Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Calibre Productions at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford

“It doesn't hurt to have a laugh in here ...”
Here being Slade Prison, first glimpsed in this cosy stage version behind a gauze: could be West Side Story, with atmospheric fire-escape stairs and balconies.
Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais have cut and pasted some of the funnier lumps of Porridge for this production. 
Are they the Sheridan de nos jours, sitcoms ?  Calibre certainly seem to think so, with Allo Allo and Dad's Army also doing the rounds. Or maybe it's a safeish bet in these uncertain cultural times – sitcom script plus soap star equals surefire success.
Nostalgia plays a part too, as with most tribute acts. Hot Chocolate, the Wombles, the Sweeney, and on the soundtrack “Self Preservation Society” from The Italian Job.
A strong cast deliver a polished performance, directed by Gavin McAlinden, with gags and exit lines timed to perfection. A packed Civic laughs long and loud.
Shaun Williamson is a likeable Fletch, with Daniel West as his young cellmate. An OTT McKay from Nicholas Lumley, and my favourite re-creation: Peter Alexander's genial godfather Grouty, thin lipped smile and piggy eyes.
The set – by Paul Wills - is monumental and menacing, with the cell bunk shoved on by trusties. And this week sees the end of a long tour, with Slade coming home to Chelmsford, where the 1979 feature film was shot ...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Writtle Singers in Chelmsford Cathedral

Ancient texts, modern choral settings, though only one of the composers is still living.
She is Roxanna Panufnik, whose exquisite Westminster Mass brought the programme to a close. The extended chromatic harmonies of the Gloria, the rapid Hosannas of the Sanctus, the crescendo repetitions of the Agnus Dei, and the final peaceful resolution, all superbly realised by the Writtle Singers, made this a deeply moving experience on the eve of Holy Week. Alison Connolly was a fine soprano soloist for the Deus Meus. This was the Clifton Cathedral version, with organ [James Norrey], harp [Satu Salo] and wonderfully evocative bells [Katy Elman].
The other commission was Bernstein's much-loved Chichester Psalms. More percussion here, with a startling cymbal crash in the first bar. The powerful drums, and the mighty organ part, would have been better matched by a more unbuttoned choral approach, though I can understand why the singers would want to keep their eyes on the score or the conductor. No such concerns in the gorgeous second part, where Oliver El-Holiby's alto filled the cathedral with Bernstein's melodic line.
Christine Gwynne's challenging programme also included the unforced sincerity of Janacek's setting of the Lord's Prayer [sung in Czech], with its bold Amen, and a chance for James Norrey to put the West End organ through its paces, with Petr Eben's thrillingly martial Moto Ostinato.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hutton Players at the Brentwood Theatre

Marjorie Dunn's magnificent production had elegant furniture, suspended screens and serious wigs.
Ranjit Bolt's cleverly colloquial verse translation needs careful work to avoid plodding pantomime delivery, and not everyone was as successful in this as Glenda Abbott's pert maid Dorine, or Robert Bastian's dupe Orgon. John Mabey was a convincing son of Orgon, who sees through the “censorious fraud” of the title, nicely played by Alan Ablewhite, in a monk's habit, for some reason.
Much of the play is static, relying on the words and the intrigue, but I liked the scene changes done as a kind of ballet, to Lully, I presume. Martin Goldstone also spoke the Deus ex Machina at the end very stylishly; good to have voices such as his, and Brian Terry's [Loyal], in these small but vital roles.

Jim Hutchon's review for the Brentwood Weekly News :

Marjorie Dunn’s joyous production of Moliere’s 17th Century comedy was full of wit and style, and carried the jokes and clever language down the intervening 346 years untarnished (with some help from translator Ranjit Bolt). There was much invention and strong characterisation from all of the committed cast, who, after slightly shaky beginnings, handled the rather strict rhymes and rhythms with a natural air.

Based on the (then) risky assertion that much of religion is crooked, the key fraud (Tartuffe) was Alan Ablewhite, totally convincing as an unctuous monk inserting himself by degrees into the affections of the weak head of a rich family. Robert Bastian was that head, though I felt he could have toned down his very powerful performance for one a little more hesitant and deluded. As a Jeeves-like servant with a wide range of voices, Glenda Abbott was masterful in her scheming to rescue the family from their own folly. The seduction scene on a table-top between the wife of the house (delicately played by Meryl Spinks) and the monk, where she endeavours to reveal to her husband the monk’s true intentions, was genuinely memorable – especially when the husband was under the table!
Ray Howes’ very stylish set relied on hanging frames of gauze and a few sticks of furniture, and the costumes and wigs were completely in character for the period. Scene changing was done in a balletic fashion by Chrissie O’Connor and Martin Goldstone. This was a rare evening of real enjoyment for the near full house at Brentwood Theatre.

Jim Hutchon

Friday, March 26, 2010


King Edward VI School, Chelmsford


Ken Kesey's novel is best known in the Jack Nicholson cinema version. On stage, it presents challenges to actors and to audience, the artifice of the stage showing up some of the shortcomings of plot and character development.

So a bold choice for a school production, but one which paid off, I felt, allowing a huge cast to extend their talents and to work together to create an impressive ensemble piece.

David Woolford charmed his way through McMurphy's disgraceful behaviour; always on the move, everyone's buddy, making waves and inciting riot. A memorable performance. Amongst the other characters, three stood out. Chris Smith's self-harming mother's boy, shy, stuttering and totally believable. Jimmy Murphy, as Harding, the “head bull-goose loony” deposed by McMurphy's arrival, with his nervous, insecure, body language, and Robert  Wickham's Chief, a tall, imposing Native American whose dreams punctuate the play.

The manipulative, sadistic Nurse Ratched was confidently played by Carlotta Manzi Davies.

But every cast member gave the production 100%, always in character, always watchable, haunted faces and lunatic hair.

The white walls, the strip lights, the echoing ward and the piped Muzak all helped sustain an edgy, volatile atmosphere. As McMurphy says, as good as any movie.

production photos by Sam Brown

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Calibre Productions at the Mercury Theatre Colchester
22.03.10[reviewed for The Public Reviews]

Emboldened by the success of their Lost Episodes a couple of years ago, Calibre Productions have pressed the veterans of Walmington on Sea into service for another gruelling tour of duty. Many of the same cast are back on parade, and this time the four episodes include favourites of the writers, David Croft and Jimmy Perry, who adapted their original work for the stage.
That lovable spiv, Private Walker, is engagingly played by Leslie Grantham, who captures the seedy charm to perfection, with his restless legs and co-respondent shoes. It's his job to introduce the platoon, set the scene, and smooth the transition between episodes.
It must be strange to have your success in a role defined by how closely you resemble its original inhabitant. How accurately you murmur “Awfully Good”, or shout “Don't Panic”. It's not just Dad's Army, of course. Porridge – from the same production company - is touring hard on its heels, and I shall be interested to see what Chichester make of one of my favourites, Yes Prime Minister.
I thought Timothy Kightley was a superb Mainwaring. Fussy, bustling, puffed up, but vulnerable too, in his Brief Encounter with Sarah Berger's beautifully characterized Mrs Gray. His side-kick, the suave Sergeant Wilson, was played by David Warwick; not much of a look-a-like, but spot on with the drawl and the tics – earlobe, bridge of the nose …
Private Godfrey [Maitland Chandler] is at the heart of Branded – the one where he's accused of cowardice. Lance-Corporal Jones Richard Tate] is similarly maligned in the last episode, The 2½ Feathers. The most delightfully OTT performance came from Kern Falconer as a wild-eyed Frazer with his strangulated Scots vowels.
The women-folk come into their own in the British Restaurant, and in Mum's Army. Sarah Berger, who has to switch from Celia Johnson to ladling custard in a moment, was impressive, as was Ursula Mohan's Mrs Fox.
The set was open and uncluttered. The seagull waiting in the wings never got his moment of glory, the dinghy, upstage with the sandbags and barbed wire, was never tested at sea. The Church Hall, where most of the tv action took place, was represented by one window, the office by a desk, and so on.
Most effective dramatically, because it worked better on stage, was the flashback to Omdurman, with the platoon characters acting out the battle in the desert. But the whole show – four episodes and a bit of under-the-counter banter, plus the toast from the very last episode – was hugely enjoyable, and not just as a reminder of sitcoms past.
Celebrating 70 years of the Home Guard, the posters proudly proclaim. And, can it be true, 40 years of Dad's Army. 

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

Waltham Singers with the Salomon Orchestra 
in Chelmsford Cathedral


The Waltham Singers filled the Cathedral last Saturday, with a winning combination of Beethoven and Brahms.
Ein Deutsches Requiem, profoundly moving and powerfully performed here, in the original German version, began with a beautifully sustained “Selig” chord from the choir, an effect echoed an hour later in the “Sterben” of the final movement. Bold phrasing, and a quiet clarity, were hallmarks of Andrew Fardell's interpretation. I was impressed by the ending of the third part, the urgent tread of the fourth, and the energy of the sixth.
The soloists were the baritone David Stout, especially effective in suggesting our apprehension of death, and soprano Stefanie Kemball-Reid. I thought her voice had a little too much edge for this acoustic, but she did soar thrillingly in the fifth part.
The crucial orchestral accompaniment was provided by the Salomon Orchestra. The introduction to the second part, and the brass and percussion in the sixth, just two examples of many where the sensitive playing enhanced the work of the choir. 
As London's leading non-professional orchestra, they could no doubt play Beethoven's Fifth in their sleep, but this prestigious curtain-raiser was notable for its warm string tone, and the way in which the acoustic allowed the woodwind to stand out against the orchestra. A well-earned moment of triumph at the end, when both bows and baton were raised aloft.
Something of a three choirs festival in the Cathedral: the Chelmsford Singers with Handel and Vivaldi last week, and Writtle Singers with Bernstein and Panufnik next. 
[reviewed for The Public Reviews]

Shapeshifter and Fresh Glory Productions at the Mercury Theatre Colchester


We see the landing stage first – a storm-wracked, ramshackle wooden affair. Adrift on the Mercury stage, it will be the raft, Huck's home, the island, Aunt Sally's farm …
Then we hear the harmonies: seven offstage voices in One More River. They converge on the stage, and we're off on Huck and Jim's momentous journey, further and further south down the Mississippi, finding trouble as they go.
James Graham's skilful adaptation deliberately emphasises Twain's themes of slavery and freedom, which, as he says, are sadly relevant 150 years on. But much of the fun remains, the word-play, the picaresque adventures. And the excellently produced programme – the only advertisement is for Bridgewater's snake oil – gives invaluable background to the history, the geography, the novel and the play.
John Terry's production, done for the intimate Theatre at Chipping Norton, mixes tender reflection and rumbustious theatricality. I liked the way the family home was conjured up by three actors holding lamp, bookshelf and window. The steamboat collision was dramatically suggested with very modest means. And the multi-layered presentation of the feud: overtly theatrical, with Jim roped in for a bit part, and the whole sub-plot done as a music hall production number. Wonderful. The Great Escape at the end, master-minded by Jos Vantyler's slightly camp Tom Sawyer, was another highlight. Either side of the interval, another thespian reference, as the Duke's “David Garrick the Younger” gives his Hamlet to the local flatheads, then scarpers with the takings, avoiding retribution and the critics' vegetables.
Ian Harris was inspired as the conman, his funeral service as imperfectly remembered as his Shakespeare. He also played a mean fiddle, and the musical saw, in the folksy incidental music which, with the atmospheric lighting, did so much to maintain the mood.
Graeme Dalling was a likeable Huck, who'd look as much at home in the 21st century as the 19th, engagingly taking us into his confidence, sharing, more or less willingly, his memories of the mighty Mississippi. His travelling companion, Jim the runaway slave, was played with powerful dignity by Joe Speare.
A trio of effective characters from David Brett, notably as Huck's abusive father, and the Colonel with his wobbly moustache. Lucy Pearman provided romantic interest, a touching Mary-Jane, while Rosalind Cressy coped with six older ladies who variously fuss, boss and mother the lad as he makes his optimistic way through the world.
The original tale is episodic, long and rambling. This version attempted to give the story some structure, and achieved a real sense of moving on, of Huck and Jim's river road to freedom.

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Ingatestone Choral Society in the Parish Church 


Rutter's accessible Requiem was a good choice for this Sunday evening concert. Its catchy, organic melodies were well served by Bruce Pennick's choir: the joyful peal of the Sanctus followed by the tolling bell of the Agnus Dei. The accompanist was Martyn Heald.

As Patrick Sherring the incumbent reminded us, this is a very old church, and the Latin Office for the Dead, and the Burial Service from the Book of Common Prayer, effectively combined in Rutter's Agnus Dei, must have found many an echo in these ancient walls.

The young soprano soloist, who brought a telling purity to the Pie Jesu, was Sophie Moul.

We heard a clutch of choral fillers before the main work, including Britten's Hymn to the Virgin, Phyllis Harvey's lovely setting of George Herbert's Easter, and Howard Goodall's 23rd Psalm, better known as the theme to The Vicar of Dibley.

Lunchtime concert at Chelmsford Cathedral


“I wouldn't trouble, not just for one singer ...”
Overheard on the Colchester bus last week.

Well, madam, you missed a gem. Not for the first time, Kate Woolf and her pianist Paul Bryan enraptured the Cathedral audience with an imaginative thematic programme, beautifully delivered.

This was their eightieth recital together, marking ten years of musical collaboration.

The theme this time was night and sleep. After Purcell's Evening Hymn, we heard substantial song settings from Delius, including the Lied-like Hidden Love, and the folksy Young Venevil.

Ivor Gurney's Sleep showed off Kate's pure, open tone to perfection, Fauré's Après un Rêve was gloriously phrased, and the sequence ended with Barber's setting of a James Agee poem, Sure on this shining night.

But my favourite was the Charm of Lullabies, written by Benjamin Britten in 1948. There is a dark undertow, here, and certainly Sephestia's Lullaby and A Charm both foreshadow his Turn of the Screw, with its ambivalent attitude towards innocence, written a few years later.

We demanded an encore, of course, and got a delightful Delius Ibsen setting – Now chimney tops and gables...

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far
Of shadows on the stars. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010



OffSpringers at the Cramphorn Theatre Chelmsford

“What possessed him?” The eccentric professor [Henry Whitington] has allowed common tourists into his sanctum. And the C S Lewis estate has allowed hacks to adapt his classic works for stage and screen.

Some have been almost worthy – Adrian Mitchell for the RSC – but Irita Kutchmy's trite travesty has little sense of style either in its words or its music.

What it does do is allow a huge OffSpringers cast, some of them very tiny, to enjoy dressing as animals and being the Rabble, with Maria French's choreography making the most of every opportunity. Not a number goes by without the chorus creeping on to give support. Even the touching soliloquy for Edmund [Matthew Barnes] had Isobelle Molloy's chirpy Robin dancing around.

I liked the bold black and white setting; the all-important wardrobe was cleverly designed. Some of the most striking scenes were towards the end, with the stone table, using smoke and light to good effect. The best numbers were the tongue in cheek ones, like the tap-dancing invitation to tea.

When I saw the show, early in the run, there was some insecurity, and too many moments when nothing happened, awkwardly. The costumes, though, were superb [In Delight's Leonie Rose].

Performances of note included Tamara Anderson's seductive White Witch, well matched by Owen Green's noble Aslan. Ben Hitchen looked great as Tumnus the Faun, but could have been more fey; Eve French gave an assured performance as the youngest Pevensie – we shared her wonder as she wandered first into Narnia. Mr and Mrs Beaver [Kieran Young and and Rebekah Walker] were both very watchable; a shame they couldn't have a  better number.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was directed for OffSpringers by Alexandra Arrowsmith, with June Watson as Musical Director.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

[reviewed for The Public Reviews]
Cut to the Chase 
at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

His talents are evident early on. He sits in his modest New York flat, conning a poor cartoonist on the other end of the phone into sending him a tax cheque. He has an answer for everything, does Mr Ripley.
His story is familiar through the Fifties novel, a Sixties art house film from France, and of course the Minghella movie.
In Bob Carlton's assured production, we see him constantly re-invent his past, befriend the gilded playboy Dickie Greenleaf [a coolly charming Elliot Harper], steal his ring, and his words, become a better artist, a better son, and, we guess, a better lover.
Marcus Webb is more Matt Damon than Alain Delon, but he successfully captures the heartless outsider who comes to realise he can never return home. The scene with Harper recalling a soccer match, the confrontation with Freddie Miles [Sam Pay] were both beautifully played.
Sam Kordbacheh gave two Italian cameos, and Simon Jessop was excellent as Greenleaf Senior and a cynical, suspicious investigating officer. Karen Mann played the ailing mother and the garrulous Aunt Dottie.
The production's design helps the mood: Mongibello, a world of “Blue sea, white sand and sun that always shines”. The staging suggests a pool and the ocean without ever being literal, and locations are flagged with posters. Greenleaf's daubs are prominently displayed. Dramatic effects, not all as clichéd as the blood-red light for the murders, include a mirror for Ripley to mimic Dickie, a stylised motor boat with a huge compass card behind it, and a clever flashback with a twist. Time is telescoped as girlfriend Marge [an elegantly vapid Francesca Loren] drifts in and out. Costume subtly suggests period and lifestyle, with a particularly evocative swim-suit for Marge. And of course, Ripley, born to fill Dickie's shoes, gradually adopts his wardrobe along with his persona.
The strong, if somewhat unsatisfying ending [the novel was the first of a series] has Aunt Dottie recounting a dream very similar to the one Ripley shares at the beginning of Act One. But he hears none of it, stock still in his own world of silence and paranoia.
One of the strengths of the story is that it tends to stay with you – no wonder Patricia Highsmith felt drawn to bring her anti-hero back. The same is true of this production; it often felt like a chamber opera with its arias, duets and ensembles, its themes and variations. I guess half the audience knew at least the gist of Ripley's story, and that he's condemned to live happily ever after under cover. But it's good to see it played out again, especially so stylishly: the rape, the razor, the rich but restless Tom Ripley ...  
the photograph upbraids me for not alluding to the homoerotic subtext, most explicit in the flashback to the killing, but present in so many of these stylish scenes ...                                            
this review first appeared on The Public Reviews

Monday, March 15, 2010


Unexpected Opera at the Civic Theatre Chelmsford


Like the same company's Barber of Savile Row, this was an adaptation that probably sounded better in the planning than it did in the execution.

Briefly, the idea was to translate Offenbach's operetta, already an irreverent pastiche, to Kent in the 70s, and Bondi Beach via Mount Olympus. Orpheus is a violin teacher, Pluto is disguised as a Dylanesque folk singer, and Bacchus is variously Brucie, a Russian coach and an Aussie barman.

This version, by Tim Riley and Lynn Binstock, while it had no shortage of good ideas, did little to make the tangled plot more intelligible. Styx became a snooker star, Mercury was spaced out, and the Galop was a game of beach volleyball, in what was a highlight of the show, followed by a warm-up, which would have been useful earlier on, but which garnered more laughter in ten minutes than the operetta did in two hours.

The production boasted a large cast, some inspired zaniness – swimming in Y-fronts to the Sydney Opera House pursued by a shark - much lovely singing,[ Eunice's death aria, Styx's Back In The Day ] and an excellent on-stage band [Music Director Stephen Hose], but a lack of pace and direction meant that fizz and sparkle were in short supply.
[reviewed for The Public Reviews]
Trestle and Moon Fool at the Mercury Theatre Studio Colchester


A magical hour – almost fairy time – in the company of Trestle and Ill Met By Moonlight, a surreal re-imagining of Shakespeare's Dream.

In a dark, warm, misty space, we find Peter Swaffer-Reynolds' merry wanderer of the night. Think Mr Bean meets Woody Allen. He's muttering about rope, the crow's-nest, suitcases of memory. In one such suitcase, he shows us, is a dead garden; it's later to bloom …

He half-remembers Quince's prologue, and we're into the play proper, with the arrival of the actors: Christopher Sivertsen as jealous Oberon, and Anna-Helena McLean as proud Titania, given to playing a moody cello, for all the world like Lady Jane in Patience.

The piece is shot through with the most wonderfully atmospheric original music – not just the tongs and the bones, but a plaintive accordeon, a keyboard, a big drum doubling as full moon, and a strident sax, with which Puck transforms Oberon into an ass, the “vile thing” with which Titania falls in love. His spell whips them into a very physical frenzy, but there are no hairy ears here, just the grubby vest which is now almost de rigueur for any Bottom.
“Ill Met” is a lounge number delivered by Ol' Blue Eyes, “I know a bank” a love duet.
The actors are lithe, flexible - I liked their musical panting, and the billowing red sails for the Imperial Votress sequence. The set, with its red drapes and its deep well/tomb, suits the tiny space of the studio. The lighting – lateral, with a nice cross-beam effect – enhances the dreamy atmosphere. Shakespeare's verse is respected, mostly, and well served. But I'm not sure how successful the concept would be for an audience innocent of the original. Is it like a jazz re-working of an old standard, where the melody lingers as a shadow ?  Or more like Stoppard's takes on Shakespeare, where at least some textual knowledge is helpful ?  The small audience is full of enthusiasm as we file out to mingle with the Romeo and Juliet interval from the Mercury Main House.

The fairy king and queen are re-united, the lovely Indian Boy is dead, and our nerdy companion Robin Goodfellow collects Oberon's discarded shirt, and turns back to us once more as the lights die. And it's over all too soon – swifter than the wind, swifter than the wandering moon ...

this review first appeared on The Public Reviews

Chelmsford Singers in Chelmsford Cathedral


Handel's festive anthems for the 1727 Coronation were paired with vibrant settings by his Venetian contemporary Vivaldi in an ambitious and hugely enjoyable evening of choral music.

They began with The King Shall Rejoice, sung with enthusiasm, accompanied by the sparkling strings of an unnamed but stylish orchestra. I was impressed by the long sustained phrases in the Glory, and the clarity and precision of the closing Alleluia.

Less extrovert, My Heart Is Inditing, saw the Singers spurred on by Peter Nardone expressive direction, while the best known of the four anthems, Zadok The Priest, had its drama and its dynamics carefully managed. I liked the way the repeated word “King” was allowed, almost imperceptibly, to echo and decay.

Vivaldi's brief Beatus Vir moved thrillingly, rhythmically towards its Gloria; the Magnificat was lovingly shaped, with sustained notes over a regular pulse. The more famous Gloria in D Major, featured some of the best solo singing of the evening, with sensitive accompaniment from oboe and cello, and a splendid fugal finish from the choir.

The Chelmsford Singers were directed by Peter Nardone, with and orchestra led by Kathryn Parry. The soloists were Sophie Biebuyck, Soprano, Lucy Goddard, mezzo and Daniel Chard, alto.

Friday, March 12, 2010

King Edward VI School Chelmsford

KEGS Spring Concert effectively showcased the strengths of its music department.
We heard a sizeable choir, directed by Maggie Diffley, in a Handel Coronation anthem, a chamber ensemble in Grieg's Elegiac melodies, including the beautiful Last Spring, a Jamaican Rumba from the juniors. There was even a string quartet giving an impressive performance of the last two movements of Borodin's second quartet, especially effective in the opening of the Nocturne, with the melody weaving back and forth between cello and violin.

But the most memorable performance must be that Everest of the piano repertoire, the Grieg Concerto. Prodigiously talented soloist Sasha Millwood gave a bright, forward interpretation,  though there was a real pensive tenderness in the Adagio, and in the Cadenza in the opening Allegro. I liked the playful prancing in the finale before the thunder rolls back in. He was brilliantly supported by the smallish senior orchestra.

As is the custom these days, he rewarded his audience for their standing ovation with an encore: Lucifer's Banjo, Martin Butler's fiendish study for repeated notes.

And even then, instead of a rest and a rub down, he picked up his fiddle to lead the orchestra in more Borodin, the ever popular Polovtsian Dances, which came to life after a tentative start, and featured some fine solos, notably from the clarinet.

The conductor was KEGS Director of Music Tim Worrall.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Chelmsford Ballet Company at the Civic Theatre


Mozart, Weber, Strauss – Cinderella has danced to them all. Nowadays Prokofiev is the default composer, so it was good to hear a Glazunov score for this colourful and original version.

The music was arranged for BalletMet in 2002; this was not their ballet, but a new interpretation by Annette Potter, who also choreographed and directed.

The whole thing seemed fresh and lively. I loved the Step Sisters [Harriet Austin and Nicole Gadbury], the despair of Father [John Richardson], as they flounced and pouted like the spoilt offspring of a rock star, often on pointe, always amusing, especially in the dancing lesson with Andrew Potter.

The mice were smartly attired, and always a-quiver. They were key, with the corps de ballet, to the transformation; the way the dancers in front reflected the movement of the coach was magical.

Rachel Watson was impressive as the Fairy Godmother, and it was good to see Mandev Sokhi back as the Prince, and Lucy Durno in the title role. She was a feisty Cinders. Her Act One solo was touching and beautifully danced, as was the Act Two solo when she remembers dancing with the Prince. Other highlights were the Pas de Cinq when she clearly relished being the belle of the ball, and the human clock for the midnight hour.

Cinderella, Father and the Step Sisters at Ingatestone Hall - photgraphy by Tony Cockrell and Rod Tinseley