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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

December 11, 2017 / basabbott

Handel’s Messiah


Burgate Singers

18th century religious music was resilient in the face of deism and the Enlightenment.
Undeterred, Handel and others were inspired to compose great and lasting works.
Burgate Singers and Sinfonia, under Alain Judd’s calorie-burning direction, showed all the dexterity required – piquant, jaunty, ecstatic.
The Pastoral Symphony had a hushed intimacy during which departed singers were remembered, in this 40th anniversary concert.
Tenor Guy Elliott had a voice that was both relaxing and arresting. Bass Niall Anderson was more granite-like, a voice for the darkness and the light. Mezzo-soprano Hannah Bennett had a mature, experienced voice in a young frame.
Appearances by soprano Aurelia Jonvaux are like a special gift on the tree, with a loving, translucent clarity in her singing.
Her rendering of I Know That My Redeemed Liveth was like a palate-cleanser after the heady, joyful momentum of the Hallelujah Chorus.
The Amen gave the impression of a formidable army of Christian soldiers marching against the forces of darkness.

Basil Abbott

December 6, 2017 / basabbott

Ipswich Panto


Red Riding Hood
New Wolsey Theatre

The trademarks of Ipswich pantos are thundering rock music, all the traditional elements and topical references.
So the show appeals to all ages, even the fall-guy from the audience who gets drawn in.
When they sing the panto characters suddenly become slick Americans; but they are first-rate.
As ever, they all play instruments and dance as well.
Simon Nock’s Dame is of the feather boa’d guardsman variety, with elements of Carmen Miranda.
Jokes like someone getting their hands on her assets come along like old friends.
Lucy Wells makes a spunky and pretty Red Riding Hood. Rob Falconer’s oily, upper-class villain, Max Runham’s Prince and Adam Langstaff & Daniel Carter Hope, as short-plank henchmen, are all good value.
A special mention for James Haggie as Jack Frost, looking like an ambulant icicle, and in the Dandini role as a mincing courtier. He also puts over Sweet Caroline and other songs with great verve.
Peter Rowe’s production runs until 27 January.

Basil Abbott

October 17, 2017 / basabbott

Punk Lives Again


Oxy and the Morons
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
(Until Sat 21 Oct)

Punk has been noted for its nihilistic swagger and total cultural revolt.
The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stranglers etc had an odd mix of vitality and self-destructiveness.
Would a musical about this sub-culture attract today’s audience? Yes, it brought in a full house of all ages.
The band are seen in their 1970s heyday and again in middle-age, when asked to reform for a gig.
By then one has leukaemia and another is on a Tory candidate shortlist.
Mike Peters, Paul Sirett and Steve Allan Jones have created a clever, wise-cracking script. (Perhaps not the paternity twist at the end – an old theatrical cliché.)
Both bands give it their all and make you wish you had paid more attention 40 years ago.
Janet Fullerlove, an actress of mature years, probably never thought she would be performing in a punk band. But she is tremendous.
Rob Jarvis, as the now-ailing Oxy, still gives out throbbings of noontide when back in the spotlight.
His moving curtain speech convinces us that we are all punk at heart.

Basil Abbott