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?!

I reckon this is going to be another theatre memories blog post! June to November 2005

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 21st June 2005

NDT2 were back for another of their unmissable tours, so as always, we didn’t miss it! The four pieces were Jiri Kylian’s Sleepless, followed by Hans van Manen’s Simple Things, then Lightfoot/Leon’s Shutters Shut, and finally Lightfoot/Leon’s Skew-Whiff. As it was a school night, I doubt if we stayed for the post show talk. But it would have been a brilliant night.

  1. The Merry Wives of Windsor – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 9th July 2005

The start of what was to become a tradition for nearly every year since, this was our first visit to Wadham College to see an open-air production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. The OSC have always had a brilliant knack of creating something magic in a garden, and this production still has us laughing sixteen years later – one of the best productions of a Shakespeare comedy I’ve ever seen. At the heart of it, a brilliant performance by Dermot Canavan as Falstaff, but with only Mistress Ann played by a woman, there was a massive amount of cross-dressing fun to be had, and the thought of David Chittenden’s Dr Caius, together with his fishy (don’t ask) still makes us roar today.

  1. Naked – George Piper Dances/Ballet Boyz – Playhouse, Oxford, 9th July 2005

Having seen open air Shakespeare in the afternoon, we plumped for contemporary dance in the evening, with the George Piper Dances, now almost jettisoning that name in favour of the Ballet Boyz. Naked was a full length dance, the first to be choreographed by the Boyz themselves, and also featured their regular dancer Oxana Panchenko, with Monica Zamora, Yvette Halfhide and Thomas Linecar. My memory is that it was a very strong work – but, before you ask, no one was naked.

  1. Macbeth – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 6th August 2005

Our visit to see Merry Wives was so enjoyable that we booked to see the other show that OSC were doing alongside it, Macbeth. The same cast, putting their amazing inventive skills to very different purpose. Here, the most extraordinary performance was by Paul Dinnen as Lady Macbeth – but they were all sensational.

  1. The Importance of being Earnest – Playhouse, Oxford, 20th August 2005

Erica Whyman’s summer show for the Oxford Playhouse was her charming production of Wilde’s classic; my memory is that the lesser roles outclassed the major roles. Anna Calder-Marshall’s Miss Prism was a joy, as was Christopher Godwin’s Canon Chasuble.

  1. Mamma Mia! – Prince of Wales Theatre, London, 27th August 2005

Six years after it opened in the West End, we finally got to see Mamma Mia! – I was never sure if I was going to enjoy it or not – I like Abba, but I was dubious about how the songs would organically accompany a story without being contrived. I needn’t have worried. It was a wonderful show; extremely funny, superbly performed, and remarkable uncontrived! We had a few understudies for our performance – and Kelly Rainford knocked it out of the park as Tanya. A great night’s entertainment.

  1. Jasmin Vardimon’s Park – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 14th October 2005

I’d heard of Jasmin Vardimon but had never seen any of her work so we decided to give Park a try – and oh my word what a terrific piece of contemporary dance it was. I quote from the programme: “Park is a place of refuge. Floating like an island in the urban ocean, Park is the backyard for worn out beliefs and redundant ideologies. In this playground, Vardimon and her eight dancers create a new hybrid of metaphors and tales, a collage made from these remnants. Park becomes the place were the individual escapes the everyday in order to play.” All I can say is, I’d love to see it again.

  1. Le Parc – Paris Opera Ballet at Sadler’s Wells, London, 16th October 2005

Whenever we go to Paris we always try to catch the Opera Ballet at the Palais Garnier. So it only seemed right that we should go to see them when they came to the UK! Angelin Preljocaj’s Le Parc was a beautiful mixture of the classical and contemporary; the latter comes in and out to subvert the former throughout the show, which makes it a challenging but very entertaining show.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – Milton Keynes Theatre, 28th October 2005

I shouldn’t have included this revisit to see Swan Lake – which was actually the second time we’d seen it in 2005 – but I couldn’t resist it. The show had changed slightly from the original; the young prince/schoolboy role had gone, and the disco scene had renewed itself – perhaps not for the better, but we’re used to the new version now. Alan Vincent was the Swan and Simon Wakefield the Prince.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn Tour – Milton Keynes Theatre, 4th November 2005

Back for another shot of Rambert – like NDT2 they were unmissable. The programme for the evening started with Michael Clark’s Swamp, then Rafael Bonachela’s Curious Conscience, followed by Mark Baldwin’s Constant Speed. Wonderful as always.

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.