Sunday, January 01, 2017



Three shows to review a week on average again this year; there's been so much great work, too. In this selection, I've restricted myself to those events I was invited to review which earned five stars in my increasingly generous rating system.

Musically, there were predictably fine performances from the Chelmsford Singers, the Stondons, Singers of Writtle and Waltham, including this memorable March world première.
Impressive music-making from the ESO, too, from the Essex Chamber Orchestra, and from the professional bands brought to the Civic by the wonderful M&G concert series, including welcome visits from Martin Roscoe with the Northern Chamber Orchestra and John Wallace with the Philharmonia Brass.

Dramatically, it was often the small-scale and obscure which impressed us most. St Martin's in Colchester hosted two Shakespeares; the Bard had a particularly good year, of course. A poignant WWI Henry V in Middle Temple, and, at the Wolsey, a magical
Midsummer Night's Dream – Trevor's, not Emma's … The Queen's Hornchurch had my favourite of the Much Ados this year [and another hit musical, Partners in Crime].
Over-sexed, over-paid and over here. The Yanks in East Anglia triumph twice – once in the touching Somewhere in England from Eastern Angles [whose final visit to the Hush House, We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, also makes the top twenty], and the hilarious Handbook for American Servicemen at the Cramphorn, which has hosted some excellent fringe work this past year, including The Collector, Mountains of Madness and Vamos Theatre's Best Thing. The Civic, though, seems to struggle to attract many worthwhile tours – thank heavens for the big shows from local amateur
companies. But it was Witham's Half a Sixpence [in a year which saw a great professional re-written revival] and LODS' Spamalot which stick in the memory.
Much interesting work at the Old Court, including Gaslight, Mr Kolpert and Compleat Female Stage Beauty, and at Brentwood Theatre, notably Glenda Abbott's My Boy Jack.
Young performers continue to make their mark – amongst many other shows, the Essex Dance Theatre's summer showcase, and, back in January, a stunning Les Mis from KEGS Drama; their next, Miss Saigon, eagerly anticipated in February 2017.

Floriane Andersen as a nurse and Freddie Stewart as a wounded soldier in Antic Disposition's Henry V  
Image: Scott Rylander

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