Nigel Havers in Conversation
Aquiline juve-lead looks still intact, Nigel Havers charmed the Bury audience as ever in a Theatre Royal fundraiser. In conversation with Libby Purves he recalled his debut as a 13 year old Puck, his two years in Mrs. Dale’s Diary and his days as a researcher for Jimmy Young. Chariots of Fire, one of his best known films, involved five and a half months physical training. Interestingly, he said that the actors’ drinking culture was less prevalent now, with smoothies being preferred. The audience loved the name-dropping – Dench, Caine, Collins. Apparently American actors don’t speak to each other and don’t like to rehearse. He spoke highly of Coronation Street and pantos, even with 14 shows a week. He will be back in panto at the London Palladium this year. Also a stage version of The Moon’s A Balloon, with himself as David Niven. There was a nice moment when Nigel’s former nanny, Irene Pettitt, made herself known from the audience, to great applause.
Diss Film Night
Chris Pursehouse’s death brought a capacity audience to St. Mary’s Hall to see the film he narrated for Diss Museum.
For the 2006 Betjeman centenary his 1964 film was re-made using some footage from the original.
As Chris was seen in the first film he was asked to narrate the second.
His Norfolk farmer’s voice proved ideal both for the scripted material and his own recollections.
The audience was fascinated to see both the 1964 town and how it was 10 years ago.
Local people read Betjeman excerpts, including Canon Tony Billett’s heartfelt rendering of Blame the Vicar.
The second film, a drama documentary, was The Staymaker about Thomas Paine. Both films had the benefit of Clive Davies’ camera and editing skills.
Diss, Thetford, Bressingham and Old Buckenham provided locations, with the Diss Friends’ Meeting House used for interiors.
Leslie Dumbell (Benjamin Franklin), Alison Dumbell (the wife of Paine’s staymaking employer), Adrian Bailey (the French king) and Beverlee Boulton-Debbage (a slave) were among the local actors who shone.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Wilde’s title can be viewed in various ways in this subversively delightful play.
Ernest was a popular Victorian name; but went down market, with many Ernies.
So one meaning could be the fading importance of being fashionable.
Whatever, Wilde is taking a rise out of upper class wasters.
Henry Proffit and Andrew Lindfield as Algy and Jack revel in this world where smoking is seen as an occupation.
Unusual doubling is a feature of Michelle Shortland’s direction for DOT Productions.
So Dawn Bush plays both the manservant and Miss Prism, while Non Vaughan-Thomas plays Lady Bracknell and Canon Chasuble.
The gender switching brings characters up to the appropriate level of artifice, when some epigrams have been rather thrown away.
Lady Bracknell is younger than usual, but no less a harridan, if lacking that “terrible as an army with banners” quality.
The splenetic tea party between Gwendolen (Lucy Lawson) and Cecily (pert and arch Sophie Farquhar) works as well as ever.
Battle of the Somme
St.Mary’s Hall, Diss
Diss Museum helped commemorate the Somme centenary with a presentation about the local men who were there.
Helen Kennett, who did the research into the missing war memorial names in 2014, recalled the Diss men who fought and died.
One was Alfred Steggles, who died of wounds on the last day of the battle. He is buried in Diss cemetery and the museum has his medals.
The film made in 1916 was also shown, with an improvised piano accompaniment by Carol Moss.
It was a propaganda film, giving no impression of a million casualties. Mud, rats, ordure, slaughter – none of these were depicted.
But it attracted 20 million people at the time, a figure not surpassed until Star Wars.
A packed audience responded to Helen Kennett’s moving account of the local sacrifice; and to Carol Moss’s musical interpretation.
Marching songs, the thunder of the guns, moments of rest – her playing conveyed every mood in a 74 minute performance.
St. John Passion
Harleston Choral Society
Bach’s work of small-bite recitatives needs an adroit juxtaposition of conductor, choir, soloists and orchestra.
Under Christopher Bracewell’s direction you knew this would succeed as the opening chorus met the surge of the orchestra.
Waves of ecstatic sound, whether measured, lively, meditative, declamatory, contrite or hymn-like filled St. John’s Church.
Tenor Michael Hart-Davies’ crystal clarity of delivery proved ideal for telling the crucifixion story and for the more expressive Airs.
Sri Lankan born, and now British citizen, Dhilan Gnanadurai, again brought his darkly passionate bass voice to the dramas of Calvary.
Contralto Catherine Dealey’s singing had a loving quality, if a little underpowered; and there were some soaring-rafter moments from Soprano Siona Stockel.
Mature and mellow, the orchestra, led by Miles Golding, was a bedrock of excellence. Special mentions for the oboe, cor anglais and bassoon playing of Emma Penfold, Kim Haan and Mark Sharp.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
Homecoming Ipswich boy Sir Trevor Nunn is directing this play for the first time.
He chose to set it in the British Raj in 1930s India, citing the caste system, arranged marriages, several mentions of the country and its animals.
So Theseus (Matt Rawle) and Hippolyta ((Fiona Hampton) are as grand as the Mountbattens.
It works particularly well with the Rude Mechanicals, straight off an Indian street.
Bottom has seldom been as self-important or as funny in vain-glory as played by Kulvinder Ghir.
Although turbaned, the fairies do not really fit the interpretation. They are the well-drilled and behaved children, doing little fluttery hand movements, that you see in any school production.
The energy of Puck (Esh Alladi), bare-chested and in Indian breeches, and the lovers is calorie-burning just to watch.
One who stands out is Helena (Imogen Daines), reaching for drink and cig, heading for the shelf, beginning to look like her mother and aching for love.
(Thurs 16 June – Sat 9 July)