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.

Still more theatre memories? December 2002 – June 2003

  1. Contact – Queen’s Theatre, London, 28th December 2002

A wonderful combination of dance and theatre, Susan Stroman’s Contact was a huge hit in the US, but British audiences didn’t seem to get it. Mrs Chrisparkle and I loved it, and we still have a framed poster in our hall to this day! The superb cast included Michael Praed, Leigh Zimmerman, Sarah Wildor and Craig Urbani. Fantastic!

  1. George Piper Dances – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 18th February 2003

The return of the George Piper team – aka the Balletboyz of the future – to the Swan Dance season gave us four short pieces to enjoy; William Forsyth’s Steptext, Matthew Hart’s Other Mens Wives, Lightfoot/Leon’s Sigue, and Russell Maliphant’s Torsion. As before, the group consisted of William Trevitt, Michael Nunn, Oxana Panchenko and Matthew Hart. Superb as always.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 1st March 2003

New Adventures, as Matthew Bourne’s company had now become, brought us Bourne’s vision of Tchaikovsky’s famous Christmassy ballet, which has become a firm family favourite all around the world. The story is now transplanted to Dr Dross’ Orphanage for Waifs and Strays, with the wonderful Scott Ambler as Dr Dross/King Sherbet, Emily Piercy as the Matron/Queen Candy, Saranne Curtin as Sugar, Ewan Wardrop as Fritz, Etta Murfitt as Clara and Alan Vincent as the Nutcracker himself. We took our nieces and they loved it.

  1. Madame Butterfly – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 5th April 2003

We took the Dowager Mrs C to see this because she loved the music to Madame Butterfly, although we weren’t sure she’d appreciate the dance much; but we all loved it. A superb dance rendition of Puccini’s romantic opera that tugged the heartstrings more than you could possibly imagine. Desiré Samaai was an extraordinary Butterfly, Jhe Russell a brilliant Pinkerton, and the whole show was just fantastic.

  1. The Dance of Death – Lyric Theatre, London, 19th April 2003

Richard Greenberg’s new adaptation of Strindberg’s play starred Ian McKellen and Frances de la Tour; and I remember that as you entered the auditorium, both were on stage, ignoring each other, moping about in a very gloomy, Strindbergian way. A very strong production, if not a song-and-dance every minute, and beautifully acted, as you would expect.

  1. Hamlet – Arc Dance Company at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 28th April 2003

Kim Brandstrup’s dance version of Shakespeare’s tragedy had Lee Boggess as Hamlet, the legendary Kenneth Tharp as Claudius and Joanne Fong as Gertrude. If only I could remember it better, because I am sure it was excellent!

 

 

 

 

  1. Paul Taylor Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th May 2003

An enviable chance to see the world famous Paul Taylor Dance Company of New York, performing three great dance works – Roses, The Word and Company B, all of which were choreographed by Paul Taylor. Company B was danced to the music of the Andrews Sisters, and was very similar to the dance Rum and Coca Cola choreographed by Janet Smith – I’m not sure who borrowed from whom! We knew we were privileged to see this show.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 7th June 2003

We always took the opportunity to see NDT2 whenever we could, and this show had four terrific dances. Johan Inger’s Out of Breath, followed by two Lightfoot/Leon pieces, Shutters Shut and Subject to Change, and finally = as they so often did – ending up with Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Brilliant as always.

 

  1. Corpse! – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 13th June 2003

Gerald Moon’s well-trodden old comedy thriller about a brother trying to murder his twin starred Peter Duncan, Colin Baker, Louise Jameson and David Warwick. Can’t remember too much about it, but I suspect it was a little creaky.

  1. The Vagina Monologues – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 27th June 2003

Eve Ensler’s ever popular play for three women had played in the West End for two years and was on a very long UK tour. Part of the fun was seeing which stars would be in it, as the cast kept evolving. For our performance, we saw Tamara Beckwith, Jenny Jules and Su Pollard, and they were all excellent. A very entertaining, and thought provoking show, that still tours today.

How about some more theatre memories? February to December 2002

  1. George Piper Dances – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 5th February 2002

In one of their earliest go-it-alone shows, the George Piper Dances (who eventually became the name by which they were always much better known as – the Balletboyz) were masterminded by Billy Trevitt and Michael Nunn. For this first tour they were accompanied by Matthew Hart, Ludy Dodd, Christopher Marney and Oxana Panchenko, and they performed William Forsythe’s Steptext (which was always one of their signature dances), Charles Linehan’s Truly Great Thing, Lightfoot/Leon’s Sigue and Russell Maliphant’s Critical Mass. We knew they were going to make it big!

  1. Sunset Boulevard – Opera House, Blackpool, 11th February 2002

We went up to Blackpool for Valentine’s weekend, old romantics that we are, and there took in the touring production of Sunset Boulevard, that we had missed in the West End. This is a show that really split us, as I rather enjoyed it, but Mrs C found it awful! Norma Desmond was played by Faith Brown and she was impressive; Joe Gillis was played by Earl Carpenter. It rained a lot; but the Opera House was an attractive theatre.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Spring Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 9th March 2002

The programme for this Spring tour was an unfamiliar selection. First came Richard Alston’s Unrest, danced to music by Arvo Part;  then Siobhan Davies’ Sounding to music by Scelsi. After that came Symphony of Psalms choreographed by Jiri Kylian, and the last piece was Christopher Bruce’s Grinning in your Face, to the accompaniment of music by Martin Simpson. I have to confess to not having too many memories of this particular performance.

  1. Bedroom Farce – Aldwych Theatre, London, 20th April 2002

I don’t usually mention shows I’ve seen before in these blogs, but the combination of Richard Briers and June Whitfield as Ernest and Delia was just too great to ignore. A brilliant production of Ayckbourn’s 70s classic.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Milton Keynes Theatre, 18th June 2002

Another trip to see NDT2, this time with a terrific programme of Jiri Kylian’s Indigo Rose, Paul Lightfoot’s Sad Case and Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. A terrific selection of dances from an amazing company.

  1. My Fair Lady – Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 30th July 2002

On a blisteringly hot summer night, with a packed audience and a faulty air conditioning system, the producers of My Fair Lady gave us all branded fans to keep us cool during the show! This was a superb and very successful production, starring Alex Jennings as Henry Higgins, Joanna Riding as Eliza, and Dennis Waterman as Doolittle. This was the production that famously originally had Martine McCutcheon in the lead role – on very rare occasions. Great show!

  1. Art – Whitehall Theatre, London, 10th August 2002

Yasmine Reza’s tremendously successful play had already been running for five years when we finally got to see it, on one of its regular cast changes. Our cast featured Ben Cross as Marc, Alex Ferns as Serge (although we saw his understudy, Michael Gyngell) and Sanjeev Bhaskar as Yvan. Extremely good – but then it wouldn’t have lasted that long if it wasn’t!

  1. The Play What I Wrote – Milton Keynes Theatre, 3rd October 2002

Hamish McColl and Sean Foley’s loving homage to Morecambe and Wise was every bit as good as everyone had said it was. At the time, McColl and Foley were a double act called The Right Size, and this particular departure into theatre was probably the most successful thing they ever did. For this week in Milton Keynes they were joined by special guest Toby Jones.

  1. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 20th November 2002

Always keen to see the Trocks whenever they toured, the production was so successful that the theatre ran out of programmes. So all I have to remind me of this particular performance is a photocopied running order and cast. We started with Swan Lake (of course), then aften an interval, it was whatever the Pas de Deux of the night was, then La Vivandiere, plus The Dying Swan, and then finally, Raymonda’s Wedding. I do remember finishing off our drinks in the theatre bar after the show (the bar at the Wycombe Swan always welcomed you to linger again with a fresh drink) when a number of the cast came in for a quick drink and we all gave them a huge round of applause in the bar.

  1. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – London Palladium, 10th December 2002

For Mrs C’s birthday treat we saw the new musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium, and it was a terrific show. Michael Ball was Caractacus Potts, Anton Rodgers his father, Emma Williams was Truly Scrumptious, and the Baron and Baroness were the formidable coupling of Brian Blessed and Nichola McAuliffe. Peter Polycarpou was the Child Catcher and Edward Petherbridge the Toymaker. I don’t know if this was a performance that featured one of my favourite actors Harry Francis in the role of young Jeremy Potts – it might have been! A superb production throughout.

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 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