Sunday, April 08, 2007


Civic Theatre


Ted Ray did it. Vic Oliver, too. But I never thought to hear the violin played on the variety stage again. Andy Eastwood is the proud inheritor of the tradition, and on Easter Day in the Civic fiddled a selection of patriotic favourites, as well as playing banjo and Formby ukulele. He rightly lamented the demise of the comic song, though the selection he brought was ample proof of why they did not deserve to survive.

Duggie Chapman’s nostalgia-fest, appropriately entitled We’ll Meet Again, is in its fifth irony-free, over-amplified year. As well as the excellent Mr Eastwood, we had Shelley James, with memories of Ann Shelton, Vera Lynn and Our Gracie, and likeable innuendo from comic Steve Barclay.

The matinee began with a medley, or switch as we might have called it back then, and managed to cram in The Ovaltineys, Donald Peers’ Babbling Brook, Tex Ritter’s Deck of Cards, Good Night Sweetheart and two of Jimmy Perry’s pastiche songs from TV.

The show was perfectly timed, with a plethora of memories of entertainment’s finest hour. ENSA – Every Night Something Awful – was never like this.

Musical Director was Martyn St James, working brilliantly at a versatile keyboard, its possibly unpatriotic logo obscured by a huge Union Flag …

Friday, February 23, 2007


Iestyn Edwards at the Cramphorn Theatre


Life imitates art. A troupe of 13st Russian ballerinas starts a UK tour this week, playing the big ballets for laughs.

Madame Galina got there first, hilariously ticking the funding boxes, dancing better than ever, and auditioning hapless hopefuls – well done, Nigel – for La Bayadere.

Perhaps it’s rubbing up against all those squaddies in her new role as Forces’ Sweetheart – she’s danced in Iraq and Afghanistan since she was last in Chelmsford – but the masterclass seemed a little coarser: we certainly needed the “gone too far” monitor in the front row.

While she did her slap and her stretches in the Green Room, Iestyn Edwards warmed us up with an artless, affectionate autobiography. From Southwark Cathedral to Aldeburgh, with portraits of his Country and Western father, stage psychic mother, and his Aunt Sophia, who surely merits a show of her own.

A crazy crossover mix of music, too, with his own piano accompaniment. Cole Porter, Ave Maria, Feed the Birds. The Queen loved it, apparently.

I found it fascinating, poised between the knowing and the naïve, the touching and the tawdry.