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May 21, 2017 / basabbott

New Score On The Somme

Review

The Battle of the Somme
Pulham Orchestra

Last year Diss Museum showed the Somme film with a piano accompaniment.
This time, at Diss church, it was the turn of the Pulham Orchestra to play the new score by Laura Rossi.
When the film was made in 1916 it was seen by twenty million people, a record not broken until Star Wars.
The film was propaganda, showing military life but giving no impression of the disaster of the battle.
It took an act of imagination on the part of a modern audience to see the film with the eyes of 1916.
But they were helped by the stunning playing of the Pulham Orchestra at the back of the church. Conductor Margery Baker used the font as a stand.
Several people said that at times they forgot the orchestra were there, as the music seemed just part of the film.
Cheery marching soldiers, the thunder of the guns, poignant moments – all were depicted with style and distinction.

Basil Abbott

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May 16, 2017 / basabbott

Optimism in Troubled Times

Review

Spring Concert
Burgate Singers

There was a moment when the setting sun caught the face of the young lady soprano.
The natural spotlight through the Eye Town Hall window announced an unforgettable performance by Henrike Legner.
Unfazed as a portrait of an infanta, she dominated the evening by her stillness and perfection of voice.
Around her swirled Stravinsky psalms, the Polish folk nationalism of Szmanowski and Haydn’s Mass in Time of Trouble.
It was music that gave great chances to choir and orchestra, under Alain Judd’s direction.
The Burgate Sinfonia (leader Julian Trafford) shone particularly in the Stravinsky, which highlighted each instrument. Also in a passage of racing excitement in the Szmanowski.
The choir achieved heights of penitence and praise in what were all religious pieces in Latin.
The fiery, optimistic fervour of Haydn, from strife-torn 18th century Austria, was delivered at full throttle.
With a dying Health Service and right-wing fingers on the Trident button, it was the kind of optimism we need.

Basil Abbott

May 2, 2017 / basabbott

Somme Film & Concert

April 27, 2017 / basabbott

Born To Trouble

Review

Burton
Diss High School

Richard Burton was born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
He led a Faustian life of booze, cigs, women, adulation, with his final curtain call at 58.
All solo performer Rhodri Miles needs on stage are a throne-like chair and a drinks trolley, continually visited.
That Welsh paean Under Milk Wood underscores the show and rolls off his tongue like the Llareggub tide.
We hear a potted life story of Richard Walter Jenkins from poor beginnings to fame and wealth.
Many green room and film anecdotes are recounted along the way, forever with drink in hand.
Mr. Miles gets into his stride after the interval when he talks about Cleopatra, the film that made Burton’s career take off.
Sometimes he sounds more like Anthony Hopkins, without that fierce, nasal delivery Burton used in performance.
But the passages from Dylan Thomas and glimpses of Hamlet (‘What a piece of work is a man!’), from Old Vic and Broadway days, left us longing for more.

Basil Abbott

April 18, 2017 / basabbott

St Luke Passion

Review

St. Luke Passion
Redgrave Singers
Redgrave Church

The high dramas of Good Friday and the Spring-like triumph of the
resurrection were the theme of Peter Creswell’s work.
There was a story-telling feel about the overture, with the orchestra,
led by Steve Calder, hinting at those dramas to come.
A rippling piano (Matthew McCombie), moody cello (Rebecca Welham) and a
spoken narration (the Revd. Adrian Watkins) added to the atmosphere.
There was that suggestion of operetta and popular music that so often
show in Mr. Creswell’s compositions. The choruses had a sweet, tuneful momentum.
Baritone Sean Webster was smoothly expressive as both Pilate and Herod.
John Meers had a great fierce moment as Chief Priest – “You call
yourself a king!’
Steve Holmes was a warmly penetrative tenor in the post-resurrection
scenes; with Selina Hawker’s vibrant soprano tones also adding to the
sense of new life.
A lingering memory is Jennifer Hewes as Pilate’s wife, borrowed from
St. Matthew, in a moving account of her dreams.

Basil Abbott

March 13, 2017 / basabbott

Playing God – reviews of Frankenstein & Haydn’s Creation

Review

Frankenstein
Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds

For Blackeyed Theatre, adapter John Ginman has absorbed Mary Shelley’s novel, thrown it at the wall but retained the essence of the story.
Gone is the literary convention whereby the creature is telling his story to Victor, who is telling it to Captain Walton, who is writing it to his sister.
The Arctic shipboard scenes are retained, with Victor’s narrative enacted for the Captain, both being on voyages of discovery.
As Frankenstein, Ben Warwick gives a spirited, passionate, heart-throb performance, full of youthful enthusiasm and bitter disillusion.
As his creation was a kind of model, so here it is an extraordinary full sized puppet of aluminium and foam rubber, made by Yvonne Stone.
Even when you can see it being moved and voiced by adjacent actors, it has a macabre magic about it.
In the book you never feel that the characters inhabit the real world. It is a psychological novel; and this stage version captures that better than any I have seen.

Basil Abbott

Haydn’s Creation
Eye Bach Choir

As Frankenstein was playing God, and the Age of Reason was denying his
existence, Haydn composed The Creation.
Inspired by the starry firmament, the oratorio has similar sentiments
to the hymn How Great Thou Art.
It begins with a suggestion of primal chaos, with the universe itself
tuning up. Under Leslie Olive’s direction the orchestra soon
established order.
The moment in creation when there was light was carried off with great
drama.
The velvet bass voice of Dhilan Gnanadurai was best for darkness on the
face of the deep and the heady maelstrom of pre-history.
The crystal soprano tones of Cheryl Enever depicted and praised the
beauties of the earth, while the lyrical tenor voice of Daniel
Bartlette held the storyline.
The quickening world was suggested by the zest of the choir, with
plenty of attack and excitement.
From Day 6, and the making of man, the mood changes. Haydn ends before
creation goes awry. But all involved picked up on the feeling that Eve
was about to reach for the fruit.

Basil Abbott

February 10, 2017 / basabbott

Two War Play Reviews

Review

Pink Mist
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Monologue, movement, mime and minimalist theatre describe this Bristol Old Vic production but hardly do it justice.
Considering that the characters are working class squaddies and their wives, they talk in a loquacious torrent of impassioned verse.
There is a dramatic momentum from the times at school when they played at war to their return home in bits.
Owen Sheers’ play is inspired by interviews with soldiers who served in Afghanistan; and the parallels with WW1 are obvious.
Not least their ambivalent attitude, that war is hell but you take it in your stride, until your legs are blown off and your mind is equally blown..
Pink mist is an expression for being reduced to smithereens. Blue on blue is the term for friendly fire, as when an American plane mistakes your unit for the Taliban.
The actors, all on stage throughout, perform with a raw intensity that grips you whether they are in battle or trying to cope with its grim aftermath.

Basil Abbott

Dare Devil Rides to Jarama
Diss High School

Connections between speedway and the Spanish Civil War might seem somewhat tenuous.
But Neil Gore’s play for Townsend Productions unearths a great story of political theatre.
Clem ‘Daredevil’ Beckett was a northern dirt track star politicised by conflict between fast buck promoters and riders trying to escape the dole.
He joined the Communist Party and headed for Spain to fight the Fascists, losing his life there in 1937.
Played by writer Neil Gore and David Heywood, both accomplished actors, singers and musicians, this provides pulsating entertainment.
Neil Gore has a chameleon ability to change from a shifty promoter, to a well-spoken left-wing author, to Fascist demagogue Oswald Mosley in a moment.
David Heywood has a cocky, winking charm and political ardour that makes you feel you have lost a friend when he is killed.
Imaginative ideas include: a puppet version of the wall of death, the passing of years shown like a cricket scoreboard; and the audience given rattles to show their approval, which they often did.

Basil Abbott