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July 22, 2015 / basabbott


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September 12, 2017 / basabbott

Murder & Mayhem


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


The Pedlar of Swaffham

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

July 4, 2017 / basabbott

Support Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday Party

One of Diss Museum’s best friends, Elizabeth Mooney, celebrates her 90th birthday on July 14. The following evening (Saturday) she is hosting a dance at Diss Corn Hall, paid for out of her own pocket, with proceeds going to the museum. Tickets, available at the museum, are only £5. Or you can donate on the website

June 26, 2017 / basabbott

Gripping Cold War Drama


Anglian Mist
Stuff of Dreams

Meeting on Orford Quay, under tight security, we took a short boat trip.
Then we were in a tractor-pulled covered trailer across a moonscape of concrete pagodas.
In one of them we found ourselves back in the days of the Cold War.
The play, by Tim Lane and director Cordelia Spence, is inspired by the mysterious location where 1,000 people worked on secret projects.
One lady (born 1927) said the production was one of the most extraordinary experiences of her life.
When it tours the region it might not be quite such an immersive experience.
But the acting will make up for it. The dark, scarlet-clad beauty (Adrienne Grant) is not to be messed with.
Like her, the grizzled bird-watcher (Russell J. Turner) is more than he seems.
In his son (Matthew Barnes) you can see the divisive pain when espionage meets the human heart.
As drama it is as tense and gripping as a stand-off on a Berlin bridge.

Basil Abbott

June 19, 2017 / basabbott

Music from the Turbulent 1790s


Summer Concert
Harleston Choral Society

Composing in the 1790s must have been like working during the Blitz.
Europe was in the kind of turmoil not experienced again until the World
Yet out of it came great works like Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s Maria
Theresa Mass.
Religious works with Glorias, Credos and Agnus Dei were inspired by and
reflected their times.
There was much to inspire choir and orchestra, conducted by Christopher
Bracewell and led by Mike Golding.
In the spirited, impassioned singing you could hear the works as
anthems for a dying century.
Troubled times, with hints of Gothic, created the touching and the
prayerful, along with great jubilation.
The orchestra were at their most eloquent in the Haydn, with strings,
brass and timpani hitting exultant heights.
When soloists Sonia Stockel, Stephen Harvey, Michael Hart-Davis and
Callum Thorpe sang it was like a master class. Their voices seemed to
waft down through history.

Basil Abbott

June 14, 2017 / basabbott

The R34 Adventure newsletter No. 15

R34 nwsltr15

Click to read the latest R34 airship project newsletter.

June 14, 2017 / basabbott

1911 Nature Cure


The Secret Garden
Spinning Wheel Theatre
Palgrave Community Centre

A Richard Mabey style nature cure is one of the themes of Frances
Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel.
Emotional neglect and parental death have turned Mary into a
“tyrannical, selfish little pig”. But tlc, play and gardening do
wonders for her.
The Indian Raj background and cholera epidemic are conveyed by a letter
– one of the clever means of adaptation in Amy Wyllie’s production.
Back in Yorkshire Mary (Niamh McGowan) has one angry set-to with a
servant. Then she brightly discovers skipping, friendship, plants,
animals and local dialect.
Alice Osmanski does brilliant work as the housekeeper, maid and male
You forget that young adults are playing both grown-ups and children.
Joe Leat shines as Mary’s guardian, the doctor and her friend Dickon.
Samuel Norris rejuvenates movingly as the sickly Colin.
Becca Gibbs’ set design suggests Yorkshire stone softened by floral
The production picks up on the garden as a childhood metaphor – both an
enchanted era and a gathering place of fears.

Basil Abbott