Soo Yoga, Sol Centre, Northampton – A New Wellbeing Centre for the Town

Soo YogaAbout a year ago, gentle reader, Mrs Chrisparkle and I dipped our tentative toes into the world of yoga, when we had an hour’s session during the Edinburgh Fringe with part time yoga teacher and full-time funny lady Abigoliah Schamaun. We enjoyed it and promised ourselves that we would take it up on our return. Then we went home and forgot all about it.

SY Ben and Kristina 2Then in January this year, I answered a local advert for a ten-week yoga course here in Northampton. The timing and the price were right, and, as a big bonus, the sessions would be led by none other than Strictly Come Dancing alumna Kristina Rihanoff. We took the plunge. It was in a cold little dance studio in a town centre back street. And, although we were absolutely awful at it, we still enjoyed it.

Ben and KristinaFast forward to June, and the opening of the new Soo Yoga suite on the first floor of the Sol Centre in Northampton. Kristina, and partner and local rugby hero Ben Cohen, have realised their dream of creating a first-class, swish, state-of-the-art wellbeing centre – and Mrs C and I are completely hooked. First things first; it’s not a gym. If it was, I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. If you know either of us IRL (as the young people of today say) you’ll know that we’re adamantly NOT gym bunnies. When it comes to pumping iron, I have all the skills of King Henry VIII’s marriage guidance counsellor.

Restful wallSo, not a gym but a wellbeing and family fitness centre. As a result, it’s a welcoming place, where you are met with friendly smiles and personal greetings on arrival. This is not the kind of place where someone is going to laugh at your puny abs and condemn you to a hundred press-ups on the spot like at school. I can’t speak for the ladies’ changing room, obviously, but the guys’ room isn’t full of muscly men dripping testosterone, making you feel inadequate in every aspect. We’re much more likely to be saying to each other “God I’m unfit, that was knackering!” – creating a nicely informal self-help group.

Hot Yoga studioThe activity spaces are smart, new, clean and bright. The highlight room is the Hot Yoga studio, which is heated to 38° Celsius and with 50% humidity, to recreate the atmosphere in India where yoga originated. We go for a weekly session there on Monday nights, led by Kristina, but they have many other classes all through the week, for all abilities in many different yoga styles. We’ve also taken up the spin classes on Friday lunchtimes, in a terrific cycling room with about fifteen exercise bikes in it. Once you’ve warmed up a little, you pedal your heart out to a cracking, motivational musical soundtrack and expert guidance from the inspirational Megan Hosken. No point hiding it; the first time I tried it, it killed me. The second time – I loved it! We also do a 25-minute exercise session with Megan on Wednesday mornings – Soo Fit HIIT – which is fifteen minutes of interval training followed by ten minutes of resistance training. Listen to me, all technical. What have I become?!

Kristina wallThere’s a meditation suite too, where we go for two classes on a Wednesday – Soo Zen and Chakra Yoga – hosted by Chinmayi Dore, who’s incredibly enthusiastic in giving people some “me time” where they can relax, renew and reinvigorate themselves. After my first session, I was so relaxed I could – literally – barely walk. It was an amazing feeling. The other regular class we attend is Kristina Rihanoff’s Strictly Dancing in the dance studio, where you can learn the basic steps of salsa, jive, cha-cha-cha, lindy hop and so on, which actually turns out to be a good exercise workout too. We’re thoroughly useless but it’s enormous fun. The new Anton and Erin we are not.

Ben CohenBut there are so many other classes on offer that we haven’t tried yet; Pilates, TRX, Box-fit, Barre… you name it, they got it. I am tempted to try Ben Cohen’s Soo Strong Beginners’ Class because I really ought to convert some fat to muscle… ok, a lot of fat to muscle… and I can’t think of a safer opportunity to get introduced to that kind of activity by a true expert without intimidation. You may have guessed that me and exercise had a very poor relationship when I was young; when I left school at 17 I was only too happy to end that relationship, and it’s taken over 40 years for us to get on good terms again! If you’re like me, then I really recommend Soo Yoga for providing a welcoming, non-judgmental route to regaining fitness.

Free Taster WeekendThere are often a variety of offers on; next week, for example, from 6th – 8th September, they are holding a Free Taster Weekend where you can try lots of classes for free to see how you get on with them. There’s really nothing to lose. In any case, you can buy an introductory month’s pass for £39 which gives you unlimited access to all the classes, and if you like it, you can progress to an annual membership; or continue to attend classes on a pay-as-you-go basis. We’ve bought an annual membership as a couple. It’s £1835 for the pair of us, which may seem a little steep at first but think; we attend on average five classes a week – sometimes more – and when you divide that over the year it’s the equivalent of about £3.50 per person per class. That’s a steal. And the more classes you do, the better value it becomes!

Bespoke BallroomI haven’t even mentioned the café, or the crèche, or the physio/massages, or a wealth of other options they can offer. They have a whole range of kids’ classes too, and I think are introducing some junior drama lessons as well. They have a very useful app for your phone, but the website tells you everything you need to know. It’s certainly changed the way Mrs C and I keep fit, because it’s fun, fascinating, and friendly, and you can’t beat that! Give them a try – contact them using the app or the website or just drop in at the Sol Centre. You won’t regret it!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – The Man, 25th August 2019

The ManFor our last show of the Fringe this year, we’re sneaking an early afternoon show before heading home; and it’s only because we enjoyed last year’s Camels so much that we’ve decided to stay for this one. It’s Patrick McPherson as The Man, at Underbelly Bristo Square, Jersey, at 13:05 on Sunday the 25th. Here’s the blurb: ” The Man is a sketch comedy and one-man performance piece from the side-splittingly funny Patrick McPherson, returning to Edinburgh after 2018’s five-star, Fringe sell-out Camels. Coming off a run in London’s West End, The Man showcases Patrick’s brilliant characters for an hour of brave and thought-provoking comedy. Supporting The Movember Foundation, the show discusses what it means to be “the Man” in today’s society. Mentioned in Edinburgh Evening News’ Ten Shows That Are Wowing Edinburgh Audiences 2018. ‘Inspiringly and intimidatingly well-written’ (Lucy Moss, writer of SIX, the Musical). ‘A rare treat’ ***** (

He’s got a lot to live up to with the excellence of last year’s show, but I can’t wait to see how he does. Check back around 2.15pm to see how much we enjoyed it. And that – as they say – is a wrap! If you’ve been following our reckless pursuit of entertainment over the past eight days, thanks very much for your loyalty! If not, I can’t blame you.

And what a way to end our Fringe! Beautifully constructed, challengingly hilarious, gut-grippingly emotional. First rate ability to involve the audience but never cruel or alarming! Mr McPherson is a complete star. Can’t wait to see what he does next!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – 2 Girls, 1 Cup… of Comedy, 24th August 2019

2 Girls, 1 Cup... of ComedyNearly at the end of the day now, but not before seeing 2 Girls, 1 Cup… of Comedy at Just up the Road @ Just the Tonic at The Caves at 22:40 on Saturday 24th. Here’s what the blurb has to say: “Award-winning comedian Samantha Baines (Lee Nelson’s Well Funny People) brings you a supersized cup of comedy with TV names, the very best new comedians and brilliant guest MCs. ‘The gift that’s keeps on giving’ (Huffington Post). ‘Hilarious’ (”

We saw this show for the first time last year and thought it was absolutely brilliant – so I’m hoping for another dose of terrific late night stand up. Check back around midnight to see how much fun it really was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Last year Samantha Baines hosted the show in a rather elegant upstairs room. This year we’re in a basic dungeon at The Caves, but it’s no less funny. Our hostess for the evening was the inimitable Maureen Younger, whom we always love to see in gigs closer to home. She introduced the smart and hilarious Natalie Sweeney, the laid back and eccentric Gary Trow, and an engaging and entertaining comic who’s half German half Bulgarian but I missed her name… Great fun for an hour; and as a result we decided that we’d had all the comedy we needed for this evening, so cancelled our final show!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – Foil Arms and Hog – Swines, 24th August 2019

Foil Arms and Hog – SwinesAs has become something of a tradition, we’ve left one of the top Edinburgh attractions till almost the end. This will be the fourth time we’ve seen these guys in Edinburgh, and they never fail to bring joy. They’re Foil Arms and Hog – Swines, at McEwan Hall @ Underbelly, Bristo Square, at 21:00 on Saturday 24th. Here’s the blurb (which stays the same, year in, year out): “Irish comedy, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato, potato… you racist. Sold-out Fringe 2009-2018. Over 100 million hits on YouTube. Foil Arms and Hog return to the magnificent McEwan Hall with their brand-new show, Swines. ***** (Irish Times). **** (Times). ***** (Irish Examiner). ‘Very funny’ (Rowan Atkinson). ‘An effervescent hour of fast-paced gags, fizzing with energy, invention and great lines’ ( ‘Quite simply, a sensation’ (Edinburgh Festivals Magazine).”

In 2016 I got roped into so many sketches with them, because we sat in the front row. I have to say, I loved every minute of it! Since then, I’ve managed to avoid such audience participation. Check back around 10.15pm to see if I got into trouble again. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Fortunately, I managed to stay out of trouble, and this year the guys are back with an absolute bang. With some typical Micky-taking of actors, mime artists, Brexit, impossibly over-ambitious stag weekends, and so much more, they deliver an hour of high octane larking about and are funnier than ever!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – Basil Brush: Unleashed, 24th August 2019

Basil Brush UnleashedInto the final four of this year’s Fringe shows and here’s something I’ve been looking forward to for months! It’s Basil Brush: Unleashed at the Cowbarn @ Underbelly Bristo Square at 18:45 on Saturday 24th. Here’s the blurb: “Showbusiness legend, national treasure, fox. Children of the 2000s, 1970s (and everything in between) this one’s for you. As Basil makes his much-anticipated Fringe debut in a show for the adults! Fresh from appearances on The Last Leg (Channel 4) and Celebrity Juice (ITV2), join Basil as he gives his comedic take on everything from Love Island to Westminster in his trademark anarchic style, with different guests nightly. ‘Hilarious’ (”

What can you say about this superfox? Basil was always a big part of my childhood and, way back in 1971, he took me backstage at the London Palladium (well, with his friend and operator at the time, Mr Ivan) – I doubt that would happen today. Check back around 8 pm to see how much BOOM BOOM there was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

A fun dollop of nostalgia brought up to date with a very entertaining partnership between Basil and Mr Martin, with a few last night running jokes between them to boot. Some sections worked better than others- the games and story parts were much funnier than the interviews. Slightly reshaped, this could be a great regular Fringe tradition!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – (Some)Body, 24th August 2019

(Some)BodyNow for some thought-provoking and atmospheric dance, with Alyona Ageeva’s PosleSlov Theatre’s production of (Some)Body at C Venues – C Aquila – Temple at 15:25 on Saturday 24th. Let’s read the blurb: “Does a body make us human? Does it have a soul? What hides beneath nudity? What is nudity itself? Nudity is extreme openness and vulnerability and, at the same time, an incomprehensible power connected not only with sexuality. The magic of Eros, the compelling power of nudity, the way up and the way down, transcendence and co-creation, fragility and strength. Life, death, pain and love – all of this complex and unspeakable physical phenomenon is what we are researching in (Some)Body. ‘Hypnotic’ (Guardian). ‘Bold, sensitive and meaningful’ ( ‘Compelling’ ***** (

We saw this company last year with their creative Sky Labyrinths and it was excellent. Check back around 4.30 pm to see if this production is too. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

A very interesting piece for number of reasons. At first the dynamic is full of impact and tension; but after a while you sense that there is no sense of progress or development. Choreographically it’s largely slow and stylised, and totally devoid of expression. In one sense, that’s disappointing, in another that’s what the whole show is about. Thought-provoking for sure; it could have gone even further.

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – Smoke, 24th August 2019

SmokeWith immaculate planning, it’s straight onto another rather hard-hitting kind of play. It’s Boundby Theatre’s Smoke at Playground 3 @ Zoo Playground at 13:35 on Saturday 24th. Here’s the blurb: “‘You know you get to choose what happens to you, right?’ That’s what John tells Julie when they meet at a kink-play party in New York City. She’s an aspiring college drop out living in the shadow of her famous artist parents; he’s her father’s too-old-to-be-unknown intern. The two instantly connect and, with knives bared, wits at the ready and sex an open question, tensions run high as Julie and John teeter between pain and play, fear and fun. The audience is left questioning: who really has the power?”

The poster promises a refreshingly honest and edgy exploration of sexual taboo, and it stars Kristin Winters and Vincent Santvoord as the two protagonists. Check back around 3pm to see what it was all about. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Immense commitment from the two performers, exploring this sexual kink at such close quarters to the audience. A smartly written, surprisingly funny play but with moments that have you clenching every imaginable muscle. Very good indeed – entertaining although not especially *nice*!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – Marrow, 24th August 2019

MarrowFirst up today for what I think could be an unsettling and upsetting play, but it’s got to be seen. It’s Craig MacArthur with Flying Solo Productions’ Marrow at Haldane Theatre @ theSpace @ Surgeons Hall at 12:05 on Saturday 24th. Here’s the blurb: “Welcome into the hallucinogenic and feverish mind of a physically traumatised dancer struggling to make sense of his horrific brutalisation and the aftermath. A visceral and poetic condemnation of LGBTQ violence, Marrow is a homage to the countless queer artists who make a positive impact on the world and those we know and love. You, the audience, are asked to witness the aftermath of violence and encouraged to access your power to condemn and prevent similar acts of hatred.”

Starting the day with a rather serious play, by the sounds of it. Knowing LGBT people who have been beaten up simply for being gay, this could be a hard watch. Check back around 1.30 pm to see what we thought. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

A true acting tour de force that includes every emotion under the sun. It’s structured as a stream of consciousness as our dancer slowly emerges from a coma, which requires terrific acting and writing alike. Hard hitting, compelling and memorable.

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – TGIF, 23rd August 2019

TGIFNext up should be a good twist on role-playing and comedy theatre. It’s Y-Axis Theatre’s production of TGIF at 22:30 on Friday 23rd at Haldane Theatre @ theSpace @ Surgeons Hall. Let’s read the blurb: “TGIF is the best worst episode of Friends you’ll see this summer. Four best friends meet every Friday night to play their favourite games. This Friday, the gang has two new members. One of them is hiding a dark secret which is about to be revealed. The perfect anti-sitcom is finally brought on stage – hilarious, surprising and twisted, this play will show you how toxic friendships can become and how, in one night, your life can be changed forever.”

This intrigues me; I think there’s going to be a lot of interpersonal savagery going on which might be quite hard to take! Check back around midnight to see what we thought of it. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Funny, savage little play which nicely highlights the problems when people from different friend circles try to overlap. Great physical comedy too. We really enjoyed it.

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2019 – Garry Starr Conquers Troy, 23rd August 2019

Garry Starr Conquers TroyTime now for what should be one of the comic highlights of the Fringe. It’s Garry Starr Conquers Troy at Belly Button @ Underbelly Cowgate at 20:00 on Friday 23rd. Take a look at the blurb: “Having single-handedly saved the performing arts in 2018 with his multi award-winning debut solo show, comic wunderkind Garry Starr delivers another anarchic drama masterclass to remember. Acting was invented by the ancient Greeks. Before that, people were just pretending. With the release of his groundbreaking new book An Actor Pretends, Starr delves deep into his Greek ancestry to enlighten us all with the ancient art of Pretendism, thus saving the performing arts from the evil clutches of Method Acting. **** (Guardian). **** (Scotsman). **** (Evening Standard).”

We saw Garry Starr Performs Everything last year, for which he won the coveted Chrisparkle Award for Edinburgh – Best of the Rest – and it was an absolute riot from start to finish, and we can’t wait for this year’s Starr Factor! Check back around 9.30 pm to see how much fun it was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Garry back in absolutely top form in an hour long riot of silliness and hilarity. As usual he exposes the parts other dramatic actors fail to reach; it’s an indescribable act but about as funny as you can get. If you’re up in Edinburgh you just have to see his show!