‘Hairspray’ by WADS (Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society)

February 3, 2019

WADS (Witchford Amateur Dramatic Society) are at it again. A host of local people has been rehearsing since last September to produce a fantastic show. Each year it seems to get better and better. The hard work has really paid off for what I witnessed at the final rehearsal of ‘Hairspray’ on Sunday was a mass of locals of all ages having a great time while providing a show of considerable quality and vitality. It is no wonder some of the nights are already fully booked. The show, ‘Hairspray’ will be on in Witchford Village College 7, 8 and 9th February 2019.

Pictured are the Director/Producer Lucy Short, the Musical Directors Naomi d’Cunha and Jonathan Carter and Sammy Web  (playing Tracey) and Abi Barker (Penny).

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Review of ‘Separate Tables’ by Viva Theatre on Thursday 31st January 2019 t the Methodist Church in Soham.

February 3, 2019

Viva Theatre’s production of ‘Separate Tables’ by Terence Rattigan was splendid. It takes real skill, huge talent and a well crafted script to hold an audience captive for hours and this play did more than this, it explored in depth the human psychological condition.

Each character rang true and their mix created fascinating, sometimes volatile scenes. Their personality weaknesses were painfully revealed and as the play progressed, they became stronger and more able to cope with the world. The hotel, a place where strangers meet, provided a most fitting backdrop for events for above all the utter loneliness of the characters was a major theme in the play. This was made evident by some excellent acting. There were many times when the characters appeared to be doing or saying little, yet we all knew that under their calm façade, high emotions broiled. We were held transfixed.

John Malcolm (portrayed magnificently by Rob Barton) was the passionate journalist inclined to drink too much, and be violent. His ex-wife Anne Shankland (Jenny Tayler- Surridge) was almost an exact opposite: elegant and frustratingly aloof.  In spite of the love forlorn Manageress of the hotel, Pat (Chloe Grimes), John and Anne played their relationship out fully until it was finally satisfactory resolved.

The down-to earth spinster Miss Meacham was played admirably by Kirsten Martin. Major Pollock (Rowan Maulder) began as a flamboyant character that was almost too good to be true. This was proved to be the fact and he was finally persuaded to be more courageous and just be himself. His friend Sibyl (Kerry Hibbert), a frightened mouse of a girl, brow-beaten by her domineering mother Mrs Railton-Bell, finally stood up to her bully at the end of the play. Many of the Major’s lies were found out by the quiet wisdom of retired teacher Mr Fowler (David Tickner). Katie Nolan made her character Mrs Railton-Bell truly bossy, scandal mongering and inclined to pretend to be kind, while driving the knife into her victimes’ backs. The hotel residents came good in the end and refused let her have the Major removed from the hotel because of his indiscretions. Her reliance on her gossiping pal Lady Matheson (Anthea Kenna) foundered. The lively Jean (Danielle Swanson) and the forbearing Charles (Scott Robertson) added spice and humour to the mix.

As in any hotel, there was also the staff whose mannerisms were familiar even today sometimes loud, nosey and petulant: Doreen (Sarah Shorney), Mabel (Kate Weekes) and Janet (Julie Kowalczyk). The casuals, Rev. Colin Watkins and Bernie Watkins were a most fitting addition to the case.

Congratulations to Director, Mary Barnes and team for a wonderful production.

comment Sensationalism is not News.

January 27, 2019

Sensational headlines seem to be required by all newspapers. It is thought that the more sensational the message, the better. Many times, an individual who has broken the law is rightly reported and their subsequent punishment is also rightly detailed. However, it seems that lately it is more than reporting the facts that is required. The individuals and their misdemeanours are sensationalised. They are portrayed as the most wicked people in the world acting grossly against others. The plan is probably to whip up people’s feelings and opinions so that they will be driven to write in to the newspaper to express their venom. A cycle of who can destroy the individuals’ lives with vindictive words is generated and the frenzy is intensified as the competition increases.

Is this the behaviour of a civilised society? I think not. It is time the media realized that there is a difference between reporting the facts and stirring up the emotions with exaggerated, in-your-face accusations. It has been reported that Tesco’s, for example, is making changes to its organization. The headlines scream that thousands of jobs could be lost. The word to focus on here, is ‘could’. While the statement may eventually prove to be true, by saying jobs could be lost confirms that the reporter does not really know for a fact that this will happen. The reporter is expressing an opinion, not giving us the detail. In addition, this opinion can have devastating effects. It is common knowledge that in business, if a certain firm is denigrated by the media, shares in the business will fall, people will avoid using it and more than likely, they will bite the dust. It is almost as if we, as a people, revel in sneering at the fallen.  More useful would be a plain description of the facts with additional background information about how such events come about,  or the circumstances that make it possible for them to happen, what can be done to stop them and the current statistics relating to such actions.

Further to this, while we wait for new information in ‘the News’, time and again, the same information is repeated, not once but twice or even over a number of days. While some of us appreciate a different slant on the same material, repeating exactly what had been said before becomes tiresome and it is definitely not ‘news’. So much is happening around us: people are born, have successes or failures, get married, or divorced, die – yet it only appears that only one or two people have had anything happen to them at all and that is just because they are famous.

Let’s stop the sensationalism and let’s have some real news.

Comment: Why are there two kinds of charity?

January 20, 2019

Once upon a time the word ‘charity’ meant one thing: helping others who are needy. Now there seems to be two kinds of charity: one genuine one when we help disadvantaged people and another that is no more than an extension of the corporate businesses that seem to be saturated with money with very little of it reaching those who really need it.

A newspaper recently contained an article which suggested if we wish to be happy we should help someone else. The reward we get from feeling as if we have done some good is reward enough and there are many people who will vouch for this.

Then there are the people and the businesses that claim to be charitable but it seems, in the eyes of the receivers, they fall short of the mark. Some people and businesses do charity to make themselves important in the eyes of others, rather than to offer real help to those who need it..

One local remembers a volunteer in a hospital. The local was stuck in the place for some time. Her father in another country far away was dying. She was anxious to be able to speak to him, but there were no phones in the ward and she had no mobile phone. When the volunteer asked what she could do, the local asked if the volunteer could get a voice recorder so that the local could send a message to her father so that he could at least hear her voice. The local would willingly pay all costs. The volunteer decided that that was not her job. How helpful is that?

Another example was the voluntary organization that offers help to people in need. A local needed someone from this organization to visit him when he got home from hospital after having had a serious operation. The local was told by the allocated person from the organization that she was going away on holiday so she couldn’t come. The patient wondered why the prospective visitor did not go back to the organization to get someone else to come instead. Once again it seems it ‘was not her job’.

The final crunch comes when individuals or small newly-formed organizations make legitimate requests for funds from large charitable organizations. More times than not their requests are refused, not because they do not need help, but because they do not fit the required criteria which often includes providing half the money first, or proving that their request is justified with facts and statistics that only the organization has.

It is time we were all more charitable in the true sense of the word.

 

Let’s face it, age comes to us all.

January 12, 2019

If we were to believe the newspapers and magazines these days, especially after the New Year, we would believe that all we had to do was to eat the right things, exercise and use our brains and we would be immortal.

Sad to say, we all know that this is not true. No one is immortal; age comes to all of us. Even Andy Murray, the star of Wimbledon, has had to admit that his body is aging and that he would be wise to stop punishing himself with high powered tennis matches that cause him hip pain. It is time for him to face up to his physical limitations and enjoy the life he has with his family.

This is something that could benefit us all. No matter how much we exercise, diet and use our brains, we cannot stop the process of aging. Instead of exhorting us to change our lives drastically, we should be encouraged to accept our bodies as they are.

We should all take note of the twinges that we feel as we age and react only to these. If our back starts to trouble us, then and only then, should we start to take measures to alleviate the symptoms. If people do not do the exercises that they have been given by their physiotherapists as part of their therapy for alleviating back pain, they know the pain will only get worse. With the right exercises, back pain can be managed and sufferers can live with the symptoms, continue to walk upright and enjoy a full life for a very long time. I know someone who has managed to do this for over twenty years.

Then, of course, we can all name people who have taken on board all the suggestions newspapers and magazines have thrown at them and have died, some a very premature death. I witnessed a close friend of mine frantically doing all he crosswords he could on a daily basis but it made no difference; he still succumbed to dementia at a very early age.

What we should all do is to accept that our bodies will let us down, and that we can maintain a happy, healthy lifestyle that we can enjoy if we address our specific problems, not try to follow some stringent routine a stranger has suggested. If we love a Mediterranean diet, learning a new language and exercising, then we should do these things, but if we hate them, we should try a little but not give up on what we most enjoy.

Life is to be lived and enjoyed. It should never be a test of endurance and suffering.

It is time to focus on what is really needed.  

January 5, 2019

We live in a back to front society. In so many cases those in power think of an outcome first and ignore the impact caused when they push forward their bright ideas. Time and again, the powers that be react with knee-jerk actions that we all know will have no staying power, nor achieve what is intended. It seems more important for our politicians to be seen to be doing something, rather than doing what is needed even though it may upset their friends in high places.

I agree that these are sweeping statements that do not apply to every situation. However, many of us will agree there is some credence for this belief.

It has been reported recently that an urgent review has been ordered to close a loophole that is allowing a killer claim legal aid while on the run. Any thoughtful governing body when first setting up the conditions for applying for legal aid should have thought of this first, surely.

It has also been reported that the UK is handing over £1.5 billion to some of the world’s most corrupt countries. We have been assured that these sweeteners are needed for the people in these countries are suffering. However, there is also a well-known phrase – advising us not to cast our ‘pearls before swine.’ Giving money to some corrupt governments means that the well-intentioned funds do not go to the poor, but to the already well-heeled people in power. It is time to call their bluff. Our government should offer to hand it over to the people in the country directly in the form of food, clothing and water and sewage systems, cutting through the bureaucracy that normally lets the money disappear. After all, if a government is not corrupt, it would welcome this offer gladly.

It is regularly reported that our government does not have enough money to support our defence, health or educational systems. If the government has billions to give to other countries surely it must have first satisfied itself that it HAS allocated enough funds to keep its own citizens safe and healthy?

Time and again it is reported that people still have to sleep on our streets and beg for a living in our country. Often a council will have to pay private landlords over the odds to house some of the neediest people. Why not house these people in the properties known to have been empty for years? If a property owner will not or cannot renovate such properties, why don’t councils do so and arrange for the owners to pay back the costs of renovation?

It is time our government cut through its waffle and developed the backbone needed to focus on what really should be done.

Dithering will get us nowhere

December 31, 2018

It has been reported that UK’s Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, had to be recalled from his holiday to deal with the crisis of illegal immigrants landing on UK’s shores.

While he is responsible and the buck should stop at his desk, surely the man is entitled to a holiday? There must be many other people who also have a responsibility to guard and protect UK’s shores? Surely they could have done the job?

However, it has also been reported that Sajid Javid apparently refused an offer of military assistance from the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson and has ignored advice from a senior minister that the Home Office should deploy all six Border Force cutters and destroy the boats used by the traffickers.

More to the point, we have known for ages that not all of the ports in the UK are being protected. With Brexit looming, it seems likely that protecting our borders is a major consideration that needs addressing immediately.

Dithering is getting us nowhere. It is not just apparent in the Home Office. In all our government departments, dithering seems to be all that most of them are capable of doing.  So many times, a crisis looms and nothing is done. One department will say that it is not its responsibility and will pass the buck to another department who passes it on ad infinitum.

The definition of a camel (a horse designed by a committee) remains as an effective image of the wheels of government as ever. While we definitely need a democracy to rule us, the people in charge need to work together, to discuss what is needed and then MAKE DECISIONS and CARRY THEM OUT.

So many councils appear to decide to do something, and then after tinkering around with the idea, having it brought up in the agenda time after time, month after month, worrying about the tiny details, wondering if the action might break any policies or laws only to leave the idea floating so that it never actually takes shape and nothing is done. Even the laws that they are supposed to take note of are often indistinct and settle for saying that the subject in question is ‘a grey area’ so that no one knows what should or should not be done.

It is time that the powers that be waded through the quagmire of indecision, clarified exactly what should or should not be done and GOT ON WITH IT! It is time our borders were properly guarded; illegal immigrants were sent back to where they came from (or processed properly and given asylum if legitimate), the traffickers identified and punished and the fees the victims paid returned.

 

 

Comment: It is time politicians planned properly for the future.

December 22, 2018

In a European newspaper this week the headlines announced how a group of people who had rescued some drowning refugees were pronounced heroes. Instead of condemning the poor prospective immigrants and chastising them for daring try to land in another country without the right papers, their rescue is hailed as a worthy cause. If we stopped to think about it, just what value do we put on a human life? Who are we to condemn others just because of the circumstances within which they find themselves? What would we do if an alien country suddenly decided to bomb the cities where we live? There would be more than a few of us who would pack up everything and leave to find a safer haven. We would not worry about waiting for the right papers to come if our lives were at stake.

In a perfect world, safe countries near those that are in strife would be aware that they are likely to be swamped with frightened people trying to escape. If the powers that be got their act together, they would not merely watch while volunteer bodies tried to provide enough water, shelter and clothes for these people. They would put up temporary prefabricated homes to shelter them and provide water, drainage and sewage. They would have already set up contingency plans to give the people food and clothing. They would even have plans for the people’s education, employment and cultural fulfilment so that they can become a vital and integral part of society. While the number of people needing this help cannot be known, it is possible to make an educated guess and prepare properly.

Ah yes, I hear someone complaining: ‘Where is the money to do this to come from?’ Like any business, sometimes you have to invest first before you can reap the benefits of something you set up. See these people right, and in the future, the nurses, doctors, teachers, mechanics, labourers, factory workers and farmers among them now or trained for these roles later will not only be able to help themselves but the citizens already established as well.

Preparing for the future seems such a simple thing to do. Yet so many times, this does not happen in political circles. The Gatwick crisis when the airport had to close for days, not hours, is a prime example. If those in charge had listened to the experts’ advice when drones first came into existence and set up proper military-style jammers that were regularly updated, more than likely, the problem would not have occurred. Procrastination, so many times has proved to be the wrong answer to many of our problems.

 

 

Comment: Rules for survival in an uncaring society.

December 16, 2018

It was recently reported that a senior councillor has claimed that Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget is fraudulent. The councillor believes that the amount budgeted for children’s social services and adult social care is incorrect. The council keeps overspending every year and will do so in the future because it does not budget correctly.

There are few families who are not affected by the inadequate support offered when they need children’s or adult services. The recent drama ‘Care’ shown on the BBC would have been very familiar to many people. One local’s reaction was that the central character ‘had it easy’. This individual not only had the same kind of difficulties to contend with, but her problems stretched over a number of years as the services made life incredibly stressful, making demands on the carer, rather than offering the help our tax money has supposedly paid for.

This carer had to develop a strategy for survival, to make sure she, too, did not become ill. There were five rules she was pushed into applying.

The first was not to attend meetings. When she first attended meetings, the decision makers discussed what to do with her loved one and even though she was repeatedly disagreeing, the decision makers ignored her. The carer resolved not to attend meetings but to ask them to let her know in writing what they were going to discuss and what they decided afterward. The carer was believed to be making trouble with these requests. No matter how much she protested that everything would be clearer this way, this was denied. Even then, she rarely received any information at all.

The second was to always send any letters back with a question. This passed the stress back to the letters’ authors. It was very worrying when demands for money were made to her. She knew she should not have been receiving them for her loved one should have had continuing care.

The third was to never make a statement in front of the decision makers and to only ask questions. She found that the minutes of meetings revealed that untrue facts about her were being made. She could not be accused of giving any information that could be misconstrued if she did not make any statements at all.

The fourth was, trust no one. When someone says they will do something, check to see that is has actually been done.

The fifth was not to weaken. When asked to help by paying for private care, if you have little money, do not agree. Bills have been known to escalate phenomenally without prior warning, even though this has been requested.

It is a sorry state of affairs if a person has to resort to these strategies when he or she is in a vulnerable position. Before you blame the individuals in the services, they are not the problem. Many ARE very caring and helpful by nature but have been driven to become hard-nosed bureaucrats by a faulty system starved of funds.

It is time we became the caring society we claim to be.

Review of KD Production’s pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at the Maltings, Ely on the 15th December 2018

December 16, 2018

If ever we needed cheering up, it is at this time of year when it is dark at 4 o’clock in the afternoon,  wind and rain are likely to liven up the cold day and everyone is hectic because Christmas or the New Year is coming.

KD Production’s pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at the Maltings, Ely on Saturday 15th December 2018 was just what we needed. This high standard performance with singing, dancing, joking, and delightful artistic displays was the perfect antidote for the season.

The show had everything. The script written by Daniel Bell and Terry Gauci had just the right number of puns to groan at, baddies and goodies to boo and cheer at, opportunities for audience participation, as well as childish antics for the children and innuendos for the adults. We all had a wonderful time.

Our favourite characters were there: the dame of the show, who seemed to have umpteen different costumes, Dame Trott (played by Daniel Bell), handsome Jack Trott (Joseph Hewlett), beautiful Jill (Martha Frances Henry), charismatic Spirit of Beans (Gregory Hazel), bombastic Squire Money Bags (Alan Booth – who also made an amazing Giant Blunderbore), lovable Handyman Harry (Terry Gauci) and evil Baroness Blunderbore (Lucinda Withers).

Choreographer Catherine Hickmott and her team’s good work was in evidence as Trott’s Dancers added dazzling movement to the scenes and a host of children, especially the adorable little chickens, completed a tremendous, highly entertaining cast.

The music by Henry Brennan (Director/Keys), Tom Pollyn (bass guitar) and Cameron Howett (percussion) was phenomenal as was the singing by the cast. Sound and lighting, costumes and scenery enhanced the atmosphere considerably.

Director Daniel Bell and his team are to be the congratulated for such a wonderful pantomime.

Future events by KD Theatre Productions include:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat 17th to 22nd February 2019

Alice in Wonderland Friday 5th to Monday 8th April 2019

For more information contact http://www.kdtheatre.co.uk (01353) 725025