Tag Archives: Ipswich

Pride & Prejudice

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 1 November)

It’s the most popular of all Jane Austen’s novels, and this is the second staging to find its way into East Anglia this atumn. Two Bits Classics is a touring company which does just what its title suggests – two actors taking on all the rôles in a dramatisation of a well-established novel.

Joannah Tincy has made the adaptation and also plays most of the women’s roles as well as Mr Bingley. She is partnered by Nick Underwood, who also presents a ferociously imperious Lady Catherine, giggle-prone Kitty and gently languishing Jane. Dora Schweitzer’s outline set – suggestions of chandelier-lit rooms, skewed fireplace and windows, flower-wreathed pergola – is echoed in the pale grey costumes, where a greatcoat fastened becomes a woman’s dress and the side-whisk of a petticoat revals a man’s breeches and boots.

Abigail Anderson is a director with the skills to make the nuances of early 19th century society as natural as those of our own times. I remeber with pleasure her productions of Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice at the Theatre Royal, Bry St Edmunds. This staging builds on that legacy with respect for the text combined with the ability to hold the audience’s attention for the better part of three hours.

Her two actors rise to the challenge, with Tincey switching from Elizabeth to ever-complaining Mrs Bennet with a flutter of a handkerchief, to pliable Bingley and his manipulating sister with a flutter of a fan, from man-hunting Lydia twisting and mouthing a lock of hair to no-nonsense Mrs Gardiner by the addition of an elegant stole. Underwood gives us Mr Bennet with his book and pipe, the unctuous Mr Collins with a biretta, practical Mr Gardiner by the addition of a cravat and, of course, proud and prejudiced Mr Darcy.

Pride & Prejudice runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 2 November with a matinée on 2 November. It can also be seen at thr Marina Theatre, Lowestoft between 3 and 5 November and at the Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe on 11 November.

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Night Must Fall

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswih on 17 October)

Most people, if they’re honest, admit to loving a good murder mystery. But what about the perpretator? There reactions are much more mixed. Do we simply shudder at the crime itself and the (often sordid and downright mercenary) motives behind it – or do we try to get into the murderer’s skull, analyse what drove him (or her) to the deed or even feel a fellow feeling. There but by the grace of God…

Emlyn Williams’ classic exploration of the dual personality of a murderer Night Must Fall takes us on just such a journey. We know that Dan (Will Featherstone) has killed at least once before he even sets foot on the stage. We sspect who will be his next target – the irasible wealthy widow Mrs Bramson (Gwen Taylor), tyrannising over her dependent niece Olivia (Niamh McGrady), her staff and most other regular visitors.

What we learn only gradually is how Dan’s chameleon-like personality dazzles even the most sceptical of the people with whom he comes into contact. From being a teenage bell-hop at a nearby hotel, he metamorphoses before our eyes into an all-purpose handyman and then an intimate of Mrs Bramson’s home in a remote Essex village, which is surrounded by forest. it’s a measure of the strength of Featherstone’s portrait that we can follow why he attracts at the same time as why he repels.

You need equally forceful performances to keep the balance. Dan’s comes-and-goes Welsh inflection is cut across by Taylor’s thoroughly npleasant if well-spoken grande dame. McGrady gives us Olivia’s unhappiness as well as the touch of steel which makes her refuse Hubert (Alasdair Buchan)’s sincere proposal of marriage. You can also see why she is attracted to Dan, perhaps sensing that he could be the missing part of her own torn personality.

Buchan has in many ways the most difficult part in the play; a well-meaning bumbler incapable of inspiring affection either in Olivia or us, that eavesdropping fourth-wall of the bungalow. Darach O’Malley’s Inspector Belsize has the right sort of seen-it-all-before authority. Director Luke Sheppard keeps the action fast-moving, sometime at the expense of vocal clarity on the part of the smaller roles. David Woodhead’s set is correctly realistic and in period, with costumes of the mid-1930s to match.

There’s a touch of the filmic about Howard Hudson’s lighting plots; the same is true of Harry Black’s soundscape whch heightens the tension at key moments with great subtlety. Williams was of course a performer as well as a writer, and he wrote himself a role which obviously played to his strengths. Given a revival such as this by Original Theatre, the Salisbury Playhouse and Eatbourne Theatres, you can enjoy the sheer theatrical craftsmanship of it all.

Night Must Fall runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 22 October with matinées on 19 and 22 October. It can also be seen at the Palace Theatre, Westcliff between 31 October and 5 November.

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That is All You Need to Know

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 28 May)

Bletchley Park and its wartime code-breakers is very much in the news at the moment. The oath of secrecy taken by all the young men and women who worked there – selected for the most part because they displayed extraordinary mathematical abilities – still constrains many of the survivors. Idle Motion have created a collage of a show which switches effortlessly between then and now.

On one level That is All You Need to Know is visual theatre – projections, clever lighting, furniture which serves many purposes, rapid alternation between the stylised and the naturalistic. Paul Slater and Kate Stanley are the directors and the devisers are Chris Bone and Nicholas Pitt.

There are six performers, including Luke Barton as Alan Turing – the maverick genius of the place – and Christopher Hughes as Gordon Welchman – co-ordinator and frustrated chronicler.

Grace Chapman, Sophie Cullen and Ellie Simpson play both the young women who found themselves working on equal terms with the men and the modern activists determined that the Bletchley Park legacy should not be lost. Joel Gatehouse takes similar, dual roles.

It’s all quick-fire and slick, though never merely facile. There’s a sense of commitment to the story being told, one with pain and deep frustration and, in Turing’s own case especially, tragedy.

The sparing use of sound archive material adds to the historic exactitude of the core story. Projections have been created with Tom Savage with settings by Freda Johnson and costumes by Tash Prynne.

If That is All You Need to Know appears at the theatre space near you, then see it; at the moment the Pulse performance is the only one announced for the East Anglia region.

Pulse runs at various venues in Ipswich until 6 June.

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(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 28 May)

Modern circus training enthuses its practitioners with more than acrobatic skills; it leads to new forms of theatre, integrating dance into the mix. Take Bromance, which opened this year’s Pulse Festival in Ipswich presented by the Barely Methodical Troupe under tha auspices of Crying Out Loud and Circus Evolution.

The three performers are Charlie Wheeller, who earns justified plaudits for his routines with the Cyr Wheel, shyly comic Beren D’Amico and the exceptionally tall Louis Gift, who radiates something of the menace of Frankenstein’s monster creation – you’re never quite sure how he will react to what he other two are weaving around him.

Two’s company, three’s none goes the saying. There’s an element of this built in as a disjointed, voice-synthesised soundtrack accompanies the three men’s initial groupings. This then gives way to a solo piano, by which time we are watching something approaching dance; in turn this gives way to the sequence of displays of full acrobatic skills.

It’s engaging and draws its audience very subtly into an appreciation of what is going on. There’s a bk story, if you want to dig for it, concerning male bonding and the competitiveness which seems to be inherent in it. The show is playful and promulgates its lesson – if indeed there is one – as lightly as possible. Eddie Kay is the director.

Pulse runs at various Ipswich venues until 6 June.

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Filed under Circus & physical theatre, Reviews 2015