The quintet of self-proclaimed 'violently bored performers' return to the Buxton Fringe to send us once more From Here To Absurdity. Absurd it was and quick fire sketches they were. 70 minutes however it was not! Personally I counted 100 (not including interval) - but what's a bit of false advertising when we were laughing ourselves from here to - you can guess where - for at least 95 of them.
The comedy revolved mainly around stereotypes, accents and much hated institutions - always good sources of humour - but the simplicity was no drawback. Stereotypes enforced turned out to be far funnier then the opposite comedic device of going against them - and why not?! After we all know Scousers are violent and obnoxious, Brummies are all saddos and the Welsh are suicidely depressing... and isn't it funny! This said, they team were not afraid to test the water of more controversial, even black, humour - try making an audience laugh about psychotic murders, racial hate and disrespect in death. This lot did. And the audience did!
My main criticism, it has to be said, comes from one lucky enough to see the team in action last year at the Methodist Church. They had found a more suitable venue in The Old Clubhouse and extended the length of their show since, however, new material was somewhat lacking. There were a number I hadn't seen before but these were in the minority. Variety was added wonderfully by the number of comedy reworks of famous songs. These were certainly the highlight but I have to add that the tune played as after show music - 'I've Heard that Song Before' had more relevance then perhaps was intended.
Despite this, it was surprisingly entertaining to see the sketches once more. There were many that could boast the worthy title of standing repeat viewing and it is indeed a testament to the writing that I remembered them so well (by coincidence I had caught myself singing the chorus to 'Bankrupt Your Man' only the other week)!
Overall a show well worth a viewing. I'm not sure about the schpiel in the programme about revolutionising theatre but who really cares when faced by a show that can make you laugh so hard you get odd looks!
Tom Crawshawback to top
5th-6th, 11th-13th, 18th - 19th July
I must confess that the thought of sitting outside and listening to Shakespeare in the drizzle did not really appeal to me. After all, this is Buxton, and good weather only comes when it's inconvenient. Fortunately, the elements behaved themselves.
That said, I would have sat and watched this in the pouring rain. It was an absolute treat: pure magic. Gazing across the elaborate set - easily the finest bits of stage craftsmanship I have seen for an outdoor performance - with fairies dancing playfully and teasing members of the audience, was enough to put any fears about what I was letting myself in for out of my mind. The mood as the audience waited for the show to start was incredible: the ethereal music, excellent surroundings and beautiful costumes and set ensured that the audience was spellbound before a line had been delivered.
All of the cast were excellent, and their voices carried perfectly. The energy and subtlety that one or two displayed - Jay Simpson as Bottom and Ella Brown as Helena particularly - was amazing. There was also a refreshing lightness throughout, and the roaring laughter that the actors were rewarded with was a brilliant indication of a show that was appreciated thoroughly.
Take midge spray (I'm assuming you'll go) as the woods are home to plenty of the little pests, but apart from I could ask for nothing more. With the sunlight breaking through the trees and reflecting off the Athenian palace, and the gleeful fairies scampering around your feet, you'll find yourself totally enchanted.
The title pretty much sums it up. A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Nick Butterleyback to top
This Club Acoustic event was a return visit for this excellent Canadian guitarist / singer and his band of talented Scotsmen, following their very successful session in Buxton last year. As usual with 'Club Acoustic Specials' the visitors were well supported by a combination of local musical talent.
The evening was launched in fine fashion by Martin Hall's voice and guitar, initially solo, and then joined by Michael Clement. Their material included tasteful versions of Elton John's Love Song, the Beatles Blackbird, John Martyn's Head & Hearts, and Simon & Garfunkel's Feeling Groovy (who Michael insists is not one of the Seven Dwarfs).
The tempo of the evening then accelerated with what one young lady described as 'a stormin set' from the Boogiemen, which is the most recent reincarnation of a quartet of musical stalwarts: Keith Smith and Richard Bateman on guitars, with Ben Ford and Ron Bowden on bass and drums. They were in good voice and enticed early dancers onto the floor with their R&B treatments of a range of popular classics like the Kink's Waterloo Sunset and (not surprisingly, from Keith Smith) some more obscure numbers like Bullfrog Blues. Keith played some smooth slide guitar and Richard contributed some rocking leads. The climax of this set featured Ben's base on their driving version of We've Got to Get Out of this Place, the old hit from the Animals.
Before the two sets from Amos Garrett, Jim Condie of the Distant Cousins treated us to a few songs in a solo spot accompanying himself with his full-bodied, 6-string, two fisted guitar style, in which at times he seemed to be playing lead, rhythm and base all at once. He then switched to picking and sliding on the Dobro, with nice harmonic support from Alan Thomson on bass. Jim's fine rendition of Woody Guthrie's Vigilante Man was remembered by some revisionists at the bar as a Nazareth number.
Amos Garrett then joined the fray, with Ted McKenna completing the Distant Cousins on drums. The band's tight but smooth backing provided the ideal platform for Amos's mesmeric solos. It is misleading restrictive to describe their style as R&B, although the dance floor was full and there was not a still foot in the room. Amos's deep bluesy voice provided a fine contrast to his melodic string-bending chordal solos. Jim contributed some mellifluous slide guitar, and Alan and Ted drove it all along, with Alan doing a fine solo number on bass. The material varied from an almost Hawaian version of the old hit Sleepwalk, through a rocking treatment of Louis Jordan's Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby, to a finale with variations on Mystery Train. If Scotty Moore's version was the Flying Scotsman, this was the TGV. The room was half full of musicians, and there were a number of jaws on chests. In many cases these were the ones who have worked (and played) to build up Club Acoustic over recent years, and it is a tribute to the contribution of, for example Keith Smith, Richard Bateman, and Chris Rowcliffe that Buxton can play host to visits from such fine musicians.
John McGrotherback to top
Performed by Helen Grady
Directed by Martin Brooke-Taylor
Performed upstairs at the Old Clubhouse, Water Street
12:30pm 5th, 6th, 13th & 19th July 2003
'With age comes wisdom. With middle age comes uncertainty, lovelornity and lost luggage . . . '
A premiere performance of premiere quality, not to be missed. Local author, Maggie Dealey's first play for the stage is a gem, skilfully performed here by Helen Grady. In only 40 minutes we are taken on a journey through the inner thoughts and outer utterances of mature mother Ruth whilst she travels by train to introduce her adult son Ben, to his new seven week old sister Eve. Helen brings out the pathos and the humour as she takes us through the joys of travelling alone on public transport with an infant, the story of Adam and Eve, the relatives merits of being Tinkerbell or Wendy, polishing a Knight's breast armour, and the suggestive nature of charcuterie. Martin Brooke-Taylor's Direction and Jools Parkin's sound effects help to evoke the atmosphere of vulnerability through devices like the unintelligible platform announcements at train stations.
I for one was both moved and laughed heartily. I could empathise with the character of Ruth and was entertained at the same time. We are very fortunate indeed to have such talent in our midst. I highly recommend this short and bitter sweet offering in this year's Fringe Festival. A bargain at only £3.
Jean Ballback to top
One of the high points in the artistic year of the Buxton Museum is the Derbyshire Open Art Exhibition. This annual event normally attracts hundreds of entries. What is hung is only a proportion of the work submitted which the judges think merits showing.
As one would expect from artists living and working in the Peak District there are a number of local landscapes - mainly water colours - notable among which is an evocative vision of Rainster Rocks that won the water colour prize for Roger Alan.. But there is also a good deal of more adventurous work including the overall 2003 winner 'Moorland Light' by Barbara Cole.
It is good to see a strong section of work by children. And also good to see how many pictures have already been sold.
Alongside the Open Exhibition is a smaller collection of paintings from the Bollington Art Group entitled The Other Side of the Hill. Again the beautiful Peak provides the inspiration for most of this exhibition. Mostly watercolours which suit the somewhat damp Derbyshire countryside there is nothing threatening in these pictures. They are works one can easily live with.
The third exhibition celebrates 25 years of the Buxton Festival. A collection of programmes . photographs and other memorabilia is a powerful reminder of what has been achieved by the Festival. Will we ever return to the thematic Festivals of the early years which brought those wonderful exhibitions to the Museum such as the influence of Walter Scott on the Arts and the thirty magnificent portraits of David Garrick by the leading portraitists of the day such as Reynolds, Gainsborough and Hogarth?
All these Exhibitions are free. Indeed since the Museum and Art gallery abolished entry charges their visitor numbers have just about tripled!.
Open every day except Monday 0930am to 5.00pm, Sundays 10.30 to 5.00pm.
P.L.back to top
The City of Manchester Opera got the 2003 Fringe off to an impressive start with their Grand Opera Gala. - a programme of excerpts selected from a wide spectrum of operas from Handel to Puccinni.
For an amateur group the City of Manchester opera have really good voices These produce their best effect when they sing together as a chorus or a smaller ensemble. The programme cleverly promoted that and we were treated to some wonderful performances most notable of which were the Easter Hymn from Cavelleria Rusticana , the Quartet from Idomeneo and Donizetti's sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor , the ,latter a favourite opera with Buxton audiences having been the Festival's very first production in 1978.
With such a varied programme it was clever idea to dress everyone in black, the ladies wearing a variety of stoles or shawls so that they could more convincingly become characters as different as the guests at Violetta's party in La Traviata and the Scottish refugees in Macbeth.
To present a programme of serious opera using only a piano for accompaniment, and having the misfortune to be confronted with the truly appalling piano in the Paxton Suite requires a pianist of considerable talent. The City of Manchester Opera are incredibly fortunate to have in Wendy Dukes an heroic accompanist whose superb talents solidly underpinned the singers on the stage.
Musical director, Carl Penlington-Williams has brought this group to a very high standard of performance. And nowhere was this more evident than in a rousing passage from Act 2 of Don Carlos which brought the programme.to a triumphant conclusion.
All in all a great treat for opera lovers.
P.L.back to top
I joined the first group to be allowed into the building for many years where Richard Tuffrey, the Council's conservation officer, gave us a fascinating account of the history of the construction of the Crescent and of the fifth Duke of Devonshire's plans to make Buxton a Northern Spa to rival Bath. Richard is a most engaging speaker with an obviously deep knowledge of Buxton and its buildings that formed the nucleus of the Spa.
Suitably briefed we climbed the gently curving stairs to the ballroom., perhaps the grandest room in Buxton. For most of the group there was a profound feeling of relief when we saw that the condition of this marvellous space is not too bad. In spite of being unused for many years the council have been at pains to prevent serious deterioration of this end of the Crescent.
Not so the other end where the condition is rather worse as we could see when we explored the lodging house towards the centre of the Crescent. Richard explained quite openly how this had happened and why it was that such an architectural masterpiece had remained empty and unused for so many years. And then with almost studied nonchalance revealed the plans to be implemented soon which will revitalise both Crescent and the adjacent Natural Mineral Baths and make Buxton a Spa once again. A message of hope for all of us who desperately want to see our beautiful Crescent brought back into use again.
This tour is a must for anyone concerned about the Crescent. It is a measure of the public interest in the building that the first two tours have been completely sold out and tickets for the remaining tours at 10.00.am and 11.30 am on 11, 12 18 and 19 July are going fast. To reserve a place in advance telephone 084512 72190.
P.L.back to top
The Paupers' Pit
Sunday 6th July
Braeside Theatre Arts is a relaunch of Braeside International Theatre School Strines, founded and directed by Jeanne Peach. There are clearly talented actors in this new group. Before the advertised play I Lycanthrope, they performed for us some pieces prepared for recent exams. We were treated to a wide range of dramatic characters ranging from Puck to Rita (who would be Educated) to a railway-station philosopher musing on the analogy between life and vending machines. Many of these pieces had a dark side but they were light relief in comparison with what was to follow.
I Lycanthrope is a tale of a werewolf Peter Stump. He has assembled his victims - all of them tortured souls when alive and no less tortured in death. Stump knows they seek vengeance and release from their torment. He taunts them: 'You can't kill me. You're part of me - without me you are nothing. Do you think there is a heaven waiting for you after I have gone? This is as good as it gets little vipers. Your god is my god!' The recurring theme is that we are born into a world of pain and in accepting that pain we pass it on. We are all werewolves.
This dark and difficult piece is written by Allen Fairhurst who plays the part of Peter Stump for this Fringe production. The actors all read their parts, effectively and forcefully and in the manner of a Greek chorus under the direction of an evil choirmaster. Reading the script afterwards, I see there are full directions for staging and costumes. I also see that the playbill warns audiences of strobe-lighting. I would certainly like to see the play again in a fully staged version. There is talent here that deserves further development and opportunity.
Barbara Wilsonback to top
Old Hall Hotel, Pauper's Pit
'It's a weird show, isn't it?' commented the star of the show, as a pink remote-controlled car ran along the stage behind him. Weird, perhaps, but also very clever.
'Kiss It' is a set of sketches based on the life and family history of Raymond. We were treated to foul-mouthed Irish nurses, alcoholic Air-raid wardens, and an altruistic former Head Boy 'camper than Butlin's at Bank Holiday'. Raymond guides the show well, and it was only later that I started wondering about the eventual conclusion of some of his stories. Did they ever get the pipe working? And just how did they put the fire out? Presumably a similar method to that employed in unfreezing the pipe...
The show was smartly produced, with a great pace and a great blend of subtlety and bluntness. Some gags were rightly rewarded with a wry smile, while the actions accompanying others had the front two rows diving for cover lest they suffer the same fate as the particular Head Boy in question. The audience was particularly responsive, and took a particularly perverse pleasure in the moment when the character's name was accidentally replaced by that of what would appear to be the inspiration behind it. These things happen. Probably only once.
All in all, a great production: sharp, witty, and a lot of fun. If you see it, you too will go home with the sight of Raymond, in his crisply ironed overalls - with a saucepan (or was it a sieve?) on his head and a sword and shield in his hands - firmly imprinted in your minds. And you too would ask yourselves 'is he like this all the time?' I suspect if I'd asked him, the answer would have been 'Kiss It!'
Nick Butterleyback to top
Old Hall, Paupers Pit Today 5th - 6th July, 7.30pm
Get a ticket now.
When I am an old woman I will wear purple and have a budgie called Sparky Wignall and a collection of miniature spirit bottles in side my coat. I will camp out in the vets or the launderette and strike up conversations with male strippers and teenage mothers. I will be sharp in my observations of the world and kind to lonely hearts. Well -I might do that or I might stay at home and wee on the sofa like Sandra's Gran.
Now that isn't funny is it? So why are you laughing? Throughout this piece you will laugh and then wonder whether you should be laughing. The whole range of human emotions is wrapped up here in a package of poetic humour. Beautifully drawn and evoked on stage by universally gorgeous performances. You will see your mum and your grandma and that girl you went to school with who ended up...
Jelly Shoes comprises of a company of extremely talented and creative women (not all of a certain age) with the ability to spark off each other and engage with the audience. The set is peopled by a menagerie of python's, minor birds, seals and pigs and it is astounding that it is possible to get them all into such a small and intimate space. The imagery evoked in the language of the piece is stunning and hysterical, sad and clever. You will feel better if you go and see it. It could open up possibilities for you. Have you thought of spending a day in the waiting room at your local vets if you feel a bit lonely? I'm sure they wouldn't mind. People are very kind.
Nicola Martinback to top
Pizza Express have an established and much admired connection with Jazz and their Soho restaurant is becoming a venue to rival Ronnie Scott's. The extension of this philosophy to Buxton, and particularly during the Festival, has to be warmly welcomed. (They were also major sponsors of the wonderfully successful February Jazz, Folk and Blues Festival which will be repeated next year.)
Graham plays with many partners but at the risk of offending others I have to say this combination seems to me to be particularly successful. Intelligent and lyrical throughout the two players' virtuosity and invention matched and complemented. The music like the pizzas was tasty, well thought out, inventive and sharply satisfying. It is often, if not usually, the case that incidental musicians playing in restaurants have to battle the clatter of cutlery, cries of children, rows in the kitchen etc and not infrequently lose. It is not usual to observe diners forgetting to eat and small children mesmerised but good as the pizzas were they were no match for the music and that is what I saw.
This performance marked the 7th anniversary of Graham and Viv's arrival in Buxton so perhaps there was a special buzz but Graham and Richard are playing here again on Friday 11th from
9-12pm so don't miss that. If they don't finish on 'Wee'-based on 'I got Rhythm- ask for it as an encore. A brilliant conclusion to a great set!
There are 8 'Jazz Nights' at Pizza Express during the Fringe. They are all free and the food is excellent. Times vary so check the Fringe programme for details.
John Wilsonback to top
It's an annual pleasure of mine to review the High Peak Artists' and Craft Workers' Association Exhibition in the Pump Room. This local group exhibits here for several months of the year and enters the Fringe with the added attraction of twice-daily demonstrations covering a wide range of art and craft.
It's day one of the Fringe, a cool dark morning, and Jill Kerr is already at work demonstrating lino-printing. She's cutting a special clown design for the Children's Activity Day on 19th July. And there are many other incredibly detailed linocuts to examine.
Looking around, I see that there are new exhibitors and established ones going off in new directions. I just love the work of artist Laura Crawley. She creates handbags like you've never seen before: some shaped like corsets, some in more conventional form but decorated with bold appliqués; all made of gorgeous fabrics - raw silk and organza. For me, the most eye-catching is 'Pink Sunglasses Bag': bold pink specs on a gold and lime background guaranteed to eclipse any summer outfit.
I'm also struck by Adele Kime's jewellery. Originally trained in textiles and embroidery, Adele has gone on to study metal work. Her striking silver earrings and necklets marry the two. Simple elegant silver lines enveloped by fine wire cocoons spun, it seems, by some exotic creature.
Down by the well, Sandra Orme is exhibiting large oil and pencil canvasses. Sandra's focus is on natural forms in the landscape, and the works shown here present the colours, shapes and textures of the moorlands. 'Five Wells Cairn' appealed to me most. I felt the stone's exposure to centuries of Derbyshire weather - a monument to endurance.
There's so much more than this. It's a very accessible exhibition, completely unstuffy. I certainly plan to go more than once.
Barbara Wilsonback to top
The Old Club House
4th July 2003
I have never heard before of Daisy Ashford but what a delightful child she must have been. Not at all like the shy retiring Victorian child I might have imagined. I wonder if her parents knew what she got up to every rainy day when she need not go out but could stay in happily writing in her notebook?
The Young Visiters is a very funny book. I don't suppose its nine-year-old author intends all of the humour, though she is surely often consciously witty. ( Now my dear what do you think of the sceenery. Very nice said Ethel gazing at the rich fur rug on her knees.) But what amazes the listener/reader is the keenness of Daisy's observation - nothing about the behaviour of the adults around her escapes her notice. And the assured passionate way she tells her story. J M Barrie, writing the preface to the first edition, was struck by Daisy's careless power: ' . . . an unholy rapture showing as she drew near her love chapter. Fellow-craftsmen will see that she is looking forward to this chapter all the time.'
Helen Grady reads The Young Visiters beautifully with just the right amount of performance - different gestures and voices - to bring the characters to life. I love the way she conveys Daisy's charming breathless juxtaposition of details, leaving out the commas and full stops as Daisy does. (By the desk was seated a tall man of 35 with very nice eyes of a twinkly nature and curly hair he wore a quite plain suit of palest grey but well made and on the table reposed a grey top hat which had evidently been on his head recently.) I couldn't resist buying a copy of the book - a compliment to the author and to the actor who revealed all its charm.
Barbara Wilsonback to top
Watson and Co is the place to go for lunch during the Fringe. Magda our resident Czech is offering delicious hot and cold food every day between 11 and 5 - and maybe longer if we encourage her! Today, I had a spicy vegetable goulash with wonderful light Czech dumplings, and I'm tempted to go back later for the lentil soup and rye bread. Maybe then I'll catch the music that's on offer too.
As any Buxtonian will tell you, Watson's is the cool place to be. So make sure you drop by every day to find out what's going on.
Barbara Wilsonback to top
All Liverpudlians are comedians and it was therefore not really a surprise to find that scouser Graeme Kenna is a very funny man with some bright original material.
In the snug surroundings of the little theatre in the upstairs bar of the Old Club House a small but highly appreciative audience greeted Graeme's late night show. There was plenty to laugh at .especially the chat room where a Welshman and a Scouser discover that they are both posing as lesbians.
I had gone expecting some Merseyside poets as well but there was no sign of them Perhaps they had got stuck in the bar downstairs. No matter the comedy on its own was great and sent us home feeling good.
One more performance at 1.00pm on 6 July at the Old Club House.
P.L.back to top
7th - 10th July, 9.30pm
The University of Derby have yet again come to the Fringe with a thought-provoking and intelligent production.
'My Mother Said' is very cleverly written, and raises plenty of issues to think about as well as being witty and well-paced. The production was minimalist, centred around a table and a piano stool, focusing on the actors and the play rather than excessive props. The words and actions were all extremely clear and confident, at the high technical standard we have come to expect from the university.
What I love about the University's productions is that they are immediately intellectually engaging. The audience cannot sit back and let it all wash over them, they have to constantly think about the things they are being shown and the ideas they are being presented with. The simplicity of the costumes and set design enhances this: we are dealing with people, their thoughts and actions, and their flaws.
At times the emotional side of the production could have been stronger, but they avoided the temptation to descend into protracted scenes of tearful wailing and shouting. What we got instead was a measured and accomplished performance.
Nick Butterleyback to top
7th - 9th July
I half expected this evening's performance to be cancelled (leaves on the track), or at the very least arrive late, be over crowded (standing room only) and serve overpriced unpleasant drinks from a trolley. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when it departed on time (with a pint of Fringe beer in my hand - now that would get me back on the trains) and although the event was sold out, unlike British Fail we weren't packed in like sardines.
The talented trio that make up Three's Company have all been involved in Opera House education projects (my day job) at some time ... Yacein and Tom were involved in Buxton Writing Week and were part of the writing team for House of Dreams. Michael delivered an impressive audition for A Christmas Carol (needless to say he got a part) so like most of the audience I knew the cast.
This definitely created an electric theatre atmosphere (no smoky diesel trains here) with even the first train announcement managing to get a laugh. As the production rolled out of the platform things were looking good, very good in fact. The first joke involving mobile phones was executed with precision and the audience was in stitches. And this momentum was kept throughout the performance, with good gags - have you heard the one about Michael Jackson? Or the Guillotine - and strong delivery ensuring that the comedy carriage you along (sorry about that one) from start to finish.
Although the play was about waiting for a train, it combined that surreal experience (we've all got a train station story to tell, or quite a few come to think of it) with slapstick, mistaken identity and the mysterious world of post it business deals. Imagine Monsieur Hulot takes the train meets Just Visiting performed by employees of Viking Direct and you're along the right track. Nick Shorten was like a professional Frank Spencer in a suit (now there's a scary thought), with Andre bringing to mind a slightly more organised Inspector Clouseau. And then there's the moment when that dreadful realisation dawns on you and it becomes clear that you've made a terrible, terrible mistake - like incompetence it's far funnier to observe than actually be involved in.
The venue does get very hot after about an hour and maybe the play could have been trimmed around the edges without losing any of the impact. Having said that, the writer produced a very strong piece of comedy (generally recognised as not the easiest style to write) that was delivered at just the right pace making sure that what happened off stage (train announcements, kidnap, microphone theft) was just as captivating as the action on stage.
If there's a fringe award for best press photograph, Three's Company should undoubtedly win it - think of Buxton's second train, the one that isn't owned by First Northwest, and that should give you enough of a clue. As for their performance, and judging by the audience's applause, an express (train) lesson in comedy that was right on track. First class.
Ben Turnerback to top
Playing the part of Harriet Smithson Berlioz in a French television mini-series, Rhonda Bachman developed a close relationship with the composer's music, which she sings accompanied by Peter Gellhorn, piano. Together they retrace Berlioz's path in Great Britain, using his songs for Harriet and the music of his mentors, supporters and rivals, Gluck, Liszt and Wagner.
The sense of period and theatre is played up by the singer's costume and props and her dramatisation of the pieces she sings. She clearly feels strong ties with both the music and the story of Berlioz and Harriet and introduced the pieces helpfully and interestingly to tell her story.
The music chosen includes some of Berlioz's most tuneful and beautiful and includes a setting of the death of Ophelia discovered by Rhonda Bachman and given its world premiere only two years ago. To perform these pieces, and, for instance, the lament for Euridice from Gluck's Orphée and the Jewel song from Gounod's Faust, is to court comparison with some of the greatest female voices of the past fifty years. But with this too much in mind few of us would dare to perform anything at all.
Peter Gellhorn is a sympathetic accompanist and showed his solo abilities in two works by Liszt, performances of calm and pyrotechnics by turn.
Ursula Birkettback to top
Daily until July 20, 2-8pm
It is a pleasure to revisit Buxton artist Alan Bailey two years on from his last exhibition at the Fringe.
There are plenty of new paintings to admire and the emphasis, more than last time, is on his bold oil paintings, inspired by Derbyshire scenes but some more abstract than others. As he puts it: 'There is abstract in all paintings. It is a matter of to what extent you draw it out'.
Bailey's oils are accomplished using knives and the paint is not 'larded on' but thinly applied so that the texture of the canvas and previous colour layers can be appreciated. The vibrancy of some of these works is unforgettable - on the way up to the landing, 'Flagg', in bright purple and yellow, is the kind of work that could easily have you tripping on the stairs. Bailey's experiments with the difficult medium of acrylics are equally impressive. A work entitled simply 'Weather' deftly conveys the kind of extraordinary Derbyshire sky that can occur when rain appears out of nowhere.
The exhibition also features a good number of Bailey's extremely subtle watercolours, generally of local, sometimes very local, scenes. Few painters can convey the shifting light of an evening sky or the shock of first snow so effectively and so simply.
Bailey is anxious to make room for new paintings so there are some exciting bargains to be seized with some unframed watercolours on offer for as little as £20 and other large works displayed at prices reduced from two years ago. There is however no obligation to buy and one of the real pleasures of this show is that Bailey is inviting you into his home and more than happy to talk about his work. It is quite something just to see his upstairs studios with its panoramic views of Buxton.
This review merely scratches the surface of what is exhibited. Bailey is a versatile artist whose large flower paintings and fascinating sculptures from local wood are also well worth viewing. The show is easy to find on Green Lane with a large board outside Poole's Cavern pointing the way.
Stephanie Billenback to top
Rather like the Fringe itself, Michael Beecher's Buxton Babylon is growing fast and becoming more exuberant all the time.
His ceramic towers have certainly multiplied and with every new building there are more windows, each housing a different artefact, photograph or video installation. Beecher's intriguing idea is to allow visitors to 'take up residency'. This could involve contributing a video or small piece of artwork for one of the windows or - a special offer for the first 64 visitors - being photographed for free by Beecher. Imagine - you could find yourself looking out of one of those small windows as well as looking in!
The exhibition is not without its serous side. The underlying concept is of the biblical Babel 'city of impossible dreams, misunderstandings and communication failure' and this year one of the towers has taken a hit and is burnt out. It will not be rebuilt but will remain as a monument to mankind's folly according to the artist.
This year, Mike's 14-year-old daughter Anna is making her Fringe exhibition debut with Pineapple - a wonderful menagerie of animals camped out on the Beechers' front lawn. Contrary to expectation there is little clay here. Instead Anna has made use of recycled materials and household items - magazines, Love Heart sweets, lace, dusters, orange slices, windmills etc - to create multi-coloured chickens (laying Jiff lemons apparently) and a crouching dog. There is also a lurking crocodile made from leaves, a twig dog, flying fish and, disconcertingly, a group of silicon hands sticking out of the earth. As artist Alan Bailey pointed out to me later that afternoon, hands normally delve into the earth; maybe that is why I found this part of the exhibition particularly unsettling.
Like Alan Bailey, Michael Beecher is inviting you into his home for this free exhibition and it is a privilege to see where he and his daughter work, from the jungle-like living room adorned with plants and ceramics to the back yard, glimpsed over the fence with its abandoned sculptures and intriguing works in progress.
This is one of Beecher's most exciting exhibitions to date and doubly worthwhile as an introduction to the work of his talented daughter.
Stephanie Billenback to top
Meeting outside the Paxton Suite in the Pavilion Gardens we first learned a little about Buxton of the period before World War 1.
The walk then continued via the front of the Opera House and the churchyard of St John's, the Parish church, and up into the Park. At each stop Jenny's well informed commentary was accompanied by contemporary photographs and extracts from local publications. Proceeding via Melrose, the house where the Brittain's lived from 1907 to 1914, we returned via the Manchester Road and what used to be the Devonshire Royal Hospital. This was where Vera started her nursing career in World War 1 following a year at Somerville College Oxford.
A very enjoyable and well researched tour, from which I learned much about a very forthright young woman of her day and the culture she grew up in.
Peter E. Tomlynback to top
The Old Clubhouse
Friday 11 at 9pm and Sunday 13 at 7.30pm
Seaside Shelter is a trio of short plays, (or actually extended humorous conversations), presented by Moving Talent - the performing arm of The Manchester School of Acting - down at Venue 21 (The Old Clubhouse). The trio is adapted from a series of short plays entitled 'Deckchairs', written by Jean McConnell (of whom, unfortunately, the programme told us very little), but adapted for this format by Mark Hudson, who also directed, and who also runs the Manchester School of Acting.
The format worked well in the venue, with each of the three pairings (six actresses, combining in twos for each of the three scenarios) using the intimacy of the upstairs space well, while also cleverly utilising the off-stage areas to create overlapping entrances and exits which wove the three stories nicely, and gave us continuity we might otherwise have lost.
The first pairing consisted of Susan Kellsall and Christine Kay (Christine was the star of the evening, with some delightful nuances and cynical silent gestures which managed to raise some of the biggest laughs of the piece) as two fast-ageing female good-timers, out for fun, and any man they could snare, on a seaside trip with a ballroom dancing accent, in 'Ballroom Dancing'. Very early on, they shared the exchange I remembered most from the evening...
'Still...he had it sewn back on.'
Little more needed to be said - and nothing was!
Then came 'Dog Walking', starring Debbie Bowers as the non-sophisticate of the canine show world, and Marilyn Bar-llan as the owner of San-San (my guess at the spelling), a pooch of far greater pedigree. The lovely denouement was that San-San was being 'saved' for the best possible coupling, to produce a brood of money-making Peke puppies, but had been 'got at under the bandstand' (I hope that wasn't a euphemism) by randy Robbie, the uncertain cross-breed of Debbie, and the whole meeting ended in acrimony and near-violence, to give way to...
...'Shopping', in which Joanne Venet and Dianne Langley were two upper-middle-class shoplifters, fresh from a raid on Debenhams, Selfridges et al. The highlight of their interplay was not only Rosemary's (Joanne) sudden producing of a power-screwdriver, to facilitate the removal of permanent features of the Ladies' Loos in various stores, but also her determination to cap her ill-gotten career with the ultimate heist - the (somehow secretive!) theft of a double duvet! I'd love to have seen that.
All three playlets were gentle enough to allow us into these coupled female worlds for a brief period, but laced with enough barb, bite and comedy to show us how any two friends or acquaintances (male or female?) could flit rapidly in and out of their friendship's comfort zones in mid-conversation - and the able cast caught and delivered all of these nuances with some skill.
'Seaside Shelter' is at The Old Clubhouse again on 11th and 13th July.
Andrew Aughtonback to top
One of the great pleasures of the Fringe is the variety of events; ultimately you are guaranteed the opportunity to view forms of art alien to your own experiences. And so, I found myself in a select audience watching and listening to Trafford Youth Concert Band. To say watching sounds wrong, but a lot of fun could be had spotting the infectious grins that accompanied each successful piece. Indeed, the overriding impression was of that enjoyment spilling out, such was the band's obvious enthusiasm.
This enjoyment was especially evident in the highlights of the show, those pieces which allowed the musicians their chance to really play out, local composer Adam Gorb's 'Eine Kleine Yiddish Rag Musik' for instance - a seamless blend of 'Eine Kleine Nacht Musik'; traditional Jewish folk and prohibition rag which was even more exciting than it sounds.
Top marks also to soloists Philip Bernan on cornet and Matthew Smith on French horn, Matthew proving once and for all that you really can be a star on any instrument.
The band were perhaps less successful on the slower pieces which tended to be soporific and the flow could have been sharper - let the music speak for itself.
Overall, this was a varied and enjoyable programme, though tragically a one-off. The entire audience thoroughly appreciated every joyful moment.
Ben Thomasback to top
'The Fantastic Francis Hardy - Faith healer - One Night Only' proclaims the rather tattered banner giving the title and setting the tone for an evening in which three monologues by Frank, Grace and teddy tell us a story. This is the tale of Frank, the healer who sometimes can and sometimes can't, of his wife Grace (whom he taunts by introducing her as his mistress) who left a professional background to follow the mountebank in the van, and Teddy the manager, who believes in Frank's elusive talent and loves them both. Each of them tells it their way, as they saw it, and we can only guess which version of any event was true, but the different versions give us the different people.
Brian Friel writes real people, and real individual speech, and our three actors used the material to the full. It was a real pleasure to feel oneself in the hands of competent writer and performers, to relax and go with the story (if one isn't also writing the review). It's quite an uncomfortable story really. Frank is unreliable in his behaviour as well as his gift of healing, and, as he says, that people will come to a mountebank is a measure of their desperation. Grace is desperate too, and the outcome of their problems and encounters is not happy.
The experience for the audience is a happy one, however. There are moments of drama, moments of mirth, several images which I hope to remember for a long time, and a tale well worth listening to. They're here till Saturday 12 July, at the Hydro Café - make a date and see them.
Ursula Birkett.back to top
Collaboration between Costello and the Brodsky Quartet about ten years ago produced a cycle of songs loosely based on letters written by an Italian professor in reply to Shakespeare's Juliet. The verses cover a variety of human situations from jealousy to childhood questioning and even include the receipt of junk mail and a letter from a firm of solicitors. And the music is uncompromisingly modern but nevertheless approachable at times lyrical - particularly 'Expert Rites' and the hauntingly beautiful 'Dead Letter', occasionally highly rythmic as in 'Romeos Séance' and sometimes mournful like 'The Birds Will Still be Singing'.
Carol has a lovely voice, especially in the lower register, and sings with such clarity that the text of the songs thoughtfully provided in the programme was almost unnecessary. She was admirably supported by Equinox whose sensitive playing was superbly judged. The 'no smoking' room downstairs at the Old Club House was just about the right space for this work. Clever use of amplification overcame any problems with the acoustic.
The songs were introduced by Carol and various members of the quartet with a lightness of touch that added much to the enjoyment of the recital. Indeed the whole performance of the highest quality and was received by an enthralled audience with genuine enthusiasm.
P.L.back to top
Questions, always questions!
'I love the old questions'
Is this the end? Is this how we end? Do we want it to end?
Beckett's darkly comic tragedy asks questions of performers and audience.
Amidst a post-apocalyptic scene of decay, neglect and squalor, not a cloth unstained, Hamm (Gordon Spencer) dominates the stage and Clov (Terry Naylor). 'My move' he says but can do nothing, 'my turn to play' but no move. Crippled and vengeful he depends on Clov who loves Hamm and hates him and depends on him in turn
'It is we who are obliged to each other'
'What can you see out of the window?' 'Zero'
Hamm and Clov want it to end. They want to prevent any possibility of it starting again. ' A flea!...but humanity might start from there all over again. Catch him, for the love of God!'
'What's happening?' 'Something is taking its course' 'We're not beginning to... to... mean something?'
Bottled in their ash cans, Hamm's parents - Nagg(Robert Smith Wright) and Nell(Laura Porter), their severed stumps planted in sand, remain optimistic, reminisce, talk of love, tell jokes, yearn for Turkish Delight.
'Silence!' 'Bottle them!' 'Screw down the lids'
'Our revels now are ended'
'We're moving on'
This is an important play and it is good that it is revisited half a century after its time by such a fine production. Is it still relevant? Have we moved on? Can we still suffer the pangs of existential angst? If you want theatre to ask questions of you and the world, see this at Venue 21 on Saturday or Sunday.
John Wilsonback to top
11-13 and 18-20 July
Fish in the Sea is a feel-good production. A genuinely funny play performed with style by two experienced actors.
Carrie, and the slightly more up-market Angela, are two attractive women. Their previous relationships are over, but they don't find it easy to disentangle themselves from their pasts. Returning to the hunt for a new mate throws up problems (literally in one case). But the girls don't hang about: they decide to try Speed Dating -- 'acting at speed, not on speed', you understand.
The play, written by Sorrel Thomas, tells an intriguing story that holds the audience and gives full scope for the comedic talents of the actors, Helen Grady and Sorrel herself.
United Reformed Church Hall works well as a performance venue and Mike Woodhead's pacey direction makes perfect use of the space. Sound and light are well controlled by Dan Todd.
Tea and very good home-made cakes are served in the interval. All in all, just the stuff for a festival.
Martin Brooke-Taylorback to top
Terrence has a most beautiful lyric voice and he enchanted us with well known songs such as 'Where e'er you walk' (which incidentally was also being sung on the other side of the road in the Opera House!), 'Silent Worship', 'The Sally Gardens', and 'The Kashmiri Song'. John Peace is a most sensitive and almost self effacing accompanist but he revealed an almost totally different persona when displaying the keyboard pyrotechnics of Schumann's Abegg variations and reminding us of the exuberance of the composer's infatuation with the young lady who inspired the work.
In the second half of the programme,the performers now wearing white tuxedos, confirmed the extent of their repertoire. John played three of Rachmaninoff's songs transcribed for piano, and the suite 'Espanola' by Albeniz while Terrence gave a lively rendering of two Spanish songs finally concluding with operatic excerpts from 'Tosca'.
The audience response was so enthusiastic it was more like an Italian Opera House than St. John's Church!
P.L.back to top
'Award winning script', it says, in considerable part by William/Bill/Willy Shakespeare, with more than a little help from Martin Beard as plagiarist/re-arranger/adder-on-of-bits-and -pieces. In this cheerful romp, the chief characters of 'Romeo and Juliet' now in Limbo, attempt to deal with the problems of that state, and pursue their former aims, whether finding their true love or wreaking their revenge, while also subject to a Midsummer Night's Dream magic mix-up.
The actors are young, enthusiasm considerable, script entertaining, and music very well done. The acting and singing will be smoother yet by the time anyone reads this, as the public and your reviewer were let in at a dress rehearsal. The virtually full house enjoyed it all. There's plenty to laugh at on different levels, spotting outrageously mismatched chunks of Shakespeare himself, the approximately Shakespearean and unashamedly modern in the script of Martin Beard, the cheerfully improbable major premise of the play, and some good jokes, both verbal and visual. The songs all went well, sung with style and gusto, the range of talent on display being most impressive. It would be difficult to pick out individuals for mention without listing the full cast. Instead, I urge anyone with a taste for youthful bounce and irreverence, with music, to see this show.
Ursula Birkett.back to top
In the Paupers Pit a diamond shone tonight. From the inauspicious basements of the Old Hall - a world away from the glitterati above - Tim Woodhouse (and Chums) entertained us for nearly two hours. Tonight his 'chums' were dad Alan on the penny whistle and flute, and Steve Durrant who is a more serious singer songwriter. Both add to the show - indeed Steve is a fine songwriter and performer - and the banter between Tim and his dad is great fun but Tim Woodhouse is the star. If you like laughing, appreciate the old fashioned idea of someone singing their own songs and playing their own instruments, and not swearing his head off to get your attention, you'll love Tim Woodhouse. Very much in the mold of Jake Thackeray, Tim's simple but effective tunes, sometimes quirky, sometimes thought-provoking but mainly downright hilarious lyrics will have you grinning all the way home. First of all I'd better make a declaration of interest - I'm a big fan of Tim Woodhouse. After seeing him a few years ago at the Fringe I booked him for my 40th birthday party. He agreed for a modest sum to come to my house and entertain the madding throng in our kitchen. Everyone was 'relaxed' except poor Mr Woodhouse, who looked a tad nervous, being pressed into the corner between the sink and the dishwasher. But Tim played a blinder, quite literally at times, as he screws his eyes tight shut whilst his mobile mouth contorts and stretches around the quirky words and soon had everyone guffawing loudly, including a friend's four year old at the front heckling by repeating a chorus 'wee wee, pooh pooh' - yes, he gets that basic and the kids love him) throughout the rest of the set. His songs refer to local places; home town Macclesfield, Bollington, the clergy at Rainow. One song The Cycling Vicar describes himself as being 'like Elvis.... just before his fatal heart attack.' He sings of unrequited love, of wanting a girlfriend to help him put up shelves and share the car insurance rather than set his pulse racingS and of his favourite high street cosmetics shop. But whilst he's local, he's never parochial. He mines a rich vein of the seemingly innumerable small details which congeal to form this weird state of behaviour we call living. He sings, sometimes with his tongue in his cheek, sometimes with a lump in his throat, of issues that affect us all - the love of one's children whilst feeling inadequate as a parent, how chocolote is better than sex, beer better than love - and just when you're drifting off into that misty-eyed realm of dream-like connection, (has he been reading your diary?) he pulls you back to earth and you're spitting out your drink with unexpected laughter. His crafty rhyming couplets can be poignant, witty or forthright but they're often followed by lines of self-awareness, as if he's not prepared to go the whole hog, not wanting to risk having their ingenuity recognised and so dare to become the much bigger attraction he surely deserves to be. Go and see him now and feel the thrill of discovering a talent no one else seems to have spotted. If, against his will, he goes on to reach wider acclaim you can say you were there at the start. If not, well, he's our little secret.
Tim Woodhouse is appearing at The Bate Hall pub in the centre of
Macclesfield on the second Thursday of the month. He has three tapes
available (£3) and has just produced a CD, Helping The Demented, (£5)
available on 01625 502749.
Gill Kentback to top
By Steve Jansen
The cheesy scene was created with the aid of a manky pair of pants and assorted festooned carefully chosen items of garbage and convincing images of squalor. Looking at the set was enough to give you verrucas and the verruca theme was one of several cunning plot devices, which carried us through to an electrifying finish.
We found ourselves in the flat of four 'out of work actors' well drawn and guilty of being no hopers, all chasing the same role. The first character skidded into action-sporting hideous undergarments, while incongruously ironing pants, which were very cheesy indeed. Piles (or haemorrhoids) of fun followed, if you will forgive the disgusting imagery-which only got worse as traffic cones and orifice related analogies were rammed into the mix of puerile humour.
Those of us right down there in the anal phase had a lot to laugh at, and for those who prefer their humour to be set mostly above the waist, there were some funny parts too. (Parts, meaning aspects rather than genitalia in this context).
The characters were well drawn and pathetic in the sense of exuding a teeny bit of pathos in their own way. The boozer, the bimbo, the desperate, the old soak, the homosexual, the monkey .the pants... Everyone's dirty underwear was on display.
With piles of laughs in every crevice, the piece was carried along in places where the story line was a bit thin, by the futile and increasingly bitchy power struggle which was unfolding between four sad losers.
Derivative of 'Men Behaving Badly' or 'The Young Ones', the idea has the makings of a sitcom favourite. Ideal Friday night viewing after a couple of pints of lager and a nice kebab.
Nicola Martinback to top
12th, 18th - 19th July
Patricia Hartshorne was in top form in her performance on Saturday night. Slap up to date with her use of mobile phone and political references as she rolled out variations on old songs, from a menopausal parody a la Gilbert and Sullivan to Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. Mingling with the audience in true cabaret style, engaging them with individual attention with responses from playful participation to shy embarrassment.
All this was carried off in a series of personas under the veil of different hats and voice disguises from dumb American to broad Scots. My favourite was her Spaniard's broken English which was the epitome of Maria who has lived in England for over 25 years!
Nor did Buxton fail to receive a fair poking of her wit along with jibes of it not being Edinburgh Fringe and evening rather than afternoon. But then - what was she insinuating she and the audience to be up to in the afternoon?
Carolyn Pageback to top
What are those numbers on the spines of books in the county library? Yes! They're Melvil Dewey's decimal book catalogue system. And -wow!- here is Melvil himself in crimson dressing gown, desert boots and elongated stove pipe hat partnered by a real librarian with a guitar to sing a cerebral song about his incomparable system followed by songs revealing the secret vocabulary of librarians, a list of famous librarians and the delights of libraries in somewhere called Essex..
Could all this make libraries fashionable? I doubt it. Nor could the clever songs about Germaine Greer, Picasso being a cockney and Bedford the handyman 'who arrives with a spanner when you've fused the lights' which didn't seem to have much at all to do with libraries. But entertaining and funny it most certainly is. Original witty material and songs performed with finely judged pace and - a bonus- some extra but unplanned gremlins in the sound system.
A delightful performance from Project Adorno pausing in Buxton on their way up to Edinburgh. One more opportunity to catch them here on 13 July at 9.00pm at the Old Club House.
A must for anyone who likes, or hates, librarians.
P.L.back to top
5th-6th July and 12-13th July, 2:30pm-3:30pm
This year sees the return to the Fringe of two of Martin Beard's writings: the award winning Romeo and Juliet Deceased; and In The Beginning - which, coupled with the original work Art Sucks!, makes up this production.
And what a production it was. It's easy to forget just how good these kids are.
Group 1 brought us In The Beginning, a comedy in verse chronicling some of the finer moments of the Bible (principally the old Testament). What they lacked in height, they more than made up for in experience and technical skill; an angelic cast with a devilish sense of humour really did make for divine comedy. Particularly worth noting was the uninterrupted clarity of speech, admirable teamwork, immaculate comic timing, and, well, pretty much everything.
But let's not forget Group 2's offering, a piece devised from improvisations, after the group was asked to find a piece of art that meant something to them. A number of scenes were improvised around the favourite three or four - each with their own values and morals - and a script put together. The captivating result is Art Sucks!
This piece was accomplished with equal flair and ability as the first, with the characters all played confidently by the actors who created them. The effect of this was some great performances; we were in turn scared, shocked, sympathetic and splitting our sides.
So, in summary, Martin Beard and his assistants (Corrine Coward, Kayleigh MacDonald, Michael Grady) have done it again with the Drama School, with this and Group 3's spectacular production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Please remind me - and the rest of The Rec Youth Theatre - to give up acting long before any of these guys approach our age, and in the meantime go and see this show.
Yacein Al-Shaaterback to top
Three short, but widely different, plays revealing the versatility of local playwright Mary Hennessy and the ability of the Magdalena Theatre group in using the rather awkward space of the Shrewsbury room at the Old Hall Hotel.
The main work is'Beyond the Past', an exploration into the disturbing effects of memory loss. This is Mary Hennessy at her best coupled with a wonderfully compelling performance from Jeanette Rourke as Jo the wife trying to maintain some normality in her relationship with amnesiac husband Jimmy, played by Roger Berrisford, while remembering happier times at the start of their courtship. Jeanette's mastery of the emotional range demanded by the role of Jo was complete. Acting of outstanding quality.
This was preceded by two lighter pieces,'Shakespeare for Children' in which a harassed teacher, convincingly played by Jane McGrother, attempts to interest her class in the story of Romeo and Juliet and is incessantly confronted with the literal minds of children. 'If Juliet is said to fair why does she have dark hair?' 'When Romeo hid his face did he ever find it again?' And 'Jubilee', a BBC presentation about the Royal Family cleverly read by Netta Christie with lapses in the observation of punctuation which produce the 'Nudge-Nudge' kind of humour so relished by English audiences.
A delightful programme for a Summer evening on the Fringe.
More performances on 18 and 19 July in the Paupers Pit, Old Hall Hotel..
P.L.back to top
Crowdecote Bank Studio
It is always a pleasure to arrive down the Ashbourne road and turn right at the Monyash junction, which takes you to Crowdecote (only 15 minutes from the Opera House). The views up and down the Dove Valley, as you approach Bank Pottery, are superb. Add to this the work of Heidi Newberry and you have a most pleasurable outing, one certainly worth taking.
Heidi displays her work in two areas on either side of the studio, which is surrounded by an attractive terrace garden with pools. Her work is functional, made with a stoneware body. It includes traditionally formed mugs and unusual square platters, which have a Japanese influence An interesting development are multi-purpose platters-on-dishes. You may use either side according to your needs. The clear glaze on the stoneware reveals bold brushwork decoration in cobalt.
Eye catching are a range of fun teapots. These are first thrown on the wheel and then nudged to create a staggered form. (Can you get typsy on tea?)
Dishes with what one could call basic or minimalist form are most impressive. The outer walls are in clear glaze with a strong deep rich green glaze on the inside, which is produced with copper.
One must not overlook small pots/jars which had been fired noting the raku method. Pigment has been applied with the help of wallpaper paste (!) which, when fired, produces a mat surface of rainbow quality. This work is most exciting.
I came away with fingers longing to renew the tactile pleasure of working in clay.
Alan Baileyback to top
This environmental morality tale for children held the total attention of a full house of primary school pupils, not to mention several teachers, parents and grandparents, despite temperatures in the Pauper's Pit that probably broke a number of health and safety regulations.
The script is in Dr Zeuss characteristic galloping verse with strong rhythms, and a literal spattering of invented words whose meaning is usually very clear, especially when enunciated with clarity and relish, as here. The performers are one actor, Ava Hunt, and one source of sound effects, Gill Goodman, but this is not what you'd think by the end of the show, so multifarious are the personalities and activities projected with such vigour.
The story opposes the Oneler, an environmentally destructive business man, and the Lorax himself who 'speaks for the trees' and all the creatures dependant on them (ultimately of course us too). The one actor is convincingly both people, the differences conveyed largely by posture and a hat (and what a hat). Aterwards, only a few of the children said they'd read the book before. Surely many of them will do so now, and will find that the hat, and other props, faithfully represent the Seuss illustrations. They should also remember the slightly zany energy with which the performers put the message across - and thus, we hope, the message.
Ursula Birkettback to top
Last year David Burns astonished us with his triumphant recital from memory of Book I of Paradise Lost. But that can now be seen as almost just a curtain-raiser for his return to the Fringe with Book II also committed to memory. And once again were caught up in Milton's great epic with David declaiming the majestic verse to an enthralled audience.
Book II opens with the great debate amongst the fallen angels in Hell.; should there be a return to war in the hope of recovery of Heaven? Some are for and some against. An alternative proposal is made; to investigate God's new creation - man. Might it be possible to obtain some revenge for their expulsion from Heaven by tempting man to disobey God's commands?. Satan is sent to investigate and after passing through the gates of Hell sights the new world- Earth. And so we are on the brink of man's disobedience and consequent loss of paradise.
The grandeur of the unfolding story is awesome. David's fine delivery, adjustment of his voice to suit the many characters encountered in Book II. and his deep understanding of the work commanded our attention and held us spellbound.
A truly great experience.
More performances of Book II on 17 and 19 July and of Book I on 16 and 18 July - all at the Old Club House.
P.L.back to top
Do not let 'a new play' frighten you off. Tim Elgood, a Derbyshire man and former Buxton resident, writes really well, creating believable characters - including those you never see - and his dialogue had the audience really paying attention and really laughing, by turns. He has a BAFTA-sponsored award to engender confidence, and his play was done to an appreciative full house on its first night.
The company putting on the play is one of a number visiting the Fringe under the umbrella of the University of Derby. This group runs from undergraduates to theatre professionals turned university teachers, via seasoned am-dram players.
The play relates the encounter of Clive, aged 52, neatly suited but with Bart Simpson socks, with Madge, aged 51, Bohemian in dress and attitude. Clive has never net Madge before, but has something he must tell her, painful and important to them both. His attempts to come to the point are constantly, often farcically, thwarted, for instance by Sophie the dog, and the neighbours Norma and Sid. I defy anyone not to believe that Sophie is there in fact, along with her hilarious and convincing sound effects.
To say the performances are polished may seem odd in the context of the setting, Madge's living room presenting a scene of such layered chaos that Clive's remark as he enters 'I didn't want to make a mess' provoked howls of mirth. These were safe and experienced hands, making the most of the good material they'd been given, and backed by a good production team. Altogether a performance to relish - catch it if you can.
Ursula Birkett.back to top
16th-17th July, 8pm
At home, we dread the slide show which must be endured following every foreign holiday.
This show, however, is categorically different.
These slides are artistically, magically orchestrated to music which is carefully chosen and entirely appropriate.
The slide-artist 'conducts' his projector throughout the show, changing pace, matching musical motifs, bringing together a myriad of images for which he has a particular affection - people; markets; mountains; the sea - in an illuminating manner.
The show is not without a gentle humour either, for example when a 'stranger' appears in the shot of a Moroccan canyon.
In spite of the absence of his assistant, the slide master also served a very decent cup of tea, plus digestive biscuits, during the performance's interval. This was much appreciated and afforded the opportunity - too
brief in many respects - for members of the audience to ask about choice of music and the provenance of the slides.
The music supporting these images, many of which are of a delicacy and quality which do not require augmentation, ranges from Delius to Ron Goodwin and was played to good effect at almost full volume.
In a world obsessed with slick presentation, spin and the ubiquitous Powerpoint, this is an hour and a half of delightful visual and aural pleasure. See it today.
Michael Patey-Fordback to top
Mon 14th - Fri 18th July, 8pm
Comedy is a hit and miss affair. I sat through the first few scenes of this show watching in uncomfortable silence at a show that was faltering, and in danger of being lost in an increasingly noisy pub. Then, something clicked, and mild embarrassment gave way to amusement and then hilarity.
The quality of the writing was never in doubt. All the sketches were incredibly clever, appealing to the audience's hatred of bank managers, knowledge of football stars' lifestyles and poking fun at Freud. After the first twenty minutes or so, the quality of the acting matched it, and the performance was slick, perfectly timed and very funny. One or two sketches were truly top-notch, the row of judges howling 'What are Britney Spears?' especially.
So, a brilliant show, and a fantastic example of persistence in the face of a noisy pub. The actors did incredibly well not to be put off, and were rewarded by an audience who thoroughly appreciate them. It's rare to see a comedy show that gets better and better as it goes through, and a rare treat.
Nick Butterleyback to top
by Mark O'Rowe
Drama can serve many purposes, it can be a pleasant way of passing an hour or so - a slice of gateau and a cappuccino - but your reviewer must confess to a taste for stronger flavours, a fuller meal for the intellect. Howie is not a pleasant way to pass the time but it is a deeply satisfying work, the sort of work, I believe, that a fringe exists for.
Colin Snell returns to Buxton with his experienced team, Matthew Bannister-The Howie Lee, Ben Hynes-The Rookie Lee and James Matthews-sound and lighting, and yet again delivers a powerful, intelligent and challenging piece.
The play visits the brutal futility of life on a Dublin housing estate for two young men. Howie is a strutting bantam cock, all attitude, testosterone and insecurity. We follow him on a violent journey that becomes a search for death in the aftermath of tragedy. Matthew's body language so eloquently and beautifully portrays his character that it is a surprise not to see a choreographer credited. His delivery of the words matches the grace and truth of the movement.
Rookie, a one-time victim of Howie, is gentler, philosophical, more secure. Ben Hynes welcomes us into his more comfortable world with a softer manner, gentler gestures. He is often seated, approachable, unthreatening, vulnerable. His performance is another masterpiece of physical theatre combined with an impeccable delivery. It is Rookie who describes Howie's descent into hell in search of atonement and the unimaginable horror of his nemesis.
An intelligent understanding of language and of the rhythms and cadences of speech needed to convey its meaning have always characterised the work of this company. The skills of its protagonists are of the highest order. The works chosen are always intellectually satisfying. It can be no surprise that its list of prizes is so long. The fringe must be proud to have been among the first contribute.
This is drama for drama lovers, for those who don't expect an easy ride but wish leave the theatre richer than they entered it. Such of you should on no account miss this play. There are performances in Venue 21 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 'In yer space' moves on to the Edinburgh fringe and return to Buxton in September with 'Spoonface Steinberg' in the Opera House studio season. Don't miss a chance to see them!'
John Wilsonback to top
They're big and they're loud; creating a great sound in this grand venue. The HPO with triple-woodwind in tow certainly filled St. Johns with sound - and they attracted a good size audience, with plenty of youngsters there too.
The evening's rouser was the familiar Candide Overture - on the programme by chance, and not at all related to the opera being performed in the Festival. This showed off the orchestra's high technical competence to the fore. Perhaps some timing was out in this item - but these were only minor glitches. Great opener!
The next item, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto did not grip my immediate attention I'm afraid. The young soloist was unfortunately overpowered by the orchestra in places, particularly by the woodwind. Lovely lyrical solo playing though, particularly in the pacifying slow movement.
Before the final item, the epic Elgar 2nd Symphony, we were introduced to the two 'harpianists' in the orchestra. As harpists are hard to find, and expensive to hire, the harp parts were played on electronic keyboards, with suitable registration - and proved to be very effective. It is the strings that make classic Elgar, with the 2nd movement conveying a similar feel to that of 'Nimrod' and it was here that the conductor demonstrated his commanding touch. The last movement showed what the horns and timpani could do and the quiet section for the string section alone was exquisite -'nice'.
The HPO are already booked for next year bringing with them a French programme including Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. That promises to be an even bigger sound than tonight's!
Martin Bisknellback to top
Another instalment of theatre entertainment from the University of Derby Theatre Arts, a 'silly idling trifle for the Buxton Fringe Festival', and a pleasant piece for a summer evening. The music is live and delightful, the direction and production interesting, and the story worth telling.
Bess of Hardwick, in a spirited rendering (and sumptuous costume) tells her life story, from Derbyshire farmer's daughter, sent into the world aged 12 on her father's death, to Countess of Shrewsbury, survivor of four marriages, richest woman in England, founder of a great dynasty, and builder of great houses. The sureness of Wendy Hayes' performance, both in accent and manner, is impressive enough, but especially so in one who has only just completed her first year at university. Her sidekick and butt, the servant Mistress Digby, spoke little and suffered much indignity as living prop to the evolving tale.
The history lesson provided is sometimes perilously close in tone to '1066 And All That', but was taken at a rattling pace, to point a background for an engaging portrait of a remarkable woman, whose achievements would have been startling in any period. The audience clearly enjoyed themselves a lot.
Ursula Birkettback to top
It is the 'not too distant future' and Queen Anne (due to the countries dislike of her brother) has become queen. An interesting opportunity for local writer Olivia Smedely to take an inside and personal view of that most allusive of jobs.
This short one-act monologue saw our somewhat-out-of-depth monarch at work in the office/bedroom, shopping amid much feared crowds and finally addressing her fellow royals of her plans for the future of royalty as we know it. Somewhat unfortunately, and due to unforeseen problems, what was planned to be a complete production of this exciting new work had become a reading by its author (which according to the programme is as experienced as her writing suggests).
I was certainly left to wonder what a highly original show this would have made - set in the prestigious and highly suitable surroundings of 'The Palace' [Hotel!] Instead however, the afternoon became an opportunity to learn about Olivia's process from first ideas to final draft - via an equally interesting dinner speech she had also written in the style of Princess Anne. Understandably, this was a process that had taken a great deal of research and it had paid off: the entire character of this little known media/mythic figure as well as here day to day life was understood completely. We were told that Olivia sees Anne as a mixture of her mother's tactfulness and her father's bluntness and this came across very well in the script - an entire personal idiolect having been created.
We also learnt of the writer's fascination with royals at an early age (that partly inspired this work) but also of what she jokes as her 'Republican' upbringing. It perhaps for this reason I expected and indeed, would have enjoyed a little more satire, political humour or controversy which was only ever hinted at. (Olivia thinks she may send it to the plays star some day and so this may not be a good idea!) While this may have been questionable however, the writing skill was not. The script, though yet to be brought truly 'off the page' brimmed with comedy in an enjoyable style that flowed promisingly along.
Not what you may expect but certainly a novel experience. Definitely worth a visit from anyone with an interest in the monarchy or in new writing - Olivia will take any questions at the end of the reading.
Tom Crawshawback to top
July 17, 8-11pm
Over 150 people turned up for this eagerly anticipated magic show - quite something when you consider that only a few years ago the magicians were performing to a much smaller Fringe audience.
Word of mouth is, of course, a powerful thing and everyone who attended last night's show will have gone home wanting to talk about the extraordinary tricks carried out in front of their noses.
With the audience divided into large tables, the magicians worked their way from group to group, each displaying their own brand of humour and repartee as they baffled us again and again with extraordinary sleight of hand and sometimes it seemed, pure magic.
Some of the least involved tricks proved the most effective. Just how did magician and compere Clive Moore manage to put a ten pence piece and a two pence piece under a glass and then, in front of us all, twist the glass so that the 10p disappeared? How on earth did Paul Grundle shuffle a pack of cards, ask one of us to choose one, then manage to regurgitate the very same card from his mouth? Award-winning Chris Stevenson, superb with a pack of cards, was just as impressive with a simple white rope. Brandishing a pair of 'invisible scissors', he managed to cut it into bits, some of which ended up on the floor.
These polished magicians exuded an air of what seemed almost like carelessness. Cards which had changed in their hands from red backed to blue backed were casually left around on our tables so that we were tempted to tap on them or blow on them to see whether we could work the same magic.
There was certainly nothing austere about the magic on show. The accent was on fun with certain magicians such as Stevenson or Brummie Bernie Pedley proving particularly adept at making us laugh while stealing our ten pound notes or engagement rings - 'Bit bloody big for sleight of hand?' was the kind of cheek we came to expect.
Magic is certainly to be welcomed at the Fringe. Part of me was a little nostalgic for the intimacy of the smaller venue where I first saw this group. On the other hand, it is great to see so many people witnessing their skills. Though the magicians found themselves struggling to be heard at times, that was only because the room was in a state of permanent uproar as table after table emitted huge cheers, unable to contain their excitement at seeing such impressive magic, all at bafflingly close quarters.
Stephanie Billenback to top
As we near the end of this years Fringe and Festival the final Saturday sees a whole host of street theatre, dancing and music about the town. Tucked away in the paved area in The Square however I was lucky enough to come across the plucky bunch of actors who make up the workings of the 'Shakespeare Machine'. Unfortunately, it was so tucked away in this rather enclosed spot that only a handful of others were able to join me in my enjoyment between the hours of 12 and 3.
The concept is this: a group of four actors, having rehearsed various scenes from the Bard's collection bring them to life as the passers by do exactly that - or hopefully stop and watch! The troupe had quite a repertoire - intimate monologues, dramatic speeches and comic 'sketches'. The acting was all of a truly lofty standard but what made this a particularly impressive piece of entertainment was its originality. Limited resources did not stop each acting creating a multitude of highly interesting characters; changing behind the arches and using their one trunk as a focal point, out of which came all the needed props and which was used itself for scenery!
The art of Shakespeare production (on any scale) today lies very much in interpretation and this group possessed the necessary creativity. None of the parts I had time to see played fell into any of the stereotypical 'norms' that have built up around such world famous characters and on top of this there were many that had been switched completely on their head - forget big bosomed jolly nuns, Juliet's nurse was a world weary old woman with back trouble!
On top of this there was the added 'game' that we were invited to join which involved guessing the play from which the sections were taken - and there were certainly some challenges here - anyone remember the scene in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' with the angry Frenchman, the maid and her lover in the closet? Other scenes displayed highly intuitive selection with a speech from one of Shakespeare's thieves talking about robbing 'festival purses' - all were a little nervous when he walked into our midst.
A shame the group were a little unsure of how to attract crowds as this was a definite treat which, although I heard a few speak about, had not been found by many. Forget wooden 'O's - this was Shakespeare in a stone square - highly innovative and brilliantly executed. I hope for all our sakes they return again so a few more can have a play with this well oiled drama machine.
Tom Crawshawback to top
Saturday 19th 11:00 - 1:00
Rarely used venue 53 (The Burbage Institute) was open this morning to local 'Burbagians' (like myself) and anyone else who wished to view the work of Burbage Art Group over the last few months. Looking at it cynically, this was an advertising opportunity for what has proven to be a successful venture and opportunity for artists of all standards to receive tutoring on Wednesday evenings. However, this delightful morning also allowed local artists a rare opportunity to have their work displayed and those such as myself (a self confessed art virgin) the chance to view a highly varied selection of paintings, sketches and the odd collage.
As I say, I'm no expert - but I know what I like (!) and it didn't take an expert to see the quality of skill in many of these works of art. As a completely open class the standard was obviously mixed but there were none one couldn't get something from and many that were sheer brilliance. You know that line that only certain art can transgress, when you can no longer work out how it was created from mere paint or pencil and you admire it for what it is; well they had this! And then there were others, not as full of technical skill but still capable of capturing highly complex moods, emotions and breathtaking scenery. This was quite a small exhibition but this was no drawback as it was well worth more then one trip round; especially due to its 'organic' nature - as the morning went on new works were added in this constantly changing display.
One particular thing I did note was the eye for a good painting that seemed basically to be possessed by all of the artists having their work shown off. I wondered how much guidance had been given by the obviously skilled tutors but the fact is that no matter how high the skill or originality of the work it captured a moment well worth capturing and bringing to life on canvass. Parent and child in highly symbolic embrace; apple in the act of breaking the waters surface; boats moored in the autumn light and flanked by dramatic mountains. And then the skies - the kind you think you'd never believe if they were in a painting.
There was also cake and tea available (now there's a subject I could have said a lot more about) - and all for absolutely free. I certainly feel a box for contributions would not have been at all out of place - projects such as this do not happen without money and this is one that would easily have deserved some. If the object of the exercise was to attract members as I believe it was then I can recommend the group to anyone wishing to cultivate that creative streak.
Tom Crawshawback to top
The Jazz Festival kicked off in great style with the Fatties New Orleans Marching Band emerging musically from the back door of the Railway Hotel. After three numbers in front of the Railway to give time for followers to dispose of their drinks the band set off, led by their imposing marshal, in sedate and tuneful progress down Spring Gardens. Traditional jazz is immediately attractive especially in Saturday's wonderful sunny weather very soon a sizeable crowd was following the band and enthusiastically applauding them.
Half way down Spring Gardens the band ran into a nasty outbreak of Morris Dancing. The combination of folk music and clog dancers with New Orleans Jazz was practically surreal and probably another first for Buxton!. Some worried faces - would we ever get to the half way watering hole at the Grove Hotel? But eventually the Morris Dancers gave way and the band marched triumphantly on to the Grove Hotel bar. A short pause for refreshment and then the Fatties appeared on the first floor flat roof above the Devonshire Bakery to entertain the crowds on the slopes and around Turner's monument. There followed a stately return down Spring gardens to the Railway
It is good to see the marching band again in Buxton opening the Jazz Festival. It was, and is, one of the most enjoyable events during the Fringe Festival. Long may it continue.
P.L.back to top
Railway Hotel 19th-20th July
Steve Moore - piano
Dave Turner - bass
Nigel Cretney - drums with guests
Brian Smith - tenor sax
Gwen Kincr - vocals
The trio and Brian got things off to a sound start and were soon swinging nicely, even in waltz time (Fats Waller's Jitterbug Waltz). Hardly surprising though, these guys are all masters of their trade.
Gwen had never met the boys before, but you would never have guessed. After an exploratory 'Summertime' and a venture into a more up-tempo mood with 'Lullaby of Birdland', they went on to build a good swinging set of well known standard. Good examples being, 'Night and Day' and 'I get a kick out of you'. Particularly memorable, Gerswin's 'The man I love' and the closing 'God bless the child'. This lady is blessed with a voice and knows how to use it. Excellent.
Pete Tomlynback to top
The Manchester Recorder Orchestra have become Fringe regulars, and built a loyal following for their annual concert here. Last night, they performed a variety of styles ranging from Baroque to very recent compositions.
Last year I commended the orchestra for proving that the recorder is a serious instrument. Unfortunately, having done that, I feel the need to make one or two serious criticisms. The first half saw a few technical problems. Intonation and tuning were a little out in the first piece or two - understandable in a cold church. The volume levels in Gabrieli's Sonata Pian e Fort were a little too high, and a gentler level would have suited the acoustic rather more.
That said, the players and their instruments warmed up (perhaps the glass of wine at the interval helped...) and the second half was excellent. Albinoni's Oboe Concerto was the outstanding piece of the night, with the orchestra accompanying with great subtlety, and Bob Berry's solo was an accomplished performance. Melville's 'Brightness Falls' was also a fine piece, using the different qualities of the instruments well.
It's a pleasure to have such an interesting group coming to the Fringe. See you again next year.
Nick Butterleyback to top
Before we could even enter the drama studio at the community school we were asked to wait while essential repairs were made to the props damaged in the first performance, thus whetting the appetite for the dramatic fireworks of Dario Fo's one act romp.
Presented with considerable polish by the North Face Theatre Company, an experienced group from Manchester whose pace and timing exactly suited the series of crazy situations into which the eponymous burglar, telephoned by his wife while at work robbing a house, the house owner, the house owner's lover and a further succession of wives, lovers and husbands are pitchforked.
The Drama Studio was a good venue for this work. There is plenty of space to allow the actors room to develop their characters. And the acoustic is excellent for the spoken word. Although rather away from the centre of most of the Fringe activity, nevertheless a sizeable audience had found their way to it. and enjoyed it enormously.
P.Lback to top
Rather appropriately the poets on display at Watson's found themselves initially in the firing line of my frustration at my own incompetence.
However, once I had got over myself, and my usual grumblings along the lines of, ' why does everyone think they are a poet just because they can write?' I started listening, and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
We were treated to two poets with very different styles. One with short pithy observations of the quirky nature of life, the other with longer whimsical stories, both complete with lively wit and wisdom. Competent and complementary, they both avoided the all too common pitfalls of weird singsong deliveries, silly voices, gurnings and rictus gestures so beloved of up and coming poets.
Here were two poets at the top of their game.
Sandwiched between Firing Lines was a strange brew, a being apparently the result of an unholy union between Pam Eyres and John Ottway. By all accounts this shouldn't have worked but it did - really well. Anarchic and acidic, the lyrics of the songs were high comedy. This was a first rate poet with no need for the second rate drag act.
Bart Frithback to top
Membership of the choir is open to anyone interested. So what you get is an enthusiastic group who very much like singing. And that enthusiasm was readily communicated to a large audience most, of which appeared to have followed the choir from Matlock. For an amateur group they sang well together with good control. They had obviously worked hard preparing their programme and they can be pleased with the result.
It turned out that the versatile Dana has a very musical tenor voice. While the choir was resting he gave us a number of solos some of which he had composed himself revealing yet another aspect of his many talents.
The Paxton Suite does not have the ideal acoustic for singing. But it does have a bar which meant that both audience and choir could be adequately refreshed during the performance - an important consideration for a pub choir!
A jolly evening.
P.L.back to top