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July 22, 2015 / basabbott

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March 13, 2017 / basabbott

Playing God – reviews of Frankenstein & Haydn’s Creation

Review

Frankenstein
Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds

For Blackeyed Theatre, adapter John Ginman has absorbed Mary Shelley’s novel, thrown it at the wall but retained the essence of the story.
Gone is the literary convention whereby the creature is telling his story to Victor, who is telling it to Captain Walton, who is writing it to his sister.
The Arctic shipboard scenes are retained, with Victor’s narrative enacted for the Captain, both being on voyages of discovery.
As Frankenstein, Ben Warwick gives a spirited, passionate, heart-throb performance, full of youthful enthusiasm and bitter disillusion.
As his creation was a kind of model, so here it is an extraordinary full sized puppet of aluminium and foam rubber, made by Yvonne Stone.
Even when you can see it being moved and voiced by adjacent actors, it has a macabre magic about it.
In the book you never feel that the characters inhabit the real world. It is a psychological novel; and this stage version captures that better than any I have seen.

Basil Abbott

Haydn’s Creation
Eye Bach Choir

As Frankenstein was playing God, and the Age of Reason was denying his
existence, Haydn composed The Creation.
Inspired by the starry firmament, the oratorio has similar sentiments
to the hymn How Great Thou Art.
It begins with a suggestion of primal chaos, with the universe itself
tuning up. Under Leslie Olive’s direction the orchestra soon
established order.
The moment in creation when there was light was carried off with great
drama.
The velvet bass voice of Dhilan Gnanadurai was best for darkness on the
face of the deep and the heady maelstrom of pre-history.
The crystal soprano tones of Cheryl Enever depicted and praised the
beauties of the earth, while the lyrical tenor voice of Daniel
Bartlette held the storyline.
The quickening world was suggested by the zest of the choir, with
plenty of attack and excitement.
From Day 6, and the making of man, the mood changes. Haydn ends before
creation goes awry. But all involved picked up on the feeling that Eve
was about to reach for the fruit.

Basil Abbott

February 10, 2017 / basabbott

Two War Play Reviews

Review

Pink Mist
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Monologue, movement, mime and minimalist theatre describe this Bristol Old Vic production but hardly do it justice.
Considering that the characters are working class squaddies and their wives, they talk in a loquacious torrent of impassioned verse.
There is a dramatic momentum from the times at school when they played at war to their return home in bits.
Owen Sheers’ play is inspired by interviews with soldiers who served in Afghanistan; and the parallels with WW1 are obvious.
Not least their ambivalent attitude, that war is hell but you take it in your stride, until your legs are blown off and your mind is equally blown..
Pink mist is an expression for being reduced to smithereens. Blue on blue is the term for friendly fire, as when an American plane mistakes your unit for the Taliban.
The actors, all on stage throughout, perform with a raw intensity that grips you whether they are in battle or trying to cope with its grim aftermath.

Basil Abbott

Dare Devil Rides to Jarama
Diss High School

Connections between speedway and the Spanish Civil War might seem somewhat tenuous.
But Neil Gore’s play for Townsend Productions unearths a great story of political theatre.
Clem ‘Daredevil’ Beckett was a northern dirt track star politicised by conflict between fast buck promoters and riders trying to escape the dole.
He joined the Communist Party and headed for Spain to fight the Fascists, losing his life there in 1937.
Played by writer Neil Gore and David Heywood, both accomplished actors, singers and musicians, this provides pulsating entertainment.
Neil Gore has a chameleon ability to change from a shifty promoter, to a well-spoken left-wing author, to Fascist demagogue Oswald Mosley in a moment.
David Heywood has a cocky, winking charm and political ardour that makes you feel you have lost a friend when he is killed.
Imaginative ideas include: a puppet version of the wall of death, the passing of years shown like a cricket scoreboard; and the audience given rattles to show their approval, which they often did.

Basil Abbott

December 19, 2016 / basabbott

Window Cleaning & Golf

Review

Well There You Have It!
Botesdale

Window cleaning and golf might seem odd subjects to sing about as the highest matters in life.
But this was the world of comic opera, with 26 original numbers by Peter Creswell, performed at Botesdale Village Hall.
His work has always shown a love of the whole gamut of music.
Period seemed indeterminate, with golfers in large flat caps and plus fours, while Selina Hawker looked fetchingly modern. There was even a mention of Tescos.
It was a show that oozed quality, from the composition to the accompaniment and singing.
Mr. Creswell is a gifted pianist and was well served by Rebecca Welham (cello), Bob Silvester (clarinet) and Duncan Young (double bass).
With singers like Paul and Jennifer Hewes, Selina Hawker, Mark Saberton, Coral Ballinger and Glynn McKay, it could hardly fail.
There was also a most assured debut from Isaak Frost as a young window cleaner.

Basil Abbott

December 12, 2016 / basabbott

Audience On Its Feet

Review

Christmas Concert
Harleston

Few concerts have the audience on its feet quite so often. At St. John’s Church it was to join the Choral Society in carols.
Choir and orchestra, conducted by Christopher Bracewell, also performed Vivaldi, Faure, Franck and Corelli.
The result was the musical equivalent of old master paintings with a crib scene and a castle in the background.
Vivaldi’s Gloria had the thrill of angel singing and that sense of holy mystery in centuries of sacred music.
The mellow swell of Faure’s Cantique and the surging sweetness of Franck’s Panis Angelicus were memorable.
The orchestra (leader Stuart Traeger), who had matched every mood, surpassed themselves in Corelli’s Christmas Concerto.
The light and shade, with a kind of loving poignancy, seemed to convey Christ’s life cycle, not just his birth.
There were heartfelt solos, from Natalie Keane, Rachel Keale and Shirley Smith; and some glorious trumpet from Ray Simmons.
Berlioz’ Shepherds’ Farewell was sung with fervour, highlighted by the soft klaxon sound of David Price’s oboe.

Basil Abbott

December 5, 2016 / basabbott

Festive Without the Obvious

Review

Concert
Redgrave Singers

Peter Creswell’s Wortham Church concert with Redgrave Singers had enough festive feeling without the obvious.
Without any loss of gloss it also had a warm feeling of people just getting together to sing.
Some of Mr. Creswell’s own Christmas songs are as good as standards.
He also showed himself to be an actor, when delivering one of several Shakespeare speeches.
Edward German choruses from Merrie England proved to be as singable and Anglophile as G&S.
When Jennifer Hewes sang I was reminded of the lady going down the garden singing, silencing all the songbirds. Then blow me if her husband Paul didn’t sing that very song, Handel’s Silent Worship.
There was the sparkle of Christine Odams with Parisotti’s Se Tu M’Ami; and John Meers’s fine rendering of Mozart’s Within Thy Holy Portals.
Shiona Cormack’s Ave Maria and a clarinet sonata by Bob Silvester, easy as pouring honey, were among the many pleasures.

Basil Abbott

November 20, 2016 / basabbott

The Little Bit the Boys Admire

Review

The Marie Lloyd Story
Brockdish Village Hall

Artistes tend to be of their period. It is hard to believe that Jimmy Young used to top the charts.
So Marie Lloyd, a woman with the air of an East End auntie, was the queen of the music hall.
Panto and music hall were people’s theatre; and she spoke straight to her public.
Don’t Dilly Dally On the Way is basically about homelessness.
Biopics (script by John Mangan) tend to have characters providing information rather than plot.
But the characterization is full-bodied. Judi Daykin is spunkily ordinary as the offstage Marie and lights up like a gas mantle onstage.
She finds a foil in Karen Hill as the fearsomely smart male impersonator Vesta Tilley.
Together they re-live the rowdy and sentimental music hall days, including well and lesser known songs.
Marie’s last performance, when she is obviously losing it, is deeply moving. So is the appearance of Vesta in feminine inter-war clothes, having drawn a line under the old days.

Basil Abbott

October 18, 2016 / basabbott

Night Must Fall

Review

Night Must Fall

Thrillers tend not to survive their era, as new fears replace them.
Emlyn Williams 1935 play is well served in this Salisbury Playhouse production at Ipswich theatre.
The Thirties live again in the bungalow without electricity or phone. Plus-fours, a short sleeved pullover and tie, the Inspector’s coat and hat, all add to the period.
The ugly duckling becoming a swan is a cliché of the time. But Niamh McGrady subtly shows her growing attraction to the murderer.
The glasses come off, the dress is more feminine, her hair comes down; and she covers for him. There is almost a physical moment between them, a clinch before he goes off to the Old Bailey; and she is left lamenting.
Will Featherstone has an ingratiating charm as the fruitcake with a head in his bag. It is believable that the wheelchair-bound harridan (Gwen Taylor) would warm to him.
Mandi Symonds, the cook, and Daragh O’Malley, the Inspector, create great characters.

Basil Abbott