Monday, January 01, 2018



As I hinted in Goodbye to all that, I shall continue occasionally to write for other websites when they need a reviewer – I shall try to mention such rare appearances on Facebook
do follow/friend me if you want to see those updates,
and also to use Twitter as I did before to flag up anything that is published

Two of my favourites, for whom I’ve already written this year, are
Remote Goat [no, I don’t know why either]
Sardines – the magazine for amateur theatre


Huge thanks to all those who’ve sent appreciations and good wishes – I am especially touched by this piece in the CTW Newsletter – and to those organisations, professional and amateur, who have offered us complimentary tickets with no expectation of a blog review.
As some of you will have noticed, I am trying to see as much live entertainment as my wallet and my wife will allow – apologies to those I’ve missed.



The year turns, and the reviewing calendar is empty.
No more blogs, no more double bookings, no more press night perks.
After 45 years and thousands of reviews, in print and online, it’s time to hang up the “reviewing bag” - pens, notebooks, torch, cough sweets, water – and put my feet up. 
What do you mean ?
In brief, no new entries on this blog, except for some archive pieces, which will be tweeted and shared in the usual way. But still the occasional piece for other sites, adjudications for any group that might care to commission them - and maybe Facebook mentions for the events I shall pay to see.
My thanks, of course, to all those who’ve invited me, to the performers who’ve entertained me, the papers and the websites that carried my words and to my driver and amanuensis, without whom I should have given up long ago …
main image – 
my last review [Rotary New Year Concert], picture by Barbara Gray

Sunday, December 31, 2017




Lots of retrospectives, with critics picking their favourite treats of the year gone by.
I’ve not done too well in 2017, to judge by the Guardian’s choices – several lists, including this democratic selection. Just Emma Rice’s lovely Romantics Anonymous, and the National’s superb Follies. And of course I was not invited to either.
But this, my last year in the reviewer’s seat, has provided many delights, from the obscure and unlooked-for to old favourites.
Musically, an outstanding year for the Waltham Singers. With Music for Lent and Gerontius in the Cathedral. Of many other concerts, the inspired Devil’s Violin lingers in the memory, and on the Civic stage, Chelmsford Ballet Company’s Alice proved a remarkable achievement, followed by another stunning Ballet Central show.
Many marvellous musicals, I’m pleased to say: Forbidden Planet at Witham, Hot Mikado at Brentwood, Miss Saigon at school. The most inventive Shakespeare ? The fairground Dream at the Rose Playhouse.
Strong showings from Colchester Mercury, with a “definitive” Spamalot as well as the Peter Pan summer show, and from our own CTW, who staged a superb Casa Valentina and a “near faultless” One Day When We WereYoung.



Essex Youth Orchestra with Essex Youth Chamber Choir
Rotary Club of Chelmer Bridge 
at Chelmsford Cathedral

The EYO has been celebrating its 60th anniversary, and this great concert enabled us to share in the festivities.
Rotary have been promoting these New Year concerts for some years – not always seasonal Strauss, though I recall one memorable evening with John Georgiadis. This year they were joined by the Essex Youth Chamber Choir, another branch of Essex Music.
Simon Warne’s excellently disciplined choir gave us Howard Goodall’s 23rd Psalm – aka The Vicar of Dibley – Bob Chilcott’s Give Me The Strength, from his Life Cycle cantata, and an arrangement of a traditional spiritual, Standing in the Need of Prayer.
They combined with the orchestra for Vivaldi’s Gloria: a very impressive performance, conducted by Robin Browning. He managed to achieve an excellent balance, despite having a small choir, of largely untrained, sometimes immature voices, behind sizeable instrumental forces. A spirited interpretation, too – lively strings in the opening Gloria – with fine solo work from the players, oboe and cello, for example, and from the singers: three sopranos for the Domine Deus, and Kerensa Newcombe for the later movements, returning after the Qui Sedes to pick up her trumpet for the triumphant ending.
A pity we were not given a little more help in the programme – not necessarily text and translations, but at least a list of the movements.
No such problem with everyone’s favourite Christmas ballet, The Nutcracker. Robin Browning talked us through the extracts, from the Christmas Eve party to the Waltz of the Snowflakes, from the Land of Sweets and its colourful divertissements to the heart-on-sleeve Pas de Deux. A real treat to hear the music at such close quarters, with the wordless chorus behind the violins, Tchaikovsky given a welcome freshness by these young players. As Browning pointed out, what is a bread-and-butter warhorse to the ROH pit band is a new discovery for these youngsters, playing it for the first time.

It was preceded by Witches, a curtain raiser written by Caroline Penn, the EYO’s leader. Her very own hexentanz, with exciting brass and thrilling percussion.