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see Review by Clare Cavenagh of Cambridge Theatre Review on 10th Feb 2017
See full review at cambridgetheatrereview.com
Confession: I'd never been to a Gilbert and Sullivan before last night. I mentioned this to a friend, and they said 'it's really, really stupid, but you'll like it'. How right they were. The Gilbert and Sullivan society's production of HMS Pinafore is certainly unashamedly silly, but it's also damn good: great music, interesting to look at and full of laughs. Head along to the West Road Concert Hall to catch it before it sails, swaying slightly, out to sea.
Central to the story of HMS Pinafore are Josephine and Buttercup. Josephine (Tiffany Charnley), daughter of the ship's captain, is due to be married to Sir Joseph (Michael Morrison), a small man with a big job as head of the Royal Navy. Unfortunately, she has (rather in spite of herself) fallen in love with a lowly sailor with a lovely tenor (Max Noble). Buttercup (Anna-Luise Wagner) meanwhile has designs on the ship's captain (Luke Thomas) and knows more about both him and the young lovers than she is letting on. Chaos delightfully ensues.
The G & S Society have decided to play this farcical, nautical romp in the most light-hearted and jolly of manners. The characters run around the stage in little sailor suits complete with white hats, or in lovely, floaty white lace shirts tucked into flowing skirts. Choreography sticks close to this, with a little waltzing, plenty of that crossed-arm, as well as some of that stiff-legged sailor-dancing everyone can recognise. Along with the simple yet effective and interesting sets (designed by Theo Heymann) this show is a rose-tinted delight to watch.
The music, which forms the backbone of this production is also wonderful. The orchestra, under the direction of Tristan Selden, do an excellent job of the score, and the singing onstage is wonderful - the cast all incredibly strong. Their expressive performances, peppered with some up to the minute jokes on topics as widespread as Brexit, Girton and S&M, kept the audience giggling right through the show.
HMS Pinafore did suffer from the occasional hiccough. There were a couple of technical issues with lighting, one rather confusing instance at the beginning of the second act, and a couple of lighting effects which seemed slightly out of time with the music. A little more diction from some soloists would have helped to make their thrillingly dense lyrics carry more clearly through the hall, and be more comprehensible. At a couple of moments the cast got slightly out of time with the orchestra, although this was quickly remedied by a few big conducting gestures.
Overall however, these faults were very minor, and HMS Pinafore was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of light-hearted laughs and great music. I'm not entirely sure that I'm a Gilbert and Sullivan convert, but if all the G & S Society's offerings are as much fun as this, you can count me in.
Posted on 11/02/2017
see Review by John Elworthy of Ely Standard on 11 February 2017
See full review at www.elystandard.co.uk
REVIEW: Cambridge University Gilbert & Sullivan Society offer a stylish performance of HMS Pinafore
There’s a lovely line in their programme notes explaining the plot of HMS Pinafore that reads ‘ it all works out in the end, hip, hip hooray!’
It does and indeed did quite satisfyingly on the opening night of the Cambridge University G&S Society’s production at West Road Concert Hall.
Jam packed with those studying everything from engineering to the classics, chemistry to languages, and from heart biology to behavioural science, you wonder how they find time, but grateful they have, for the subtleties, nuances and pure indulgence of a Gilbertian outlook.
The appetite for such light opera may have waned but the Cambridge audience – of an unsurprising large number of middle aged and older theatre goers who indeed looked capable of ‘whistling all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore’ – were happy to feast on the increasing rarity of a G&S classic.
Musical conductor Tristan Selden was rightly being congratulated by his orchestra members on his robust performance as I passed them during the interval – his was a stylish and at times delightfully frenzied journey that allowed the production to get into gear. G&S is about delivery and pace – the cast responsible for the former, the musical director for the latter. Both got it right.
Tiffany Charnley as Josephine was captivating, charming and ever so slightly coquettish to ensure Max Noble, as her suitor Ralph, was never to going be dissuaded from the challenge of courtship and marriage above his class.
HMS Pinafore was first staged in the late 19th century at a time when class was a dominant force in the British way of life and challenges to it a pre-occupation of satirists into which the G&S tradition was conceived and flourished.
Coincidentally alongside the impish drama of G&S this week class and society at Cambridge was being played out in real life by the university student filmed burning a £20 note defiantly in front of a homeless man on the city streets.
William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan would not have approved for Pinafore, and their other productions that came before and went after it, used literary devices and parody to challenge, and mock, the status quo.
HMS Pinafore has a shorter run than some years but brevity in performances has not stunted enthusiasm, production values and an outpouring of genuine zest and affection for a much loved and valued tradition.
Class is indeed alive and well – and being teased, tantalised and tormented with nicely.
You have limited opportunity to catch this show – take it if you dare.
Posted on 11/02/2017
PIRATES OF THE PANTO
Little Waltham Drama Group at the Memorial Hall - 17.01.17
A winning blend of originality and tradition for this year's Little Waltham village panto.
Festive favourite Richard Butler brought his trademark anarchy to the role of Squire Flinders, heading an excellent comic team which included Ken Little's dim Bobby and Gordon MacSween's lovely Scottish Dame, a wicked glint in his eye, sporting a wonderful wardrobe of fancy frocks.
Good supporting work from a double helping of duos: feeble seamen Poop and Deck [Hugh Godfrey and Julie Cole] and Skull and Bones [Kathy Jiggins and Verity Southwell], sidekicks to Ash Cobden's dashing villain Captain Spongebag Roundpants. Plus cameos from Jenni Money as Harry the Harbour Master, Brian Corrie as Honest [“no tic”] John and Martin Final as Bosun Rollicks [Rowlocks?] with his knobbly cosh.
Love interest from principal boy Zac Sparrow – a swashbuckling, thigh-slapping Tash Wootton – and Rebekah Walker's demure Moll Flinders. Karen Allen's Queen and Marea Irving's Priestess led the denizens of Discomania Island.
This being Little Waltham, there was a generous supply of disco routines from the hard-working chorus, impressively choreographed by Sue Butler and Karen Allen. A lovely undersea scene change, too, with bubbles and giant jellyfish. MD Karen Wray treated us to an eclectic play list: Barbados, Montego Bay, Otis Redding, Nelly Furtado, Michael Buble, Avenue Q, not to mention Prokofiev for the evil pirate.
And of course we had the walkabout with the sweetie baskets, a custard pie, and a nice hairy-bottomed ghost routine.
Liz Jones's backdrops included an impressive perspective for the Slack Jenny's deck; the stage-side murals this year featured Jolly Roger, gull and parrot.
Pirates of the Panto was directed by Jenny Broadway, who last worked with Karen Wray on the 2012 Abba Ali Baba.
See Michael Gray's Arts Blog here
Posted on 19/01/2017
NODA Review 15 April 2016
Wilburton Theatre Group
Directed by Emily Starr
Assistant Director Bryannie Quarrie
Musical Director Maria McElroy
|Big Fish 12-chair is the new, small-cast version for 12 actors of a short-lived Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and follows on from the Tim Burton’s film of the same name.
At the centre of the story is Edward Bloom the main character, who is on his deathbed and reliving his “exaggerated” tales of life. Fish stories are the tales Edward tells his son, Will and are, of course, what “Big Fish” is all about. I’m telling you all this because Big Fish was a new one on me.
Apparently “the musical has elements from the book and movie, as well as a few new takes on characters and situations”, and who am I to dispute that, never having seen either? What I do know is, it is a great show: full of lovely songs and tunes: lively and at times sentimental.
Much of the music is complex but the singers and The Ashton Stomp Octet under the musical direction of Maria McElroy did a splendid job. Excellent choreography too by Emily Starr and Guest Choreographer David Mallabone.
This role of Edward, teller of fishy-tales was tailor-made for Tim Meikle who was absolutely outstanding, producing a performance full of energy and skill with the good vocal talent.
Laura Bryant played Sandra his wife giving an excellent performance topped off with a lovely voice. I Don’t Need a Roof was beautiful. Edward and Sandra’s love story is brought to life through a multitude of ages, from 15 to 50, as the story moves from present-day to past and back again.
Edward tells Will about how, as a teenager, he met a Witch, played by Shelley Martin who has an amazing voice. About the time he faced down a Giant, confidently played from great height by Aiden Roe who was terrorising his small Alabama hometown. And the story of how he met Will’s mother, Sandra at the circus.
We enjoyed fine performances from Aidan Meikle, following in family tradition as Young Will and Josh Greene as grown up Will, who is now about to become a father himself with wife Josephine played well by Becky Gilbert. There was nice empathy between this couple.
Apart from Edward, Sandra and grown-up Will, the other nine actors, doubled as school friends fishermen, wedding guests, circus performers, and college students, zipping in and out of the firstrate costumes with aplomb. Every single member of cast gave unstinting commitment to the production.
Barry Starr’s set was impressive having multiple functions, swiftly transforming into a bedroom, a hospital, a circus, a cave, a meadow . . . the possibilities appeared endless. There was even a river through which a mermaid “swam”. Great stuff. Well done too to the whole technical team.
Sound and Lighting were spot on cue the whole time. Hair, Make-up, Costumes, Props and the lovely daffodil backdrop looked great and the scene changes exceptionally swift.
The matter of facing up to one’s own mortality and the subsequent funeral was well handled.
Emotive without being morbid. Part of this, of course, would be in the writing but the Director has to bring it to fruition and here Director Emily Starr did a great job.
Wilburton Theatre Group can always be relied on to offer their public something different and this show was just that. It overflowed with humour, emotion, lively performances and excellent singing.
It is a show which reminds one why we love going to the theatre.
NODA Review 15 April 2016
NODA East District Four South.
Posted on 02/05/2016
Return of Neverland
“The haunting and downright apocalyptic harmonies sang at the end of act one will blow audiences away”
“A well-thought out, well-written and well-performed production”
“The show was very good, flawless and smooth”
Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are struggling to keep the spirit of Neverland alive. Over the last thirty years the magic in Neverland has rapidly decreased, leaving Peter Pan and The Lost Boys grounded and Captain Hook and his crew docked. With nothing to fight for and no adventures to be had, Neverland has come to a standstill with no hope of a revival, or is there? With a little manipulation a secret is revealed that may not only save the island but create more power than Neverland has ever seen before. Will it end up in the right hands? Or will this be the end of Neverland for good? With twists in the tales and shocking revealing’s, Neverland is about to have its first adventure in years!
Posted on 19/04/2016
Posted on 27/01/2016
Be My Baby, won several of the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Theatre Awards in December 2015
Wins at Brighton & Hove Arts Council
Awards Night, 10th Dec.
Huge congratulations to the Director
(Sally Diver), cast and crew of BE MY BABY,
with nominations for
Best Costume Design
(Milla Hills and Margaret Skeet)
Best Sound Design (Kieran Pollard)
Best Lighting Design (Martin Oakley)
Best Director (Sally Diver)
Arthur Churchill Award for Excellence
Best Supporting Actress (Alice Wesby)
and winning the following: Best Set Design: (Martin Oakley and Sally Diver)
Best Technical Achievement: (Martin Oakley / The Set Team)
Best Stage Crew: Southwick Players
Best Publicity: Gary Cook
and Best Overall Show
pictured l-r Kerry Williams, Phoebe Cook, Nancy Wesby, Alice Wesby
Cast, crew and backstage team receive their awards
L-R: Phoebe Cook, Milla Hills, Kerry Williams, Ian Churchill, Nancy Wesby, Sally Diver, Gary Cook, Alice Wesby, Martin Oakley, Debbie Creissen, Sharon Churchill, Anita Jones
Posted on 07/01/2016
by Jane Hilliard & Paul A J Rudelhoff
Play Safe, West Moors Drama - West Moors Memorial Hall
By Stour & Avon Magazine | Posted: November 27, 2015
West Moors Drama chose a comedy for its latest production but not a familiar farce as this was written by experienced player and previous director Jane Hilliard, together with Paul A J Rudelhoff. They created a very funny play.
The action takes place in a home for retired entertainers (a splendid set which complemented the storyline) where the residents endeavour to relive their television roles. Into this world of eccentricity come a couple of likely lads on community service. They are not what they seem to be and pandemonium ensues as the story unfolds.
Fairlawn is run by Lance Kennedy who was previously a game-show host and Peter Wright does a good job with the part. Matron, his wife, is well characterised by Shelagh Rundle with the forceful voice and persona of a real battle-axe. Completing the staff is domestic help Carina and Joan Harrison impresses as she cleverly makes this pivotal role her own.
Miriam Maplethorpe, previously a television detective, is ideal for Anne Maynard who is delightfully dotty. She is a perfect foil for Peter Legrand – the capable Alan Dester – who recalls his career as a Shakespearean actor and quotes the Bard at every opportunity. Another resident remembering his glory days is Charlie Chuckles (West Moors Drama stalwart Derek Kearey) and his first appearance unclothed except for a blanket brings the house down.
Neither Florrie Fortuna – Jeanie Ellis is admirable – or Mavis Fulbright (the multi -talented Jane Hilliard) are as mad as they originally seem, revealing secrets as the plot thickens. Teenage brothers Ben - well played by Alex Willmott - and Lee (Tom Clifford shows promise) are not in Fairlawn to pay their debt to society and the boys are vital to the intrigue. This pair are making their debuts with the group and will, hopefully, continue to gain confidence and learn from experienced actors.
Tom Martin directed and produced, he must be congratulated for keeping up a fast pace and using the cast to their best advantage. Also taking the cameo role of Barry the Brain, he epitomises the spirit of amateur theatre so look out for West Moors Drama productions in the future.
Play Safe continues until Saturday, there may be a few tickets left but don’t delay if you want to see an original comedy.
By Pat Scott
Posted on 13/12/2015
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