Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Things to come
Ballet Central 2017 comes to the Civic Theatre

Always eagerly awaited, Central School of Ballet's renowned graduate performing company Ballet Central will call at Chelmsford's Civic Theatre on Tuesday 16th May as part of its 2017 national tour. 

Ballet Central gives audiences across the country the chance to see the company’s young and dynamic dancers who are on the cusp of their professional careers, showcasing newly-commissioned works and celebrated masterpieces by the dance industry’s top choreographers.  

The repertoire for this year’s tour features Act 2 of Highland Fling by Matthew Bourne, Indigo Children by Royal Ballet artist-in-residence Liam Scarlett, and a new version of the ballroom scene from Romeo & Juliet by former English National Ballet’s Jenna Lee. It also includes specially created works by Christopher Bruce and Malgorzata Dzierzon, as well as excerpts from Petipa’s La Bayadere.  The tour will also feature a scene from Dracula, choreographed by Michael Pink from the original production directed by Christopher Gable in 1996.

Christopher Marney, the new Artistic Director of Ballet Central said "This year’s performance showcases the best dance theatre from current industry professionals and gives you the chance to see newly-commissioned work and refreshed classics from the world’s top choreographers. This is an opportunity to see the future stars of dance as they launch their professional careers”.

Ballet Central’s dancers not only perform but also help with technical aspects including lighting, sound, staging and wardrobe.  Another highlight of Ballet Central is the music, much of which has been created by Central’s Composer-in-Residence Philip Feeney, who also performs live on the tour.

Civic Theatre, Chelmsford on Tuesday 16th May at 7.45 pm  

Thursday, April 13, 2017


BOSSY at Brentwood Theatre

A happy, homespun Hairspray from BOSSY, in fine Sixties style, musically and wardrobe-wise.
Gaynor Wilson's production keeps the setting simple – a nice vertical bed for Tracy's awakening – while Andy Prideaux's quartet sets the musical pace, with a prominent role for that essential sax. Some impressive ensemble numbers: the mother and daughter sextet, the Council members in the title number, the joyous Can't Stop the Beat finale.
And plenty of punchy performances from an energetic cast – I saw the Thursday company. An immensely likeable Tracy from Tia Stack, pint-sized rabble rouser and would-be teenage Jezebel. She has the character to perfection, and brings energy and elan to all her numbers. Michael Percival is her mother, feisty and voluminously dressed, with Adam Ellis as her dad, the extrovert joke store manager, and Dan Pugh as her love interest, the heart-throb Link Larkin. The bigoted baddies include Ellie Lovelace's Velma – a magnetic stage presence – and her daughter Amber [Grace Frost]. A lovely, gawky Penny Pingleton from Cloe Lee, and a great glib Corny from Joe Folley.
Jeremy Lawal-Champion impresses as Seaweed, son of Motormouth Maybelle, nicely done by Tomi Bello, especially in her act two anthem, and her “big, blonde and beautiful” act one finale.
Lots of fine character work in the cast, including doubles from Will Loader as Mr Pinky and Brad, and Owen Jackson as the penitentiary official and Mr Spritzer, President of Ultra Clutch, proud sponsor of the Corny Collins TV show.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


Marlborough Dramatic Club at the Memorial Hall, Brentwood School


Michael Frayn's neat English version – Gambon its first Vanya, I believe – fits four acts into an audience-friendly couple of hours; even slicker in William Wells' production, with all the action set in the garden of Serebryakov's dacha.
The sombre mood is set before lights down – the samovar, Jean Morgan's nanna Marina knitting, Astrov reading. And at the end, the final moments of tearful optimism, as those left behind prepare to live out their wretched lives.
A compelling Vanya from Darren Hannant, his untidy idler contrasting with his smartly suited friend Dr Astrov [Gavin Leary]. Sara Thompson is the plain, unloved Sonya, her clumsy attempt at seduction one of several moving moments. The elegant Yelena, the professor's young second wife, is stylishly done by Juliette Bird. Good support from an equally stylish Margaret Corry as Vanya's mother, and Harry Morrison as the pathetic, desiccated Telegin.
This polished production has many telling moments: an impressive entrance through the audience for the “great scholar” [Keith Morgan] and his party, the carefully plotted trio that begins Act Three, the dramatic impetus sustained right through to Yelena's soliloquy, Vanya's rant, and his desperate disillusionment in a speech which he starts slumped with his back to the audience.


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court


Harvey first “appeared” on Broadway a lifetime ago, but this pooka pal has remained popular ever since, due in part to the Jimmy Stewart movie.
Now he's haunting the Old Court stage, in a gently amusing production by Jade Flack.
Elwood P Dowd, “the biggest screwball in town” and the rabbit's constant companion, is given a warmly absorbing performance by Dave Hawkes, perfectly capturing the sunny innocence of this harmless eccentric. Strong in support are Lynne Foster as his desperate sister, with some great moments of physical comedy, and Alec Clements as Sanderson, the callow, charismatic junior doctor at the sanatorium run by Dr Chumley [Jesse Powis in a memorable bow tie].
Not all the performances are quite as assured as Hawkes', but there are nice cameos from Stephanie Yorke-Edwards as Mrs Chumley, Fabienne Hanley as Aunt Ethel, and Ian Russell as the all-important cab driver.
Not many laughs on a thin Friday night, despite the sterling efforts of some experienced performers, but some excellent work in key scenes; Sanderson getting advice from Dowd, or left alone on stage with Ruth [Jade Flack].
And the scene changes from The Dowd Library to Chumley's Rest are very efficiently managed.


New Venture Players at Brentwood Theatre Chelmsford


It must be a bit like being in a tribute band, doing one of these sitcom spin-offs. Have they come to admire your performance, or to be reminded of the much-loved originals ?
They certainly pull in the punters – New Venture Players' pleasing production playing to very respectable houses.
The action takes place in the village hall and the vicarage, with a couple of jokes in the vestry and the climactic wedding in St Barnabas itself. As so often, the adaptation has lots of short scenes and set-pieces – twenty+ here – with the familiar pattern of punch-line [or not- “Let's go and have a cup of tea!” not the easiest exit line] and black-out for the scene change, accompanied by Howard Goodall's familiar psalm.
NVP have fielded an excellent cast of parishioners. All the dearly beloved “characters” are present – pedantic Frank Pickle [Melvyn Freake] taking the minutes, lusty lard-haired Farmer Hewitt [David Lintin], dim, dotty Jim Trott [Dicky P Stallard] and the toxic Mrs Cropley [Paula Harris Brett]. All given the full OTT broad farce treatment. Villain of the piece Chairman Horton is played with relish by Vernon Keeble-Watson, with Tim Murphy as his twittish son Hugo, and Lucy Mason as his prospective daughter-in-law, the cabbage-patch doll Alice. And there are a couple of appearances by some young guest stars: children of the parish and nuptial teletubbies !
The voice of reason and Christian charity amongst all the gurning grotesques is the Rev Grainger, back in the day when lady vicars were rare birds, the “babe with a bob-cut and a magnificent bosom”. She's played with wonderful warmth and perfect comic timing by Julia Stallard.
Though there are some slow patches, Joan Scarsbrook-Bird's production is a faithful recreation of a fondly remembered programme, much enjoyed by the audience, with some memorable comedy moments – chocolate for lent, the litre of gin and the kiss that lasts the whole interval ...