Bjarte Eike and the Barokksolistene Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
sound desk is under wraps, the seats in the pit have been removed,
the candles are lit. It’s acoustic party night
Eike and his
a very welcome return to the Sam
is the last gig of a very ambitious tour, and the nine musicians are
clearly enjoying it as much as the packed playhouse.
project has been running for ten years now; its origin was Eike’s
research into London’s music scene during the puritan regime of
Oliver Cromwell. Theatres were dark, church music was banned, and the
professional freelance musicians took refuge in inns and taverns,
where their skills were still valued. These Alehouse Sessions aim to
bring back the spirit of those pub gigs – fortunate indeed the
topers who heard anything like these nine superb musicians. They’re
all successful in their own fields – Eike himself is Norway’s
finest baroque violinist, Hans Knut Sveen, who plays the tiny
portable harmonium, has an academic career at Bergen University.
evening is a
blend of folk club and period music concert. The musicians swig
bottle-ale; there’s comedy and there’s
dance – the excellent Steven Player, one of two British members of
the group, channelling the spirit of Will Kemp. His
Four Kinds of Drunkard and his fancy footwork – including one
number with bells - were highlights of the show. There was a slomo
pub brawl, and much fun with the groundlings packed into the pit.
music was eclectic – sea shanties in which the audience raised its
three hundred voices to excellent effect – Raggle Taggle Gypsies,
Playford’s English Dancing Master, a Swedish Lament for a Dead
Barmaid, a Travel Set, including an American contribution from the
of Music Bill Barclay. Henry Purcell’s Timon of Athens, his Bonduca
– the second time I’ve mentioned Fletcher’s obscure history
play this year – with O Lead Me ending with a beautiful a cappella
chorus. The matinée audience also got the same composer’s comedy
No Kissing duet from The Fairy Queen.
evening ended with a second encore, improvisations on another
Playford tune, showcasing the diverse talents and influences within
this amazing ensemble.
nostalgic journey back to 1979, nicely suggested in Witham by shades
of brown and beige, with
splendid hair and moustaches for the men, the villains in this
vaguely feminist fairy tale.
is “the Dolly Parton musical”; not a juke box selection of her
greatest hits, but the
play what she wrote, nearly ten years ago now, based on the 1980 film
in which she starred with Jane Fonda.
stars in this too – as a virtual presence, a one-woman Greek chorus
projected behind the action – and vicariously as the Backwoods
Barbie “too much make-up, too much hair”, played for WAOS by
Sarah Miles. A very enjoyable performance, matched by the three other
principal ladies – Matilda Bourne’s Judy, the new kid on the
office block, Diana
Easton’s Violet, a fine comedy presence and a polished vocalist,
Howard’s excellent Roz,
besotted with the MCP boss of Consolidated, Franklin Hart Jr [Niels
Loring is the “old lush” Missy, and Dannii Carr the noble
accountant who finally finds happiness with Violet.
was the word in the interval bar: cues missed, lines fumbled, a
recalcitrant harness. The big production numbers – One of the Boys,
Heart to Hart, with the chorus in the aisles – worked well, but too
often the songs were left to work their magic on an empty stage.
Mundell-Poole’s production has some fine dancing, and the fantasy
sequences work well. James Tovey, the Musical Director, brings some
so-so numbers to life – he has a convincing show-band in the Witham
the show been done in the 70s – when the much missed Brigadoon was
still thought a good night out – we could have expected similar
tired cloths and wobbly flats. But no sound system pumping out
the decibels, which might have resulted in a better band/vocal
balance, allowing us to hear more of Ms Parton’s lyrics.
Shakespeare's Globe at the Sam
delicious confection for Emma Rice’s swan-song to the Globe: a
brand new pocket musical, given in the intimate Sam Wanamaker
Playhouse. Only a few token candles, but the musicians’ gallery is
well used by Jim Henson’s superb ensemble.
on a much-loved French film, Rice’s
adaptation has music and lyrics by Michael Kooman and Christopher
tells the heart-warming story of two painfully shy people, brought
together by chance and chocolate.
everything can be translated,” our hero remarks. The play begins in
French, but a glorious device – involving a taste of fine dark
chocolate for everyone in the audience – switches the dialogue to
English. In a range of regional accents, too, though the Allo Allo
route proved impossible to resist at times.
company of nine beautifully
the characters, eccentric, lovable, charming;
there is much deft doubling, notably by the superb Philip Cox as the
Ghost of Jean-René’s father, the tongue-tied Pierre and a
sympathetic concierge, and Gareth Snook as the suave chocolate
magnate Mercier, a mumbling recluse and an outrageously operatic
chorus combine the functions of the Greek and Broadway varieties –
telling the story, and giving us some lovely miniature production
numbers. They are variously the employees at the Chocolaterie, and
the members of the support/therapy group Les Emotifs Anonymes.
couple – whose happy ending includes a nod to the Flying Lovers of
Vitebsk, last year’s Rice musical in this space – are Carly
Bawden, demure and self-effacing as Angélique, and Dominic Marsh as
Jean-René, the epitome of sweaty-palmed social paralysis, seeking
confidence from a course of self-help cassettes.
we’ve come to expect, there is much under-scoring, with evocative
and some lovely pastiche numbers – Savoir Faire, and, the best for
my money, the toe-tapping Don’t Think About Love.
much to enjoy – the excruciating scene in the restaurant, the
squeaky office door, the tiny 2CV, the bonus track in the foyer
during the interval.
Angélique’s chocolates, a melt-in-the-mouth delight, an escapist
treat as we wait for winter.
Playhouse added little other than warm intimacy – it’s to be
hoped that this lovely little piece will be seen elsewhere. It would
sit well in any cosy auditorium, even, dare I say, chez Menier, just
around the corner ...
anniversary of the choreographer's death, a unique mini-season of
mixed bills, performed by five of the UK's great classical dance
very varied triptych opened with Birmingham Royal Ballet in Concerto,
an abstract piece from 1966 set to Shostakovich’s
second piano concerto. The opening and closing movements are precise
patterns, the corps in red, ochre and yellow. The finale had the
yellow team in an almost Soviet drill. The dreamy central movement
has legato lines and lifts to match the lyrical pianism of Jonathan
Higgins; beautifully danced by Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton.
interesting perhaps, was Scottish Ballet's rare
of MacMillan's original Baiser de la Fée from 1960. Like
Stravinsky's music, the piece has a post-classical feel, with the
choreography striving to respect the traditions of Romantic ballet –
fairies, Hans Andersen – while
bringing some realism to the tale of the young man kissed by a fairy
when but a baby, and stolen away by her on the eve of his wedding.
Andrew Peasgood brings a boyish energy to the role, with Bethany
Kingsley-Garner outstanding as his betrothed, joining him in an
urgent, emotional pas-de-deux, and Constance Devernay as the wickedly
sensuous fairy. The moment when the two women dance around him, as
four friends look on, was
a dramatic highlight, as was the dying fall of the final moments, set
in the bleak, cold Land Beyond Time and Place.
crowd-pleaser to finish – Elite Syncopations, MacMillan's ragtime
ballet danced to Scott Joplin and his contemporaries. A delight from
Sunflower Slow Drag to Cataract Rag, with turns from all five
companies, in the casual setting of a dance hall, with Robert Clark's
band at the back. A witty duo from Karla Doorbar and Mathias Dingman
[BRB] in The Golden Hours, four chaps from the home team in an
energetic Hot-House Rag, a
Friday Night from Northern Ballet's Riku Ito, a
wistful and sassy solo from Precious Adams [English
National Ballet] in Calliope Rag, a hilarious pas de deux from Marge
Hendrick and Constant Vigier [Scottish Ballet] in the Alaskan Rag,
and a stylish solo – cane and striped pants – from the Royal
Ballet's Akane Takada, who joined Nicol Edmonds for a polished
Bethena Concert Waltz.
a fine old story, but this musical version, by Jeffrey Lane and David
Yazbek – an uneasy mix of period charm and crude, edgy humour –
needs a very slick and glitzy production to make it work. And Louise
Byrne successfully provides it, within the limitations of the
Brentwood stage, making for a very entertaining evening.
setting is simple and versatile, with a raised balcony under which
Max Harris’s excellent little band sits, very much a part of the
accomplished company, ensemble and principals alike, and some fine
making the best of some fairly forgettable numbers.
show opens with a quartet of French maids – the action is set on
the Riviera – and the chorus have a deal of fun as hotel guests,
scoundrels of the title are Lawrence, a suave, laid-back swindler,
played with a fine sense of style by Martin Harris, though it was
perhaps hard to imagine him as a Man of Destiny or the stuff of
female dreams. He shone in his disguise as the “Vienna sausage” -
the memorable moment where he simply stands, feather poised, was a
measure of his dramatic talent. The contrasting other half of this
odd couple, the “gorilla en croute” Freddy, was a very
physical, very funny Allister Smith. They
meet their match in Kate Henderson’s Christine – the Soap Queen –
a warm, sunny persona till she shows her true con-woman colours as
work from Lisa Harris as Muriel –
her What Was A Woman To Do was a musical high – and Ian Southgate
as André, joining her in a lovely old-fashioned song-and-dance duet.
Alec Guinness. Forget Tom Hanks. This is an ingenious stage version
penned by Graham (Father Ted) Linehan and first seen in 2011.
its cinematic origins, it is at heart a good old-fashioned farce,
lacking only the manic inevitability of the best of that inter-war
career criminals take a room in a house near to King's Cross station
– very handy for the “stick-up job” they're planning.
landlady – serial complainant and waster of police time – is
fooled by their unusual “front”, a classical
quartet, but sees through their disguise when the cello case
disgorges its cargo of crisp white fivers.
Rowe, artistic director at the New Wolsey, Ipswich, where this
revival originated, has produced a slick, well-paced show, greatly
assisted by Foxton's impressive set. The house opens like a book to
reveal a richly detailed interior, and the whole thing revolves –
powered by stage-hands in time-honoured fashion - so that we can see
the roof-tops, and the quaint animated board depicting the heist
scene changes are covered by gothic organ music and the play of steam
and signals to evoke the railway beyond. Composer
and Sound Designer Rebecca Applin provides some very
authentic-sounding incidental music, setting the mood and the period
to perfection in the wordless prologue.
cast is a little uneven. As
the widowed Mrs Wilberforce, Ann
Penfold gives a lovely little old lady, primly comic. Masterminding
his quartet of criminals, and conducting their avant-garde
performance, is Steven Elliot's plummy
Professor Marcus, his
trailing college scarf an amusing running gag;
Graham Seed makes the most of con-man Major Courtney, battle-fatigued
war hero and closet cross-dresser. Anthony Dunn never really gets the
measure of violent Romanian Louis,
neither the accent nor the character, but there are very satisfying
turns from Sam Lupton – reminiscent
of a young David Jason – as the pill-popping, nervy spiv
me 'Arry” Robinson, and from Damian Williams, excellent
as the slow-witted, ham-fisted “Mr Lawson”, looking a
Hardy in his ill-fitting
cast is completed by Marcus Houden as the long-suffering Constable
MacDonald; he also contributes a hilarious cameo as Mrs Jane
Tromleyton, figurehead of the “swarm” of elderly ladies who come
to hear the performance by the bogus Boccherini lovers, mercifully
curtailed by the interval.
They are played by a community chorus, locally sourced for each
rickety old house, with its dodgy plumbing and faulty lights, not to
mention permanent resident General Gordon, the raucous Macaw, will
take to the road again at the end of the month, to be shoe-horned
onto the stage of the Salisbury Playhouse, where it completes its
popular playwright David Tristram came up with his first comedy
whodunnit “just to help out my local am-dram group”. And he's
been helping amateur companies all over the world since.
been involved with a few in my time, but I still struggle to see the
point of staging a play written specially for non-professionals. Even
a village cricket team might
hesitate before choosing a game which featured under-arm bowling with
a tennis ball.
“comedy thriller” is fifteen years old now; it features a
playwright who is visited by his late wife's ghost. She persuades him
to write a play, with not even thinly disguised portraits of their
fellow actors, in order to “catch the conscience” of her
murderer. Shades of Hamlet ? Yes, and copious quotation, too – the
play begins with an attempted suicide and
that famous soliloquy.
multi-layered complexities and tortuous twists are well handled by an
accomplished cast in Jacquie Newman's polished production. There are
laughs along the way, a spine-chilling moment just before the end,
and some excellent effects: the moving portrait, the poltergeist
little more music might have helped to
ghostly mood, and
cover the passing of time in each act.
a sympathetic account of
the author, living alone in an attic bedsit with a closet full of gin
and a drinks cabinet full of clothes. His landlord, played
with style and wit by Tonio Ellis,
is flamboyant Alex, who offers moral support to his lodger, and has a
nice line in flouncing out of the door. Elvira
Charles, the blithe spirit here is Claire Lloyd's elegant, ethereal
Ruby. Jade Flack makes the most of the [allegedly] drab and mousy
Glenda, while two
thespians are milked for all they're worth by Stephanie Yorke-Edwards
as the surgically enhanced Frances, and Terry Cole as
the bri-nylon-bewigged Hedley.
are some very funny lines – the acronym sequence, for instance –
but also some padding. The plot is convoluted, and takes some
following in Act Two especially. I was confused by the absent suspect
to keep the loyal TAB audience entertained: ticking off the
Shakespeare references, wondering who poisoned poor Ruby's drink, and
whether the culprit will be unmasked before Old Nick claims her
immortal soul ...
rare chance to see the three parts of this classic trilogy in one day
– fortunately, in this Chichester production, the plays are
relatively brief, leaving plenty of time for refreshment and
plays, twelve scenes, one disastrous weekend. Simon Higlet’s design
captures the old Vicarage and its garden – the table, the rug, a
small water feature. A good sense of period, too – the play is set
in the early 70s, when it was written: Woman’s Weekly, Mario
Lanza on the HMV portable.
six characters thrown together for two eventful days, are very
recogniazable; they will recur in various permutations and
elaborations throughout the playwrights career. Jemima Rooper is
Annie, who spends her life tending to her valetudinarian mother –
whom we never see – and wondering if the nice but dim vet Tom [John
Hollingworth] will ever make
easy prey for her brother-in-law Norman, whose mission in life is to
make people happy. A virtuosic, charismatic performance by a bearded
Trystan Gravelle, though I struggled to see him as the weedy
long-suffering spouse, the short-sighted Ruth is given a nicely
rounded characterization by Hattie Ladbury. Brother
Reg [a brilliant Jonathan Broadbent], who invents complicated board
games that no-one plays, arrives with his wife Sarah to mother-sit
while Annie [and Norman] has a dirty weekend in East
Grinstead. Sarah is played to perfection by Sarah Hadland - fussing
over Annie, a fixed, brisk smile, obsessively polishing the table.
McIntyre’s production is excellent in the set-pieces – the
supper, the romps in the garden, but not at the expense of depth of
characterization and social interaction. All the more eloquent for
being given, in a first for Chichester, in the round, with extra
seats behind the circular stage.