ingredients of the Wolsey's wonderful rock'n'roll offerings
are there: the actor/musicians, the chorus of cute critters, the
visual puns [“pulled pork”] and the sound effects.
after last Christmas's Sword in the Stone,
this year we're treated to another
fresh new storyline, and some unexpected characters. Our
story-teller, and good fairy, is Scheherazade [Elizabeth Rowe],
who brings the three couples to her love shack for the wedding finale.
Our hero is Sinbad, of course, a likeable Steve Rushton, who woos the
Princess Pearl [Daniella Piper]. His rival for her hand is the evil
Sinistro, played by Wolsey favourite Dan de Cruz. He gets to quote
Lear for his storm scene, which also has one of the best numbers,
on the Water. Much of the music is from the
70s and 80s: one of the most successful is the hilariously subverted
Living on a Prayer, complete with smoke machine and fan supplied by a
nimble stage-hand. Possibly a thinly disguised Graham Kent, who gives
us a brawny Dame Donna. His stooge, Tinbad the Tailor, was very amusing done by Rob Falconer.
the fun for
the grown-ups in the audience
is seeing everyone slickly swapping
Dame on trumpet, the three girls a great saxophone trio, and almost
everyone behind the drum kit at some point. The
direction – Peter Rowe, who penned the witty, naughty script – is
lively and energetic. The ten-strong company seem genuinely to be
having a good time – though
come the end of January that might be hard to sustain – Sinbad's
Saucy Sausage sails on at the Wolsey until the 28th.
to back piano concertos, with Chelmsford-born
Hogarth as soloist with the ESO under Tom Hammond.
Rhapsody in Blue top of the bill. Not really
according to Hogarth before the concert, though the players did
manage a convincing jazz sound, as well as the big orchestral
palette, with a muscular soloist to match.
Second Piano Concerto – a repertoire favourite, and
recorded by three generations of the Shostakovich clan – was given
a similarly bold reading; the outer movements sometimes sounded more
deliberate, less delightfully delicate, than usual, but the sublime
slow movement, with its rich string tone and eloquent piano phrasing,
was superbly done.
years now since Malcolm Arnold left us. And this enterprising
programme opened with A Flourish For Orchestra, commissioned in 1973
by the City of Bristol. Then the Third Symphony of 1957 – the same
year as the Shostakovich. A much darker piece, a memorial to the
composer's mother, impressively played by the ESO, led by Philippa
Barton, with sweeping, brooding strings, ominous
tympani rhythms, and fleeting solos from oboe, clarinet, piccolo and
of course Arnold's own instrument, the trumpet.
room – the
is shrouded in dust sheets, the cast list in the programme is
by Ira [Deathtrap] Levin has some clever, chilling twists, even if it
lacks practical or psychological credibility. Like the later, better,
piece, it has plays within plays … Not
to mention timeslips and philosophical questions about the nature of
by Peter Baker,
give it a stylish outing, with a nicely furnished 1930s room and some
believable 70s costumes. The lighting is atmospheric, although more
dark corners would have helped the mysterious mood.
Kettlewell is the unfortunate young heroine at the heart of the
nasty plot – a Cordelia at school, she is left alone to create the
tension before the twist at the end of Act One, which she does very
effectively; her litany of 1973 is another fine moment.
Morgan – is he really a lawyer, is that toothbrush moustache really
a fake ? - is her unlikely boyfriend, and a more sinister
professional after the interval.
resident staff – at the start at least – are excellently
characterized throughout by Sylvia
Lanz and Ian Stratford.
a little less shouting, a little more underplayed menace, would have
strengthened the dramatic impact. And if the action is to be shifted
from Boston MA to Oxfordshire, then more work needs to be done on the
text: summer camp, goosebumps, the Depression all betray its true
Bennett looks increasingly like Betjeman's natural heir. And Hugh
Whitemore's elegiac entertainment has more than one resonance: Edward
Fox's rich voice – no more like Sir John's than his dapper
linen-suited persona – is very like the patrician, academic tones
that Bennett favours in pastiche. His “north of the Trent” town
clerk, too, with “Bournemouth's looking up”. Not
to mention the “grapefruit drying on the after-dinner speaking
circuit. Both writers confess to a love of church-crawling, life on
the film set, with its camaraderie and arcane jargon - “hair in the
in what could be a summer house, this 90 minute monologue is a shared
delight; Fox's eyes are often screwed up in mirth, laughing, as Sir
John did, immoderately at his own bons mots. And there are plenty of
those, some new to me [the du Maurier limerick], some
very familiar [Churchill on Tom Driberg's
bride, a naughty Max Miller rhyme].
are casually dropped – pale green intellectuals and fin-de-siecle
pederasts – Eliot,
Auden, Blunt and Waugh, C S Lewis, Osbert Lancaster, Elizabeth Jane
of course there are the poems – Joan Hunter Dunn, Summoned by
Bells, Dorset, Devonshire Street
disappointment to his father, Moth to Oscar's Bosie, delighting in
old books - “through leaves” and London's Music Halls, [all but
Wilton's, which he helped save from the wreckers, now vanished] – a
“fascinating study to the world”.
got a round on his entrance – life-time achievement applause,
perhaps. But his affable, engaging performance certainly merited an
ovation; this has been a long tour, but he appeared to be enjoying
each anecdote and reminiscence afresh – a generous touch of genius
on the Salisbury stage.
We used to picnic where the thrift
Grew deep and tufted
to the edge; We saw the yellow foam flakes drift In trembling
sponges on the ledge Below us, till the wind would lift Them up
the cliff and o’er the hedge. Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in
the tea, Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet, Squelch
of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea, Fleas around the
tamarisk, an early cigarette. There was a young lady named Gloria
Who was had by Sir Gerald Du Maurier,
And then by six men,
Sir Gerald again,
And the band at the Waldorf-Astoria.
programming for this enterprising chamber choir has invariably been
interesting and rewarding.
concert, taking us from a damp Essex November to the heart of Spain,
was affecting too, reminding us of a time when the church's rites
alone held the keys to heaven, and pilgrimage was an obligation to
which all aspired.
de Victoria's Officium
Defunctorum, based on the plainchant of the requiem mass, was given
an atmospheric performance in the consecrated darkness of the church,
the polyphony subtly underpinned by the cello of Alastair Morgan. The
central Sanctus was especially moving.
Singers, directed by Christine Gwynn, were joined by the cellist, and
by Chris Brice and Nathan Gregory on a variety of bells, for Gabriel
Jackson's To The Field Of Stars, commissioned to mark the 400th
of Victoria's death in 2011. Challenging
for the choir, it blends ancient pilgrim hymns with settings of Walt
Whitman and Emily Dickinson – Miracles and Our Journey Has Advanced
– as well as a prayer for travelling, a history lesson [spoken by
bass Andrew Taylor] a murmured evocation of the stars, and at the
last a glimpse of the glorious Basilica of Santiago, using an
elaboration of the motet O Quam Gloriosum which opened the concert.
reflection on pilgrimage and life's journeys, its elusive melodies
and rich harmonies beautifully handled by the choir. Especially
magical, suspending time for a moment, was the whispered litany of
star names, decorated with tinkling bells and high cello melodies in
a luminous evocation of Compostela, the Field of Stars.
journey had advanced — Our feet were almost come To that odd
Fork in Being's Road — Eternity — by Term —
took sudden awe — Our feet — reluctant — led — Before —
were Cities — but Between — The Forest of the Dead —
— was out of Hope — Behind — a Sealed Route — Eternity's
White Flag — Before — And God — at every Gate —
pilgrim path photograph by Bishop Stephen Cotterell, who recently completed the Camino - his blog here