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July 22, 2015 / basabbott

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December 9, 2018 / basabbott

Advent Fare

Review

Christmas Concert
Harleston Choral Society

There is enough of biblical prophecy and the nativity in Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah to provide Advent fare.
With carols, one especially written, and Teleman’s German Magnificat, this was an ideal pre-Christmas concert.
Director Janette Ruocco has a sense of history, heard in her own carol Blessed Be That Maid. You felt that it must have been found in some 15th century manuscript.
Under her direction you could detect similar undercurrents when the Dargason Ensemble played the timeless opening of Messiah. And again in the touching Pastorale, with oboes and continuo (Alec Harmon, Chloe Peterson & Karen Smith) skimming the centuries.
Pick of the soloists was Mitesh Khatri, a velvet yet declamatory tenor. Gary Griffiths had the sternness of a bass and the subtlety of a baritone.
Soprano Beverley Lockyer was like Spring in December; and contralto Christine Petch sure and sincere.
The choir sang the prophecies with a light and tripping enthusiasm and relish. After the carols, with the audience, the wall seemed to come down even more. So the Magnificat was sung with a cheerful abandon.

Basil Abbott

November 25, 2018 / basabbott

Russia Comes to Eye

Review

All Night Vigil
Eye Bach Choir

Russia came to Eye Church in this concert of Rachmaninov and folk music, directed by Leslie Olive.
Composed during WW1, two years before the revolution, the ‘Vespers’ seemed like the end of the Russian Church.
A century later those gentle alleluias are still pouring out, seeming to show an inextricable link between faith and folk.
Some of the more stentorian bass items were omitted. But others had a murmuring, hive-like quality, with spurts of rejoicing.
It was a masterstroke to include the Muzika Lyra trio, interspersed with the Rachmaninov.
Lila Moshtael sings in such a warm, impassioned way that, as with Edith Piaf, you don’t have to understand the words. Pianist Nadia Giliova made the difficult Rachmaninov Preludes seem easy.
Julian Milone is a master violinist, whether in stately moods or a bow-blurring Hungarian Dance.
The well-known pieces known to us as Midnight in Moscow, Kalinka and Those Were the Days ended this endearing concert, with the audience singing along.

Basil Abbott

October 22, 2018 / basabbott

Clever Blighters

Review

4 Into 1
EyesWrite

The figure in the carpet is discernible in these plays by local writers at Eye Bank.
Although the plays stand on their own, there are connecting tendrils.
So a character in Veronica by Gwyn Guy exits after having maybe too much to drink.
In the subsequent plays we hear of a hit and run accident where someone was killed.
The final play, Written In The Stars by David Howgego, brings nemesis.
Gwyn Guy’s writing is superior soap opera, with Bob Good as a rumpled Dad getting dating advice from his kids (Ben and Isobel Huckle).
Robin Franklin’s Best Served Cold has touches of Pinter menace and TV crime series, with Judy Dow, Robin Franklin and Peter Sowerbutts.
Cut the Wire by Alan Huckle has elements of Priestley and Christie in the off-stage conscience figure threatening three women (April Secrett, Jo Huckle and Penny Martin).
Written in the Stars is a piercing and lethal conversation piece between a woman (Helen Bigden) and a police Inspector (Chris Strachan).
All relate in some way to a particular road death. Clever blighters these local writers.

Basil Abbott

October 7, 2018 / basabbott

The Return of the Soldier

Review

The Return of the Soldier
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

A musical adaptation of Rebecca West’s novel is a welcome addition to the end of WW1 commemorations.
To the upper-middle class the Front was a distant, gallant place where Officers fought for England.
Lower ranks could be shot for having ‘shell shock’; but Captain Chris Baldry returns with his mind affixed on a former love.
She being also an ex-barmaid, this is not well received by his wife and female cousin. So the set shows white garden furniture and parasols on one side; and a humbler dwelling on the other.
The time span between his youthful romance and the present has been reduced from 15 (in the novel) to 10 years.
So Margaret, his old flame, is not so much the dowdy middle-aged woman, who turns up with a letter informing her, rather than the wife, of his condition.
She is younger and more attractive; and her character and that of her non-combatant husband, are built up more than in the book, which is narrated by the cousin.
There are many good songs, with book and lyrics by Tim Sanders and music by Charles Miller. They are sung supremely well by the cast, accompanied by Daniel Jarvis (piano) and Ines Mota (cello).
The Freudian resolution still comes over as rather glib, although the author was one of the first even to consider its possibilities, when soldiers were being executed for ‘cowardice’.
Chris Jenkins, as the stressed Officer, Tessa Kadler as his hoity-toity wife, Esme Sears as the cousin, and Naomi Slights, as the former love, all give quality performances.
Marc Pickering creates a rounded character as the husband with concerns about his non-participation in the war. Then he tops it with a slick, droll turn as a psychiatric doctor.
You miss some of Rebecca West’s prose – the description of a garden in March, the beloved’s figure in the dusk – but this is a memorable show, directed by Charlotte Westenra.

Basil Abbott

October 5, 2018 / basabbott

Votes For Women

Review

Rebellious Sisterhood
Broad Horizons (touring)

Today women run almost everything, fill prisons and even assassinate people (in Killing Eve).
But they only obtained the vote within the life of Ann Ward, the Diss woman who has just died.
Karen Forbes’ play shows what leading figures like the Pankhursts went through to win that right.
They were fighting the most entrenched attitudes. The force feeding of hunger-striking Suffragettes was like the worst tortures in a totalitarian state.
When a woman threw herself in front of the royal horse, the King inquired about the health of the jockey.
On the outbreak of the Great War, PM Asquith ordered the release of all female prisoners. War work helped to empower women; but they had to wait until 1928 for all adult females to get the vote.
Their anguish and struggle are harrowingly well depicted in Cordelia Spence’s production. The passionate acting of Judi Daykin, Shirley Day and Kiara Hawker shows both the achievement and the cost.

Basil Abbott

October 5, 2018 / basabbott

All Aboard the R34

Review

Peter Creswell’s Music
East Harling Church

This concert was a taster for next year’s R34 airship centenary.
The first double airborne Atlantic crossing (1919) is the subject of All Aboard the R34.
Peter Creswell has composed a sheaf of singable songs to tell the intrepid story.
Take-off from Scotland, the stowaway, Wopsie the cat, the voyage dramas, parachute descent, New York welcome – all feature in the story so far.
Mark Saberton’s commanding tones lent themselves perfectly to Captain Scott, complemented by Selina Hawker’s natural, endearing voice.
The concert had begun with When I was Four, a loving memoir of the composer’s daughter’s young days.
There was also a glowing gem of a Violin Sonata, with Alex Girdlestone; and a suite called Cathedral, with benevolent surges of piano sound from Matthew McCombie.
Rondo for Flute & Piano featured eloquent flute by Philippa Gordon, followed by violin and oboe pieces.
The airship work certainly whetted the appetite for the centenary concert at Diss Corn Hall next July.

Basil Abbott

July 14, 2018 / basabbott

Revised Murder in the Red Barn

Review

Polstead
Eastern Angles

The Murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn spawned a century of melodramas.
The spotless maiden, done to death by the dastardly squire, thrilled the Victorian stage.
It wasn’t really like that, of course, and was never seen from the point of view of the girl.
Beth Flintoff’s play tries to put that right by depicting the human being behind the image.
She and her circle are depicted by six actresses, so the villainous William Corder never appears.
Although accents are all-purpose rural and some scenes rather ‘all loving girlies together’, there is a real attempt to show 1820s Suffolk, in Hal Chambers’ production.
Elizabeth Crarer, visually like Winona Ryder in The Crucible, creates a Maria with all the troubles and emotions of a girl of her time. It is a harrowing personal journey, drainingly well acted.
Sarah Goddard brings life and soul to the part of her stepmother. Lydia Bakelmun, Lucy Grattan, Bethan Nash and Roxanne Palmer double expertly as local girls and gentry.
After all the ouch-making plays and films, this is a welcome revisionist version of the story.

Basil Abbott