- The Real Inspector Hound and Black Comedy – Comedy Theatre, London, 18th July 1998
A fantastic double bill of one act comedies written by masters of the genre when they were at their freshest and funniest. Stoppard’s Real Inspector Hound involves two theatre critics watching a whodunit when one of them bizarrely gets physically involved as a character in the play; Peter Shaffer’s Black Comedy is a comedy of errors (literally) when a fuse goes and plunges a group of people into darkness – yet of course, that’s the moment the stage lights go on and we see the confusion. Greg Doran’s brilliant production for the Yvonne Arnaud theatre had transferred to the Comedy for a season, and starred David Tennant, Nichola McAuliffe, Anna Chancellor, Gary Waldhorn and Desmond Barritt. We were in hysterics.
- Prom No 71 – BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 10th September 1998
Passing over that year’s Pendley Festival production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, our next show was in fact a concert – and the first time that I’d a) been to a Prom and b) been inside the Royal Albert Hall. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales, together with the BBC National Chorus of Wales, conducted by Mark Elder and with Valdine Anderson, soprano, tackled a very entertaining programme. First was Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique, then came Szymanowski’s Songs of a Fairy tale Princess and then Debussy’s Jeux. After the interval we were treated to a magnificent performance of Holst’s Planets. I was really excited to see my first Prom and have continued to enjoy classical concerts much more ever since.
- Explosive Dance – Royal Albert Hall, London, 15th September 1998
We were back at the Albert Hall the following week to see a dance extravaganza in aid of the Red Cross’s anti-personnel Landmines Campaign, dedicated to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. This was a very expensive show and we could only afford the cheapest seats which were way up in the gods. The view was so poor and distant that there was, frankly, little point in our being there.
It was an incredible line-up though, starting with a sequence from the line dancing show Bootscoot, Tamara Rojo and Dmitri Gruzdyev from the English National Ballet with a scene from Don Quixote, Antonio Marquez and Dancers, Antonia Franceschi and Matthew Hart dancing to Cry Baby Kreisler (that we had seen at a Dance Bites show in 1997), Deborah Bull and Ashley Page from the Royal Ballet dancing Walk and Talk; the Jiving Lindy Hoppers, Viviana Durante and Irek Mukhamedov from the Royal Ballet with a pas de deux from Manon; Club Salsa, A scene from AMP’s Swan Lake with Adam Cooper and Scott Ambler; Wayne Sleep and Dancers with Chaplin, Darcey Bussell and Igor Zelensky from the Royal Ballet with a pas de deux from Le Corsaire, and finally highlights from Riverdance. All types of dance were there, and it was a brilliant show – at least, it would have been, if we could have seen it properly!
- Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 8th October 1998
This was our first ever visit to a programme of dance performed by the Richard Alston Dance Company, who would go on to be one of our topmost favourite companies for over twenty years. Little did we know! The first dance was Brisk Singing, to music by Rameau, then we saw Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms, and finally Rumours, Visions set to music by Benjamin Britten. Leading the company was the fantastic Martin Lawrance, and all the pieces were choreographed by Richard Alston. The start of a long dance love affair!
- Things we do for Love – Duchess Theatre, London, 12th October 1998
Always interested to see a new Alan Ayckbourn comedy, but I confess the details of this one are a little hazy. An engaged couple move in with one of their old school friends, with disastrous consequences. An excellent cast was led by Belinda Lang and Alexander Hanson.
- Good Grief – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 16th October 1998
Penelope Keith starred in this new play by Keith Waterhouse, adapted from his original novel of the same name. It’s about the fallout after June Pepper (Ms Keith)’s husband, a gritty no-nonsense newspaper editor, dies. I’m afraid I can’t remember much about it. The excellent cast also featured Christopher Godwin and David Firth.
- Popcorn – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 12th November 1998
Another play that had been adapted from an earlier novel, Ben Elton’s farcical Reservoir Dogs-style story about murderers and stationery was well directed by Laurence Boswell, with a cast that included John Bowler, Paul Brennan and Liza Sadovy. Again, my memories are scant but I do know that we enjoyed it a lot.
- Rambert Dance Company Autumn Programme – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd December 1998
A great programme here combining some new exciting work with an old favourite. First up was Three Gone, Four Left Standing, choreographed, lit, and with costumes by Rafael Bonachela; then we saw Jiri Kylian’s No More Play. After the first interval we saw Christopher Bruce’s Four Scenes, and then at the end it was the crowd-pleasing Axioma 7, choreographed by Ohad Naharin and with the full cast of dancers. This amazing team included so many of my favourite dancers: Laurent Cavanna, Marie Laure Agrapart, Paul Liburd, Hope Muir, Rafael Bonachela, Glenn Wilkinson, Matthew Hart, Vincent Redmon, Christopher Powney and Simon Cooper.
- Alarms and Excursions – Gielgud Theatre, London, 11th December 1998
For Mrs C’s birthday treat we saw this highly entertaining show written by Michael Frayn and described as “more plays than one”. Although the critics didn’t think much of it, we loved it, and also thought the cast – Felicity Kendal, Nicky Henson, Josie Lawrence and Robert Bathurst – were terrific. We still laugh at the memory of Ms Kendal at a business conference struggling to hold her briefcase, her coffee and her notes. Very funny.
- The Invention of Love – Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, 30th December 1998
The excellent John Wood led the cast as A E Housman in this hugely successful National Theatre production, that won the Evening Standard award for Best Play and had already been running for over a year in the West End. It also featured the excellent John Carlisle and David Ryall, and featured a young Kris Marshall low down the cast list. Not too many memories of it, I must confess, but it sounds good!