jug of water as we waited for desserts. I really wanted to order the upside down rum cake but as Steve is a huge rum lover I let him go with this one this time. I wish I'd ordered it too as it was just SO good. Full of booze but light enough to enjoy after three courses, I'd recommend this dish to anyone who visits.

    I went with the Black Treacle Pudding which was nice, but it didn't have the wow factor that the rum cake had - go with the rum people!

    Just look at Steve's smug face with his rum cake.......

    The kids tried the dark chocolate brownie which I worried might have been a little rich for them but it wasn't and they all said it was delicious. I didn't get a look-in so you'll just have to take their word for it.

    If you're planning a big family festive get together over a weekend or perhaps a Christmas meal with friends before panto,  my three give Turtle Bay the thumbs up. They ordered burgers on this occasion which can be customised for picky eaters. You can read our review of the children's menu in more detail here.

    If a full 4-course meal all seems like a little too much and you're looking for something a little lighter. Turtle Bay offers a range of festive dining options this year. From festive platters and areas to hire for drinks to a bargain 3-course lunch menu for £15, there's an option to suit all budgets and requirements. 

    If you're looking for a Christmas meal out in a central Newcastle location where turkey and tinsel are nowhere to be seen but you will be guaranteed a good time with fantastic staff, music you want to sing along too, a good range of cocktails and some pretty tasty food, Turtle Bay will more than meet your requirements. I especially recommend the squid and rum upside down cake. It's the next best thing to enjoying a real Caribbean Christmas. 

    Let me know if you're a fan of Turtle Bay and if any of their festive dishes are tempting you this Christmas.

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