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.

More theatre and dance memories? You’re insatiable! July 2004 – June 2005

  1. Jerry Springer The Opera – Cambridge Theatre, London, 10th July 2004

Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas’ scurrilous, sacrilegious and totally hilarious musical probably gave me the most laughs in a show until I saw The Book of Mormon. A wonderful parody of the Jerry Springer TV show, this upset people near and far – which is always a good indication that it takes its place in history. Fantastic performances from Michael Brandon as Springer and particularly David Bedella as Satan/Warm up Man. We adored it from start to finish.

  1. Jesus Christ Superstar – Birmingham Hippodrome, September 2004

I don’t usually write up shows in this blog if I’ve already seen them before, but I include this production of Jesus Christ Superstar because of the two extraordinary performances by Glenn Carter as Jesus and James Fox as Judas. A show on a grand scale that was absolutely stunning.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 7th October 2004

Passing over a rather forgettable touring production of Blithe Spirit at the Milton Keynes Theatre, starring Penelope Keith as Madame Arcati, our next show was Rambert’s Autumn tour, featuring four pieces. First up was Frederick Ashton’s Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan, as restaged by Lynn Seymour, and danced by Melanie Teal. Then came Kim Brandstrup’s Songs of a Wayfarer, Ian Spink’s reworking of Ashton’s A Tragedy of Fashion and Michael Clark’s Swamp. Always skilful and inspiring.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 2nd November 2004

Our annual trip to see Richard Alston’s show, this performance featured three dances: Brisk Singing, Shimmer and Gypsy Mixture. Star dancers Martin Lawrance and Jonathan Goddard on top form. Amazing as always.

  1. Jekyll and Hyde The Musical – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 25th November 2004

I remember there being a blaze of excitement and anticipation about this musical written by Leslie Bricusse, starring Paul Nicholas as the dually-tormented hero/anti-hero. It had opened in the US in 1990 but had taken fourteen years to reach the UK. Fully expecting to get a West End run, for some reason it just didn’t click – and it’s still not reached the West End to this day. Very lavish, great production values – good performances, but something was definitely lacking.

  1. Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 24th February 2005

Passing over the Watermill’s highly rated production of Sweeney Todd at the Ambassadors, and a tenth anniversary production of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells, our next show was said choreographer’s revival production of his early hit Highland Fling, “a romantic wee ballet” which reenvisages La Sylphide in a disco and council flat in Glasgow. Huge fun, terrifically inventive, and with a great cast of dancers including James Leece and Hannah Vassallo.

 

  1. Losing Louis – Trafalgar Studios, London, 26th February 2005

Simon Mendes da Costa’s black comedy was a bit of a hit and miss affair with the critics but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Great performances from Alison Steadman and Lynda Bellingham.

  1. Carmen – Oper Leipzig at the Opera House, Leipzig, 23rd April 2005

We took a long weekend at the exciting German city of Leipzig, and decided to pay a visit to the Opera House to see a production of Carmen. The theatre was quite municipal, but the production was very enjoyable – in French with German surtitles, which was a linguistic challenge.

 

  1. Grupo Corpo – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd May 2005

Dance Consortium brought the Brazilian dance group Grupo Corpo to the UK for a tour, featuring two dances, O Corpo and Lecuona. The pictures look really exciting – what a shame I can hardly remember this at all!

  1. The 2005 Russian Spectacular – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd June 2005

A slight misrepresentation of the truth, as this Russian Spectacular featured the White Russian Central Band from Belarus, and Belarussian military singers, as well as dancers from the Bolshoi and the Belarussian National Folk Dance Academy. An evening of Cossacks and Kalinka – I loved it. It was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Victory in Europe, so it’s safe to say they came in peace. Massive fun.

And another bunch of theatre memories come along… September 2003 to January 2004

Six dance, four theatre

  1. The Immortals – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 27th September 2003

Our first visit to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet in their base at the Birmingham Hippodrome, The Immortals consisted of three separate ballets on that godlike theme. First was Apollo, choreography by Balanchine to music by Stravinsky; then came The Sons of Horus, music by Peter McGowan and choreography by BRB’s very own David Bintley; then finally Krishna, set to music by Hariprasad Chaurasia and choreography by Nahid Siddiqui. The company included Principals Robert Parker and Nao Sakuma, Asta Bazeviciute and Molly Smolen, Chi Cao and Iain Mackay, Tiit Helimets and Dominic Antonucci. A wonderful, lavish production on a grand scale.

  1. The Graduate – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 3rd October 2003

The Cambridge Arts Theatre touring production of Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the famous Dustin Hoffman film starred Glynis Barber as the seductive Mrs Robinson and Andrés Williams as the easily seduced Benjamin Braddock. I remember enjoying it, but also thinking that it could have had more oomph; I confess I can’t remember why.

  1. Giselle – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 4th October 2003

Back at the Birmingham Royal Ballet for another show with the BRB, this time the full length ballet Giselle, based on Petipa’s original choreography and with extra choreography by David Bintley. We took our goddaughter, her brother, her mother and her grandmother – and we all found it delightful. Asta Bazeviciute was Giselle, Tiit Helimets was Albrecht, Marion Tait Berthe and Molly Smolen Queen of the Wilis. Every bit as gorgeous as you would imagine.

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 7th October 2003

Our annual trip to see Richard Alston’s company had three new dances for us – Grey Allegro, to music by Scarlatti and choreographed by Martin Lawrance; Slow Airs Almost All, set to Mozart, and Overdrive, with music by Terry Riley. The amazing Jonathan Goddard had joined the company and danced in all three pieces, favourite dancers Francesca Romo and Luke Baio also performed as did senior dancer Martin Lawrance. Fantastic as always.

  1. George Balanchine Programme – Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris at the Palais Garnier, Paris, 13th October 2003

As was becoming a tradition, any trip to Paris had to include a visit to the Palais Garnier to see the amazing Paris National Ballet. This was a programme of three works choreographed by George Balanchine – Symphonie en ut, with music by Bizet, Le fils prodigue, set to Prokofiev, and Les quatre tempéraments with music by Hindemith. Always the most spectacular privilege to attend such a show.

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 31st October 2003

Passing over the very enjoyable Audience with John Sergeant at the Wycombe Swan, where the great TV journo talked about the entertaining scrapes of his career, our next show was to see Rambert for their Autumn Tour. We started with one of Glenn Wilkinson’s Six Pack solo dances – to Ooh Be Do, then came Karole Armitage’s Living Toys. After the first interval came another Six Pack dance – to Zala, then Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient. After a second interval the show finished with Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta. The fantastic company included Rafael Bonachela, Hope Muir, Glenn Wilkinson, Simon Cooper, Paul Liburd, Clemmie Sveass and Conor O’Brien.

  1. Beauty and the Beast – Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Birmingham Hippodrome, 6th December 2003

David Bintley’s vision of Beauty and the Beast, set to music by Glenn Buhr, was a full-scale full-length ballet of epic proportions. Belle was danced by Azta Bazeviciute and the Beast by Robert Parker. As always it was grand, beautiful and delightfully classical.

  1. Anything Goes – Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, 31st December 2003

We took the Dowager Mrs C with us to see Anything Goes as a Christmas/New Year treat; it was a terrific show, directed by Trevor Nunn and choreographed by Stephen Mear. The excellent cast starred John Barrowman and Sally Ann Triplett, with Barrie Ingham, Martin Marquez and Susan Tracy for good measure. Way down the cast list playing “A sailor with wanderlust” was Dancing on Ice’s Jason Gardiner.

  1. A Chorus Line – Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, 3rd January 2004

I don’t normally include shows I’ve seen before in these memory blog posts, but this production of A Chorus Line was very different from the majority I’ve seen before. Karen Bruce provided brand new choreography for the show, which, for a Chorus Line purist like myself, was sacrilege. With no input from any of the original team (sometimes you would find that Bob Avian or Baayork Lee had lent a hand) it was unrecognisable apart from having the same songs and script. They even included an interval between Hello Twelve… and Dance Ten Looks Three. A cast of amazing talent though, with Josefina Gabrielle as Cassie, Michael Jibson as Bobby, Lara Pulver as Bebe and Hayley Tamaddon as Diana. Casualty’s Jason Durr played Zach. It was well done – but it wasn’t A Chorus Line.

  1. Taboo – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 22nd January 2004

Billed as The Boy George Musical, this had been a big success in London, but we missed it so were happy to catch it on tour. The excellent cast included Stephen Ashfield as Boy George and Neighbours’ Mark Little as Leigh Bowery. Dynamic and fun, a very engrossing and entertaining show.

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