Posts Tagged ‘The Hayward Theatre Ely’

Review of ‘Electra’ and ‘The Electra Project’ by the King’s School Ely on Wednesday 9th March 2016 in the Hayward Theatre

March 21, 2016

The King’s School Ely has a reputation for producing plays that are well worth seeing and ‘Electra’ and ‘The Electra Project’ were no exception. Presenting two different plays with this connecting theme was an ingenious idea and it worked perfectly. The contrast between the two items was very effective and each presentation was of a considerably high standard.

‘Electra’ by Sophocles, an ancient Greek born 496 BC, contained all the emotional twists of motivation and family tension relevant today, although in this play it is extended, in the ancient Greek tradition, to include rather gory matricide.  This version by Frank McGuinness included many statements of wisdom such as ‘the dead do not mourn’ and the young students that spoke the lines clearly and emotively, transfixed the audience with the heightened  drama that made us think of the nature of forgiveness, revenge, and justice. The cast was particularly strong including the credible commenting chorus. Especially strong and dominant were the main characters: Electra (played by Paige Collier), Orestes (Freddy Flack), Clytemnestra (Roseanna Mackenzie), Aegisthus (Chris Robe) and servant (Jacob Gamble). The music was as effective as it was eclectic – that is, excellent and entirely in keeping.

After interval we left the tension of Electra to be highly entertained by the efforts of a supposed group of A level students trying to stage an updated version of this play with dire consequences that kept the audience laughing – even the Headmistress of the school was seen to be laughing at the Headmaster on stage suffering from humiliation by these unruly students. The script by Dave Jackson, written after two drama teachers were sacked for allowing their students to present play based on a father’s abuse of his daughter, was highly engaging and it explored current problems of adolescents coping with the tensions created by their varied personalities and talents as they came to terms with their lives and with the looming examination. This clever script also explored the flaws of our education system, the difficulties schools have with eccentric staff and the stringent constraints of the school and the curriculum and with the disastrous effects of interfering, pushy mothers. This cast was also strong and believable. Supported by a credible ‘chorus’, the characters included ‘director’ Alfie (Alex Layfield), Ellie (Eloise George), Malachi (JP Gilbey), Martin (Maark Spofforth), Elaine (Rosie Johnson), Ms Pew (Theo Taylor), Mark (Laurence Carolan) and Kane (Ethan Morley).

Laura Dixon, Nick Huntingdon, Peter North and the large crew are to be congratulated for such an impressive and entertaining evening.

A review of King’s Company’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’ in the Hayward Theatre on Saturday 12th December

December 13, 2015


I knew this production was going to be good – but this time, King’s Company excelled themselves. Stephen Sondheim’s musicals are known for complexity, examining the human psyche, exploring relationships and emotions and all of life and its many different levels.

‘Into the Wood’s was no exception and it had all those constituents but added a wonderful touch by manipulating many of the fairy tales we knew as children. Not only were the characters readily recognizable, they behaved with outlandish twists in Roald Dahl- style so that we were glued to our seats wondering what on earth would happen next and almost invariably we were delightfully and sometimes wickedly surprised. I mean, a Prince Charming who says ‘I’m only supposed to be charming, not sincere’ after he has been caught philandering? I never envisaged Little Red Riding Hood wielding a knife with relish, revelling in skinning the wolf, an evil misshapen witch who reverts to a beautiful but possessive mother, or a Narrator who is suddenly dispensed with mid-story, but they were all included.

Needless to say, the cast were magnificent.  Their acting, singing, and dancing were superb. This fantastic production had spectacular scenery, costumes, lighting and special effects which included a wonderful giant and an amazingly agile stage cow. The excellent sound helped clarify the slick, witty script that the cast delivered with unerring clarity and as a consequence this production had the sophistication of a professional show. This was no ordinary school event and was not even abridged as most school productions are.  We were treated to a show worthy of the West End.

Congratulations must go to all the participants and the Director/Producer Nick Huntingdon, the Musical Director Jonathan Kingston and the Movement Director Natasha Hobbs and their teams for such a wonderful evening.

Future King’s School Ely productions to enjoy in the Hayward Theatre include ‘Electrica’ on the 9th of March 2016 (contact (01353) 653931 ) and ‘Oliver’ on 18th and 19th of March 2016 (contact (01353) 660730 Co Dec 15 Into the Woods Y

review of All the King’s Men

November 29, 2015

When I learned that All the King’s Men were coming to Ely, I knew we were onto a good thing and indeed we were. This impressive group of a capella (without accompaniment) singers produced sophisticated arrangements of popular and original songs while moving about the stage in fascinating tableaux, positively mesmerizing the audience as they did so.

As expected, last Saturday night they were amazing – they reached all expectations. Not only that, this time they explored the beauty of their voices more, singing some of the clearest and softest sounds I’ve heard, while as the evening progressed, they also maintained their customary exquisite  harmonic blends and complicated, often juxtaposed, rhythms.

The highlight of the evening was the glimpse they gave of the workshops they do and they invited the King’s School Barbers to join them in an impromptu performance of ’In The Jungle’. It is a testament to teacher Peter North and the King’s School Barbers that they could be treated as equals in this way and the performance was splendid. During the concert, the King’s School Barbers also sang a couple of songs from their repertoire and it was very pleasing to notice how this group has increased and developed under Peter North’s direction.

The next event at the King’s School Ely to enjoy is ‘Into the Woods’ by Stephen Sondheim on the 10th, 11th and 12th of December. 01353653931 or email for tickets.KSE All the Kings Men Nov 15


Review: ‘Brass Diversions’ at the Hayward Theatre, Ely, Friday 17th January 2014

January 19, 2014


When Tom Poulson (trumpet) and Christopher Baxter (piano) walked on stage I was ready to listen to a traditional concert of pieces for trumpet and piano. I was not disappointed and enjoyed their highly competent playing in the first half of the concert. I was lulled into a comfortable sense of security as they explained the background to the pieces and I thoroughly enjoyed the drama in Mozart’s ‘Queen of the Night’s Revenge’,   the precision of Bach’s ‘Concerto in D major’ BWV 972, the range of emotions in Enescu’s ‘Légende’,  the beautiful liquid chords in Moeren’s ‘Stahlam River’ and the emotional pull of the elongated climaxes of the first movement of Peskin’s ‘Concerto in C minor’.

The first piece in the second half of the programme was another very nicely played traditional trumpet and piano piece ‘Intrada’ by Honegger.

I noted with interest that we were then moving towards more modern, contemporary composers so steeled myself to concentrate on complicated, almost unfathomable depths of intricate composition.

My expectations were very much misplaced. The compositions these two excellent performers presented were music of quality but also music that was highly entertaining. Tom’s performance of ‘Scherzando and Waltz and Fanfare from Solus’ by Friedman had us giggling in sympathy as this challenging piece let us know exactly what it is like when a trumpeter loses the plot, makes mistakes and gets to such a pitch that in mid flow he is liable to throw a tantrum throwing his music stand to the floor. It is so difficult for an accomplished performer like this to deliberately play out of tune or to consciously make glaring mistakes.

Then Chris played a hypnotising piece: ‘China Gates’ by John Adams. The subtle changes in the constant flow of this bell-like repetitive music were tantalising.

The next piece, ‘The Reform of Rank Bajiin’ by John Maxwell Geddes was another highly amusing piece of theatre. This time in the form of ‘a Glaswegian Western’ in which ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ was given a completely new dimension as the Tom strode onto the stage wearing bandit’s mask and played his trumpet with amazing effects, including with whinnying horses and vocal interruptions.

An amazing percussive piece was next: ‘Clapping Music’ by Steve Reich and we were fascinated as these two musical magicians clapped a fascinating pattern that shifted constantly in only one of the part.

We came down to earth in the final two pieces of the concert with a sonorous rendition of the spiritual ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless Child’ and an air and variations on the traditionally popular ‘Silver Thread among the Gold’ by Stanley Boddington (who, as a matter of interest used to teach brass at the King’s School Ely in the ‘60s and ‘70s).

The encore ‘Tis the Last Rose of Summer’ was a fitting ending to a perfect evening.

The next King’s School Concert Society concert will feature Darren Jeffrey (Bass-Baritone) and Anthony Seddon (piano) on Friday 7th March.

For more information contact Sophie Collier (01353 653931) email:


Review of King’s Company’s production of ‘Black Comedy’ in the Hayward Theatre on November the 6th 2013

November 6, 2013

King’s Company’s production of ‘Black Comedy’, a farce by Peter Shaffer, was highly entertaining on the first of three nights’ performances in the Hayward Theatre. Under the Directorship of Adella Charlton and Nicholas Limm, these talented performers never missed a trick. The carefully choreographed actions had the audience in stitches as Brinsley Miller, a poor sculptor, suffered every imaginable mishap while he and his fiancée waited for the very wealthy Georgia Bamberger to rescue him from his poverty and buy his work.

The whole play pivoted on a reversal of situation, character and plot. It was a little disconcerting when the actors began the first scene in complete darkness. We realized, eventually, that this in itself was a reversal so that when stage lights were on – the actors acted as though they were in complete darkness. Some of the antics were absolutely hilarious as the characters interacted without knowing for certain who they were interacting with.

Charlie O’Connor as Brinsley Miller was excellent. The sense of panic he conveyed as his world collapsed around him was phenomenal. Fiona Campbell developed the nervous, tea-totaller Miss Furnival into a highly amusing, over intoxicated neighbour that finally disported herself around the stage in magnificent abandonment. Danny Hayes as Harrold Gorringe was one of the most colourful characters, his camp exuberance and amazing gestures and facial expressions were positively delightful. Emily Braybrooke as Clea, was a wonderful addition to the events in the dark; she stirred up the plot deliciously and her mischievous playfulness from above was deliciously comical. Lucy Bromwich, as Brinsley’s fiancée Carol Melkett and her Dad Colonel Melkett, played by Matt Ley,  developed a credible father-daughter relationship and Alice Crofts as Shuppanzigh from the London Electricity Board  and Amy Rosenberg as Georgia Bamberger took advantage of their similar accents  to highlight the contrast of their representation of the opposite ends of the social spectrum. The lowly electrician brought light into the characters’ lives, the wealthy art lover ended unceremoniously disappearing into the depths of the cellar as the characters realized where there true hearts lay.

This was an excellent choice of play and a wonderful production making it a highly entertaining evening.

The next production to look forward to is ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’ in the Hayward Theatre from the 4th to 7th December 2013. Contact:, tel: 01353 653931

Review of The King’s Company’s production of ‘The MobilePhone Show’ by Jim Cartwright and ‘The Grandfathers’ by Rory Mullarkey in the Hayward Theatre on Thursday 21st February 2013

February 23, 2013

The King’s Company certainly knows how to put on a good piece of drama. Working from a script without any indications of stage directions, this band of talented performers created a highly entertaining and intriguing flow of varied scenes inspired by our relationship with the mobile phone. This must be the first time the opening announcements included asking the audience to keep their phones ON! The mobile phone users scaled the heights and depths of emotions that the instrument engenders. Passions ranged widely and grew readily from reverential worship, nerdy competitiveness, a texting shootout, a natter on an ingenious toilet, dallying with the supernatural, romance, poetic invention, reassurance, teenage troubles, adverts, competitions, when one loses the phone, a  rap or two, rioting youths, and the suffering caused when the phone’s battery and the phone eventually dies.

The scenes rolled smoothly from one into another and the delightful inventiveness of this company developed highly entertaining episodes. When a teenager despairs about losing her phone the antics of a highly credible fish surrounded by weeds in a so-called fishbowl had the audience in stitches, while the angst of the character was never lost. Dances and scenes explored the contrast of darkness and light very effectively. The familiar sounds of a mobile phone were ever-present: metallic music, beeps trills and unexpected calls from among the audience. The highly appropriate choice of background music to events also helped to make this a positively wonderful production. The texting ‘shoot out’ was particularly memorable.

The second play, ‘The Grandfathers’ ,was on the more serious side and the cast managed to bring home the dreadfulness of how the youth of society become mere pawns in horrific wars that our flawed society continues to make. The issue of loyalty in an environment that insists on these young recruits becoming killers, the problem of caring for the weak symbolized by the brief arrival of an injured bird into the barracks, and the hopes and fears of the soldiers as individuals were sympathetically explored. Again, the stage movements were inspired and smoothly executed; the thoughts and actions of the group seamlessly entwined as the scenes unfolded.  The Directors, Laura Day and Chris Thacker, and the Producer Adella Charlton, are to be congratulated for a wonderful evening of pure drama from a fine young troupe of players.

The Mobile Phone Show will be performed again in Norwich in April 2013

Review of the King’s School Ely Charity Concert on 2nd December in the Hayward Theatre, Ely.

December 2, 2011

Well, they have done it again. The King’s School Ely, while functioning ‘normally’ as a busy school in a winter term, has managed to pull out all the stops and present a full and entertaining programme in their Charity Concert tonight.

To a packed audience in the Hayward Theatre, a host of groups took their turn to provide some top notch musical entertainment.

The event opened with a masterful fanfare from the brass ensemble: ‘Fanfare for the Lord Mayor of London’ by Bliss, followed by three varied pieces by the Concert Band. ‘I Got Rhythm’ by Gershwin was particularly well played with ‘The Witches’ Sabbath’ by Puccini and ‘A tribute to Michael Jackson’  maintaining interest with some grand sit-up-and-notice moments.

The precision and charming harmonies by Voicexchange enhanced their performances of ‘One Singular Sensation from ‘A Chorus Line’ arranged by Arch and ‘Nobody Knows the trouble I’ve seen’, a spiritual arranged by Chilcott.

The listeners were wowed before the interval with a toe tapping ‘Orange Sherbert’ by Nestico, a gorgeous schmaltzy ‘The Christmas Song’ by Tormé and Wells and a forthright ‘Alianza’ by Morales.

The Brass Ensemble began the second half with a grand performance of Clarke’s ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ followed by a very attractive ‘Santa Baby’ by Jivets and Springer arranged by Maxwell. It was at this point in the evening that one could not help noticing CJ Porter-Thaw of ‘The Choirboys’ fame a number of years ago. His solo trumpet playing was excellent.

The King’s Barbers presented a number of pieces in effective harmony. This large group managed some most tricky entries, and challenging part-singing and movements with ease.

One of the highlights of the evening was undoubtedly ‘Pikes Cello Group’ playing ‘DMO for Cello Quartet’ by Atwell. This was far from one of those open-stringed nice little pieces for school performers. This group mastered very attractive, sophisticated harmonies beautifully.

The Chamber Choir livened events with their part song  ‘Ev’ry time I feel the spirit’ arranged by Chilcott and the culmination of the evening was the grand performance by the Senior Orchestra playing ‘Farandole’ from ‘L’Arlesienne Suite no 2’ by Bizet and the entertaining ‘Bugler’s Holiday’ featuring Charles (CJ) Porter-Thaw, Elric Doswell and Mark Parry.

Ian Sutcliffe, Director of Music, then announced a final surprise. The audience was invited to close their eyes and then, when asked to open them again, lo and behold, the entire orchestra (or over 60 members) had dressed themselves in Santa hats. Complete with falling snow, sleigh bells and the sound of horses ‘hooves, the orchestra let its hair down and played ‘Sleigh ride’.

This had obviously been a highly successful event as a number of members of the audience were caught whistling the tune from ‘Sleigh Ride’ as they left the theatre.

The proceeds from the concert will be given to the ‘Old Dispensary’ in Ely. – a tradition that has been established over a number of years.

Rosemary Westwell


Review Bassett by The King’s Company in the Hayward Theatre Ely Wednesday 9th March 2011

March 16, 2011

Two very appropriate plays were chosen for this fine company of young players to perform in the Hayward Theatre recently:

Bassett is a play by James Graham set in the now Royal village of Wootton Bassett, known for its support of our fallen heroes from the Afghanistan war and For We Are Many which was also about war in the form of an adaptation of the ancient Greek tale of the fate of women in the Fall of Troy.

The actors gave confident and often spirited performances that were credible and entertaining.

In Bassett a group of teenagers locked in a classroom over the dinner break create and develop their own tensions and battles. The funeral procession of a fallen hero from Afghanistan in town and his connections with the youngsters brings home to them the realism of war, its provocation and its effects.

Leo (played by Rob Archer) was an impressive lead character who finally flipped as the classroom tensions finally came to a head. Graeme (Tony Lesmeister) stuttered magnificently, his awkward movements and tentative suggestions creating an unmistakable classroom nerd who changed from a nonentity to a hero when he used his laptop and the class DVD projector to display the all-important funeral procession. Another fine portrayal was Alec Prieto’s ‘Spencer’ whose sense of justice and the right thing to do gave him courage to stand up to the bullying Leop and become a hero himself. The backchat of the girls and the awkwardness of the adolescent boys brought alive a host of other excellent characterizations: Dean (Zach Binge), Shanti Sally Cheng), Kelly (Bryony Ding), Joanne (Megan Gilligan), Aimee (Johanna Going), Russell (Toby Hill), Lucy (Tegan Howlett), Jonathan (Matthew Levy), Zoe (Tori McIrvine) Rachel (Yaya McIrvine) and Amid (Dean Tarrant Raja).

In For We Are Many cohesive choruses underpinned moments of dramatic and sometimes gruesome reality that occurred after an ignominious defeat in war. The plight of women and children in wars was brought home with some vigour and sincerity by the performers. The main characters were: Hecuba (played by Emma Jones), Andromache (Bea White), Cassandra (Darcie Casey), Chorus leaders Ruth Scott and Natalie Yeung, Athene (Jack Spoor), Poseidon (Rowland Daniel), Tal (Rory McCorquodale) and their performances were enhanced by vital contributions from the chorus and soldiers.

Bassett was part of the National Theatre’s New Connections Festival which encourages the involvement of young people in theatre, on and off stage. The King’s Company will be taking Bassett to the Norwich Playhouse on Wednesday 4th May as part of the Regional Connections Festival. Mr. Luke Kernaghan, the National Theatre’s Connections director for this region, attended the first night of the King’s Company performances and gave the cast feedback afterwards.

A forthcoming event well worth attending will be a visit by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men presenting A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the King’s School Ely on Tuesday 24th May.

Contact: 01353 653939

Review: ‘Brontë’ by Polly Teale presented by King’s Company in the Hayward Theatre, Ely, 10th -12th November 2010

November 21, 2010

It is extraordinary how the lives of three sisters, a wayward brother and an elderly father have captured the imaginations of a fascinated people for over a century and a half. The Brontës have become household names since the world has been caught up in the passionate literary creations of the sisters which contrast significantly with their seemingly ordinary, mundane lives in the parsonage at Haworth on the Yorkshire moors.

Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre (1847), the tale of a young girl’s suffering, devotion and much thwarted love and Emily’s Wuthering Heights (1847), a tale centred on the wild, passionate bond between Cathy and Heathcliff have become an integral part of our culture.

King’s Company encapsulated perfectly the suffering and pain of the girls as they battled to thrive in a cold world filled with death, prejudice and the frailty of the human mind and body. Charlotte (Lexi Hill), Emily (Tori McIrvine) and Anne (Ruth Scott) sparked each other off with sisterly rivalry, compassion and youthful desire. Charlotte ruled the roost as far as her spirited family would allow, Emily was the wild uncompromising one, while young Anne tried in vain to equal her strong sisters. Branwell (Toby Hill) their wayward brother, like a ship lost as sea struggled unsuccessfully for identity and status and their father Patrick (Rowland Daniel) cocooned himself in his own world of caring for his parish and dealing with the frequent hardships and early deaths of his people.

Director Adella Charlton created a credible relationship between the family’s daily lives and the spirited imaginations of the individuals as their characters and phantoms from their books interwove between the crises within the family.

The imaginative Rochester and the real curate who married Charlotte, Arthur Bell-Nicholls, were effectively portrayed by Rory McCorquodale, Sally Cheng was the unforgettable spirit of Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights and Rob Archer left us with a strong impression of her dark and passionate kindred soul Heathcliff. Bertha from Jane Eyre and her crazed love for Rochester was powerfully portrayed by Annalie Taylor and Heger (Francesco Angrisani) and Arthur Huntingdon (Tony Lesmeister) were also given definitive and effective roles.

This production was challenging for students at a busy school but these fine, talented actors rose to the occasion magnificently. 

For more information about King’s Company contact (01353) 653939

Review Concert featuring Joo Cho (soprano) and Marino Nahon (pianist) as part of the King’s School Ely Concert Series in the Recital Hall, Hayward Theatre 12th November 2010

November 18, 2010

One of the purest forms of expression available to singers can be found in the Lieder repertoire and Joo Cho, a fine soprano from South Korea, took full advantage of the variety of expression and emotional depth in the works by Schubert, Liszt, Brahms and Schumann that made up the programme she presented on Friday as part of the King’s School Ely Concert Society Series.

Italian pianist Marino Nahon complemented her singing perfectly, fusing with the singer to enhance the sustained tension that pervaded the works. His amazing feats of exact articulation and his ability to create emotive, multidimensional textures were particularly impressive. 

The concert opened with a number works by one of the most valued composers of Lieder, Schubert.  These included Am Flusse (By the River), An Sylvia (Who is Sylvia?), Kolmas Klage, Im Frühling (In Spring), Die junge Nonne (The young Nun), Dass sie hier gewesen (That They Were Here), Der Zwerg (The Gnome), Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams)  and Erlkönig (The Erlking). Her beautiful voice, exquisite vibrato and discerning shaping of the line, her clear diction and personal involvement in the colour and drama of the songs brought them to life. Kolmas Klage’s emotional darkness contrasted well with the lightness and freshness of Im Frühling   Together the performers moved through emotionally charged changes of mood and texture ranging from an almost tangible softness and sense of wonder to the heightened fury of the pain and suffering of death. 

After interval, Liszt’s Die Loreley, the tale of the maiden tempting sailors to their death was followed by an imposing homage to eternal love (Von ewiger Liebe) by Brahms.

The evening ended with Schumann’s Liederkreis op. 39 and included In der Fremde (In a Distant Land), Intermezzo, Wald gespräch (Conversation in the Wood), Die Stille (The Silence), Mondnacht (Midnight), Schöne Fremde (Beautious Foreign Land), Auf einer Burg (In a Castle), In der Fremde (In a distant Land), Wehmut (Melancholy), Zwielight (Twilight), Im Walder (In the Woods) and Frühlingsnacht (Spring Night).

The performers’ excellent sense of timing, their ability to capture the essence of expression in moments of bliss (in Intermezzo) intimacy (in Wald gespräch), sustained beauty (in Mondnacht) stateliness (Auf einer Burg) and anguish (in In der Fremde) were phenomenal.  

This was indeed a splendid evening and the encore well deserved.

The next Concert Series event will be The Mediterranean Piano Trio on Friday 21st January 2011 730 pm in the Recital Hall

Contact: Lisa Bushell (01353) 653931) email