Saturday, 27 December 2008

Winchester Cathedral Carol Service

It may seem odd to include this as theatre, but Winchester Cathedral carol service is more theatrical than many plays I have seen. I am not a religious chap but this will move the most ardent atheist. Just getting so many people in one enormous building singing the same songs is enough to make the hairs stand on end. Add in the incredible quality of the choir and soloists and beauty and history of the building and it is a sure fire winner - which accounts for its great popularity.

This year we were in the quire stalls. That has it pluses and minuses. You are often very close to the action (at the far end you sometimes don't hear the soloists the building is so large) and you really feel part of it. But for quite a lot of the time the choir disappears from view and the organ is right next to you - which sounds good - but it is very, very loud. This is particularly distracting when it does its own descant. I have enough trouble following a tune when everyone and every instrument around me is also following it.

Nevertheless it was thrilling and I recommend it to almost anyone.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Humble Boy - Theatre Royal, Winchester, 20th Sep 2008

This is an excellent play. It is witty, sad, deep and has great resonance for middle class, semi-rural England. But it does need to done with a light and lively touch or it becomes a moan.

This production is a mixed bag. It was a Saturday matinee and the audience was tiny which did not help. But also some of the performances seemed unnecessarily heavy and solemn – almost lifeless. We still enjoyed ourselves but it seemed like a missed opportunity.


Elephant Man – South London Theatre Centre – Friday 5th September 2008

I have to be careful about this one because a close friend was in it. However, every thing we have seen at that South London Theatre Centre has been way above the average amateur standard and this was on exception. The story of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, was, of course, made famous by the film starring John Hurt. It is real challenge to tackle the same theme in the theatre. The director Bernard Pomerance sensibly decided to forgo layers of latex and make up. Instead Andy Davies played Merrick using just posture and intonation and let the audience's imagination do the work. This was a fine central performance.

The evening could have been even better if there had been more variety in the pace, particularly in some of the other characters. I couldn't help feeling that the importance and difficulty of the central role had taken some of the focus off the other roles and as a result they had slipped into a "performance of least resistance" rather than being challenged to recreate each scene. However, this kind of criticism is only possibly because of the high quality of this group and its members.