Thursday, 14 February 2013

Out and About: Spice Girl Saturday

There's been a running theme of history over the last month or so in my posts. I started January with some sofa-based time travel through my childhood using the medium of old school TV and film, I did some Walking with Dinosaurs, made a trip to the Titanic exhibition in Belfast and wrote about my visit to the Cabinet War Rooms on Florence Finds.

The last three were all a bit grown up and serious, so I needed something a) a bit more upbeat and b)some slightly more recent history - step up The Spice Girls and Viva Forever!

I loved the Spice Girls. Correction, I LOVE the Spice Girls. I've loved them since they first mimed Wannabe on breakfast TV. They provided a soundtrack to my teenage years. They inspired us to dress like divs, dance like mad girls, perform their hits in the school talent shows (prompting rows with rival groups in the playground) and shout "GIRL POWER" as a response to anything and everything. For example:

P.E. Teacher: "Go outside and run cross country"
Me: "NO - and you can't make me, because, well, GIRL POWER!"

Exam board letter: "Dear Ms Hale, You achieved an A in your French GCSE exam... blah... accepted on the A level course... blah"
Me: "Brilliant. GIRL POWER!"

McDonalds drive through operative: "Drive round to the next window please"

They had attitude but weren't bitches. They inspired outfits/hairstyles but weren't fashionable. They were naughty but they weren't bad girls. They wore skimpy outfits but they weren't slutty. They weren't the best singers, the best dancers, the best actresses or the best looking, but in my humble (musically uneducated) opinion they were the original and BEST girl group. They worked hard, put the time and effort in, took control and responsibility, they gave it their all and seemed to have so much fun whilst they were doing it, and most importantly, they did it for the girls, not for the boys. For me they were inspirational role models, and, really, when I look at them as Spice Women, they still are. Oh, and they reformed for London2012 and used black cabs as skateboards. Awesome!
Anyway, I digress. Enough gushing about my love for the Spices, let me tell you how we played homage to them this weekend.

We started out with tickets to the show Viva Forever! purchased by Katy and Claire (the Disney Princesses) as Christmas presents for me and their big sisters (the 2-4-1s) and then we all got over excited when we discovered that Harvey Nichols was serving a Spice Girls-themed afternoon tea in their Season restaurant and Spice Girls-themed champagne cocktails in their Fifth Floor Bar. So we booked in, last minute, to sample both before the theatre.

The afternoon tea started off with mini savoury bites: a cured beef and chutney bagel, an egg and cress roll, smoked salmon on pumpernickel and chicken and chutney roulade in fresh white bread, which we all wolfed down in our excitement to get to the sweet treats: the Sporty Spice cake pop, the Baby Spice mouse (served in a bottle), the Ginger Spice Union Flag lemon and ginger mille feuille, the Scary Spice chilli and chocolate roll (complete with white chocolate leopard print, ahem, decoration) and the Posh Spice Harvey Nics-branded marzipan and Victoria (of course) sponge handbag. There were also the usual scones with jam and clotted cream on the menu too.

You all know how I love a theme, and you all know how I love an afternoon tea, so add in the Spices and I was virtually fizzing with excitement. And then it got better... with cocktails!

We started off with some standard cocktails from the menu (with which we are already familiar, following our cocktail masterclass, back in the summer) and then we worked our way through the themed cocktails, which were delicious. It was difficult to select, but in the end I was happy with my choice of the Scary (Fresh chilli, lychee liqueur topped with Champagne). We spent most of our time talking about our favourite Spice (mine's Victoria - obvs), our favourite songs (mine being Who Do You Think You Are) dance routines (Spice Up Your Life) and generally making a spectacle of ourselves singing, laughing and pinning the bows from our cocktail glasses in our hair (I was grateful for the splash of leopard print against my all-black outfit)!

A few pictures as a group (sadly, no one took Katy's instructions to dress according to the Spice we had been allocated, except for me in black) then we piled in to a cab and made our way to the Piccadilly Theatre.

They clearly saw us (as in a gaggle of giggly, slightly intoxicated girls) coming at the door as we were immediately offered the opportunity to be "upgraded" to the Ambassador Lounge, a small private room with a dedicated waiter to bring us drinks and nibbles before the show and during the interval "for only a small fee". Hmmm. Of course we accepted and it was all pretty exciting as it was the room the Spices themselves had used on visiting the theatre to watch the show. Naturally we acted like complete geeks, singing and dancing around the room, posing for cheesy photos and generally not playing it in the slightest bit cool.

We needn't have worried, about playing it cool because the minute we walked out in to the theatre itself and saw the audience we fitted right in! 98% female, and 100% tipsy the audience, like us, was raring to get stuck in to some Spice Girls singalongs...

We weren't disappointed.

I won't ruin the story, but I will say that it won't be winning any Olivier awards. In the same vein as Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You, the story is just a vehicle for the songs to be introduced and you can see them coming a mile off. But, as a Spice Girls fan, guessing what's coming is one of the best bits!

I'm not a theatre critic so I won't analyse the staging, casting (although there were two stand outs!) or scripting but it has Jennifer Saunders written all over it, which is a good thing in my book. There's more than a hint of Eddie, Patsy and Bubble in amongst the main characters and I swear I heard one of Patsy's Ab Fab lines crop up. If you loved Ab Fab, Ugly Betty, Glee and The Catherine Tate Show you'll love the characters. If you follow(ed) shows like X Factor and Pop Idol you'll recognise parodies of some very prominent characters from  Saturday night TV and you've read Ben Elton's Chart Throb then you'll get the underlying message. Basically, if you read this list and know what I'm wittering on about, then we're on the same wavelength and you'll really enjoy it! I chose not to read the reviews, but I heard that the critics panned it. Clearly they were boring, a bit too serious, old, and male.

Come on. It's not Les Mis, but if you don't expect it to be, you can just appreciate it for what it is, and have fun. Also, when else can you go to the theatre and, during a touching romance scene, put your arms in the air and sing along to 2 Become 1 at the top of your voice or stand up and do the original dance moves along with with cast (and the rest of the audience) to Stop or Spice Up Your Life?

My suggestion? If you don't take yourself or your theatre choices too seriously, and, of course, if you are a Spice Girls fan then get your glittery platforms on, round up your best girls for a some pre-drinks and go see it!


Read more about the Viva Forever Champagne Cocktails here and the Viva Forever Afternoon Tea here.

Book tickets and find out more about Viva Forever, the show, here.

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