Review of ‘The Dreaming’ in the Hayward Theatre, Ely on Thursday 3rd August 2017

August 5, 2017

Inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, the production of ‘The Dreaming’ presented in the Hayward Theatre last week was amazing. The logistics of combining two of the most renowned theatre groups in the area, Viva and King’s Ely, must have been challenging enough, but creating successfully such a believable world of fantasy and reality with stage limitations in preparation for appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, took sheer genius. Director Jeremy James Taylor (pictured), founder of The National Youth Music Theatre, is indeed a weaver of magic. With producers Dan Schumann (Viva  pictured) and Nick Huntingdon (Kings Ely -pictured) the show transported us into a world of contrasts, from the genteel superficiality of the well-to do, hilarious light-hearted comedy, to manic mayhem and sinister undertones that foretold the brutality and cruelty of the First World War with the loss of the lives of so many young men, men who were never to have the children of the next generation. .

This was no ‘youth production’. It was first class theatre. The acting, singing, dancing and orchestral accompaniments were superb. The magic of this show was no frivolous affair, but a robust, potent, primeval stabbing into the darkness of the unknown. Fantastic choreography (by Jessica Clifford and Chris Cuming) and clever stage direction moved the drama from scene to scene in a continuous, energetic flow, shifting seamlessly from poignant solo to the astounding, often frenzied, actions of the Boy and Girl Woodlanders.

Key characters stood out, their respective personality traits strongly and credibly displayed. The confident Jack, a blacksmith’s boy (Crobin Abassi) played a pivotal part in the typical Shakespearian-type mistaken identity and resulting comedy. Hilarious scenes of lovers and unrequited lovers in battle, the bunch of simple local folks endeavouring to put on a first class play of their own but not necessarily succeeding, and a touch of fervent patriotism with St George and the Dragon effortlessly fell into place, only possible because of such a sustained high standard of direction, performance and skilled team support.

Other particularly memorable individual characters included Angel (Jordan Thorpe), Sylvia (Eloise George), the Villagers: Nick Cheek (Ben Clark), Reverend Herbert Plum ( David Tickner), Jess Dunn (Freddie Bowles), Walter Grub (Pierre Taffara-Cox) Bob Fry (Peter Crussell) and Seth Wilmot (Steven Beach) and the lovers: Alexander (Joseph Beach), David Swan (Daniel Lane), Charlotte Matthews (Riley Williames) Jennifer Farthing (Zara Minns), Henrietta (Kerry Hibbit) and Julian (Max Bovington).

It will be no surprise if this marvellous production is highly successful in the Edinburgh Fringe on the 11th and 12th of August 2017.

 

Review of a visit to ADeC’s Accessible Cinema and the film ‘Dad’s Army’ at the Maltings, Ely on Thursday 20th July 2017.

July 23, 2017

review Dads Army cinema John Yarrow Allison Morris Brian Brittain Caroline Cawley Ted Coney Lola Howell 2 yPictured is the ADeC team from left John Yarrow, Allison Morris, Brian Brittain, Caroline Cawley, Ted Coney and Lola Howell.

ADeC has taken on board Ely Mayor’s wish for Ely to become a dementia-friendly city and has offered a chance for sufferers and their carers to see a film: ‘Dad’s Army’. The event was entitled ‘Accessible Cinema’ to lose the unnecessary stigma associated with dementia and to the ADeC team’s delight, mums with children took advantage too.

The reviews of ‘Dad’s Army’ the film, I believe, were quite unfair. Even though I had watched many of the episodes on TV and I knew that it would be extremely difficult for other actors to take the place of those we had come to know so well, as far as I am concerned, the film worked. The characters came through well, which was to be expected with such a famous line up. Among the cast were Catherine Zeta-Jones (playing Rose Winters, a femme fatal who enchanted the whole troop), Bill Nighy as the debonair Sergeant Wilson, Toby Jones as a dominant Captain Mainwaring, Michael Gambon as the elderly Private Godfrey, Tom Courtney as Lance Corporal Jones, the enthusiastic butcher, Blake Harrison as Mummy’s boy, Private Pike,  Daniel Mays as the privateer Private Walker, Ian Lavendar as the Brigadier, Bill Patterson as the very Scottish Private Frazer, Sarah Lancashire as the forthright Mrs Pike, Alison Steadman as the sensual Mrs Fox, and Annette Crosby as a Mrs Marple of Walmington-on-sea, Cissy Godfrey. There was a decent plot and a splendid opportunity to witness life in the 40’s.

The event was supported by the British Film Industries’ Film Audience Network. The lights were left on low, there were no adverts or trailers and people were allowed to move about, although I noticed few did.

This was a splendid beginning of a planned series of films presented this way. There will be another opportunity to visit ‘Accessible Cinema’ in the autumn.

for more information contact:

tel: ADeC at the Babylon Gallery, Ely tel: 01353 616991

Review of ‘Wind in the Willows’ at Floods Tavern in St Ives on Thursday 20th July 2017

July 23, 2017

review Wind in the Willows Jon Scott ClarkThere is something quintessentially English about sitting by the bank of a river, watching the world go by. More than this, the play ‘Wind in the Willows’ is an insight into the creative imagination of one particular eccentric English man: Kenneth Graham. The combined effect was sheer magic.

In the presence of the Mayor of St. Ives and a host of VPs, Momentum Theatre Company presented ‘Wind in the Willows’ in the grounds of Floods Tavern with a most picturesque back drop of the Great Ouse River flowing gently by with grassy fields stretching beyond.

All the well-known and well-loved characters were there in this adaptation. Toad (played by Oliver Scott) the ‘big boned’ but never ‘fat’ amphibian simply adored motor cars, or anything that happened to be in fashion. He was doomed to failure as he launched himself into his new hobby and his kind friends, the timid Mole (Sian Eleanor Green), the upper-crust Ratty (Charles Ruhrmund) and the wise old Badger (Adrian Osman) came to the rescue.  Other memorable characters were the snobbish horse, Gerald, play by the director himself, Jon-Scott Clark (pictured) and James Thompson the remarkable, singing rabbit.

The baddies were sneaky weasels (represented by Samantha Clark) and the evil queen (Hannah Ponting) and with frequent appearances of the police and their amazingly mobile police cars, the delightful story unfolded.

The set was incredible, one small stage becoming different character’s homes, the Wild Wood, the train station, the open road, the river bank or Toad Hall. This excellent adaptation by Bryan Hodgson, with original music by Matt Harvey provided a splendid night’s entertainment in an ideal environment. Let there be more, I say.

 

Viva’s ‘The Bakewell Bake Off’ and ‘Departure Lounge’ on Friday 21st July 2017 at the Brook Soham.

July 23, 2017

review The Bakewell Bakeoff Dan SchumannViva is going to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe, a high accolade indeed. As a consequence, the audience this night was treated to two musical plays, both of which will be presented at the Fringe.

The first was the highly amusing ‘The Bakewell Bake Off’ when the township of Bakewell was holding its baking competition. Under the directorship of Dan Schumann and Mary Barnes, the participants were all strong, credible characters: spicy doctor Pradeepta Smith (played by Radha Bilimoria), new boy postman Freddie Twist (David Blyth), sex-changed Henry now Henrietta Apfelstrudel (Frank Crosby), the gawky nun Sister Mary (Chloe Grimes), the promiscuous Tina Tartin (Vicki Jelleyman), health freak Mandy Macaroon (Ruth Lo), Christmas fanatic Holly Berry (Kate Weekes) and unrequited lesbian Flora Drizzle (Sammy Williams).  Mix them together, and what do you get: a hilarious musical comedy further exacerbated by the shenanigans of the three contrasting judges.  These were the easily swayed Suzie Sunflower (Emma Gilbey), the womaniser Hugh Drip (David Moat) and the domineering Griselda Pratt-Dewhurst (Anthea Kenna). Endeavouring to hold everything together was the over-the-top hostess, Victoria Sponge (Sarah Shorney) and adding delightful musical enhancements, was the vocal trio: the Cream Puffs (Kerry Hibbet, Laura Leonard and Sophie Plachcinski). Well crafted stage directions, first rate keyboard accompaniment by Mark Clough and hilarious timing also served to produce a most entertaining show.

‘Departure Lounge’ directed by Joshua Schumann with the cast, was presented after interval and was amazing. Few of us can ever claim to understand the teenage mind; however, I can truthfully say that this play gave me real insight. The Cambridge-born script writer, Dougal Irvine, gave us everything. In what appeared to be a bunch of loud-mouthed hooligans forced to wait in the departure lounge for their plane to take them back to England after an indulgent, drunken week on holiday in Spain, were four distinct characters trying to bond as only a bunch of adolescent teenagers would, while underneath they struggled to overcome their feelings of inadequacy, fear of the future and their hidden anxieties.

Almost immediately, we were drawn into the lives of these young emotionally immature males, while they waited for the plane, their ‘A’ level exam results and their new lives in the outer world. Pete (played by Simon Thompson), Jordan (Ben Clark), Ross (Joseph Hall), and JB (Lee Sherwood) with constant energy and highly-charged, macho antics, eyed the girls and in a drunken haze relived highlights of their holiday with flashbacks of the gorgeous Sophie (Emily Thompson) and their individual glamourised version of events. With highly appropriate Spanish-flavoured guitar music (played by Jazz Bullen) and excellent singing of angst-filled songs, these characters eventually revealed their true selves and in this short space of time grew up.

What a fantastic evening!

The next Viva event is ‘The Dreaming’ on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of August 730pm in the Hayward Theatre, Ely. contact: 01353 653931

The Elysian Riding and Driving for the Disabled Club

July 16, 2017

speaker Elysian Riding for the Disabled Y had its AGM on Wednesday 12th July 2017. New officers for the coming year were decided: the chair: Enid Bedford, secretaries: Sue Garrod and Debbie Bedford and the treasurer Mike Axford.

The guest speaker at the meeting was Tabitha Smith of the National Stud who described the history and importance of Newmarket as the centre of horses and horse racing. It was originally used by the Romans to race their chariots but was firmly established as a centre racing in Charles 11’s time for he had a passion for horses and the area is renowned for its turf being the most suitable for raising and racing them. The Jockey Club is now the key owner and has turned the industry into a multi-million business with the profits being ploughed back into the establishment.

The Elysian Riding and Driving for the Disabled club provide disabled children with the opportunity to have the experience of gaining confidence and a sense of achievement by riding and driving horses, assisted by an experienced team of helpers.

For more information contact Enid Bedford on 01353 662499

Review of ‘Beethoven’s 9th’ in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 15th July 2017

July 16, 2017

conductors Andrew Parnell and Steve Bingham Isle of Ely Arts Festival concert y 2The Isle of Ely Arts Festival culminated splendidly with a magnificent concert in Ely Cathedral. Taking part were Ely Choral Society, Ely Sinfonia, Ely Consort and soloists Peyee Chen (soprano), Freya Jacklin (mezzo soprano), Michael Solomon Williams (tenor) and Laurence Williams (bass-baritone).

Under the batons of the conductors Andrew Parnell and Steve Bingham, these wonderful musicians filled the cathedral with glorious sounds to the delight of a packed audience.

The concert opened with a treat from brass instruments which was followed by a very appropriate work by Vaughan Williams: ‘In the Fen Country’. We revelled in the spirit of the Fens, with haunting melodic episodes by the cor anglais and other woodwind, gorgeous rich harmonies in the strings and an effective orchestration that gave us a real sense of the potent expansiveness of the area.

After interval, Andrew Parnell’s composition ‘Fenland Images’, specially composed for the event, was a great success. The three movements were based on different texts: a poem ‘Fencraft’ by Hilary Parry, Etheldreda from the ‘Lives of Saints’ and a poem by well-renowned local Mike Rouse, ‘Fen Night’. This composition was cleverly designed and explored perfectly the vocal and orchestral resources the huge choir and accomplished orchestra had at their disposal, ranging from earthy depths and interwoven plainsong to shimmering watery ghosts.

This amazing concert ended with a mammoth performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by the orchestra conducted by Steve Bingham. Hearing this excellent group play with particularly effective musicality and understanding brought to the fore how much more there is to this work than previously imagined. Nothing beats a live performance of this standard. Orchestra, choir and soloists combined to present a wonderful, exhilarating and profound experience giving us greater insight into the genius of Beethoven.

This whole event was indeed a rare and powerful encounter.

 

 

Review of ‘An Alpine Symphony’ by Cambridge Philharmonic in Ely Cathedral on Saturday 8th July 2017.

July 9, 2017

review Camb Phil conductor and solo singerCambridge Philharmonic gave a splendid concert in Ely Cathedral on Saturday. Under the baton of conductor Timothy Redmond, choir, orchestra and solo soprano Stephanie Corley, filled the Cathedral with emotive, potent, and effective sounds.

The concert opened grandly with a magnificent performance of Parry’s ‘I was Glad’. The strength and grandeur of the piece was presented beautifully.

Elgar’s ‘The Spirit of England,’ based on the First World War and its effects, followed. Poems relating to the date the war was declared, the early fervent patriotism, the affect the war had on the women and the darkness and devastation of the fallen formed the basis of the three movements. The orchestra explored Elgar’s subtle effects perfectly, often creating a constant underlying marching pulse that echoed the timelessness of the reality of war. The soprano soloist Stephanie Corley sang beautifully, adding to the drama and emotive impact of the work.

While there were subtle moments in Richard Strauss’s ‘An Alpine Symphony’, especially when the delicate alpine flowers come into view, this was a very different piece of music altogether. These amazing instrumentalists rose to the challenges of the composition and created a most effective series of vibrant images. Strauss’s colourful orchestration and compositional skill interwove recurring representative themes meaningfully, reflecting memorably the powerful grandeur of the mountain, the gentle rising of the sun, the overwhelming sense of achievement on reaching the summit of the mountain, the sudden frightening impact of thunder, lightning and heavy rain and the hasty descent.

This was indeed an excellent concert.

Cambridge Philharmonic will be performing Mahler’s 8th Symphony in Ely Cathedral on the 7th July next year.

To receive news of more forthcoming events send a blank email to: news-subscribe@cam-phil.org.uk

Review of Madame Butterfly by Opera Bohemia in the Hayward Theatre, Ely on 1st July 2017.

July 2, 2017

review Butterfly Catriona Clark and Rowan RedfarnOpera Bohemia’s ‘Madame Butterfly’ in the Hayward Theatre in Ely on Saturday was wonderful.

The singing was superb, the actions measured and strongly symbolic, and the accompaniment robust and supportive.  The underlying ecstasy, pain and anguish of Puccini’s style were beautifully captured.

The characters were well defined. Catriona Clark in portraying the betrayed central character Cio-Cio San, sang magnificently carrying the pathos and fragility of her character particularly well. American sailor, B.F. Pinkerton (David Lynn) was a good match and Suzuki (Louise Collett) a good friend. Mention must be made of the highly impressive control and naturalness of young actor Rowan Redfarn playing Sorrow. The consular office, Sharpless, played by Whitaker Mills, Goro (Kenneth Reid) and Madeleine (Joy Wilson) all assisted the plot expertly and Kate (Fiona Mackenzie) was an excellent unwitting thorn the side of Madame ‘Pinkerton’.

Andrew Brown on piano, ably assisted by Feargus Hetherington on violin, helped the emotional drama of the show rise and fall powerfully.

Costumes and staging also added to the atmosphere, especially Madame Butterfly’s costume and the English translation overhead helped us understand the Italian. It was very pleasing to hear the music sung in its original language for words and music were designed to gel together and so created a stunning effect that kept us spellbound.

Congratulations must go to the director John Wilkie and his team for such a splendid performance.

For more information about Opera Bohemia, contact:  http://www.operabohemia.co.uk/

Review of ‘Hairspray Junior’ presented by KD Theatre Productions

June 25, 2017

KD Theatre Productions gave a dazzling performance of ‘Hairspray Junior’ on Saturday. With 150 children taking part, the stage was packed with a sparkling array of characters and groups, all telling the story of star wannabe making good.

Tracy Turnblad (played by Ellie Hughes) had her heart set on starring In the ‘Corny Collins Show’. Mum, Edna Turnblad (Jack Stearne) was at first unwilling but blossomed as a star herself as Tracy’s quest became a reality through her determination and personality. Dad, Wilbur Turnblad (Dean Bruce) supported her all the way. With the help of her friends, Penny Pingleton ((Netta Hociej), dancer Seaweed (Brandon Homes), her idol Link Larkin (Zak Potts) and amazing Motor Mouth Maybelle (Jamie Musora) Tracy overturned society as it was known then in the ‘60s and the integration of whites and blacks became a reality.

The baddies of the tale, previous Miss Teen Hairspray Amber Von Tussle (Mia Leverington) and Velma Von Tussle (Emily Gordon) did their utmost to thwart Tracy but thankfully failed.

Other notable characters included Corny Collins (Jacob Stoodley), Little Inez Stubbs (Abigail Day), and Prudy Pingleton and Matron (Ellis Hociej) who were joined by a host of other viable contributors.

All the characters, no matter how minor, really lived the tale and with constant in infectious rhythms, some excellent singing and lively movement, this show had the audience mesmerised from the start.

Congratulations must go to the director Jessica Theobald and her team for such a fantastic production.

For more information: http://www.kdacadamy.co.uk

up and coming singer Lana Bruce

June 23, 2017

Watch out for an up and coming singer Lana Bruce, daughter of the well-known novel writer Alison Bruce. I’ve heard four of her compositions and they are delightful. She has a lovely sweet voice, too.