Friday, May 30, 1986

An enterprising Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
Chelmsford Ballet Company at the Civic Theatre
May 30 1986

An impressively lavish production of The Nutcracker at the Civic last week. The enterprising Chelmsford Ballet Company – unique of its kind – has built an enviable reputation for full-scale shows, and this was a worthy successor to Tales of Beatrix Potter and last year’s Coppelia.
I saw the matinée, at which Clara was danced by Rosina Baker [Gemma Beesley danced at other performances]. Rosina cleverly caught the innocent delight of the child whose party ends in a colourful dream. Caroline Clark made an impact, too, in the smaller role of Franz, her brother.
The Nutcracker soldier himself was Jason Wild, who also danced the Grandfather and the Arabian. John Richardson, sporting a raffish eye-patch, was excellent as the ever-present Drosselmeyer, and David Slade made an imposing King Rat.
Stephen Ayres danced the Prince, and guest artiste Amanda Graham gave a delightful Sugar Plum Fairy.
The ensemble work was imaginative and polished, especially the Snowflakes [led by Rachel Ashcroft as the Snow Queen] and the national dances. This ballet makes good use of the talented Junior Company, particularly good in the Battle and in the sequence with Mere Gigogne [Kathleen Mardell].
The scenery was mostly rented cloths, but the furniture was splendid, and costumes – even the removal men’s – exquisite.
The Nutcracker was choreographed by Rose Kinsey and the Company’s director, Elisabeth Swan.

Friday, May 09, 1986

Road Testing The Yeomen

The Yeomen of the Guard – Ingatestone and Witham
May 9  1986

The other week I had the rare pleasure of watching two productions of the same show on successive nights. Both Ingatestone and Witham had chosen Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic Yeomen of the Guard. Difficult not to make comparisons, but like those glossy automobile advertisements, we’ll try to stick to the facts,
Ingatestone had the better acceleration – Overture to Beginners in 5m 16s, but Witham clocked the faster journey time, even including the traditional encore for the Cock and Bull duet, and with more leg-room too !
Ingatestone’s road-holding was questionable at times, with prompts, hesitations and false starts, but their documentation was impeccable, with a beautiful programme designed by Haydn Davies, their Sergeant Merryl.
Visibility was good in both, though Ingatestone’s lights had a tendency to dip unexpectedly. I liked the distant view of the Globe, though.
Witham’s open-top design was striking, featuring a Pierrot/Headsman mascot.
Finish and trim excellent in either model, though Witham’s spinning wheel worked, and all their Yeomen wore beards.
Witham’s long pedigree [they first had this show on the road sixty years ago] told in a touch more polish and style, plus a higher octane all-round performance.
Ingatestone won on Jack Points, though – their Merryman had the pathos Gilbert intended.
Apologies to both companies for this unorthodox review – space is at at premium. And I wonder how many other people road-tested both versions ?