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July 22, 2015 / basabbott

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December 11, 2017 / basabbott

Handel’s Messiah

Review

Messiah
Burgate Singers

18th century religious music was resilient in the face of deism and the Enlightenment.
Undeterred, Handel and others were inspired to compose great and lasting works.
Burgate Singers and Sinfonia, under Alain Judd’s calorie-burning direction, showed all the dexterity required – piquant, jaunty, ecstatic.
The Pastoral Symphony had a hushed intimacy during which departed singers were remembered, in this 40th anniversary concert.
Tenor Guy Elliott had a voice that was both relaxing and arresting. Bass Niall Anderson was more granite-like, a voice for the darkness and the light. Mezzo-soprano Hannah Bennett had a mature, experienced voice in a young frame.
Appearances by soprano Aurelia Jonvaux are like a special gift on the tree, with a loving, translucent clarity in her singing.
Her rendering of I Know That My Redeemed Liveth was like a palate-cleanser after the heady, joyful momentum of the Hallelujah Chorus.
The Amen gave the impression of a formidable army of Christian soldiers marching against the forces of darkness.

Basil Abbott

December 6, 2017 / basabbott

Ipswich Panto

Review

Red Riding Hood
New Wolsey Theatre

The trademarks of Ipswich pantos are thundering rock music, all the traditional elements and topical references.
So the show appeals to all ages, even the fall-guy from the audience who gets drawn in.
When they sing the panto characters suddenly become slick Americans; but they are first-rate.
As ever, they all play instruments and dance as well.
Simon Nock’s Dame is of the feather boa’d guardsman variety, with elements of Carmen Miranda.
Jokes like someone getting their hands on her assets come along like old friends.
Lucy Wells makes a spunky and pretty Red Riding Hood. Rob Falconer’s oily, upper-class villain, Max Runham’s Prince and Adam Langstaff & Daniel Carter Hope, as short-plank henchmen, are all good value.
A special mention for James Haggie as Jack Frost, looking like an ambulant icicle, and in the Dandini role as a mincing courtier. He also puts over Sweet Caroline and other songs with great verve.
Peter Rowe’s production runs until 27 January.

Basil Abbott

October 17, 2017 / basabbott

Punk Lives Again

Review

Oxy and the Morons
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
(Until Sat 21 Oct)

Punk has been noted for its nihilistic swagger and total cultural revolt.
The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stranglers etc had an odd mix of vitality and self-destructiveness.
Would a musical about this sub-culture attract today’s audience? Yes, it brought in a full house of all ages.
The band are seen in their 1970s heyday and again in middle-age, when asked to reform for a gig.
By then one has leukaemia and another is on a Tory candidate shortlist.
Mike Peters, Paul Sirett and Steve Allan Jones have created a clever, wise-cracking script. (Perhaps not the paternity twist at the end – an old theatrical cliché.)
Both bands give it their all and make you wish you had paid more attention 40 years ago.
Janet Fullerlove, an actress of mature years, probably never thought she would be performing in a punk band. But she is tremendous.
Rob Jarvis, as the now-ailing Oxy, still gives out throbbings of noontide when back in the spotlight.
His moving curtain speech convinces us that we are all punk at heart.

Basil Abbott

October 8, 2017 / basabbott

New Theatre Venture

Review

The Original Barn Revue
Slate Barn Arts

A new arts project began with this show in an 18th century barn at Sweffling near Saxmundham.
Richard and Prue Gibbons have given Slate Barn for a residential, rehearsal and theatre workshop space.
Their daughter Amy was prominent in this revue. She is remembered in Diss for reading Ethel Le Neve’s autobiography for the museum’s Crippen murder centenary.
She and some colleagues studied theatre in France; and you can see the influences.
The evening had: classical and swing music, comic songs, red nose comedy, slapstick, monologues, Theatre of the Absurd, conjuring and improvisation.
Clowns, so close in spirit to the Waiting for Godot tramps, provided much of the impetus.
Highlights include top piano playing by James Pearson and a soul version of Old MacDonald by Tamara Astor.
Another treat was a group improvisation with the audience deciding location (Timbuctoo), style (Martial Arts) and keywords (banana, Venus and Sweffling).

Basil Abbott

October 7, 2017 / basabbott

A Man For All Seasons

Review

A Man For All Seasons
WARTS, Redgrave Church

Robert Bolt’s play now comes over as a 1960s middle-brow, costume drama, with nods to Brecht.
Graham Freeman’s Thomas More seems a decent fellow who would rather read a book.
But his conscience pitches him into the birth pangs of the C of E and the vilification of the Papacy.
Leslie Dumbell’s mercurial Common Man narrates in Brechtian manner, as though having a giggle at posh Holbein paintings.
Tim Hall’s brief appearance as Cardinal Wolsey, like a great scarlet toad, makes us long for more.
There is sound character work from Keith Charman (Duke of Norfolk), Kristian Wimshurst (Rich) and Mark Le Surf-Hall (Roper). Andy Kemp has a good stab at the regality and coarseness of King Henry.
There are heart-wringing moments from Kathy Mills and Georgia Edwards as More’s wife and daughter.
Most eye-catching is Kriz Stiff as Cromwell, with a looming, heartless menace and vigour that typifies turbulent times.
Gorgeous costumes, co-ordinated by Celia Baker and director Liz Leslie-Smith, add greatly to a fine production.

Basil Abbott

September 12, 2017 / basabbott

Murder & Mayhem

Review

The Ladykillers
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

The last of the Ealing comedies was probably the blackest.
Graham Linehan’s adaptation combines the homely mayhem of a Ben Travers farce with the body count of a Jacobean revenge play.
A remarkable set, by Richard Foxton, swivels from an old train station into both storeys of Miss Wilberforce’s house.
In the role of that old lady Ann Penfold gives what you might call a tour de Miss Wilberforce performance.
The gallery of rogues are as colourful as in the 1955 film. When they rehearse their heist you can see a line of English comedy from the Rude Mechanicals.
Steven Elliott takes the Professor role, the one Alec Guinness toothily based on Alastair Sim. The character is now younger, bespectacled, very Oxbridge, with a ground-length scarf and bursting with criminal energy.
He and his motley gang, the helmeted bobby, milk on the doorstep and Suez on the wireless, bring back the world of 60 years ago.
Peter Rowe directs the play which runs until Saturday 30 September.

Basil Abbott

September 11, 2017 / basabbott

Gold in Them Thar Holes

Review

The Pedlar of Swaffham
EyesWrite

Anyone hopefully digging under Swaffham trees should know that the gold hoard tale is known worldwide.
Maybe the moral of Joan and Alan Huckle’s musical is that everything we need is right here.
Swaffham should certainly snaffle this touring production for a season, as it would do wonders for tourism.
The show has the air of a very good panto, with authentic 15th century costumes by Julie Bolton and team.
The songs are as fresh and singable as standards. Many in the audience must have gone home humming Always Believe in Dreams.
Musical director is Edith Peck, with Amanda Crofts on violin.
The cast are the cream of local acting talent with huge experience behind them.
For a big man, Tim Hall as the pedlar can show the pathos and woebegone, crestfallen air of a little man.
Then, when things turn his way, you feel he could blow the place apart.  
There are so many well-drawn characters. Rob Backhouse is like a sinister, smellier relation of Baldrick.
Alan Bolton is a hissable villain who relishes the song I’m Bad. Bob Good is finely ambivalent as a churchman of the day.
Beth Spaul is the kind of pretty, endearing ingenue whom no juve lead could resist. Archie the dog also steals several scenes.

Basil Abbott