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July 22, 2015 / basabbott


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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

December 16, 2018 / basabbott

The Childhood of Christ


L’Enfance du Christ
Burgate Singers

Berlioz’ work is a quirky, post-Gothic piece about Herod and the flight into Egypt.
It was introduced by the romantic, expressive tenor voice of Laurence Kilsby as Narrator.
Atmosphere was skilfully stoked by the Burgate Sinfonia in the march of Roman soldiers, under Alain Judd’s dervish direction.
Herod was startlingly well sung by Ossian Huskinson, with a fierce, hall-filling bass voice.
There was considerable tingle factor in the chorus of soothsayers and then of angels.
Natasha Page had a serene, sense-of-occasion voice every time she sang as Mary, complemented by Alistair Bamford’s benign Joseph.
The well-known Shepherds’ Farewell had that rolling emotion we know from opera choruses by slaves and pilgrims.
Lush strings, elegant woodwind and a long, low, humming Amen stay in the memory of this concert at Eye Town Hall.

Basil Abbott

December 9, 2018 / basabbott

Advent Fare


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


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


4 Into 1

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


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