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Gilbert/ Sullivan: The Mikado (The Arts Centre) (Opera Australia: OPOZ56014DVD) [2009] [NTSC]
Gilbert/ Sullivan: The Mikado (The Arts Centre) (Opera Australia: OPOZ56014DVD) [2009] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Richard Alexander
Price: £24.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, but pretty average recording, 14 May 2012
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My kids like the Mikado and are huge Opera Australia fans so we sat down to watch this DVD with high expectations.

I cannot fault the performance in any way. Singing, acting, comedy and musicians, it's all wonderful. Nice to see old O.A. favourites like heroine Taryn Fiebig again, while Mitchell Butel (who we hadn't heard of before) was a wonderfully comic new addition as Koko. Likewise we enjoyed the witty costumes (clever meshing of countries & decades), some incredible make-up, brilliant sets and careful choreography. It was all gloriously riotously OTT, exactly as comic opera should be. Opera Australia does it again!

I disagree with the reviewer who warned of it being too Australian. The only Aussie section was Butel's hysterically funny "little list" song (which this homesick Queenslander thoroughly enjoyed!). It's always updated by tradition - in the 1970s I remember chewing gum & mini skirt jokes; here it includes the Financial Crisis, "Twitterists" & Britney Spears. [although Parental Warning - make sure the kids don't repeat those lyrics at school...]

Where I do have to find fault, though, is with the quality of the visual and audio recording. As a mere amateur, I don't know how it went so wrong, but there were two glaringly problematic areas. To start with, the orchestra shots were poor, filmed through some sort of netting and inserted seemingly as an afterthought or random visual filler. Secondly, the microphones must have been in the wrong place and/or too few in number. We fiddled with the sound settings and eventually got something slightly less glaring, but the cello was often too loud while in the choruses the words tended to be drowned out and blurred by the orchestra.(In contrast, Opera Australia's production of Pirates of Penzance, which we bought first, is far superior, using backstage and orchestral shots taken from different angles to help tell a story and set the atmosphere: you really feel as though you've been to the Opera House. And Pirate's sound is faultless).

So, I'm giving this video 4 stars because my kids love it so much and play it so often, and as I indicated, the original live performance would have been worth 5. However, someone in the sound & camera division deserves a roasting.

Nb - This DVD, which is very recent (early 2012), features Mitchell Butel as Koko and Kanen Breen as Nanki-poo. An earlier reviewer on this page referred to Anthony Warlow as playing Koko. That is not accurate in this DVD, though it was true of the YouTube clips of Mikado by Opera Australia, which we used to watch before this DVD was released. I actually prefer Butel here, though Warlow was brilliant in Pirates.


Xmod Classic Box Set Bk People
Xmod Classic Box Set Bk People
by Noel Streatfield
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant selection! Bookworms will be led on a journey of discovery., 14 May 2012
When I first bought this box set for my daughter, a ten-year-old bookworm, she was quite pleased because she recognised some authors. But the first new book she tried (Owl Service) was a bit hard and it put her off them all for a while.

Scroll forward 6 months: now 11, she pulled out the Chalet School story and was instantly enthralled - "Mum, it's even better than Enid Blyton" - read it all day and night and started scouring charity shops & library for more in that series. Each new author is a revelation and starts a similar journey as she reads her way through this box; mid-way & there's not been a single 'boring' verdict so far.

The stories are all true classics, well chosen. Grandma recognised some of her own favourite authors (E.M. Brent-Dyer & N. Streatfeild) who, along with C.S. Lewis, were mine too. A few were new to me so I read them: even as an adult I found Journey to Jo'burg - probably the most recent book here - gripping, and likewise The Owl Service.

These books are destined to become well-thumbed family favourites in any household that likes reading. A great gift. And don't worry if like me you are a little out with the timing, just wait half a year.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 24, 2013 3:54 PM BST


Snap Cards in French
Snap Cards in French
by Jo Litchfield
Edition: Cards
Price: £4.79

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A nice idea but they don't go far., 3 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Snap Cards in French (Cards)
Well, the cards are attractive with nice pictures, clear printing and are well made. We had fun matching and learning the words at first, and then playing Snap, which helped fix them in the kids' memory.

But now what? We can't keep repeating the game forever, and there are only 12 fairly random nouns. (Why would a beginner need to learn "hot air balloon" ?). Note to Usborne publishers: you can't learn a language just through nouns!! - they do the same thing in their video. First Fun With French [1994] [DVD]

These cards would probably be worthwhile if I were teaching classes in a school and could re-use them every year. But for a family it's not really substantial enough, and there don't seem to be any add-on sets available.

I haven't tried these French for Beginners Flashcards (Usborne Language for Beginners Flashcards) myself, but (speaking as a language teacher, albeit to adults) they look like a better purchase. And these look reasonable too. French Berlitz Kids Flash Cards.


Draper 14059 11-Piece Precision Screwdriver Set
Draper 14059 11-Piece Precision Screwdriver Set
Price: £7.42

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For fixing glasses and a lot more., 3 Jan 2012
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Since this set arrived, the lens of my glasses no longer keeps falling out, hurrah (tightening the screw with a knife was getting irritating).

If you are just fixing spectacles you only need a single screwdriver, so there are smaller, even cheaper sets with fewer screwdrivers that might suit better, such as this one which I very nearly bought instead.Silverline 633922 9 Piece Precision Screwdriver Set Really nice, practical design.

However, I felt that there were a couple of good extras like the tweezers in this Draper set that I will find useful in the long term. Depends how well your toolbox is stocked already, really. I also like buying from a British family company.


Songs In French For Children
Songs In French For Children
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.01

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely marvellous., 3 Jan 2012
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My kids love this, especially the younger one (6 when I bought it) who likes to sing along. He often sings phrases, with a lovely natural accent copied straight from the song. Sometimes he sings without really knowing what it means at first; but later he works words & phrases out from his DVD (Serge) or by asking. He's acquiring language in chunks much as a native speaker child would.

As other reviewers have said previously, it's cheerful and uplifting. The singer has wonderfully clear pronunciation and I like the musical arrangement precisely because it's not disco-y but more folky. I'd recommend it for kids from 2 onwards.

A hint - we found a few of these songs, e.g. Le petit train, on You-Tube on a channel called Comptines (Nursery Rhymes). The pictures help tie in the meaning (contextualization & reinforcement). Some used a track from this particular album, others had different versions of the song. Hopefully over time more of these songs might end up animated on You Tube. However, always preview beforehand & NEVER let your child look at You Tube alone: the Comptines channel is fine, but there are some sick people out there - a colleague found horrific pictures attached to an innocent song that she'd planned to use in a class with small kids.


Pinzette, gross
Pinzette, gross
Offered by UK Outdoor Store
Price: £3.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect replacement part for a Swiss Army knife. PS - Check length., 3 Jan 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pinzette, gross (Misc.)
Only wish I'd thought of Amazon long before! Having lost the tweezers from my Swiss Army knife several years ago, I've often wished for a replacement... These fit in exactly, cost very little and arrived straight away. Perfect.

P.S. Do check the size. I ordered these, the 45mm, since my daughter's 45mm tweezers fitted my medium-sized knife too. There are also 50mm tweezers available which I suspect are for the mega-big knives.


Bruder 02754 MAN Crane Truck
Bruder 02754 MAN Crane Truck
Price: £36.00

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bruder Crane, 20 Sep 2010
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bruder 02754 MAN Crane Truck (Toy)
My 6 year old loves playing with this crane (and I caught his dad and older sister having fun with it too!). The moveable and extendable parts are good. We don't often spend this much on a toy, but this one is worth it - especially if you have a younger child to pass it on to in due time.

Update - 18 months on and he's still playing with it. (2012)


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