More theatre memories? OK but they’re mainly dance! September 2000 to May 2001

  1. BBC Proms in the Park – Hyde Park, London, 9th September 2000

I wasn’t sure if I should add this or not, but then if I’m including Proms inside the Albert Hall, why not include Proms in the Park outside the Albert Hall! The perfect alternative to getting those hotly contested last night tickets, we enjoyed a beautiful day in the sunshine with picnic and champers, plus great entertainment from Bjorn Again, The Chieftains, Georgie Fame, Julian Lloyd Webber, Willard White and Angela Gheorghiu. All topped off by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and hosted (of course) by Terry Wogan. Fantastic!

  1. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Milton Keynes Theatre, 12th September 2000

Every show by the Trocks is different, even if they do the same dances as before! This programme started with Les Sylphides; then after an interval, Cross Currents, Go for Barocco and The Dying Swan, finally ending up with Paquita. All as skilful and stunning as they are hilarious. The terminal fowl was executed, as usual in those days, by Ida Nevasayneva. Nothing more to say!

  1. Defending the Caveman – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 15th September 2000

Rob Becker’s beautifully written one-man play was toured the world over by Australian Mark Little, at the time best known for his appearances in the TV soap Neighbours. Defending the Caveman is a really clever show that highlights the differences between men and women, presented from a man’s point of view, but always respectful and entertaining. Great stuff!

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn & Winter Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th October 2000

Back again for another helping of Rambert, with a slightly unusual programme of two longer dance pieces: Mats Ek’s She was Black and Christopher Bruce’s Sergeant Early’s Dream. Dream was performed to live music from the Sergeant Early Band. The fantastic (slightly smaller than usual) group of dancers included favourites Hope Muir, Glenn Wilkinson, Vincent Redmon, and Simon Cooper.

  1. Graham Norton – Lively – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 8th October 2000

After seeing Victoria Wood a few years earlier, this was our second foray into the world of stand-up comedy on stage, and Graham Norton’s comedy gig was absolutely excellent. He had the also excellent Jo Caulfield as his support act. At the time he was just gathering success with his So Graham Norton TV show – little did we know how he would grow to dominate the TV and radio for decades!

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 24th October 2000

Our third trip to see Richard Alston’s annual tour, the programme featured a selection of Alston’s pieces set to classical musical. Waltzes in Disorder, with music by Brahms, was followed by Tremor, with music by Shostakovich, and finally The Signal of a Shake, set to music by Handel. The line up of dancers included Martin Lawrance, David McCormick and Diana Loosmore.

  1. Mark Baldwin Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 14th February 2001

A four month gap till our next show, a Valentine’s night trip to the Wycombe Swan to see the Mark Baldwin Dance Company in a programme of works all choreographed by Baldwin: Danses Concertantes, The Bird Sings with its Fingers, and The State. This show was a collaboration with the full scale orchestra, Sinfonia 21. Among the dancers was Laurent Cavanna, whose work we had admired when he danced with Rambert.



  1. Jekyll and Hyde – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 30th March 2001

Another trip to see strong modern ballet with the contemporary twist of the Northern Ballet, in a dance version of the famous story choreographed  by Massimo Moricone. Jekyll was danced by Hironao Takahashi and Hyde by the late Jonathan Ollivier. I confess I don’t have too many memories of this.

  1. Moscow City Ballet perform Swan Lake – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 1st May 2001

Classical ballet on a grand scale, the Moscow City Ballet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece had all the little touches you would expect from this company that brings the atmosphere of the true Russian ballet on its regular tours.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 20th May 2001

Another visit to see NDT2 touring, at the time one of favourite dance companies – the youth department of the NDT. The programme started with Dream Play, choreographed by Johan Inger, to music from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; then Said and Done, a new dance from Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon to the music of Bach; and finally crowd pleaser Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, set to fun 1950s tunes. A brilliant and memorable night’s dance.


And another bunch of theatre memories… February to April 1999

All but one of these were at the Wycombe Swan!

  1. Ennio Marchetto – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 12th February 1999

A hilarious show in the company of this brilliant impersonator who uses unfolding paper costumes to reveal his characters. Sadly mis-booked by the theatre, in that it was clearly designed to be one part of a double bill, so that when we were all packing up to go home, barely forty minutes after we’d sat down, front of house were visibly embarrassed at how short-changed we’d been! Nevertheless, hugely funny and entertaining.

  1. The Prisoner of Second Avenue – Oxford Playhouse, 15th February 1999

Neil Simon’s 1971 play, that was made into a hit film four years later, toured with the terrific casting of Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason, Neil Simon exponents par excellence. I remember feeling that the story itself was quite dated and not terribly interesting, but it was great to see such a distinguished cast doing it superbly.

  1. Twisted – Motionhouse Dance Company at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, February 1999

An exhilarating return of this exciting contemporary dance company to Wycombe’s Swan Dance season. From the programme: “An airborne toxic event has occurred – “something” has been released into the atmosphere. What is more dangerous – the unknown substance or the mystery that surrounds it? News spreads like wildfire – hype begets rumour which creates panic. Fortunately help is at hand, or is it? As events become distorted so people and things become twisted.” In retrospect, incredibly prescient!

  1. Mark Baldwin Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 26th February 1999

Mark Baldwin’s own dance company, which he ran from 1993 until he became Artistic Director of Rambert, always starred Baldwin’s own elegant and attractive choreography. This programme featured Pulcinella Disperato, Darkness Visible, M-Piece, and Song of the Nightingale. The small company were Shelley Baker, Bart de Block, Richard Court, Martin Lindinger and Mark Baldwin himself.

  1. The New Rocky Horror Show – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 1st March 1999

I’m not entirely sure what was new about this; I don’t think the show itself had changed, must just have been a new production. It’s a shame that I don’t remember much about Jason Donovan’s performance as Frank N Furter, but I do remember that Nicholas Parsons was absolutely brilliant as the Narrator. The cast also featured Laurie Brett, better known as Eastenders’ Jane Beale. Rocky Horror is often a bit… messy, I reckon, and this was no exception!

  1. Dance Bites – Royal Ballet at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 11th March 1999

The last ever Dance Bites tour featured four ballets of the highest quality, and with a company that included Darcey Bussell and Deborah Bull. First up was Love’s Fool, to music by Karl Jenkins, and choreographed by William Tuckitt. Next was Walk and Talk, choreographed by Ashley Page, followed by Monotones with music by Erik Satie, and choreographed by Frederick Ashton. The final piece was Towards Poetry, music by Julian Anderson and choreography by Mark Baldwin. We were always very appreciative of the Royal Ballet coming out to perform on our patch!

  1. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – The Reduced Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 18th March 1999

Even though the original production was still running in London, this touring production of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s hilarious adaptation of the works of William Shakespeare called at the Wycombe Swan for a couple of nights of sheer comedy perfection. The brilliant cast were Rick Bland, Christian Malcolm, Michael O’Connor and John Schwab. We still quote lines from this today.

  1. The Return of Don Juan – Arc Dance Company at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 23rd March 1999

It’s still extraordinary to think that we bought front stalls to see this show, with principal dancer Irek Mukhamedov, for a mere £6.25 each! Kim Brandstrup’s comic ballet had premiered earlier that month at Sadlers Wells, and the lavish production virtually bankrupted Brandstrup’s Arc Company. Full of excitement and showing-off, a really fun and virtuoso night of dance!

  1. Earth and Sky – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 10th April 1999

Douglas Post’s thriller starred Sam Janus (before she became Samantha Womack) and Joe McGann and had originated at the now defunct Nuffield Theatre Southampton. Mr Post’s website gives a fascinating account of what this play is about. If only I could remember one thing about it. But alas I can’t.

  1. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 26th April 1999

Our second ever visit to see the Trocks featured a classic programme beginning with Swan Lake Act II, then (as always) a mystery pas de deux to be announced on the night, Go for Barocco (which is always hilarious), The Dying Swan, executed by Comrade Ida Nevasayneva as it nearly always was when she was in town, and finally Raymonda’s Wedding. It’s a sign of the times that the programme includes the statement “Les Trockadero would like to dedicate this performance to the memory of all Trocks who have died of AIDS”. It was an always present threat. As always, an evening of blistering joy.

Review – Rambert Dance Company Spring Tour, Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury, 11th February 2016

RambertIt’s been a couple of years since we’ve caught the Rambert team doing their thing so I thought their Spring Tour would be a perfect opportunity to catch up. Killing two birds with one stone, we also finally got round to visiting the new Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury – I say new, but it actually opened back in 2010. No excuse really, as I normally go to Aylesbury twice a week to see how the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle is getting on. Verdict? On the plus side, the seats are very comfortable, the sightlines are good from the stalls, parking is easy, and it had a busy and good-natured vibe. On the down side, it’s a bit municipal, and not remotely intimate; there would be plenty of smaller shows that would be absolutely lost in that environment. And the décor inside is….shall we say….individual.

Enough of that, let’s talk about Rambert. Their Spring Tour features seven modern dances, none of them premiered before September 2014, which certainly shows that as a breeding ground for new work it’s doing amazingly well. Our programme showcased three of them, each by a different choreographer, and each with live music – which was played with pizazz and gave an extra dimension of exhilaration to the performances.

The Three Dancers First up was The 3 Dancers, choreographed by Didy Veldman. Mrs Chrisparkle and I always used to watch out for her work when we first started seeing a lot of dance about 25 years ago – yikes, where have the years gone! And it’s a pleasure to see she’s still creating great work. The inspiration for this piece came from Picasso’s The Three Dancers, but she also drew on other aspects of his life when creating the content. The music is by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin and reminded me of Philip Glass’s work for the film Koyaanisqatsi – slightly less menacing perhaps, but equally haunting.

3 DancersGiven that it’s called The 3 Dancers, I was amused by the subversion of having six dancers on stage – a group of three in white, shadowed by another three in black. As you transfer your gaze from one group to the other, prompted by the lighting cues, you see the other group finishing off the movement that the first group started, giving it a great sense of flow. Soon the two groups integrate and then break off to form different duets. I was very impressed by the strength and precision of the first duet by Miguel Altunaga and Stephen Quildan, and by the puppet/manipulator characterisation in the second duet by Liam Francis and Daniel Davidson. The choreography was exciting and engrossing to watch, with wide arm and leg gestures stretching out in sweeping rotations. At various points the dancers were joined on stage by what appear to be enormous shards of glass shooting down from the sky. One of them made a beeline for one of the dancers who escaped from its clutches by means of deft choreography. It’s not obvious how those shards relate to the picture; perhaps they represent piercing blows to Picasso’s heart as he reflects on the fates of his three friends portrayed in it. Still, it’s a very stirring and thought-provoking piece, with much pent-up power, and beautifully performed; and it was definitely my favourite of the three items on the programme.

Strange CharmThe second dance was The Strange Charm of Mother Nature, choreographed by Rambert Artistic Director Mark Baldwin. It was inspired by a visit to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN – yes science and art can come together – and I believe the dancers represent the particles used in the collider. It’s set, first, to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks and then Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No 3; Stravinsky reconfigured Bach’s notes to create his piece, just as the collider takes the particles and subsequently bashes all hell out of them. So you could say that the dance and the music are two ways of expressing the same concept.

Strange Charm of Mother NatureVisually it’s stunning, with the dancers wearing a sequence of full-length, multi-coloured bodysuits, and the choreography is athletic, frequently frantic, with the dancers performing both solo and in groups. Whilst it looked great and definitely showed off the dancers’ incredible skills, I nevertheless found it difficult to appreciate the vision of this piece – I couldn’t quite understand what it was all about, even though I had read the programme notes. Sometimes that doesn’t matter – but in this case I eventually decided that the whole didn’t quite add up to the sum of all its parts. I also found the change of music during the dance strangely disturbing. The Bach sounded to me like a musical non-sequitur after the Stravinsky – possibly because it always reminds me of the Trocks performing Go For Barocco, which I’m sure is not the kind of impression Mr Baldwin meant to give. Mrs C disagreed with me and found the whole dance exciting and satisfying throughout.

Transfigured NightOur final piece was Transfigured Night, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup to Schoenberg’s Verklaerte Nacht. The inspiration for this work is a narrative poem by Richard Dehmel where a woman confesses to her lover that she is pregnant with another man’s child. Nevertheless, her lover forgives her, continues to love her and says he will love the child as his own. The dance is broken into three sections where you see three possible outcomes following a devastating disclosure. The first, concentrating on the fear of being abandoned as a result; the second, where everything is forgiven and forgotten; and the third, a compromise between the two, where despite the relationship being damaged, the lovers continue together as best they can. Or, as Mrs C succinctly put it: Relate, the ballet.

Kim Brandstrup - Transfigured NightI really enjoyed the concept and the structure of this work, with the desperate couple dancing both together and apart, making clear those moments of support and abandonment, and with nameless hordes of others dancing in the background, doubtlessly spreading rumour or name-calling. Miguel Altunaga and Simone Damberg Würtz were particularly moving as the couple in scenarios 1 and 3, broken up by a less tragic form of choreography for scenario 2, danced by Liam Francis and Hannah Rudd. If I have a criticism it would be that, to me, there wasn’t that great a difference in atmosphere between the situations in scenarios 1 and 3, and dynamic and attractive though it was, by the end of the dance I felt it was a little repetitive. Mrs C had already decided that she’d had a long enough day and decided to snooze out the last half of this particular dance. Personally, I didn’t feel it was snoozeworthy; but I did get her point. I think maybe it would have been better if Transfigured Night and The Strange Charm of Mother Nature had been reversed – you would then have had the slightly more challenging dance in the middle of the evening and the more traditionally crowd-pleasing at the end. But, hey, what do I know?

Rambert’s Spring Tour continues to Aberdeen, Mold and Brighton until March. Innovative, musically rewarding, technically strong, at times challenging – everything contemporary dance should be.

Production photos taken from Rambert’s website.