Let’s have a crack at some more theatre and dance memories! May to July 2007

  1. Ballet Boyz Encore – Milton Keynes Theatre, 2nd May 2007

Still trading under their name George Piper Dances – for perhaps their last time? – the Balletboyz returned for their Spring Tour with the show Encore. Unfortunately their dancer Oxana Panchenko sustained an injury during rehearsals and they had to change the programme substantially in order to provide a show to their paying audience – so only half of the expected programme could go ahead. So that night we saw Satie Stud, followed by Jjanke, and then Propeller (with Amy Hollingsworth dancing instead of Ms Panchenko) and then Michael and Billy had to bring back Russell Maliphant’s Torsion for the second half – but that was always a thoroughly enjoyable dance, so I don’t suppose we were particularly affected by the change!

  1. The Entertainer – The Old Vic, London, 7th May 2007

We went with our friends Paul and Pauline to see John Osborne’s famous play – the first time I’d seen it – with the huge attraction of seeing Robert Lindsay in the part of Archie Rice. Even fourteen years ago, The Entertainer was something of a period piece; let’s face it, few of us remember the Cheeky Chappie Max Miller nowadays. It’s still a landmark work though, and Mr Lindsay was as brilliant as you’d expect.

  1. Evita – Adelphi Theatre, London, 19th May 2007

This was my third visit to see a production of Evita, but there was such a vibe about how good Elena Roger was in the part that we thought we simply had to see it; and indeed she was. The evening was kind of ruined by a very noisy, drunk and fidgety couple behind us; they didn’t take any hints from the people around them that they basically needed to shut up, and at the end several punters from the nearby seats rounded on them in complaint. As a result of their behaviour, not much of the rest of the production has stayed in my head. Shame when that happens!

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th June 2007

Always a delight to see NDT2, the young company of the Nederlands Dans Theater, on one of their regular tours. The programme consisted of Jiri Kylian’s Sleepless, then Lightfoot/Leon’s Sleight of Hand, and finally Alexander Ekman’s Flockwork. I entered a competition by Dance Consortium to win a signed programme – and I won! So a couple of week’s later they sent it to me – as you can see in the pictures. Sadly this was the last time we saw NDT2 until 2016.

  1. Coppelia – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 9th June 2007

I’d always wanted to see a production of Coppelia, and this new production combined the original Petipa choreography with some new moves by Enrico Cecchetti and Peter Wright. Laura Purkiss danced the title role, with Nao Sakuma as Swanilda, Chi Cao as Franz and Michael O’Hare as Dr Coppelius. Highly enjoyable!

  1. Chicago – Milton Keynes Theatre, 13th June 2007

This was only my second time of seeing Chicago (and Mrs Chrisparkle’s first) and I knew it had undergone a huge structural revamp from its original 1970s production – so I wanted to see what the fuss was for myself. I don’t have much recollection of it – but we didn’t know any of the performers, and my guess was that it was about now that I started to realise that (shock horror!) I don’t really like Chicago as a show much – I dislike the way it celebrates the bad and mocks the good. But that’s just me!

  1. Kismet – English National Opera at the London Coliseum, 7th July 2007

I had been looking forward to seeing this show so much – I had seen Kismet only once before as a teenager and I loved it, and it was one of the Dowager Mrs C’s favourite shows too. The production was beset by problems with key personnel walking out and what we saw was an under-rehearsed, under-presented mess that rightly received shockingly bad reviews. Nevertheless, it was Kismet, and I still loved it! Michael Ball was Hajj the poet and Alfie Boe the Caliph.

  1. The Drowsy Chaperone – Novello Theatre, London, 21st July 2007

More shock bad reviews for a show that had done so well on Broadway and should have set the capital alight – but we really enjoyed The Drowsy Chaperone, a clever, well-presented show with an excellent cast, lots of humour and surprises. Elaine Paige was the Chaperone herself, with Steve Pemberton giving a terrific central performance as the Man in Chair, plus performers of the likes of John Partridge, Nickolas Grace and Summer Strallen.

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 28th July 2007

A two-show visit to the gardens of Wadham College – fortunately the weather was perfect – first to see the OSC’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed with all their usual brightness and humour; I particularly remember a lovely moment when Hermia is hauling her suitcases over the rough terrain and Demetrius is simply carrying his toothbrush. Great stuff as always.

 

  1. Romeo and Juliet – Globe Touring Productions at Wadham College, Oxford, 28th July 2007

In another part of the gardens, for the evening we saw the Globe Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet; and I’m afraid we didn’t like it much. Modernised but in a rather brutal and distancing way, we couldn’t get into it. A good cast nonetheless, including a young Richard Madden as Romeo… I wonder what became of him?!

Theatre memories, you say? All right then! January to April 2007

  1. Omid Djalili – Oxford Playhouse, 17th January 2007

Omid DjaliliOne of the very first stand-up comedy shows we ever saw, Omid Djalili was beginning to break through on TV comedy shows and I have to say that, live, he is sensational. A great night’s comedy.

  1. Cabaret – Lyric Theatre, London, 27th January 2007

Rufus Norris’ amazing production of Kander and Ebb’s brilliant musical, that continues to tour and to influence other productions to this day. Anna Maxwell Martin proved her versatility as Miss Sally Bowles, and a very affectionate coupling of Sheila Hancock as Fraulein Schneider and Geoffrey Hutchings as Herr Schultz. James Dreyfus played Emcee and I expect he was terrific, but the night we saw it, his understudy was playing and I regret I have no note as to who that was. An excellent production.

  1. Hay Fever – Oxford Playhouse, 24th February 2007

I had always wanted to see a production of one of Noel Coward’s earlier sparkling comedies, but sadly I have hardly any memories of this show, starring Christopher Timothy and Stephanie Beacham as the heads of the theatrical Bliss family. I’m sure it was good though!

  1. Spiegel – Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 2nd March 2007

This show could have been called Wim Vandekeybus’ Greatest Hits, with excerpts from several of his previous shows forming a new work as a whole. Again, very few memories of this show, I’m afraid.

  1. Guys and Dolls – Milton Keynes Theatre, 7th March 2007

Breaking my usual rule about not including shows I’ve seen before in these blogs, this was a very brash production of Guys and Dolls by Michael Grandage, but my memory is that it was a little underwhelming. The four big roles were played by Alex Ferns, Samantha Janus, Norman Bowman and Louise Dearman.

  1. Equus – Gielgud Theatre, London, 17th March 2007

A really big ticket at the time – Richard Griffiths as Martin Dysart with Daniel Radcliffe as Alan Strang; and Jenny Agutter as Hesther. A terrific coupling of two amazing actors, one slowly reaching the end of his career, one blossoming at the start of his – and both known for their work on Harry Potter. Young Mr Radcliffe was still only 17 when he took on this brave role. And it was every bit the riveting show that you would imagine.

  1. Madama Butterfly – Welsh National Opera at the Milton Keynes Theatre, March 2007

A beautiful, strong and sensitive production of Puccini’s opera – but mainly notable for me as it was the last time we took the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle to the theatre, before her dementia sadly took over. I’m delighted to say that she loved it.

  1. Boeing Boeing – Comedy Theatre, London, 6th April 2007

Marc Camoletti’s wonderful comedy from 1962 was given a completely fresh make-over and bounded back to life in this brilliant revival by Matthew Warchus. A dream team of a cast, with Roger Allam as the Lothario Bernard, Mark Rylance as his bemused friend Robert, Frances de la Tour as the bolshie maid Bertha, and Tamzin Outhwaite, Daisy Beaumont and Michelle Gomez as the three air hostesses whom Bernard is controlling through close following of the Boeing timetables. Incredibly funny, full of beautiful period detail, and a total joy.

  1. The Sound of Music – London Palladium, 9th April 2007

The production that followed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV search for a new Maria – Connie Fisher – this was a tremendous show that at times transformed the innocent Palladium into a Nazi conference with swastikas all over the auditorium – very scary and extremely effective. We went on the one night of the week that Connie Fisher didn’t perform – it was the only night that tickets were readily available – but Sophie Bould, who normally played Liesl, played Maria and she was absolutely brilliant. All this plus Lesley Garrett as the Mother Superior and Alexander Hanson as von Trapp.

  1. Can-Can – Lost Musicals at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, London, 15th April 2007

Another of Ian Marshall Fisher’s delvings into the back catalogue of Lost Musicals, Can Can is an old Cole Porter show brought to life in the round by the usual crowd, including James Vaughan, Stewart Permutt, Myra Sands and Valerie Cutko. Great fun as always.

Theatre and dance memories? Yessir! September 2006 to January 2007

  1. Waiting for Godot – Oxford Playhouse, 22nd September 2006

Peter Hall’s production of Beckett’s great play toured the country under the auspices of the Theatre Royal Bath, and I decided it was high time that Mrs Chrisparkle saw a performance of it – especially with the excellent cast that included James Laurenson, Alan Dobie and Terence Rigby. Oh dear. We didn’t like it at all. Incredibly dull, sadly.

  1. Romeo and Juliet – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 30th September 2006

This was the classic Kenneth MacMillan choreography to Prokofiev’s fantastic score, danced by the BRB to great, stately effect. Juliet was danced by Carol-Anne Miller, and Romeo by Dominic Antonucci. Every bit as beautiful as you would expect.

  1. Restoration – Headlong Theatre Company at the Oxford Playhouse, 6th October 2006

Headlong’s production of Edward Bond’s Restoration brought out all its comedy, directed by Rupert Goold. An excellent show, that transformed a play that otherwise looks rather dull on the page.

 

 

 

  1. The Three Musketeers – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Milton Keynes Theatre, 25th October 2006

Northern Ballet’s Three Musketeers was full of swish and swash, a great spectacular entertainment, choreographed by David Nixon. Danced to the music of Sir Malcolm Arnold, it was enormous fun.

  1. The Nutcracker – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 25th November 2006

We took our very young niece (aged 5) to see The Nutcracker – start ‘em young, we thought. We told her that she had to be quiet during the show and if she had any questions to save them up for the interval. Bless her, when the lights went down for the show to start, and the two ladies behind her didn’t stop talking, she turned around to them and gave them a very loud SSSSHHH!!! much to everyone’s amusement. It was a charming and thoroughly entertaining show, with Georgian dancer Maia Makhateli as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Viktoria Walton as Clara.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 28th November 2006

For Mrs C’s big birthday I surprised her by not telling her that her brother and sister-in-law were flying over for it from Sydney. The evening they arrived, we all had tickets to see Richard Alston, but such was the excitement of the visit that we got there late and couldn’t get a programme. Still, I can tell from the flyer that the dances of the evening were Red Run, Volumina and The Devil in the Detail. No idea of who the dancers were though!

  1. Me and My Girl – Milton Keynes Theatre, 29th November 2006

We took my brother and sister-in-law to see this show and we were to meet my inlaws there as well, so they got a big surprise when they saw their oldest son at the theatre! I kept so many surprises that year! It was a good revival of Me and My Girl, a touring production from the Theatre Royal Plymouth, starring Richard Frame as Bill and Faye Tozer of Steps as Sally. Trevor Bannister was Sir John, Fascinating Aida’s Dillie Keane was the Duchess and Sylvester McCoy was The Family Solicitor, Parchester.

  1. Rock ‘n’ Roll – Duke of York’s Theatre, London, 9th December 2006

For a London treat for our overseas guests, we took them to see the latest Tom Stoppard play, Rock ‘n’ Roll, as my brother-in-law had very much enjoyed the Stoppard plays he had seen in the past. It starred Dominic West and David Calder, and was a retrospective look at what part Rock n Roll might have played in the drive towards freedom and democracy in the old Czechoslovakia. Pretty good, if I remember right.

  1. Cinderella – Festival Theatre Malvern, 27th December 2006

A family trip for ten of us, of all ages and generations, to see a family panto; and quite an odd beast it was too. Whilst it had all the usual fun you would expect, Liza Goddard’s Fairy Godmother was a little too posh for us and Tony Scannell bizarrely played Baron Hardup as an impersonation of Leslie Phillips all the way through – for absolutely no purpose whatsoever. Saving grace – and he was really excellent – was Dave Benson Phillips as Buttons, whose signature tune “Buttons, Buttons, B-U-T-T-O-N-S” we still sing whenever anyone mentions, er, buttons.

  1. Avenue Q – Noel Coward Theatre, London, 2nd January 2007

A last trip to London before our overseas visitors flew home, we all went to see Avenue Q and were blown away by its hilarity. One of the best shows of the modern era, its use of puppetry and saucy lyrics and characters has become a benchmark for all other shows. Our excellent cast included Julie Atherton as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut, Jon Robyns (yes Hamilton’s King George and Les Mis’s Valjean) as Princeton/Rod, and a  young Giles Terera (Hamilton’s Aaron Burr) as Gary. And which of us has never been wrong-footed by a Bad Idea Bear?

Some more theatre and dance memories you ask? OK! March to September 2006

  1. Trainspotting – Oxford Playhouse, 10th March 2006

A brand new production of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, adapted and directed by Harry Gibson, which was on a national tour. The cast featured Ruaraidh Murray as Tommy. It received very good notices, if I remember rightly.

  1. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Peacock Theatre, London, 1st and 8th April 2006

The Trocks hit the Peacock theatre for a two week run, featuring two programmes; we saw both – starting with Programme 2! That consisted of Les Sylphides, a mystery Pas de Deux, Go for Barocco, The Dying Swan and Raymonda’s Wedding. The following week, Programme 1 showed Swan Lake Act 2, the Pas de Deux, Le Grand Pas de Quatre, The Dying Swan and Paquita. Favourite performers Paul Ghiselin (Ida Nevasayneva), Robert Carter (Olga Supphozova) and Raffaele Morra (Lariska Dumbchenko) were all present. Fantastic as always.

  1. Titus Andronicus – Wildcard Theatre Company at the Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford Playhouse, 12th April 2006

The Burton Taylor Rooms are a tiny theatre at the back and upstairs at the Oxford Playhouse, that go in and out of favour as a venue; and at the time it was very much in. I can’t remember too much about this production of Titus Andronicus, except that it was full of guts and gore (but that’s like most productions of Titus Andronicus!) At the time Wildcard were the resident touring company of the Wycombe Swan – but I don’t think they are any more. A very small cast covered a multitude of roles, including Andy Wisher as Titus, and Charlotte McKinney as Lavinia.

  1. Nymph Errant – Lost Musicals at the Lilian Bayliss Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, London, 16th April 2006

I’d heard about Ian Marshall Fisher’s Lost Musicals but never got around to booking to see one – that is, until I heard they were doing Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant, which has songs I was brought up on as a kid, so it was a no-brainer that we had to see it – and it was a truly delightful experience, and one we kept going back to again and again. A large and talented cast sat in a semi-circle and performed a relatively unknown musical, and it worked a treat. Nymph Errant featured Thelma Ruby, Issy van Randwyck, Gay Soper, Stewart Permitt, Matt Zimmerman and James Vaughan. Loved it.

  1. The Taming of the Shrew – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 15th July 2006

Next, we saw Jerry Springer the Opera again, at the Milton Keynes Theatre, great fun again and disappointingly few protests! After that, having enjoyed our two trips to the OSC the previous year so much, this year we did three! First was their production of The Taming of the Shrew, notable for the fact they used the Christopher Sly framework in full – which worked very well; fairly slapstick in its approach but very good.

  1. Strangers on a Train – Milton Keynes Theatre, 2nd August 2006

Craig Warner’s stage adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s thriller novel embarked on a UK tour, with a cast featuring Alex Ferns, Anita Harris and Colin Baker. Classy and well done, but it lacked a little oomph somewhere along the line.

  1. The Importance of Being Earnest – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 12th August 2006

Proving that they don’t just do Shakespeare, the OSC’s Importance of Being Earnest was a complete delight, with John Brenner in particular a magnificent Lady Bracknell. One of their best productions.

  1. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Parts I and II – Chichester Festival Theatre, 19th August 2006

An old favourite, having recorded the TV presentation of the RSC’s landmark production over twenty years earlier, it was fantastic that Chichester brought back David Edgar’s magnificent 8 hour production of Nicholas Nickleby; we saw both halves of it on a glorious sunny day. One of the twentieth century’s most significant dramatic creations, it had lost none of its vigour, humour, savagery, and sheer drama. Daniel Weyman played Nicholas, Hannah Yelland Kate, Leigh Lawson Ralph, and David Dawson was particularly fantastic as Smike. What theatres are made for.

  1. The Overwhelming – Out of Joint and the National Theatre co-production at the Oxford Playhouse, 8th September 2006

Passing over a return visit to see the Oxford Shakespeare Company’s production of Macbeth (but this time at the amazing venue of the hall at Hampton Court Palace), our next show was J T Rogers’ play The Overwhelming. The programme was the play text; I quote: “seizing the opportunity to research a book, Jack Exley uproots his family from Illinois to Rwanda in early 1994. Alarmingly out of depth, Jack begins a fervent search for his dear and missing friend while his wife and teenage son find trouble of their own. As Jack involves himself in the local politics, he discovers a pattern of brutality and beliefs that jeopardizes the lives of everyone around him. A gripping story of a country on the brink of genocide.” A very strong play, given a great production, and an amazing cast featuring Lucian Msamati, the wonderful Tanya Moodie and the great Jude Akuwudike.

  1. The Hollow – The Agatha Christie Theatre Company at the Milton Keynes Theatre, 20th September 2006

Passing over a visit to the BBC Proms in the Park for the Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park, with Lionel Richie topping the bill (excellent), our next play was Agatha Christie’s The Hollow, presented by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company in their first ever appearance. This was Christie’s own original play version of her notable book. It starred Kate O’Mara, Tony Britton and Emmerdale’s Frazer Hines. I enjoyed it, as I like Christie. Mrs Chrisparkle, however, hated it and made me promise never to take her to an Agatha Christie Theatre Company production ever again! So I haven’t!

I know! How about some more theatre and dance memories? November 2005 to February 2006

  1. Mark Morris Dance Group – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 16th November 2005

Billed as their 25th Anniversary UK tour, the Mark Morris Dance Group swung into High Wycombe with their usual blaze of glory, and an enjoyable programme that started with Somebody’s Coming to See Me Tonight, set to songs by Stephen Foster; then All Fours, with music by Bela Bartok; followed by Candleflowerdance, set to Stravinsky’s Serenade in A, and finally Grand Duo with music by Lou Harrison. As always, all the dances were choreographed by Mark Morris – who, sadly, wasn’t one of the dancers this time. Hugely entertaining.

  1. Glorious – Duchess Theatre, London, 19th November 2005

Peter Quilter’s wonderful comedy about the singing sensation Florence Foster Jenkins – a legend in her own lunchtime – given a terrific central performance by Maureen Lipman as the soprano in extremis, with excellent support from William Oxborrow and Barrie Ingham. Very funny; but its real strength is in how it manages to tell her story without being unkind. A great show.

  1. Nabucco – Latvian National Opera at the Opera House, Riga, Latvia, 10th December 2005

We went to Riga for a long weekend and there took in a typically ex-Soviet evening at the Opera –  Verdi’s Nabucco (or Nabuko as it is in Latvian) performed by the Latvian National Opera. A very elegant, if snowy, experience! They did a grand job.

  1. Heroes – Wyndham’s Theatre, London, 28th December 2005

Gerald Sibleyras’ superb one-act comedy was given a feisty translation by Tom Stoppard and a terrific set of performances from a triumvirate of acting legends – Richard Griffiths, John Hurt and Ken Stott. Set in a French military hospital in 1959, this one act play delves into the men’s pasts to reveal their true characters – and it was beautifully done throughout.