Saturday, September 30, 2017


Chichester Festival Theatre at the Minerva

A visceral, intimate Lear: a unique staging with McKellen's tragic king at its centre, and the audience on the edge of the torrential storm.
As director Jonathan Munby has it, this is conversation, not declaration, in the shared air of a room.
It's set in Britain, in a recognisable land, at a time which still feels like the familiar recent past. It opens with pomp and circumstance, a Latin anthem, and speeches from a dais with microphones. A formal Lear divides his kingdom by taking a pair of scissors to a map. The daughters make their pitch, and in the first sign of his true affections, the king sketches a couple of dance steps with her as he helps Cordelia to the lectern.
But there are signs of the dementia to come, a moment of temper brandishing a chair.
There are many such dramatic outbursts: Lear's knights – got up as hooray henrys or Young Farmers – and the volleys of bread at the feast, the suspended cage for the stocks, the stark abattoir for the blinding, and the Fool confronting Edmund to end Part One. And much later, Goneril, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, walking along the wall of Dover chalk at the back of the stage.
McKellen is magnificent. Not only as the ailing, failing King, feeble in mind and body, but also in the stronger man, fighting his own battles almost to the end, doggedly carrying the body of Cordelia slung across his back. To see him rage against the storm, or realise the perfidy of his flinty-hearted daughters, at such close quarters is an unforgettable theatrical experience.
He heads an impressive cast. His fool is Phil Daniels, a comedian with comedy glasses and a banjolele; imagined here as a kind of aide-de-camp, he is perhaps most at ease in the earlier scenes.
The scene with Gloucester, movingly done by Danny Webb, has echoes of Godot as the two old men sit and talk – later there’s even a leafless tree …
Webb is especially strong in his scenes with Jonathan Bailey as Edgar [aka Poor Tom], the other wronged child in this tragedy – his madness never overplayed, his empathy with Cordelia helping to meld together these two parallel plotlines.
This production has much in common with Nancy Meckler’s version running concurrently at Shakespeare’s Globe – the contemporary parallels, and especially an outstanding Countess of Kent – at Chichester it is Sinead Cusack, excellent both as courtier and as Caius, disguised in exile.
Kirsty Bushell’s Regan is brutally sensual, gleefully relishing the blinding of Gloucester (in the abattoir, with a meat hook); Dervla Kirwan’s changing moods as Goneril make her the more interesting of the sinister sisters, while Tamara Lawrance’s youthful Cordelia has a strong, sympathetic presence. Damien Molloy is a striking Edmund, while among the lesser characters I especially enjoyed Michael Matus as a pompous footman, casually combing his brilliantined hair.

A privilege to see this great Shakespearean at the height of his powers – and, at 78, still carrying his Cordelia, and getting drenched to the skin every night. A privilege to share his air, and the relentless torrential rain of the storm …

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


CAODS at the Civic Theatre

for Sardines

A juke box musical par excellence, featuring an actual juke box, and music from that golden era when those Seebergs and Wurlitzers were the beating heart of youth culture.
The title number – which makes a great opener for Act Two – is just one of dozens of hits from the King's discography, generously applied to a frothy story set in the summer of '55.
Shakespeare contributes a few plot devices, a sonnet and a quote, but there's not much here to trouble the academics.
It is enormous fun, though, put across with style and infectious enthusiasm in Sallie Warrington's bold, energetic production.
A lively ensemble show, the big numbers filling the stripped-back set with jiving blue suede shoes: the love tangles nicely suggested by the Act One finale – Can't Help Falling In Love.
The wedding walk-down brings all of the couples together, even the problematic pairing of roustabout Chad – Simon Bristoe, with quiff, swivelling hips and curling lip, bringing a knowing narcissism to the role – and tomboy grease monkey Natalie, who assumes boyish attire to win her man. She's played with engaging naivety – and a great singing voice – by Tamara Anderson.
Amongst the other star-crossed couples are youngsters Dean and Lorraine, Dannii Carr and Charlotte Broad, geeky Dennis [Oli Budino] finding happiness at last with Cassie Estall's starchy Miss Sandra, who shares his love for the Bard. Excellent character work from David Slater as Natalie's widowed father and Robyn Gowers as the wisecracking, worldly Sylvia, who runs the local Honky-Tonk. And from Debra Sparshott as the killjoy Mayor, who finally finds a spectacular sense of fun, with Philip Spurgeon as her side-kick “not now” Earl.
Clare Penfold is the Musical Director, bringing those familiar numbers to vibrant life in their dramatic context. The sound favours decibels over depth, but there are some lovely melodic moments, such as the sobbing sax for Sylvia's big sing, There's Always Me.

The first night audience were on their feet for the rousing C'mon Everybody finale; by Saturday night it'll be hard to stop them invading the stage and bopping along with Chad and this cracking All Shook Up company.

production photograph: Brad Wendes

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Barefoot Opera at St Leonard's, Shoreditch

Gloomy, Palladian St Leonard's. If any artist were roaming its shadows, it should surely be Mario Cavaradossi. But here it's Marcello and his student chums, bringing bohemian Paris to vibrant life in Barefoot Opera's lovely chamber version of Puccini's earlier hit.
It's not an obvious venue for opera. Hard pews, poor sight-lines, and an ecclesiastical acoustic, in which the band and the women fared best, leaving the men to struggle to make their words clear in the muddying wash. But the space is well used dramatically in Jenny Miller's intimate new production: the nave becomes the street, the Café Momus blends into the audience, a simple scaffold gives height, with a banner backdrop which also screens the surtitles. Umbrellas provide a sense of place, and lighting; they make a wonderfully atmospheric start to Act III.
A very small chorus – and no gamins; I liked the way that actors portrayed the wind, the garret parrot and even the moon. Lesley Anne Sammons directed a tiny band from the piano – the use of the accordion [Milos Milosovic] was inspired, and seemed so right for the Latin Quarter. Another stroke of genius was to have the Musician, Shaunard [Andrew Sparling], flit between stage and pit, contributing some superb clarinet solos.
Mimi was beautifully sung by Lucy Ashton – a bright, rich soprano voice. Her “pink bonnet” aria in Act III, and the duet which followed, were musical highlights of the evening. Andrew McGowan, in red baseball cap and black lipstick, was a very modern Rodolfo. Perhaps because of the acoustic, his tenor sometimes seemed underpowered, but he had some fine moments, notably the “Addio” quartet at the end of Act III. The other couple, whose tiff provides dramatic counterpoint to Mimi's reconciliation with her poet, were the strongly sung – and colourfully characterized - Marcello of Oscar Castellino, and Kayleigh McEvoy's impressive Musetta, the scarlet party-girl who leaves Alcindoro [Tim Patrick] for Marcello. Her big number, the seductive Waltz song, was delivered in a very animated style, modelling hats, stripping on a table, kicking assiettes, and never missing a note or an inflection.
The philosopher student, Colline, [Matthew Thistleton] cut a much more traditional figure than the poet, the painter or the musician. A classic profile, and a burnished baritone for his “Vecchia zimarra”, where he bids farewell to his favourite overcoat.
This intimate production, uniquely bringing a fresh, youthful perspective to the classic opera, ends its tour in Cheltenham on October 28 – their next show, in Hastings, will be very different: Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea.


Trinity Methodist Music and Drama


Chelmsford's answer to the City Varieties, an enjoyable compendium of songs I'd last encountered as shellac on my aunt's ancient Victrola, or sheet music in the dusty depths of our old piano stool.
Here's Roses of Picardie and I Wouldn't Leave My Little Wooden Hut. And the Tin Gee-Gee, beautifully delivered by David Rayner, who also introduced us to the more familiar Polly Perkins. Two military numbers from Tom Whelan, backed by the girls for his Galloping Major, and by the Ain't Half Hot men on the Road to Mandalay.
But for the most part it was a succession of glamorous ladies, in gorgeous frocks, delivering their numbers – sometimes one verse too long - and graciously acknowledging their applause. Outstanding among them, Pat Hollingsworth bravely showing her Popsy Wopsy, and giving a stupendous I Want to Sing in Opera. And “Dame” Janet Moore with The Bells of St Mary's and, less authentically, I'll Walk Beside You.
Patsy Page, who directed the show, gave a spirited revival of a patriotic recruiting song from 1914, and our orotund chairman, Michael Wilson, who introduced each act with a winning blend of eloquence and double entendre, favoured us with a melodic rendering of Stanley Holloway's Brahn Boots.

Since this was Trinity, there were some welcome helpings of operetta – the Gendarmes' Duet, Maxim's and the Chocolate Soldier. Plus a couple of all-too-brief extracts from The Arcadians and Floradora, both hugely popular with Operatic Societies in their day. Time for a revival, perhaps ?

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Mercury Theatre, Colchester


for The Reviews Hub

“It's just people talking,” is how the playwright modestly sums up The Weir.
And so it is. But Conor McPherson's compelling chamber piece has proved popular at home and abroad over its twenty year life, picking up an Olivier for best new play along the way.
The Weir is the name of the bar where all this talking goes on. Conversations in a pub. The barman shares his day with Jack, and later with Jim. The talk turns to Valerie, a Dubliner, a new incomer to this rural village. When she shows up – with Finbar – the banter and the shared memories take on something of the supernatural, and Valerie is moved to share a tale of her own …
That spare summary ignores the richness of the writing, and the finely detailed characters of these storytellers. In Adele Thomas's atmospheric production, the listening carries equal weight with the speaking: each time a ghost story emerges from the casual conversation, the ripe banter, the faces of the listeners, so many still figures in a careful, painterly composition, add weight to the tale. The feel of the pub is largely naturalistic. Madeleine Girling's set accurately recreates this unremarkable, out-of-the-way hostelry, almost entirely devoid of character. But the lighting and the soundscape hint at a different world. And when the pub is deserted once more – the show runs for an hour and three-quarters without a break – the characters and their stories seem to linger for a moment in the stale air of the bar.
The acting is naturalistic too, even in the heightened other-worldly atmospheres of the ghost stories, and those rich Irish accents – dialect coach Hugh O'Shea – take a while to tune in to, and a few words might go missing along the way.
Sean Murray has the best role: Jack, the cantankerous curmudgeon, pouring his bottled Guinness, man-spreading like a leprechaun on his bar stool. His voice coloured by countless Silk Cut, he tells the first tale, “relishing the details”, of a house built across a Fairy Road. And several pints later, in an armchair by the turf stove, he tells the last - ”not a ghostly story” -  revealing the roots of his loneliness, a guest at the wedding of the woman he loved and lost. The two other “single fellers” are barman Brendan (Sam O'Mahony), who is denied a story to share, and Jim (a very convincing John O'Dowd), the quiet man with “more going on in there than you might think”, whose gravedigger's tale is perhaps the most spine-chilling.
Except, that is, for the story that Valerie tells. Inspired by listening to these fanciful tales of the supernatural, in which the boundaries between life and death seem blurred, she calmly reveals the all-too-real tragic events that led to her separation and her arrival in the village, seeking peace and quiet in the countryside. A heart-rending performance from Natalie Radmall-Quirke: hesitant, understated, emotionally drained beneath her sociable façade.
Her guide to the village is Louis Dempsey's Finbar, who left for Carrick to make his fortune. Married but playing the field, he stands in stark contrast to the other three, accentuated by his cream-coloured suit and his ready smile.
“We'll all be ghosts soon enough,” says Jack. And we wonder for a moment if these five, taking refuge for a while from the wuthering wind outside, are perhaps just spirits. But the bar is haunted, not by the dead, but by feelings of loss, of loneliness, of lives unfulfilled.
This production, a collaboration between The Mercury and English Touring Theatre, is by no means entirely melancholy – an earthy profanity and infectious Irish charm ensure that our evening spent in the Weir is enjoyably entertaining as well as poignantly moving.

production photograph: Marc Brenner

Sunday, September 17, 2017


at Shakespeare's Globe

Here's the history play Shakespeare wishes he'd written. He would certainly know the legend of the warrior queen. He might even have seen Fletcher's Bonduca, a fanciful romance staged in 1613, which was possibly the Boadicea play that was originally scheduled for the Prologue Season here at the Globe.
Tristan Bernays' play is Shakespearean in many senses. It's largely written in verse and in early modern English [“marry”, “needs must”] unlike Charles III, where the pentameters are concealed in contemporary dialogue. Not at all easy to pull off, it works surprisingly well, though some advice from the Globe's many experts would have avoided the occasional infelicities, and eradicated the bizarre insistence on using a nominative pronoun after a preposition: there it is in the publicity pull-quote - I’d rather walk in blood than walk a slave / For he thy Emperor!
There are many contemporary echoes – the nature of nation – the Roman who was born here and has never seen Rome – the evils of military occupation. Brexit too, perhaps.
It mixes drama and comedy – here it's the Roman military providing light relief, comedy enemies like the Nazis in 'Allo 'Allo.
It plays fast and loose with history, giving prominence, and names, to Boudica's two daughters. Cunobeline [Shakespeare's Cymbeline] is resurrected; many of the scenes are reminiscent of Lear.
And it sits very well on the Globe stage, even in the shared light of a rainy matinée. The space is imaginatively used in Eleanor Rhode's powerful production. Soliloquies, battles [always mention the numbers], visceral violence, a funeral and audacious abseiling.
The setting is stark. Upright boards screen the frons scenae. Later they're highlighted in gold, later still they fall forwards with a gunshot crack, and for the second act become trees swaying in the breeze.
It's a story about strong women, and they are excellently cast. Anna-Maria Nabirye is Andraste, the gold-brassarded goddess of war who gives the prologue and epilogue. The title role is played by Gina McKee, with a strong stillness which contrasts with the powerful anger of her two daughters: Joan Iyiola's Alonna, who seeks peace with the Romans, and Natalie Simpson's Blodwynn, the more violent sister, overlooked by Boudica as her heir. After Boudica's death - “Sweet goddess you have come for me,” she whispers as she took belladonna – the girls fight and weep together, as Alonna, too, foresees the future of her native land.
Broad characterizations for the men: Abraham Popoola's imposing, belligerent Badvoc, king of the Belgi [wasn't aware that his name existed outside Rory McGrath's Chelmsford 123], Samuel Collings' effete Catus, Clifford Samuel's sympathetic, noble Suetonius, the Roman Governor. And, most successful with the text, most at home in the Globe, Forbes Masson as a very celtic Cunobeline.

As if afraid that the audience would not engage with this piece of ancient history, the grisaille of the Globe is obscured by banks of speakers, The Clash provide the music for the jig and the opening of Act Two. But in truth the writing, despite its flaws, the movement and the bold performances could have wowed the groundlings at any point in the Globe's history, from the Burbages to Michelle Terry.

production photograph; Steve Tanner

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Chichester Festival Theatre at the Minerva

As seems to be the fashion on both sides of the road here, the stage is stygian as we walk in. This time, Tim Hatley's set – walled-off from the audience to dado height - is concealed in a black gauze box, which serves as an Act Curtain for this traditional well-made play.
The space inside becomes, with neatly choreographed changes of furniture and props, the house in Surrey, an office and a gentleman's flat in Albany.
It's the world of Galsworthy, Shaw or Somerset Maugham.
And also the world of Githa Sowerby; the difficult “second play” which followed her successful Rutherford and Sons.
It has scarcely been seen since its première in 1924. Too old-fashioned, melodramatic even, for the big boys, too difficult for the amateur stage. Also to blame, perhaps, is the very misogyny that this powerful drama exposes.
Miss Relph, Lois, is left a fortune by the woman whose companion she's been. Nineteen and naïve, still grieving, she's easy prey for the woman's brother, who believes the inheritance should have been his. “Fanny never liked me,” he whinges. He prevents the solicitor from seeing her, and welcomes the girl into the house, at first as governess to his two little girls.
Ten years pass.
Lois is now a successful businesswoman, using her skills as a seamstress to run the Ginevra couture house. But the repellent Eustace has lost all her money in risky investments, and it becomes clear that there is nothing left, save the income from the dress shop.
All the men involved, it seems, have conspired to keep the truth from her. “I hate talking business with a woman,” complains the family solicitor [Simon Chandler]; he will try his utmost to prevent his son [Samuel Valentine, resplendent in full dress uniform] from wedding Eustace's elder daughter [an excellent Eve Ponsonby].
As the monstrously manipulative Eustace, Will Keen gives a memorably reptilian performance, trembling with barely repressed violent rages, but managing to “smile and smile and be a villain”. His opposite in almost every way is kind dependable Peter, neighbour and financier, played with a fine sense of period by David Bark-Jones.
Ophelia Lovibond is Lois, movingly progressing from naïve, tearful teenager to capable business-woman to bruised, broken victim.
There's strong support from an outstanding company, including Joanna David as the aged Aunt Charlotte, Sharon Wattis as a moody maid, and Macy Nyman contributing a touching study of the dumpy younger daughter who goes to pieces as she learns of her stepmother's plight, her father's wickedness and Lois's infidelity.
Richard Eyre's immaculate production is probably more physical than the original of almost a century ago; it is shockingly brutal in its portrayal of the masculine mores of its time, by no means irrelevant in our own era.
Act One ends with a tender moment of love-making by the embers of the drawing room hearth. Act Two with tea for three, and countless questions unanswered: will the awful Eustace use Lois's £200 to start anew in the Antipodes – like Abel Magwitch ? Will Monica marry her Cyril, and will Lois find happiness with Peter, her rock, whose last awkward telephone call sends his love only as an afterthought …

Friday, September 08, 2017


at Brentwood Theatre

A record nineteen awards at this year's Brents – the glittering evening celebrating community theatre, and rewarding the best of the shows staged here over the past year.
It's a slick operation, with thesps and luvvies, dressed to kill, packing the tables. Live music, a la Academy Awards, provided by Tonality, directed by Andy Prideaux. And, new this year, we were treated to a brilliant musical curtain-raiser from some familiar Brentwood talent, including the new Theatre Manager, Jon Hare.
It was good to see outgoing manager Mark Reed and technical supremo David Zelly rewarded with Brents of their own: the Mary Redman Award for 2017.
Peter Taylor, another backstage hero, was recognised in the Jo Stoneham Award.
Other individuals in the spotlight included Lloyd Bonson, for his Pooh-Bah in Shenfield Operatic's Hot Mikado, Kerry Cooke for her Katisha in the same show.
Darren Matthews won Best Actor for his Joe Pirelli in the latest RoxyKrasner for The College Players [the Best Play this year], and Juliet Thomas was crowned Best Actress in a Musical for her Rita in the excellent Made in Dagenham from Brentwood Operatic, which also won Best Musical.
A strong showing from the younger generation; two very young performers – Summer Hicks and James Nash, won Brents for their roles in The Music Man, from Billericay Operatic. And the Margaret Hutton Youth Group Award went to BOSSY's Hairspray.

full list of nominees and winners here

thanks to Claire Collinson Photography

Wednesday, September 06, 2017


The National Theatre at the Olivier

The eagerly awaited NT Follies – latest star-studded revival of Sondheim's 1971 masterwork.
It must be almost 40 years ago that I saw what I think was the UK première – a production by students of the University of Southern California, in the cavernous, faded splendour of the auditorium of Portobello Town Hall.
Dominic Cooke's production, with designs by Vicki Mortimer, uses the depth and height of the Olivier stage to recreate the derelict Weismann Follies, inspired perhaps by the iconic photograph of Gloria Swanson in the ruins of the Roxy Theatre, reproduced in the lavish souvenir programme.
The ravages of time are central to his interpretation – the older characters are contrasted with their younger selves, forever walking through conversations or shadowing the movements of half-forgotten numbers. So, as in Merrily We Roll Along, we are reminded of the fate of the glowingly optimistic young things. The young lovers watch from atop the rubble as their older selves reminisce and fight. The showgirls – beautifully dressed – appear like ghosts or angels on the rusty fire-escapes – the closest we get to a walk-down staircase. The 21-strong band [MD Nigel Lilley, in white tie] are glimpsed in the upstage shadows.
The 37 cast members include excellent chorus – Bill Deamer's choreography is wonderfully well served – and some of the best musical theatre performers in the land. Janie Dee is Phyllis, unhappily married to Ben, stylishly sung [not for the first time] by Philip Quast. She flirts passionately with a callow waiter [Jordan Shaw] and gives a near-definitive Could I Leave You, very simply staged. Peter Forbes is Buddy, whose dowdy wife – from Phoenix AZ – is the legendary Imelda Staunton, already Olivier-laurelled for three other Sondheim leading ladies. Her Losing My Mind is unbearably tragic, and she brings the same sad despair to much of her dialogue.
Her younger self is Alex Young; Phyllis's Zizi Strallen.
Superb characters from Di Botcher as the chain-smoking Hattie – Broadway Baby; Tracie Bennett, flaky, heavily mascara'd, gives a manically, despairingly defiant I'm Still Here.
The role of Roscoe is key to setting the tone [with Beautiful Girls] – good to see the excellent Bruce Graham given space to make an impression.
Any Follies production needs a legend or two to underline the nostalgia and the theme of showbiz survival. I fondly recall Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson in the 1987 Shaftesbury Theatre show. Their dancing double act is nicely done by Norma Atallah and Billy Boyle, whose résumé includes a long list of West End musicals as well as the Basil Brush show. But the real legend here is Dame Josephine Barstow as the operetta star Heidi Schiller. She duets beautifully with her younger self, soprano Alison Langer.
Loveland – and the follies which follow – is suggested by gauze and chandeliers, and a diaphanous front cloth for Buddy's superbly guyed vaudeville routine.
No interval, but the two and a quarter hours didn't seem a moment too long. At the end, we're left with the quartet of youngsters, and a last look back from Gary Raymond's wonderful Weismann as he stands in the doorway.

Di Botcher as Hattie - images by Johan Persson


Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch
29 August 2017

This pacey, undemanding comedy sees rival country clubs resort to desperate measures to take home a coveted golfing trophy.
American playwright Ken Ludwig's last outing on this stage was Lend Me A Tenor, a fast-moving backstage comedy. A Fox on the Fairway, getting its UK première here, also harks back to the golden days of British farce, though the setting is the Tap Room – nineteenth hole – of the Quail Valley Country Club, and many of the jokes are alcohol or sport related.
Golf and sex are the only things you can enjoy with being good at them,” says Quail Valley's vampish Vice President, setting the tone of the evening early on, in a slightly awkward pre-show string of one-liners delivered straight out to the audience.
Colin Falconer has come up with a stunning set – shades of cream and green, silverware above the bar, crossed niblicks over the doorway. Two swing doors either side of the bar – what farce can do without doors ? – and a general air of moneyed luxury.
A typical American country club, one might think, except that the action has been transposed for the Hornchurch production to the Home Counties, with some success, although the Club cheer and occasional idioms (whole new ball game) betray its origins.
The plot is carefully constructed. The scaffolding is sometimes obvious, the twists predictable. Some very venerable tropes are pressed into service: the birthmark, the wayward PA system, the priceless vase tossed around like a rugby ball. “Just like a Greek play,” opines the gormless waitress, beautifully played by Ottilie Mackintosh – her efforts to conceal her ring-less finger are priceless. She's doing an evening course in Homer, and sees the tournament as a mythical battle of the Ancient World. She also gets to deliver an epilogue, as on the Jacobean stage, before the six actors dance a jig de nos jours to Walk the Moon's Shut Up and Dance.
Her intended is Justin, the newly hired hand who turns out to be the secret weapon in the tournament; he's played with impressive physicality by Romayne Andrews. His pre-shot warm-up, and his melt-down at the crucial seventeeth, are both memorable moments.
His boss is Henry, suave and articulate, played with practised ease by Damien Matthews. His delivery is perfectly pitched - “Oh darling that was our secret ...” he replies, deadpan and unconvincing, to the aforementioned VP, Mrs Pamela Peabody, as she spins lies to get him off the hook. A fine farcical performance by Natalie Walter. Henry's opposite number at the rival Crouching Squirrel Club is Simon Lloyd's Dickie Bell, constantly at risk of being upstaged by his knitwear. A nice character study of an obnoxiously cocky little man, forever mangling his aphorisms. Last to the party is Henry's battle-axe (or Sherman tank) of a wife. A cliché of a character, really, but neatly subverted here in Sarah Quist's larger-than-life performance, earning her an old-fashioned round of applause on her first exit.
The production values are pleasingly high – the scene change in the second act is a wonder to behold. Philip Wilson directs a well-oiled revival of this homage to the innocent days of Rookery Nook and See How They Run. The slapstick is polished, the pace is good, though I could imagine the US version being snappier. Twenty-four hours and eighteen holes all done and dusted in two hours, including the rain break and a twenty minute interval.
There's a helpful links-side lexicon in the programme, and the company were put through their paces at Upminster Golf Club. But you certainly don't need to be an aficionado to appreciate this tale of true love, rivalry, greed and fate.

Sunday, September 03, 2017



The autumn season at Chelmsford City Theatres launches this week, with a visit from the acclaimed BBC Big Band, celebrating the centenary of Ella Fitzgerald, and a new show from The Jimmy Hendrix Experience, the first in a long line of tribute bands coming to the Civic over the next few months: Burt Bacharach, Billy Fury, David Bowie, Karen Carpenter and The Police among those honoured.
Music lovers can also enjoy a couple of Tales of Offenbach on October 17, and the first of this year's M&G Classical Concert series, with the City of London Sinfonia on October 29.
Dramatic offerings include A Princess Undone, a new play by Richard Stirling on its way to a London run; opening at the Civic on October 5. It deals with an episode in the later life of Princess Margaret, the Queen's younger sister. And on October 26 London Classic Theatre bring their new production of Noel Coward's Private Lives.
In the Cramphorn Studio, White Feather Boxer [21 September], the story of a boxer who was also a Quaker, a one-man Christmas Carol on December 15, in the style of Charles Dickens' own acclaimed performances, and, on November 10, Mr Darcy Loses the Plot, in which Jane Austen's hunkiest hero rewrites his own story …
Our own non-professional companies bring us three very different musicals: All Shook Up from CAODS opening on 26 September, CYGAMS' Our House – the Madness musical – from November 7, and Soho Cinders, Stiles and Drew's edgy twist on the Cinderella story, presented by Springers in the Cramphorn Studio from November 14.
For the younger audience, the Gruffalo is back in the Civic from September 19, as well as Milkshake! Live on October 24.
Not forgetting the panto, already selling very well – this year it's Snow White, opening on November 29 and running till January 7 2018, with a relaxed performance on January 4.

To book tickets for any of these shows, go to, or telephone 01245 606505.