Saturday, February 11, 2017



Among the most consistently impressive of the local choral societies, Waltham Singers, under Andrew Fardell, increasingly look beyond their parish church, with concerts in Chelmsford Cathedral and overseas touring.

This March they are singing in King Edward VI School: two cornerstones of the choral repertoire, Allegri's Miserere and Fauré's Requiem. Plus the première of a new commission from Essex composer Alan Bullard -  Psalmos Penitentiales, funded by a bequest to the choir from Peter Andrews, much missed critic and patron of the arts, my predecessor at the Chelmsford Weekly News.
They will be joined, amongst others, by Laurence Lyndon Jones from Chelmsford Cathedral, Ensemble OrQuesta and BBC Chorister of the year Angus Benton. 
The concert is on March 18 at 7.30 pm in King Edward VI School.
Tickets from James Dace, the choir's website, or on the door.

Sunday, February 05, 2017



Big names head the Queen's cast for Arthur Miller's classic The Crucible, now starting a month's run at Billet Lane.
This bold new production, produced in collaboration with Sellador Productions and Les T Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, stars Charlie Condou and Victoria Yeates as the witch-finder Reverend Hale and Elizabeth Proctor.
The Crucible revolves around the true story of the infamous Salem witch-trials in 1692 – 1693. Douglas Rintoul, the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s resident Artistic Director who thrilled audiences with his smash hit sell-out musical Made in Dagenham, has directed. The Crucible is about more than just a witch-hunt and promises to submerge audiences into a melting pot of lies, hysteria, greed and manipulation. Audiences will be engrossed right from the beginning as they witness the young Abigail Williams [Lucy Keirl] tear through the village like a whirlwind to inflict fear and death. No one is safe.

The production runs in Hornchurch until March 11, then begins a tour which will take them as far as Luxembourg.

For more information about The Crucible at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and the Jump the Q Season Ticket, call the Box Office on 01708 443333 or visit

Sunday, January 29, 2017


Shakespeare's Globe at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

An early look at the penultimate show in this winter's Playhouse Wonder Noir season.

Annie Ryan gives this dark tragedy a duly dark production. The total blackout at the start is barely troubled by single candles as the protagonists gather. The stage, strewn with corpses at the close, seems to be stained black.
Webster's tale of hypocrisy, seduction and revenge is played out in a vaguely dystopian setting, with Jamie Vartan's stylish costumes suggesting the 19th century, as does the mechanism for the conjuror's “spectacles of glass”.  
Ryan fields a strong cast, including Garry Cooper as the Cardinal and Fergal McElherron in a clever double as Camillo and the banished Lodovico. Jamie Ballard is Brachiano, Joseph Timms [lately Sebastian and Lucentio] a laddish Flaminio, Mercy Ojelade Isabella (and Gasparo), Kate Stanley-Brennan Vittoria, and Anna Healey a strong Cornelia.
Tom Lane's music – cello, accordion, fiddle, trumpet, dulcimer – is very effective; an even fuller score would not have come amiss, perhaps.
All a far cry from the RSC's strange disco production of 2014, with its female Flaminio. And much closer to Webster's own vision, I would think, first staged, not too successfully, at the Red Bull on a dismal winter's day in 1612.
The White Devil is at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse until April 16.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Chelmsford Theatre Workshop at the Old Court Theatre

The joys and sorrows of women's lives, reflected in the wardrobe mirror. This show, by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron, takes its many monologues from Ilene Beckerman's book of the same name.
Like The Vagina Monologues – done to great acclaim at this address last year – it's often staged as a celebrity reading. Not here: Sally Ransom has set the action on a catwalk; there's some fashion-show strutting, too, with music tracks to match.
But no clothes-hanger mannequins, just seven ordinary women; all of the actors successfully suggest the triumphs and the tribulations behind the boots and the purses, the skirts and the socks. And they also open up in the programme about the one garment that means most to them personally.
The confessional style works well in the monologues: the inspired “Hate my purse” soliloquy, the perfect shirt, the touching Southern fantasy, immediately followed by the searing “that's my dress!” trauma. There are ensemble numbers, too: The “Black!” sextet [all the costumes are black, too, save for the wordless three brides number], the three sisters, the changing room, the brassiere parade, the “nothing to wear” sequence. Perhaps some of them could be snappier; a greater variety of pace would help keep the audience engaged.
Stephanie Yorke-Edwards plays Gingy, the artist and author whose collection of clothes sketches became the book and then the play. She is particularly moving as the “forgotten woman” grandmother at the end, who realises that her personal thoughts were personal to other people too. Her six fellow actors play many characters, from the ungrateful teenagers to the mastectomy survivor. They are Jacquie Newman, Sally Rawlins, Leanne Young, Charlotte Norburn, Caroline Dunsmuir and Helen Quigley.

Between them they bring to life a huge variety of American women, fearlessly sharing their secrets and their love-hate relationships with the clothes in their closet.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Blackmore Players
in Blackmore Village Hall

Back to the traditional canon for this year's panto, directed by Rosemarie Nelson with Shirley Parrott the Musical Director.
Ben Crocker's uninspired script does have one or two original touches: Edena the eco-fairy [Barbara Harrold] pitted against the pollutant villain Slimeball [James Hughes] seemed promising, but was not really developed.
All the familiar characters were included: a proper principal boy - Amy Pudney as Jack from the dairy, handling her songs with style – a beautiful princess [Sarah Tayler], and Giant Blunderbore, Chet Atkins fan, played by Alf Currey, who managed to cut an imposing figure despite not exactly towering over the mere mortals. His voice helped, although off-stage it needed more bass rumble and less megaphone.
Dame Madonna Trot was in the experienced hands of Keith Goody, sporting fistfuls of finger rings, a beauty spot and a Marge Simpson hairdo. King Bertram was Martin Herford, bringing a touch of Clive Dunn to the hapless monarch. When it comes to pantomime cows, the Animal Farm dictum “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad” has much to commend it; nonetheless, Rebecca Smith gave a lively, engaging performance, including the Happy Feet tap-dance, one of many excellent production numbers. The Cockroach rap was an inspired idea, but it would have been good to be able to hear more of the words.
No microphones here – well done – and the cast generally managed to rise above the drum-kit and the bawling babies. Two performers in particular caught the spirit of pantomime to perfection: the aforementioned James Hughes, relishing the lusty boos from the audience, giving a polished performance of laid-back villainy. And Craig Stevens superb as Simple Simon the Cowman; a nicely judged character [“Be brave, Simon!”, we shouted]. He coped magnificently with the kids from the audience, coaxed up for the front cloth number before the finale – a dying art, these days. And his delivery of the venerable “ghoulies” joke quite rightly got a round of applause. This preceded the equally venerable ghost routine, always a favourite, and vociferously enjoyed here [to the tune of Dancing Queen], though in a traditional panto I should prefer the Dame left till last to scare off the ghost.
Lots of lovely songs – Good Morning Merrymore, Glad All Over, I'm A Believer, Holiday Rock [shades of Paul Shane and the Yellowcoats] – and the chorus were well used, not least in the Country Folk running gag.
Blackmore are famous for the community vibe of their panto, and this matinée was warmly received by an enthusiastic crowd. The pace could have been a little more positive, with a tighter focus from some characters. The strobe lighting didn't really add anything, and the edges of the stage were seriously underlit. The race commentary needed much more work to be a reasonable substitute for the fall of Blunberbore, but the quintet of singing sheep over the partition was inspired – a five-baa gate, as Simple Simon might have said ...