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.
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.
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.
Lover, alchemist, writer, salesman, prisoner, spy, gambler, lottery deviser, Freemason – you could not make Casanova up.
For Spinning Wheel Theatre, writer/director Amy Wylie’s problem must have been what to leave out.
Her device was to have the randy Venetian tell his own story. Telling can save years of showing.
A jaunty, jape-filled life is depicted, a kind of Carry On Casanova in colloquial English – “Right. Great. Cheers.”
This includes multiple amours, a brisk lesson in Cabalism (religion via maths) and the quickest Grand Tour ever.
Joe Leat has a winning charm in the title role; but also a feeling for the downside of the pleasure-seeking life.
Lucy Benson-Brown has her work cut out playing many of the women in his life; and managing to make them all colourfully different.
Samuel Norris plays everything from oily Italians to English aristocrats and even appears in a Pompadour wig as one of the female conquests.
The homely, intimacy of The Bank Art Centre, Eye, is ideal for Alan Huckle’s plays and monologues.
Founder of EyesWrite, he regularly presents his own work there, with experienced local actors.
His women characters were not so wicked on this occasion. But there was a feeling of sex wars, people made solitary by divorce, scenes on benches and cliff edges.
His strength is in dialogue, with few punches pulled, rather than physical theatricality.
Rob Backhouse, as a doctor with a grudge, had the kind of part that Huckle women have had. The monologue to a man he had incapacitated, in the play Life, was a highpoint.
Cherryl Jeffries, Pat Parris and Paul Baker delivered character monologues and then showed their versatility in playlets.
Alan Bolton always does a good line in expostulating bluster. Julie Bolton can play bluestocking or brassy with ease.
DIY invariably causes stage conflict, as it did in the final play Sticking Together, with Chris Strachan splendidly nerdy.
Made In Dagenham
All singing, all striking, this musical recalls the gender pay disputes at Fords in the 1960s.
Although women now run everything, from governments downwards, many still have lower wages than men.
The show is derived from the film and comes to Ipswich from the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch.
Douglas Rintoul’s production is people’s theatre, full of working class humour and vitality. Barrack room language had nothing on the women machinists’ room.
Harold Wilson (Graham Kent), with pipe and Gannex coat, and Barbara Castle (Claire Machin) live warmly again. Prime Ministerial aides were depicted as capering ninnies even then.
Rita, the main character, is a fictional figure based on several of the strikers. I doubt that the cigar-chomping American owner ever really tore her TUC speech up.
But Daniella Bowen gives a heart-on-sleeve performance, showing the determination and human cost of the strike.
See this serious and funny show at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until October 15.
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.