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July 22, 2015 / basabbott


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July 14, 2019 / basabbott

The R34 Adventure


All Aboard the R34!
Diss Corn Hall

Diss Museum’s R34 airship commemoration reached its climax with Peter Creswell’s musical homage.
Drawing on the Log by General Maitland the composer headed for the human and animal stories. Not the apocalyptic weather but love interest, cocoa and Wopsie the cat.
But the characters were there, with Mark Saberton showing the iron resolve that Major Scott must have had.
Djinh Kamei, as stowaway Billy Ballantyne, was not the Geordie boxer of reality, but a personable presence nevertheless.
As the crew were feted in New York, not least by the ladies, it made sense to give Billy a girlfriend. Since it was Selina Hawker, at her slinkiest, it made even more sense.
Jennifer Hewes, as an American socialite, and Tim Hall, as President Wilson, created memorable cameos.
The show suggested how Gilbert & Sullivan might have viewed the epic voyage if they had gone on composing into the 20th century. This plus Peter Creswell’s talent for engaging the whole gamut of music.

Basil Abbott

May 19, 2019 / basabbott

Stand & Deliver on the A140


An Honest Gentleman
Stuff of Dreams,
Diss Corn Hall

The title has the strong suggestion that those were in short supply in the 18th century.
The 17th century play A Chaste Maid in Cheapside made a similar point.
Writer/director Cordelia Spence has taken what little is known of Norfolk highwayman Thomas Easter.
Born in Aylsham and active down what is now the A140, he finally went for the long drop at Tyburn.
But give him an aristocratic girlfriend, inspired by Margaret Lockwood’s Wicked Lady, and introduce him to Dick Turpin; and what more do you want?
Co-writer/composer Tim Lane’s folky music on an ever-giving guitar add much to period and atmosphere.
The robber and moll (Quinn Richards & Hayley Evenett) dash through their criminal career like an 18th century Bonnie & Clyde. Geir Madland provides a grittier Dick Turpin than the one of romantic fiction.
It is a show full of beans, with particularly fine singing in the scenes at the scaffold.

Basil Abbott

May 11, 2019 / basabbott

Rights of Man


To Begin the World Over Again
Diss Corn Hall

Maligned, misunderstood, misused – Ian Ruskin’s view of Thomas Paine in his solo performance.
The Rights of Man author was burned in effigy, reviled as a “dirty little atheist” and a “demi-human archbeast”. He could easily have hanged for blasphemous and seditious libel.
But his works were best-sellers, while his ideas paved the way for the welfare state, pensions, benefits and education funding.
Mr. Ruskin’s interpretation shows him as a decent human being, with a wry sense of humour. Paine’s incendiary writings are allowed to speak for themselves.
We hear about his life and narrow squeaks with death, from Norfolk beginnings to world fame and notoriety.
Staymaker, teacher, preacher, excise man, orator, he found his true direction when Ben Franklin encouraged him to cross the Atlantic.
Active during the American and French revolutions, he became a publishing phenomenon and champion of the people.
Most touching is his profession of deism, with a love of the God who created the world, rather than the one seen via religion. This was as warm and true a one-man performance as you will see anywhere.

Basil Abbott

May 6, 2019 / basabbott

Giles Cartoons Live Again


Grandma Saves the Day
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Cartoons by Suffolk-based Ronald Giles enlivened the Daily and Sunday Express for 45 years.
The family he depicted proved an antidote to the Victor Meldrew readership.
With a statue of Grandma already in Ipswich town centre, it was time for the theatre to take a hand.
Phil Willmott’s show, directed by Peter Rowe, is very much in the style of the Wolsey’s rock pantos.
So all the characters, even Granny, belt out songs and play instruments.
It is a left-wing show. Although the audience enjoy the Union songs they laugh a little uneasily at the Thatcher jokes, East Anglia being largely blue.
That is to take nothing away from Alice Keedwell’s winning cameo as the ferreous female.
Steve Simmonds, built like Friar Tuck, makes a splendidly bolshie, deranged Grandma.
Grace Lancaster, as the sweet teenage daughter, and Nicky Swift as the Malaproping, social-climber next door, shine among a great-value cast.
The show continues until Saturday 18 May.

Basil Abbott

April 28, 2019 / basabbott

For the Love of a Lady


The Yeomen of the Guard
Burgate Singers

Like The Lady’s Not For Burning, this G&S operetta has a kind of up-market panto setting.
History is depicted in terms of later times – here a Victorian version of the Tudors.
Without costume or scenery the singers and orchestra had to re-create this mixture.
An enticing overture set the tone for a darker than usual G&S work, conducted by Alain Judd.
The choir did best in moments when the music seemed anti-establishment. The Savoy operas, you felt, were to the middle-class what the music hall was to the working-class.
Those tongue-twisting lyrics, so well delivered all round, are close to the English nonsense tradition which bucks the system.
Pick of the soloists was Bradley Smith who gave a smooth authority to the role of Colonel Fairfax.
As ever, the high point was I Have a Song O, sung here by Rebekhah Smith and Alistair Bamford.
After hearing them we all went off sipping no sup, craving no crumb and sighing for the love of a lady.

Basil Abbott

March 27, 2019 / basabbott

Big Skies & Lonely Waterways


The Tide Jetty
Eastern Angles (touring)

Writer Tony Ramsay was inspired by the big skies and lonely waterways of Norfolk.
Halvergate marshes, he says in a programme note, was “crossed by Pip on his way to Peggoty’s house in Great Expectations”.
Actually, Pip’s Great Expectations are set in Kent; and Peggotty (with two t’s) is a character in David Copperfield.
But, memory slips apart, the writer has created an evocative situation to match this elemental land.
Boating friends have said that Breydon Water is as big a challenge as the great Irish loughs.
Jasmine Swan’s reedy and liquid, jettied set is the perfect interpretation.
So we see an everyday story of Victorian marsh folk, complete with drownings and mysterious paternity.
Accents, as so often, come over as all-purpose rural. Just by knowing what different regions do with the tongue actors could master dialect.
Scott Hurran directs an impassioned young cast – Laura Costello, Benjamin Teare, Megan Valentine and Abe Buckoke – the last having a special sense of grizzled East Anglia.

Basil Abbott

March 17, 2019 / basabbott

Desert World

Eye Bach Choir

The whispering of the breeze and thundering of the tempest impressed Prince Albert in 1846.
Drawn largely from the Books of Kings, Mendelssohn depicts a desert land of famine, idols, angels and the hand of God.
The grim overture, by the Kingfisher Sinfonietta, opening chorus and urgent, insistent tenor Richard Edgar-Wilson, evoked this world.
Mark Saberton was ox-strong as Elijah but with a soaring compassion, felt in his scene with soprano Anna Cavaliero’s serenely grieving woman.
He had a grand time taunting the prophets of Baal and could show fierce expressiveness, excitement and times of repose. (The pulpit actually quivered at one point.)
The choir, under Leslie Olive’s skilled direction, rode the mighty exhortations, the fervent thankfulness and praise, with numerous thrilling passages.
Among many other notable items, contralto Thalie Knights’ balm-like aria O Rest in the Lord stood out.
Young singers: Rosalind Aczel, Veryan Dawe, Charlotte Leeder, Alice Wood and Archie Thompson also played a prominent part.

Basil Abbott