Archive for February, 2012

Review of Little Foot by Craig Higginson presented by King’s Company, The King’s School Ely

February 25, 2012

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Little Foot by Craig Higginson is a play set thirty miles outside Johannesburg. A group of school friends dare to spend the night in underground caves, caves that have a long history and an eerie past.

As the members of the group work interact and reveal their weaknesses and tensions between their changing relationships and the walls of the caves evoke mystical creatures with Little Foot in the lead, we see the young people reveal human characteristics of the worst and best kind. Violence erupts, guilt and blame follow and finally they return to the young school friends who first entered the caves and a kinder reality.

With minimal staging, very effective sound and amazingly well turned out South African accents this troupe gave the play good measure. Careful timing, skilful movements and expression helped to make this production an undoubted success.

Braai (played by Alec Prieto) was a strong character who let himself be succumbed by a desire to inflict cruelty and pain, Wizard (Rory McCorquodale) was an excellent fall guy and made his suffering appear very real, Moby (George Gilligan) created a sense of insecurity and uncertainty that was easy to identify with, Mercedes (Laura Day) held a strong and effective role while the new girl, Rebecca (Bea White) stood her own ground magnificently. The chorus and puppeteers moved stealthily about the stage evoking dark shadows of the past.

 

The director, Christopher Thacker , is to be congratulated for such a fine performance and the contributions of an accomplished crew made the short play an excellent beginning to a most thoughtful evening.

The next production by King’s Company will be Disney’s Beauty and the Beast March 21st to Saturday 24th in the Hayward Theatre book: boxoffice@kingsely.org Lisa Bushell 01353 653931

Rosemary WestwellImage

Review of Warren Mailley-Smith’s Valentine Concert (Piano) in Ely Cathedral on 11th February 2012.

February 12, 2012

In spite of the freezing weather outside, Warren Mailley-Smith’s Valentine Concert mesmerized the audience with much warmth, vigour and excitement. Warm lyrical melodies, brilliant showmanship and treasured moments of heart- stopping reflection pervaded the excellent programme he chose to mark this romantic period of the year.

There is no doubt that Warren is one of the finest pianists in the country and his unique technique, astute musical awareness and phenomenal expressive touch combined to provide a wonderful night’s entertainment.

The programme included a host of romantic favourites including composers Beethoven, Debussy, Liszt, Grief, Prokofiev, Horowitz, Chopin and Gershwin.

The crashing chords of the opening movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata contrasted expertly the suddenly soft responses. In the first and last movements, rapid scales and flowing arpeggios were fused into expressive, meaningful phrases that integrated perfectly into Beethoven’s unique sense of the dramatic. In Warren’s hands, the simplicity and charm of the second movement was enhanced with his impressive ability to bring out the varied moods and characters of the harmonic changes while the leading familiar melody never lost any of its strength and appeal.

Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ was played with such skilled fluency that one could easily imagine the moonlight’s reflective play. Rippling runs and sweeping open chords contrasted well with the subtle quiet moments that caught the breath as though suspended for one precious moment in time immemorial.

Warren is a born virtuoso. His technical superiority and his innate empathy with the nature of the virtuosic pianists of previous times made the works by Liszt, Chopin and Gershwin ideal for him and for the audience. Liszt’s ‘Un Sospiro’ (‘The Sigh’) exuded romanticism with its strong, lyrical themes. His Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 was gorgeously gutsy with whirling gymnastics and cheeky interpolations.

After interval Grieg’s ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ provided moments of joyful respite and tenderness. Then we were taken into the dark world of Russian intensity with a powerful driving bass and moments of soft sudden lightness infused with a sense of foreboding.

A foray into the world of opera followed with Liszt’s ‘Rigoletto Paraphrase’ and Bizet-Horowitzs’ ‘Carmen Fantasy’.  In these the voices and characters of the participants were clearly defined by Warren’s phenomenal three dimensional effects.

One of the most effective performances of the evening was undoubtedly ‘Fantasy Imrpompty Op 66’ by Chopin. Warren met the challenging technical demands with ease while at the same time he brought out every romantic nuance with meaningful pauses and gentleness in the strong heart-tugging themes.

Chopin’s ‘Polonaise in A flat Op 53’ was manfully entertaining and as the strong chords filled the cathedral vaults we were reminded that we were made aware of a pianist and composer of considerable stature.

The evening ended appropriately with the amazing ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ by Gershwin. Warren played an arrangement specifically for piano by Gershwin. Warren was at ease with the complicated syncopated rhythms, the virtuosic interplay and the playful episodes that were soon engulfed in what Warren and Gershwin possessed – a phenomenal sense of joyful abandonment and the thrill of captivating an audience with a display of unbridled showmanship worthy of the highest praise.

Rosemary Westwell  

Review of Smike by Viva Youth Theatre

February 10, 2012

‘Smike’, the musical based on Dicken’s story of Nicholas Nickleby, was presented by Viva Youth Theatre at the Brook in Soham this week and what a wonderful production it was! This large group of highly talented performers radiated enthusiasm, dedication and stamina. The performance undoubtedly had the wow factor and the characters from Dicken’s story and from the school of the present were strongly portrayed.

The story began in a present-day classroom in which the new English teacher, Mr. Nicholls, endeavoured to interest the reluctant teenagers in the work of Dickens. He soon sparked interest when the class began to develop the story of Nicholas Nickleby as a musical production. The show gradually unfolded and we were taken back into a musical world in the time of Dickens.

The real heartthrob of the show was Ben Clark who played the two main characters: the young English teacher Mr Nicholls and Nicholas Nickleby. With highly accomplished acting, astute stage awareness and a singing voice to die for, Ben really brought these two separate roles home. The strict dictatorial headmaster and the Dickensian equivalent, Mr Squeers, were admirably played by Lee Sherwood and poignant innocence was exemplified in the characters of Smike and Smeeton played by Tilly Lewis. We were immediately sympathetic to their suffering as they were the butt of bullying by their peers in both worlds. Mollie Shaw was a wonderfully dreadful Mrs. Squeers. Alice Turner brought out the girlishness of the modern day drama teacher, Miss Grant, and the fanciful ways of Dickensian Squeer’s daughter who was inclined to lash out in screaming rages when things did not go her way. Other commendable contributions were made by Adam Hebbard (Wackford Junior), Emily Palmer (Tilda), Phil Evans (Mr Snawley), Jack Wright (Caretaker and Richard), Aaron Lord (Plank and Master Belling) and Zara Minns (Coates and Cobbey). It was a very pleasant surprise to find the locally-renowned Mike Rouse as the masterful Ralph Nickleby.

Other characters that really stood out for me included Elli Bovington’s Brown and Boulder. Her Rock n Roll solo was positively exhilarating. Another notable contribution was made by Lawrence Whitworth who has a natural talent for bringing out the ‘ah’ factor and a cheekiness that engenders more than a giggle or two.

There was so much in this production to enthrall and admire. Dicken’s themes of hypocrisy, cruelty, grimness and abused innocence were very much in evidence. The choreography kept us mesmerized with so much happening on the regularly packed stage and scuffles between lively school pupils were handled expertly. Classroom dynamics rang true and we were moved by the stark contrasts of despair as the coffin of a dead child moved slowly through the audience and the height of frivolity as the stage filled with gyrating rock and Roll fans.

The music was first rate with a strong chorus holding secure harmonies. The soloists were all impressive singers and a great band accompanied. There were some beautiful moments in the clarinet. Paul Garner certainly inspired many moments of considerable musical stature.

Director Joshua Schumann and Producer Daniel Schumann and this fine team are to be congratulated for such an excellent evening’s entertainment.                                                            Rosemary Westwell