Sunday, November 20, 2011

Large As Life: Cast From " Turn Of The Screw"

Here's the cast from Chester Theatre Club's ( latest production.
This was " Turn of the screw" by Ken Whitmore, from the 1898 story by Henry James.
There are lots of contrasting interpretations about this play. There are lots of differing opinions as to " what it's REALLY about" the story weaves itself around characters who inhabit ( or visit or HAUNT) a country house called Bly.......
AND the audience are left wondering......drawing their own conclusions........left to go home to ponder on whether they've watched an ethereal ghost story.... or a psychological thriller on the nature of evil.........or a tale of the mind's darkest of trickeries.
My personal jury hasn't come out on I'll read the story again...on a dark icy wintery night ( with a glass of whisky to hand?) ......with my cat close by... so I can clutch her fur and hear her comfortable friendly purr..
AND most important: Children Julian Hornbrook ( Miles) and Rebekah Bentley ( Flora) deserve particular mention for their talent and enthusiasm.
They'll be haunting other stages before we know it......

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

King Porter Stomp: Come Back To Chester!

Complete contrast: I was in Chester last week and several buskers had hit the street, principally in Eastgate. And I was stunned... by a superb band: King Porters Stomp. They were playing at Telfords Warehouse that night. Id've gone if I could...they were great.

" A Perfect Absolute Silence...."

We were surrounded by lanky teenage boys in black blazers with wilting red poppies stuck in crumpled lapels. They slicked up their hair, scoffed crisps, chewed gum and slugged drinks....they giggled and burped and cracked jokes in croaky half broken voices...... and sometimes they threw the odd Malteser at the odd passing nose-in-the-air mini-skirted hair-swirling girl...

BUT when the curtain rose, there was ABSOUTE SILENCE ( the PERFECT sort of silence that teachers demand...but rarely get) and so last Thursday... at The Lowry Theatre, M/Ch....when peace prevailed at the rising of a curtain, we breathed a sigh of relief.

The play was RC Sheriff's " Journey's End", directed by David Grindley. It was set in the trenches near St Quentin in 1918 and first produced in 1928...with a little-known actor called Laurence Olivier as Capt Stanhope. ( I'm afraid I couldn't get " Black Adder" out of my mind for the first 5 mins...I suppose because I'd seen super Tony Robinson present the Cheshire Prize for Literature Awards at University of Chester the previous week:.....BUT this feeling swiftly passed.... and I settled along with the ambience of a remarkable play....)

OF COURSE our Lowry visit was apt, being so close to Remembrance Sunday....with its memories, its music, its prayers......And as my father said donkey's years ago: the older one gets, the more it reaches you and touches you and slithers within you......... and this production with its fine dialogue "of its time".....with its intimate portrayals/well drawn characters (especially Graham Butler as very young/newly arrived 2nd Lt. Raleigh).... plus its sprinkling of humour ( e.g. Christian Patterson as 2nd Lt Trotter) contrasted with the drama of epic proportions which was happening tragically beyond the almost-cosy dugout.

And when the curtain fell, those schoolboys: those 15, 16, 17 year olds all around the theatre...( not much younger in fact than Raleigh, with his clipped tones, his optimism, his wonderful youth) were speechless, they were proud and they sat silent with their thoughts....

Monday, November 14, 2011

"A Saturday Matinee In The Potteries..."

Last Saturday afternoon, I saw a Northern Broadsides production at The New Vic Theatre , The of Arnold Bennett.... and all those towns, whose names I learned for geography O level... and strangely, have never forgotten........
AND what a surprise this wonderful theatre was...and WHY I've never been before I really can't think...

For a start this theatre was BUZZING....arty young folk, pleasant middleaged, and some very elderly, often rather elegant folk....NONE of whom fell asleep ( well, not for long!) while watching the performance...which quite frankly is usually the case...especially when theatre goers have scoffed a delicious lunch before staggering to their ( comfy) seats.
AND Yes, The New Vic has an excellent restaurant and cafe...jampacked last Saturday lunchtime .....but once my friends appeared with their plate of gorgeous cakes, I could certainly see its tasty appeal!

The New Vic opened in 1962. It was Europe's 1st purpose-built "theatre-in-the-round". Peter Cheeseman was its 1st director, who stayed for 38 years which, to me, underlines the fact that this must be a happy place in which to work. All kinds of drama takes place, concerts, exhibitions whatever. See the website for all the details :

Saturday's play was Blake Morrison's " We Are Three Sisters" . It weaves the story of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, echoing Chekov's " Three Sisters" with its essentially moving themes: women's work, their education, attitudes to marriage, and so much more....

It was directed by Barrie Rutter and designed by Jessica Worrall and I enjoyed it hugely: the emotional intensity of the lives of the Brontes was powerfully was the claustrophobia of the Parsonage....the sisters talents, their hopes and their frustrations.
BUT there was also humour, deliberate and warm and usually gentle.......and each sister was a fascinating individual, skilfully created by both Morrison and the three young actresses. They were: Catherine Kinsella, Rebecca Hutchinson and Sophia Di Martino.
ALSO must mention brother Branwell ( boozy, swearing, lustful) ...brilliantly played by Gareth Cassidy, who I last saw strutting his stuff in " Hard Times" for the M/Ch Library Theatre in the Spring...although I don't think his hair was quite so red on that occassion......

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

"Celebrating Fabulous Stories...."

AND all very different, but that's the beauty of a Literature Festival: here we had stories to suit everyone, whatever their taste or their moods....
Claire Tomalin, discussing her latest book:"Charles Dickens: A Life".... talked of the life, times and works of Dickens, bringing these things into sharp clear focus. Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden told us stories from " The Iliad", making a packed house absolutely spellbound, and on the last day of LitFest, we celebrated Jane Austen in Words and Music, with actors Robert Powell and Elizabeth Garvie, who led us in dignified fashion through Austen's life and, of course, her novels: from her first, " Sense and Sensibility" to her last uncompleted novel, "Sanditon".
All these events gave us stories to learn from, to wallow in and most of all to enjoy....