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May 7, 2018 / basabbott

Our Blue Heaven


Our Blue Heaven
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

The feel-good factor could hardly be higher for a Suffolk audience than
this memoir of the FA Cup.
40 years ago Ipswich Town won it by beating Arsenal; and the glow of
local pride has never gone away.
In the presence of some of the 1978 heroes – Mick Mills, Alan Hunter,
John Wark, Roger Osborne – those heady days were re-lived.
Manager Bobby Robson was re-created with eerie brilliance by Peter
Peverley – voice, look, posture, manner.
A band thumped out the music of the day, while a young, mixed-gender
troupe did balletic versions of the games.
Writer-director Peter Rowe’s interpretation saw events from the point
of view of families. So weddings and births vied with the more
important fact of the Town being at Wembley.
14 year old Anna Kitching, played their most devoted fan with an ardour
that they need today.
When captain Mick Mills and goal scorer Roger Osborne came on at the
end, the audience rose with a roar of acclaim. This really was people’s

Basil Abbott

April 25, 2018 / basabbott

A Streetcar Named Desire


A Streetcar Named Desire
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

With districts named Desire and Elysian Fields, New Orleans had a gothic feel that appealed to Tennessee Williams.
Even updated, with shorts, sneakers, skateboards and a wheelie case for Blanche, Chelsea Walker’s production retains something of that.
Georgina Lowe’s design has also the languorous, brooding atmosphere of the Deep South. The graphic sexual couplings seem to spring from the environment.
Like The Deep Blue Sea, you get the impression that this is really a closet gay play. Maybe Blanche should be played by a drag artiste.
Brando and Leigh still loom large in any assessment, with even their photos having an iconic presence.
Kelly Gough as Blanche and Patrick Knowles as Stanley conduct verbal warfare at a lickety-split pace.
Dexter Flanders’ Mitch has a calm, benign, less-is-more presence that brings relief.
Dismantling the scenery around Blanche, maybe to show her disintegrating personality, doesn’t really work.
But the high emotions and harrowing mental torments of the play finally begin to grip.

Basil Abbott

March 30, 2018 / basabbott

Fatal Shore


Our Country’s Good
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Transportation, for things like stealing a hankie, was the nearest thing to hell on earth.
Ocean sounds greet the audience, a reminder that this is The Fatal Shore of Robert Hughes’ grim book.
With survival itself at stake, in 18th century Australia, putting on a play was bizarre. But Farquhar’s comedy The Recruiting Officer proved to be a batty kind of therapy.
Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play is a crowd-pleaser, showing the redeeming power of art.
At times it seems a bit contrived. You can imagine the writer sitting with a period glossary, putting in lowlife expressions.
But Fiona Buffini’s production, for Ramps on the Moon, is all the more effective for its cast of deaf and disabled actors. Like the convicts, they triumph against the odds. 
By signs and screen text, with enthusiasm and in rags, the show goes on. Their efforts provide an eloquent argument against cutting arts funding.

Basil Abbott 

March 12, 2018 / basabbott

Two Glorias



Eye Bach Choir

Two versions of Glory, those of Poulenc and Puccini, were on offer at Eye Church.

The concert began with Faure’s Pavane, by the Kingfisher Orchestra, serpentine and stately but with a passionate undertow.

Poulenc’s Gloria is 20th century music, with that feeling of trouble beneath the time-honoured religious sentiments.

Under Leslie Olive’s direction the choir found these elements, including the occasional irreverence in the work.

The addition of an organ, played by Alexander Binns, added warmth, drama and reassurance to the blend.

Soprano Lisa Cassidy’s singing was beautiful and troubled, her Amens like a cry in the night against the gentle surge of the choir.

Puccini’s Messe Di Gloria had a serene, tuneful opening, a tripping Gloria and often the rolling momentum of popular opera choruses.

Tenor Paul Smy had a voice that was like a rushing wind with arrows.

Both works came to prominence in the mid 20th century. Their different glories found ample expression in this touching concert.

Basil Abbott

March 8, 2018 / basabbott

Perfect Murder?


New Wolsey Theatre

Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play now comes over as much of a reflection on WW1 as Journey’s End.
The Nietzsche doctrine of living dangerously is there. The perfect murder philosophy of Leopold & Loeb, the young American killers, was an influence.
But the shadow of the Great War still looms in the character of limping veteran Rupert Cadell (Sam Jenkins-Shaw).
Fierce, sardonic, damaged, nihilistic, he speaks eloquently for a generation who saw the carnage of the trenches.
Like Priestley’s Inspector he appears as an accusatory, conscience figure.
Two superior Oxford chaps hide the body in a trunk on which the guests are served supper.
So the ‘perfect murder’ takes on a farcical banality, starting to unravel almost immediately.
George Kemp and James Sutton brilliantly chart the murderers’ decline from arrogance to the gallows.
The inter-war atmosphere is accurately re-created in Douglas Rintoul’s production, with stunning lighting effects designed by Mark Dymock.

Basil Abbott

February 27, 2018 / basabbott

Rage Against the Dying of the Light


New Wolsey Theatre

Ronald Harwood’s play is about the elderly raging against the dying of the light.
I had just jotted down the Dylan Thomas quotation when a character said it.
Four former opera singers are approaching the end of their days in a home.
Their names – Wilfred, Reginald, Cecily and Jean – show their vintage.
They reminisce about the sexual free-for-all that they knew, showing what nonsense we hear now about harassment.
It is a painful and funny play which depicts senior citizens as going to waste.
The rarefied atmosphere of the opera world they knew seems paralleled by that of the home.
Most surprising is Paul Nicholas, remembered as a loveable, pin-up Cockney barrow boy. His character is full of years but still with the ruttish instincts of a young man.
He, Jeff Rawle, Wendi Peters and Sue Holderness show that there is life in the old troupers yet.
Peter Rowe’s production shows that people of mature years should never be discounted.

Basil Abbott

February 10, 2018 / basabbott

Up ‘N’ Under


Up ‘N’ Under
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

By ‘eck, a rugby league team coached by a woman? About as likely as male strippers showing t’ Full Monty. But these are feminist times.
In 1984 John Godber’s play must have seemed surreal. Now we are more used to Lucys and Amys donning football and rugby shirts.
We are less used to performances by deaf actors, if political correctness will allow this mention.
Four of the cast have hearing impairments. So the show has sign language, mime, voice-overs and text on screen.
Tales of the underdog have been around from David & Goliath to Rocky. Teams of misfits trained to take on superior forces are always popular.
Showing a rugby game on stage is quite a theatrical feat, in Jeni Draper’s production.
One good idea is to have the opposition colours on the shirt backs. So the players just have to turn around to be the other team.
Although there is an air of northern soap, there are also moments of genuine tension and emotion.
Every heart is in every mouth as the last ball travels towards the uprights.

Basil Abbott