And here are the last lot of old theatre and dance memories! September to December 2009

  1. Separate Tables – Festival Theatre, Chichester, 26th September 2009

Rattigan’s masterpiece double bill of Table by the Window and Table Number Seven were brought to life by Philip Franks’ excellent production, starring Iain Glen as John Malcolm/Major Pollock and Gina McKee as Anne Shankland/Sybil Railton-Bell. The superb cast also included Stephanie Cole, Deborah Findlay, Josephine Tewson and John Nettleton. Traditional English theatre doesn’t get much more traditional or English!

  1. Mixed up North – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 1st October 2009

Out of Joint presented Robin Soans’ entertaining play: from the back of the playscript, “Trish leads a youth theatre group designed to bring Asian and white teenagers together. As the harassed and heavily pregnant director Bella struggles to share her artistic vision with a cast who thing acting is “gay”, the compelling stories of the young stars unfold.” I remember this as being an extremely good play and a great production.

 

 

  1. Mark Morris Dance Group – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 21st October 2009

It was always a delight to see the Mark Morris Dance Group, here with a UK tour that comprised of Italian Concerto, Going Away Party, Three Preludes, and Grand Duo; all dances choreographed by Mark Morris. Fantastic entertainment.

 

 

 

 

  1. Talent – Menier Chocolate Factory, London, 1st November 2009

Moving over two evenings of excellent stand-up on the Derngate stage, with Alistair McGowan on 26th and Julian Clary on 28th October, our next play was Victoria Wood’s Talent at the Menier. This was the play that Wood originally wrote for herself and Julie Walters set in the 70s. When I booked it, it hadn’t occurred to me that the production would have actors pretending to be Victoria Wood and Julie Walters playing the roles of Julie and Maureen. The result was a ghastly mix up that I absolutely hated! I’m still surprised that it was directed by Victoria Wood; the characters should have taken on a new life rather than simply being re-enactments of Wood and Walters. Awful!

  1. Spring Storm – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 3rd November 2009

Artistic Director of the Royal and Derngate, Laurie Sansom, launched a Young America season with two early plays by established and revered American dramatists, both performed by the same cast in repertory. First was Spring Storm, an early Tennessee Williams play, and it was magnificent.

 

 

 

  1. Prick Up Your Ears – Comedy Theatre, London, 8th November 2009

Simon Bent’s play about the relationship – fatal as it happens – between playwright Joe Orton and wannabe writer Kenneth Halliwell was based on John Lahr’s excellent biography of Orton (of the same name), and was brought to amazing life by most convincing performances by Chris New as Orton and Con O’Neill as Halliwell. Riveting throughout.

  1. Beyond the Horizon – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 13th November 2009

The second part of Laurie Sansom’s Young America season was Beyond the Horizon, an early play by one of my playwright heroes, Eugene O’Neill. Fascinating to get a chance to see a relatively lost play – I loved it.

 

 

  1. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 30th November 2009

Three more comedy nights followed, with Stephen K Amos on 16th November, Rob Brydon on 28th November and another Screaming Blue Murder on  26th November. After that, our next show was our first time seeing the RPO on one of their regular visits to Northampton, and this is another something that has become a regular feature of our theatre entertainment over the subsequent years. The RPO, under the baton of Nicolae Moldoveanu, and accompanied by the Northampton Bach Choir and the Daventry Choral Society, performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1 and Beethoven’s Symphony No 9. Fantastic – and we were hooked.

  1. Rambert Dance Company, Comedy of Change Tour – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 3rd December 2009

Rambert’s 2009 tour comprised Henri Oguike’s Tread Softly, Mark Baldwin’s Comedy of Change and Siobhan Davies’ Carnival of the Animals. A wonderful selection of challenging dance and crowd pleasers.

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 26th December 2009

We took our nieces, their parents and the inlaws to see Northampton’s big family panto which starred Linda Lusardi as Queen Lucrietia and Sam Kane as Prince Michael. Pete Hillier was Muddles, and Emily Shaw Snow White. A very enjoyable and glamorous panto. Great fun.

And from 1st January 2010 I started my blog, so if you want to catch up on any more old shows, simply go to the date index on the blog and read at your leisure!

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.

  1. Scrooge – London Palladium, 31st December 2005

For a New Year’s Eve treat we took the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle out to see Scrooge – primarily because she was a huge Tommy Steele fan; this was to be her final visit to her much loved London Palladium. The show itself was pretty enjoyable – if I say it was a very lively, colourful and undemanding entertainment, you’ll get my drift. Mr Steele – aged approx. 69 then was still a very nimble figure on the stage! Fun to see Hi de Hi‘s Barry Howard as Jacob Marley, and favourite performer of the future, Alex Gaumond in some minor roles.

  1. Aladdin – Old Vic, London, 8th January 2006

A very hot ticket that Christmas, we adored Sean Matthias’ production of Aladdin for the Old Vic starring Ian McKellen as Widow Twankey – all the country wanted to see how he’d take on that role, and the answer is, with delicious relish. Absolutely hilarious – and pretty filthy if I remember rightly. Roger Allam was a fabulously wicked Abbanazar, and Frances Barber also gave us her Dim Sum. I think it was this show that got us back hooked into pantos in the future.

  1. Mammals – Oxford Playhouse, 20th January 2006

We probably didn’t realise at the time quite how good a cast this touring production of Amelia Bullmore’s rather savage comedy boasted. Mark Bonnar, Anna Chancellor, Daniel Ryan and Niamh Cusack led the show, which concerned a marriage in crisis after a confession of infidelity. Great stuff.

  1. Simply Ballroom – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2006

Moving over a return visit to see The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre, which was still going great guns, our next show was Strictly Ballroom at Milton Keynes – a touring show that was probably among the first of dozens of Strictly Come Dancing spin-offs that have cavorted over our stages ever since. Hosted by Lionel Blair, this was a rather formal and staid show that took different types of ballroom dance one by one and performed them in an almost educational manner. I felt it took a lot of the joy out of dance, and was quite a long evening!

  1. Improbable Fiction – Oxford Playhouse, 17th February 2006

I was very excited to be seeing Alan Ayckbourn’s latest comedy, set against the imaginations of those present at a writer’s group meeting. The first act laid the ground in a gently amusing way; and then the second act goes off in an extraordinary flight of fancy. If you “get” this play, then you “get” it. I didn’t “get” it at all; in fact, it’s the one and only time I’ve ever hated (yes, it was that strong a reaction) an Ayckbourn play.

  1. The Seasons/Carmina Burana – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 25th February 2006

The Seasons was a sequence of dances choreographed by David Bintley to the music of Verdi, and was a beautiful half hour of classic and classical ballet.

After the interval we loved Bintley’s Carmina Burana, set to Carl Orff’s superb music – which we had already seen on TV and couldn’t wait to see live; and it delivered everything it promised. One of the most exciting pieces of contemporary dance I’ve ever seen. Loved every minute of it.

And here’s another bundle of old theatre and dance memories! May to December 1999

  1. Carmen – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th May 1999

The always stunning and elegant Northern Ballet Theatre brought their production of Carmen, choreographed by one of our favourite dancers, Didy Veldman, to the 1999 Swan Dance season. Set in Rio de Janeiro, in 1999, this Carmen was a packer in a cigarette factory, Jose was a police officer and Escamillo a Rock Star. A fantastic re-imagining of the classic work, with superb performances by Charlotte Broom as Carmen and Daniel de Andrade – who today is Northern Ballet’s Artistic Associate – as Jose.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater NDT2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 23rd May 1999

Another wonderful tour from the NDT’s youth company. The programme started with Round Corners, choreographed by Johan Inger, then we saw Déjà vu, choreographed by Hans van Manen, Skew-Whiff, choreographed by Paul Lightfoot, and finally Indigo Rose, choreographed by Jiri Kylian. It’s always a privilege to see this amazing company.

  1. La Sylphide – Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris at the Palais Garnier, Paris, 18th June 1999

Moving past a fairly bland revival of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth at the Wycombe Swan, starring Peter Bowles and Michael Maloney, our next show was a glamorous visit to the Palais Garnier in Paris, during a wonderful ten day holiday in the French capital. La Sylphide, with choreography by Pierre Lacotte, was given a tremendous, pure production, with Fanny Gaida dancing the title role, Manuel Legris as James and Delphine Moussin as Effie. I had never seen a production quite like it. And since then we’ve always tried to see a ballet at the Palais Garnier if we go to Paris.

  1. Rent – Shaftesbury Theatre, London, 19th August 1999

Rent had already been playing at the Shaftesbury for more than a year by the time we finally got around to seeing it. It was a great production, but for some reason – probably my age and latent conservatism – I’ve never quite got on with it as a show. Three of the roles – Mark, Mimi and Maureen – were played by understudies; I’m not sure if that played a part in how the show came across. Whatever, this production by Michael Greif, is a major part of musical theatre history.

  1. Rambert Dance Company 1999 Autumn Programme – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 14th & 16th October 1999

Rambert returned to Wycombe with two programmes – so we saw them both. The first programme started with Gaps Lapse and Relapse by Jeremy James, followed by my all-time favourite dance, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, and finally The Golden Section choreographed by Twyla Tharp.

The second programme was the full-length dance God’s Plenty, Christopher Bruce’s dance exploration of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The classic company included Paul Liburd, Hope Muir, Matthew Hart, Laurent Cavanna, Christopher Powney, Glenn Wilkinson, Vincent Redmon, Didy Veldman, Marie-Laure Agrapart, and Rafael Bonachela.

  1. The Lion King – Lyceum Theatre, London, 19th October 1999

A good friend worked for one of the companies that sponsored The Lion King, and as a result he received an allocation of tickets for its first night, and he kindly invited us! So we walked on the red carpet (briefly) and went star-spotting in the bar. The show was good too! The original cast featured Josette Bushell-Mingo, Rob Edwards, Roger Wright, Martyn Ellis and Paul J Medford. Very enjoyable!

 

  1. Mark Morris Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 23rd October 1999

I’ve always really liked the choreography and style of Mark Morris, so it was great to catch this brief tour, over from the United States. The programme was Dancing Honeymoon followed by The Argument; then after the interval, Bedtime followed by Grand Duo. All pieces were choreographed by Mark Morris. Hugely entertaining!

  1. Closer – Milton Keynes Theatre, 13th November 1999

We didn’t get to see the original West End run of Patrick Marber’s Closer so when this tour was announced it seemed like the perfect opportunity to plug that gap. A harsh and uncomfortable play, but beautifully performed and produced, with Amanda Ryan, Barnaby Kay, Darrel D’Silva and Lizzy McInnerny.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd December 1999

We were really looking forward to seeing the return of the Richard Alston Dance Company, on what had already become a regular annual event. The programme was: Red Run, followed by Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms (which we had seen the previous year), and Roughcut. All pieces were choreographed by Richard Alston. A Sudden Exit had been scheduled for this performance but was replaced by Light Flooding at the last minute. The company was led by Martin Lawrance, but all the dancers were magnificent.

  1. Comic Potential – Lyric Theatre, London, 29th December 1999

Passing over yet another visit to see Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, this time visiting Milton Keynes, and with Simon Cooper and Tom Ward in the iconic roles, our next show was the most recent Alan Ayckbourn to hit the West End, Comic Potential. Janie Dee and David Soul (yes Hutch himself) led the excellent cast that also featured Matthew Cottle. Low paid actoids have replaced actors in this sci-fi comedy set in a TV station of the future. Rather weird, but tremendous fun!