I don’t think there is anything that excites me more than a theatre trip.
It’s no secret that I love the theatre. I see a lot of shows. I’m aware that it can be an expensive pastime. I’m aware that I am very, very fortunate to be able to go to the theatre as often as I do. I make so many wonderful memories each and every time I go to see a show, and there’s just no other place that gives me the same excited buzz as when I am sitting in my seat just before the curtain rises.
Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is a masterpiece. I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this show, but I am determined to try. I studied speech and drama for years. I have been in several productions and choirs. I have watched this show many times. I’ve seen every professional production that I could. I’ve watched amateur productions. I’ve been in this show myself, and performing in a production of Blood Brothers will always be one of my fondest memories of drama class. It was incredible, and the material has stuck with me all these years.
I saw Blood Brothers when the show came to Dublin in 2020, just before the pandemic hit Ireland and everything changed. I remember how excited I was when the five minute call was announced over the speakers. I was buzzing with anticipation. I thought the show would never start. I love it that much, I just could not wait.
I don’t tend to speak about my personal life. I try not to, just because it’s not really relevant to my literature discussions, however always typing “a friend” just feels ridiculous. The reason I’m even adding this information is because this theatre trip was fairly spontaneous. I wouldn’t call it last minute as we did have time to make plans, but the way this little city break came about was all very sudden and seeing as this is a theatre/city break piece I want to explain properly how this trip came about. Unlike my holiday to Italy, this trip was not planned months and months in advance.
This may come as a shock, but I talk about literary things quite often as a love of film in particular is something that I have in common with many of my very close friends. I was talking to my boyfriend about Blood Brothers because it is a show that I thought he would really enjoy, so we decided that the next time the show comes to Dublin, we will definitely go to see it.
I was thinking about how the last time I had seen the show was in 2020, so I thought it could be a while before it comes back to Dublin. I don’t know why, but I decided right there and then to look up “When will Blood Brothers tour again?”
Immediately I saw that there was in fact a 2022 tour happening. I was so excited, and also surprised that I hadn’t heard about it until this moment. I don’t think I’ve ever made plans so quickly. I viewed the tour dates and as soon as I saw that the show was going to be on in Belfast, I just knew that a little mini break was happening. Yes, it is a mini break. In my opinion, if you are leaving your city with an overnight bag then yes, that is a city break, even if it is only for one night.
Let’s talk about the cost. I am a full-time masters student who is about to face a mountain of work when the academic year starts again in September and I have to tackle my thesis. This means I budget. I really try to save my money and only splurge when it is really worth it, and for the most part, theatre trips are really the only thing that I do spend money on. I tend to save money from work, my birthday, and Christmas in order to be able to go to a few different shows every year, and sometimes the tickets are birthday or Christmas presents.
I am a firm believer that you can still find nice places even if you don’t want to spend a fortune, and lovely places don’t always have to cost a ridiculous amount of money.
I’m being very realistic here when I say that it is easier to do things if you are splitting the cost with someone, and when you are splitting the cost with someone, you can decide together what is worth a splurge and what isn’t.
When planning a theatre trip specifically, my thoughts are as follows; there is no point in paying a lot of money to go somewhere and stay the night (if you’re going outside of your home base), and then not have great seats at the show. Theatre tickets are theatre tickets, and they cost what they cost, and there is a price range that differs depending on where you sit, but sometimes the seats at the back of the theatre are still very pricey and if I’m going to spend money on seats, I would rather spend a little more and sit in the stalls. I’d rather an expensive seat that I have a really great view in as opposed to a less pricey, but still rather expensive seat that I may not be able to have a great view from.
Something to note here is that I am very short so I am speaking from personal experience. I find that the further back I sit, I have a harder time seeing. Honestly even when I sit in the stalls I have to hope that someone very tall does not sit directly in front of me. I’m not bashing any seats. Some people may prefer to sit further back. My own mother doesn’t like being super close to the stage, and everyone has to decide what price option works best for them, but if I’m explaining where I’m going to splurge, then I am going to be honest and say that if I can, I will sit in the stalls.
On this occasion, we decided that the hotel was worth a splurge more than transport so we booked a bus ticket from Dublin to Belfast instead of getting the train even though a train journey is usually a bit more comfortable, and even though it was only going to be for one night, we decided that we’d like to treat ourselves to a slightly pricier hotel even though there were budget options that would have been perfectly fine. If we had have been staying for a few nights, then we would have had to choose a more budget friendly hotel, but when we were talking about just one night, and one hotel was just so much nicer than the other, and the difference between the two places wasn’t absurd, we decided that we would splurge a little and treat ourselves to a really nice night in a gorgeous place.
I am going to be completely transparent and create a breakdown of costs for anyone who is interested in the table below. Feel free to skip ahead if travel breakdowns don’t interest you.
Personally, I find them helpful if I’m reading about trips so I can get an idea of prices if I want to do something similar myself.
The below table is a breakdown of costs from show tickets to accommodation, and it is all based on what we paid individually. For example the show tickets are not £40 in total, they are £40 each. Everything is divided this way.
|Show Tickets||£40 per person > approx. €50 each.|
|Transport||€20 per person. Round trip. This makes it €10 each way per person. Extremely reasonable.|
|Total cost||€135 each.|
Overall, for a plan that was put together in a very short amount of time, I am extremely happy with this price. If you look at it and compare it to a night out in Dublin, it becomes clear that we found some great prices.
Tickets to see a show in the Bord Gáis can start at €50 each, and depending on the show, I’ve sometimes paid €80 to sit in the stalls. On a night out to the theatre, we will usually get a few drinks and we sometimes go to dinner, although we don’t do this every single time. For the sake of the comparison though, let’s say we had dinner before the show and had drinks after the show. I’ve often split a dinner bill down the middle and paid €45. That usually covers my food and a cocktail or two and a soft drink.
Even before adding post show drinks, if you take the €50 for the tickets and pair it with at least another €40 for dinner and drinks with the food, that’s €90 already.
If I spend roughly €90 on a trip to the theatre (to be fair, the tickets are usually purchased far in advance so on the night of the show itself, I’m just buying dinner and/or drinks but I’m including the ticket price as part of the overall theatre trip expense) then this entire mini trip to Belfast, tickets, transport, and accommodation is costing me another €45.
If the tour had have come to Dublin, I would have absolutely bought tickets. There’s no doubt about that, so even though the tour coming to Dublin would have saved me the trip, I still think that getting a cute little break away in the month of august to stay in a nice hotel and see an amazing show and make a wonderful memory out of it for an extra €45 is so worth it.
That is really how I decide whether or not something is worth the splurge. I sit down and I think about it and I add everything up, and sometimes we go for the more affordable option or sometimes we decide that we just cannot justify something and we don’t do it, but when we find the right prices and we think it through and we compare, if it works out that we can do something really nice for not a ridiculously extra amount, we do it, and we always have an amazing time.
I want to take a moment to state that this theatre trip was not sponsored. It was not gifted. No part of this piece is an ad. We chose to go on this mini break. We paid for everything ourselves and anything that I have chosen to discuss, I have chosen because we really enjoyed it.
Now that the logistics are out of the way, let’s talk about the fun stuff.
We stayed in the gorgeous Hotel Belfast. This was a great choice because the hotel could not have been in a better location. It was a ten minute walk away from the Grand Opera House. The Botanic Gardens were just down the road. We were right beside so many little coffee shops, pubs, and book shops. It was a twenty minute walk to Victoria Square. The bus from Dublin dropped us off right beside the theatre, and as I said the theatre was only a ten minute walk away so this meant that the hotel was easy to find and we did not have to walk for very long with our bags.
I’ve shared pictures on my Instagram grid – @katelovesliterature is my handle for those who don’t know. I will share some snaps below, but you can also find them on my Insta, along with many snaps from the trip itself in my highlights.
If you like to take pretty pictures like I do, then you’ll see that House Belfast was a dream. It is so pretty. I fell in love with the blossom tree in the bar. I love the design. I love the deeper colours mismatched with lampshades and lots of florals. I love the out there patterns clashed against the grey and rose gold hardware.
I did talk about this already on Instagram, but it is worth repeating. I have to say how impressed I was with the staff. Everyone was so kind to us, especially everyone in the bar and restaurant.
Our lovely waitress, (whose name I won’t share for obvious privacy reasons), was brilliant. She was able to tell me exactly what was nut/peanut free on the menu. She went back to the kitchen and double checked with the chef for me. She gave recommendations. It was so kind of her, and it meant that we could enjoy our meals without any second thoughts.
I wish we could have stayed longer. It was such a lovely experience. The overnight stay has also made me really want to do a staycation in House Dublin so I might look into that closer to Christmas or maybe for one of our birthdays.
When we arrived in Belfast, we checked into our hotel and then we headed out for a walk.
We had planned to eat dinner in the hotel so we had a table booked in advance so our plan for the afternoon was to just have a wander. We grabbed a coffee and made our way to the botanic gardens.
If you need to kill some time on a sunny day, botanical gardens are a great spot. We had a lovely walk through the rose gardens and then we went through the greenhouses. It was a really nice way to spend the afternoon. We really enjoyed the sunshine and the fresh air.
I will talk about the performance of Blood Brothers in a separate piece because this show deserves its own piece. It is incredible. The show is iconic. It is heart-breaking. It is gripping. It is filled with highly emotional themes of poverty, class differences, religion, and fate.
The score is stunning. Each character serves their own purpose. Every line is so intentional. Every move is so intentional. I have studied this show intensely. I’ve been in an amateur production of this show. I’ve read the material too many times to count, and the thing that always stands out is how detail orientated this show is. It is precise. There is so much foreshadowing and this is something that the music reflects. It is just a masterpiece and I intend to speak about it properly in what will be a very long discussion.
Keep an eye out for that as it will be published soon.
The theatre itself was beautiful. We had great seats. We had a drink at intermission. The Grand Opera House in Belfast was a lovely venue. I love visiting different theatres and I would happily see a show there again in the future.
The next day we explored. We had a great time. Our bus back to Dublin was not leaving Belfast until the evening so we had all day to explore.
We went to several book shops. We explored Victoria Square. We had ice cream at Taboo Donuts. It was delicious. The highlight of my day though was when we got to Victoria Square and came across a fairy tale exhibit. This was an amazing coincidence. We did not know about this exhibition in advance, but if I’d have known about it, it would have been on my to-do list for sure, so the fact that we stumbled across it was brilliant.
The exhibition is called Into The Forest and you can go on this journey through fairy tales until the 29th of August 2022.
It was amazing. I was looking at each fairy tale display like an excited kid on Christmas morning. It was so sweet and it felt really magical. I also love the idea behind it.
Fairy tales are so important and we should never be too old to enjoy them.
I’m sharing some snaps here, but most of my pictures can be found in my highlights on Instagram so check it out – @katelovesliterature.
Overall, we had the best time. It was just one night, and although we said that we could have easily stayed another day, the fact that it was such a spontaneous mini trip was what made it so fun. We went with zero plans aside from seeing Blood Brothers so all of the other lovely things that we did were things that we just stumbled into, which made it all the better.
What is your favourite fairy tale? I’d love to know.
Have you seen Blood Brothers?
Where is your favourite place to go on a mini break?
Note that all of the above pictures are pictures that I took myself with my own phone. They may not be shared without my permission.