I feel some more dance and theatre memories coming on! February to June 2004

Eight dance, two theatre

  1. Zipp! – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 10th February 2004

A Hundred Musicals for the Price of One went the blurb, and I remember this as being a thoroughly enjoyable show, written by and starring Gyles Brandreth, but also with Andrew C Wadsworth in the cast, whom I cornered in the car park after show and we reminisced about his appearance in Songbook 25 years earlier. An enormously fun piece of musical theatre, a forerunner to the Forbidden Broadway shows of the future, perhaps?

  1. Permanent Revolution V2R – Union Dance at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 9th March 2004

This sounds fascinating – I only wish I can remember it better. “Permanent Revolution V2R sees Union collaborating with media artists Thomas Gray and Derek Richards to create a rich and sensory world where a culture is informed by a multitude of real and virtual migrations. International choreographers Doug Elkins, Vincent Mantsoe and Bawren Tavaziva create a world in which memory and place collide to challenge our notions of identity.” The dancers were Michael Joseph, Garry Benjamin, Galia Delgada, Jedda Donnelly, Simone Noblett and William Thorburn.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Play Without Words – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 24th April 2004

New Adventures’ production of Matthew Bourne’s latest work was a riveting and exciting new show – and it occurs to me I really need to see this again. It took dance down a different path, mingling it with theatre in a very innovative way. Great stuff!

  1. Dance Theatre of Harlem UK Tour – Milton Keynes Theatre, 4th May 2004

A very exciting opportunity to see this world renowned dance company. The first dance was Dougla, choreographed by Geoffrey Holder, followed by Return, choreographed by Robert Garland, and finally, John Taras’ Firebird, set to Stravinsky’s Firebird suite. A large and stunning company danced their socks off. Marvellously entertaining.

  1. Royal New Zealand Ballet UK Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 19th and 21st May 2004

The Royal New Zealand Ballet came to the Wycombe Swan as part of their Swan Dance season with two shows – and we saw both! Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Christopher Hampson was the first show, and the second was a Triple Bill – Hampson’s Saltarello, Javier de Frutos’ Milagros and Mark Baldwin’s FrENZy, danced to the music of Split Enz. Very high quality dance, superbly executed. If I remember rightly, the audience numbers were quite low for these shows – their loss!

  1. Fuddy Mears – Arts Theatre, London, 29th May 2004

David Lindsay-Abaire’s highly successful play came to London after a great reception in America but it left British audiences bemused. I’m delighted to say that we were among the few people who really enjoyed it. A chaotic story told brilliantly with a great cast led by Julia McKenzie and Nicholas le Prevost.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Milton Keynes Theatre, 1st June 2004

If NDT2 were in town, then so were we. Their 2004 UK tour started off with Jiri Kylian’s 27’ 52”, followed by Hans van Manen’s Simple Things, and ending with Ohad Naharin’s always show-stopping Minus 16. Brilliant as always.

  1. Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 8th June 2004

Not the catchiest of names for a dance company, but their reputation preceded them and this was another great dance tour show organised by Dance Consortium. We started with Arnie Zane’s The Gift/No God Logic, followed by Mercy 10 x 8 on a Circle, Duet, and D-Man in the Waters (Part 1), all of which were choreographed by Bill T Jones. The company is still going great guns in America.

  1. Dante Sonata/The Two Pigeons – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 12th June 2004

The first of two summer visits to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, this double bill consisted of Frederick Ashton’s Dante Sonata to the music of Liszt, and Ashton’s two-act Two Pigeons, danced to the music of Andre Messager. The Principal dancers included Iain Mackay, Nao Sakuma, Robert Parker and Molly Smolen.

  1. La Fille Mal Gardée – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 19th June 2004

One week later we were back for the BRB’s performance of Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée, with Elisha Willis and Chi Cao in the main roles. The BRB could always be relied on to produce stunning shows with great dancing.

Lockdown Armchair Travel – Istanbul, Turkey – 29th March 2012

Continuing with the lockdown armchair travel memories, and T is for Turkey. We’ve been there a couple of times on cruises, and we had a week in Istanbul in the late 90s, but I can’t find any of the photos from that holiday. So these pictures are from a day spent in Istanbul during an Eastern Mediterranean cruise in March 2012, concentrating on The Main Sights. So, what do you think of, when you think of Istanbul? Probably one of two places, depending on whether you’re Team Blue Mosque…

Or Team Aya Sofya

It’s a tough call. From the photos, you’d always say the Blue Mosque, but when you’re inside the Aya Sofya, it takes your breath away. We took a tram from near the port into the centre of the city, and headed straight away for the central complex that houses both these magnificent buildings, plus the ancient hippodrome.

I’m not sure Constantine would remember it looking like this, mind. OK, let’s head straight for the Blue Mosque.

Really the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, built between 1609 – 1616.

One of the five mosques in Turkey that has six minarets, apparently.

It’s a big tourist favourite, but is primarily a working mosque. It has a relatively small courtyard fountain.

Delightful from the outside…

But its beauty really hits you inside!

Look at that amazing decorated ceiling!

It really is the definition of breathtaking.

It’s beautifully lit too

And the calligraphy is stunning

Architecturally fabulous!

The pictures tell their own story.

A brilliant place. After the Blue Mosque, we decided to find the Basilica Cistern, a favourite place of ours from our previous visit.

It’s called the Basilica Cistern, because it was built underneath a basilica in the reign of the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.

It’s an incredibly dramatic and moody place, enhanced by the lighting

With just a little water in there to make some extra-dramatic reflections.

There are two columns topped with Medusa heads

Or, rather, upside down! It’s a dark and haunting place

But, being Istanbul, you’re never too far from a spot of commercialism…

That’s so out of place! Anyway we left the Cistern and returned to the other end of the main square to see the Aya Sofya.

Or Hagia Sophia, if you prefer. It’s been a Roman Catholic cathedral, then it was converted to a mosque, and then in 1935 it was turned into a museum – which is how we saw it. But in 2020 it became a mosque again.

Those colours are extraordinary!

Just take it all in….

The immaculate marbled floor is apparently now covered by carpet

There’s a stunning minbar

Beautiful calligraphy

Marvellous windows

Fabulous tiled walls

Big pillars

Ramps lead up to an upper floor

From where you get this great view!

And you can get a closer look at some of the detail

You’re also closer to the mosaics – this is the Deësis mosaic

The Comnenus mosaic dates from 1122

The Empress Zoe mosaic is even earlier

Southwestern entrance mosaic dates from the reign of Basil II (958-1025)

The Aya Sofya even has nice doors!

And a look out of its upper floor windows reveals a fascinating collection of domes!

Yes, I think I am still Team Aya Sofya. Other interesting sights include the Egyptian Obelisk

With its intricate base

And the Serpentine Column

Shoppers, of course, head for the Grand Bazaar

A massive covered market, probably the best I’ve ever visited

It’s a maze where you can easily get lost

You’ll get invited in by the shopkeepers to share a “no-obligation” cup of apple tea

If you believe “no-obligation”, you’ll believe anything!

Great place for lighting

And ceramics

We had a quick walk past the University

But the other place I really wanted to see before we left was the Suleymaniye Mosque

Commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent and inaugurated in 1557,

It was the largest mosque in Istanbul until the Çamlıca Mosque superseded it in 2019.

Four minarets, each and every one a stunner.

Again, it’s inside the mosque where the whole place comes alive

with its extraordinary ceilings

superb arches

and just its innate grandeur.

Although, to be fair, it’s pretty grand from the outside too.

Streetlife in Istanbul is pretty hectic, as you would expect

But the views make up for it

And you can easily blend in with the crowds.

And that’s Istanbul – grandeur, magnificence, and the occasional bit of quirkiness.

So we sail away and say farewell to Istanbul!

 

 

And another bunch of theatre memories come along… September 2003 to January 2004

Six dance, four theatre

  1. The Immortals – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 27th September 2003

Our first visit to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet in their base at the Birmingham Hippodrome, The Immortals consisted of three separate ballets on that godlike theme. First was Apollo, choreography by Balanchine to music by Stravinsky; then came The Sons of Horus, music by Peter McGowan and choreography by BRB’s very own David Bintley; then finally Krishna, set to music by Hariprasad Chaurasia and choreography by Nahid Siddiqui. The company included Principals Robert Parker and Nao Sakuma, Asta Bazeviciute and Molly Smolen, Chi Cao and Iain Mackay, Tiit Helimets and Dominic Antonucci. A wonderful, lavish production on a grand scale.

  1. The Graduate – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd October 2003

The Cambridge Arts Theatre touring production of Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the famous Dustin Hoffman film starred Glynis Barber as the seductive Mrs Robinson and Andrés Williams as the easily seduced Benjamin Braddock. I remember enjoying it, but also thinking that it could have had more oomph; I confess I can’t remember why.

  1. Giselle – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 4th October 2003

Back at the Birmingham Royal Ballet for another show with the BRB, this time the full length ballet Giselle, based on Petipa’s original choreography and with extra choreography by David Bintley. We took our goddaughter, her brother, her mother and her grandmother – and we all found it delightful. Asta Bazeviciute was Giselle, Tiit Helimets was Albrecht, Marion Tait Berthe and Molly Smolen Queen of the Wilis. Every bit as gorgeous as you would imagine.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 7th October 2003

Our annual trip to see Richard Alston’s company had three new dances for us – Grey Allegro, to music by Scarlatti and choreographed by Martin Lawrance; Slow Airs Almost All, set to Mozart, and Overdrive, with music by Terry Riley. The amazing Jonathan Goddard had joined the company and danced in all three pieces, favourite dancers Francesca Romo and Luke Baio also performed as did senior dancer Martin Lawrance. Fantastic as always.

  1. George Balanchine Programme – Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris at the Palais Garnier, Paris, 13th October 2003

As was becoming a tradition, any trip to Paris had to include a visit to the Palais Garnier to see the amazing Paris National Ballet. This was a programme of three works choreographed by George Balanchine – Symphonie en ut, with music by Bizet, Le fils prodigue, set to Prokofiev, and Les quatre tempéraments with music by Hindemith. Always the most spectacular privilege to attend such a show.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 31st October 2003

Passing over the very enjoyable Audience with John Sergeant at the Wycombe Swan, where the great TV journo talked about the entertaining scrapes of his career, our next show was to see Rambert for their Autumn Tour. We started with one of Glenn Wilkinson’s Six Pack solo dances – to Ooh Be Do, then came Karole Armitage’s Living Toys. After the first interval came another Six Pack dance – to Zala, then Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient. After a second interval the show finished with Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. The fantastic company included Rafael Bonachela, Hope Muir, Glenn Wilkinson, Simon Cooper, Paul Liburd, Clemmie Sveass and Conor O’Brien.

  1. Beauty and the Beast – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 6th December 2003

David Bintley’s vision of Beauty and the Beast, set to music by Glenn Buhr, was a full-scale full-length ballet of epic proportions. Belle was danced by Azta Bazeviciute and the Beast by Robert Parker. As always it was grand, beautiful and delightfully classical.

  1. Anything Goes – Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 31st December 2003

We took the Dowager Mrs C with us to see Anything Goes as a Christmas/New Year treat; it was a terrific show, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Stephen Mear. The excellent cast starred John Barrowman and Sally Ann Triplett, with Barrie Ingham, Martin Marquez and Susan Tracy for good measure. Way down the cast list playing “A sailor with wanderlust” was Dancing on Ice’s Jason Gardiner.

  1. A Chorus Line – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 3rd January 2004