Friday, December 28, 2001


Chelmsford Young Generation at the Cramphorn Theatre

Irita Kutchmy's musical version of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was a good choice for CYGAMSChristmas show. It involves loads of youngsters, and is a popular, perennial story. It's been sold out for weeks.

Purists will not like the Disneyfied travesty of much of the plot and many of the characters, but these young actors, directed as ever by Ray Jeffery, went to enormous lengths to capture the period feel and the poetry. Generally, though, performers of all ages could usefully have projected a little more strongly.

On the opening night we saw the left-hand cast - of these, I greatly enjoyed Amelia Burns as Susan, and Keeley Allen as a warm, outgoing Lucy, looking and sounding just right as a feisty evacuee. Mr Tumnus the faun was neatly personified by Mitchell Raymond, who delivered his lines with feeling and moved with poise and grace. The White Witch was not well served by the script, but Helen Morris gave a strong panto performance, a worthy match for Paul Synott's majestic Aslan.

The production crowded the Cramphorn stage, but the wartime prologue was effective, and I liked the lamp-post and the snow like fondant icing over the rocks and trees. And despite the clunky lyrics and the forgettable tunes, the audience, like the visitors to Narnia, happily forgot all about the real world for a magical couple of hours.

Friday, October 26, 2001


Opera della Luna at the Civic Theatre


Baldrick and Lady Bracknell in one evening ? A chance not given to many actors, but seized gleefully by Graham Hoadly in Opera della Luna’s sparkling pocket Pinafore at the Civic last week.

Eight singers and five musicians worked with enthusiasm and panache to give us the essence of G&S - doubling Deadeye with a formidable Aunt was just one ingenious example of making a virtue of necessity - I also enjoyed the Overture sequence, and the exquisitely Victorian opening to Act II, leading into the Captain’s equally Victorian ballad.

Ian Belsey was the middle class captain, with Joseph Shovelton looking and sounding just right as the patriotic pleb. Sarah Ryan’s pure, if slight, soprano was well suited to Josephine, and Louise Crane made a strong bumboat woman. The reliable David Timson gave a hilarious First Lord, true to tradition and relishing every word.

Not all conventions were ignored - the trio, with its encores, was only slightly sent up - but Jeff Clarke’s stripped-down version, which was first launched on the QE2, made the most of the ridiculous class-ridden snobberies behind Gilbert’s original libretto, whilst preserving the period charms of Sullivan’s music.