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Oct 12th

Somewhere in England at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre

By Douglas McFarlane

Somewhere In England 

 

The New Wimbledon Theatre was closed when I arrived for my review. It was the Greek owner of The Stage Door restaurant opposite who told me.  “There’s no lights on”.  I hastily checked the original email, was I in the wrong theatre ? It was the Wimbledon STUDIO theatre around the corner.  Lights were off there too. I quickly called the publicist who made a call to her on site colleague and when I next looked over, the neon lights came on followed shortly by the door being opened and the audience filing in.  It’s a small theatre, around 150 seats bringing you close up and personal with the performance. The bar was at the back of the stage so you literally had to walk across the stage in order to get there. It was a nice feeling. A feeling of belonging. A feeling of having been there. I was home.

The 4 piece band started playing their tunes firstly on the Casio keyboard with a double bass following up giving it depth, add in a bit of flute (and later saxophone), kick in some light drums and you were back in the 1940s.  Somewhere in rural England. The summer of 1943. Our local lads were off to the army leaving behind their girlfriends, mums, vicars and older men who became wardens.  The American GI’s arrived and things started to change. This musical took you right to the heart of the experience.

Firstly there were the protests “Yankees go home”, then the tea parties attempting to integrate the visitors, then the “boy-meets-girl but girl has boyfriend in the army” dilemma. You can’t help but get emotionally involved. How would you react if you were her fella ? Some of the girls are positively motivated by so much attention and others are more reserved but can’t escape the simple charms of a kind-hearted lad.

Somewhere In England is a simple yet very moving musical and it caught me unawares a few times largely as a result of the quality of the acting. It’s hard to single out anyone because every single one of the 13 actors immersed themselves deeply in their part. You know they’ve thought about it from the start, when you wonder why they are behaving in such a different way without even saying anything and against what you expect. Then in the next scene it becomes evident as the story unfolds, and hence you then get why the character was like that.

The female characters were the strongest by far as result of the nuances they had to portray, but the lads made up for it with their high quality singing, their exhausting dance routines and confidence in themselves to deliver an American accent, even while singing.

 I laughed constantly at the older duo who were always mulling around, snooping on goings on, while slowly becoming more intimate with each other. The elderly vicar, who played the same part in the original 1987 production of the musical, delivered his lines to perfection and added an element of class to the production.

The arrangements of the songs, the clear and emotional lyrics, some great tunes well played by the band and the smooth running of the play made this a joy to watch and  first class entertainment. Well done to Ambassadors Theatre Group for supporting such a performance, which we’d normally only see on the amateur stage.  This was independent theatre at it’s best and fantastic to see. 

 

Somewhere In England is at the Wimbledon Studio Theatre until Saturday. All performance are sold out.

Oct 8th

Domestica at the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin

DOMESTICA 2 (photo credit - Alessia Bombaci) copy.jpg

Tonight there will be the truth in its banality and its horror.

Following their critically acclaimed work Amusements (2012) and Karaoke (2013), award-winning live-art and experimental theatre company Sleepwalk Collective are celebrating their tenth anniversary with a UK tour of their new show Domestica, the final part of a trilogy entitled Lost In The Funhouse, starting off at the Battersea Arts Centre.

Described by the company as "part narcoleptic beauty pageant, part psychosexual fever dream", Domestica examines our relationship with classical art - from the ancient Greeks to 19th century naturalism.

The show is divided into seven panels, each examining a work of art - paintings as well as literature and music -, set in different centuries. The First Panel, however, is set today and entails a declaration of war by Sleepwalk Collective: "us versus you, the audience" as smoke is rising behind the speaker who is bathed in an eerie light and promises that "we are going to bore you to death."

Three women, wearing long dresses in primary colours with big bows on their backs, making them appear like gifts that are waiting to be unwrapped, form tableaux vivants from classical works, starting off with Botticelli's Venus, described in the Second Panel (1485). Whilst one of the cast is posing, another adds numbered blocks on the stage indicating missing props, such as a pool of blood or a curtain, whilst the third reads the footnotes referring to the numbers as they are projected onto a big screen. The growing amount of numbered blocks eventually make the stage look like a crime scene whilst a disturbingly monotonous soundtrack vibrates across the auditorium.

The works of art all feature women - love goddesses, Madonnas and victims of crimes, the Three Sisters in Chekhov's play who are "decaying over four acts" or the victims of Don Giovanni who ejects his seeds into women all over Europe.

This production is not actually a celebration of the classics, instead it is trying to shed new light on the way women are depicted in these classical works that were created by men who categorised and used them as projections for their fantasies, thereby influencing society as a whole. Propagating the ideal of beauty, the content becomes secondary although the underlying messages remain stuck in our subconscience. 

Sammy Metcalfe's texts, written together with the ensemble, are poetic and hard-hitting as they dissect the misogynism of classical works of art that we adore without ever questioning what they truly entail.

A fascinating and challenging production.

By Carolin Kopplin

The short run at Battersea Arts Centre has ended.

Running time: 75 minutes with no interval

UK Tour Dates:

CAMBRIDGE, Junction | 10 October | junction.co.uk MANCHESTER, HOME | 14 – 15 October | homemcr.org | Part of Orbit Festival BIRMINGHAM, Birmingham Repertory Theatre | 17 October | birmingham-rep.co.uk CREWE, Axis Arts Centre | 18 October | axisartscentre.org.uk NEWCASTLE, GIFT Festival | 20 October | giftfestival.co.uk

Photograph by Alessia Bombaci.

Oct 8th

Confessional at the Southwark Playhouse

By Clare Brotherwood

 

To be honest, the situation in which I found myself last night was one I would go to any lengths to avoid.

I was sitting in a dingy pub watching all hell break loose as a bunch of low life screamed and shouted at each other, at times becoming violent. I didn’t feel comfortable; I didn’t know which of my fellow drinkers would kick off next. But, sadly, it is all too common a part of life in the 21st century.

Only, I wasn’t in a real pub, the ‘low life’ were actors, and the play they were performing was written in 1970, originally set in the 50s, and written by none other than Tennessee Williams. Nevertheless, it is bang up-to-date, with a drunken, mini-skirted woman tottering about on high heels, and with sex, racism and homophobia in the mix.

The fact that it feels so real is down to some first class acting, the imagination of director Jack Silver and the vision of theatre company Tramp.

The only thing that isn’t real is that the carpet isn’t sticky!

It isn’t so much curtain up as opening time as the audience is allowed to drift into what is essentially a pub. You buy your drink, find a table and start socialising.

You have no idea what is going to happen. You are not given a programme until you leave so you don’t know who are the actors and who are the punters - which makes it all the more believable. And even though I’m telling you something of what to expect you still won’t know what’s going to happen. For although the words may be the same no one peformance is. The actors are allowed to make it up as they go along. They don’t even decide in advance whether they are going to laugh or cry - which makes this production even more of a masterpiece.

I don’t want to give away too much about the actors for fear of identifying them for future audiences, but Holby City fans can’t fail to notice Rob Ostlere who played Arthur Digby until his death from cancer earlier this year. In Confessional he plays a grubby looking, beer swilling chef with a propensity to belch, but that characterisation doesn’t sit as easily on him as does the rather timid man who wants to keep out of the way of trouble.

I can’t write an appreciation of this play, however, without mentioning Lizzie Stanton who plays Leona, a beautician who lives in a trailer, and who gets increasingly drunk and emotional as the 95-minute production goes on. From the quake in her voice as she begins to lose control to her hysterical screaming, the intensity of her feelings is hard to bear - and then she has us feeling sorry for her as she cries over the death of her younger brother. A true tour de force.

But while this is a platform for some superb acting, imaginatively presented, the fact that it appears so real is also its downfall. It’s an assault on the senses, and way too much like the reality of life we all try to avoid.

 

Confessional is at the Southwark Playhouse until October 29

 

Box Office: 020 7407 0234

www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Oct 4th

Alan Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking at Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

31008_full.jpgRobert Powell and Liza Goddard

You are not losing a wife but gaining a brother-in-law!

When Relatively Speaking opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1967, Alan Ayckbourn was celebrated as the coming man of the commercial theatre. Critics and audiences alike loved his show and Noel Coward sent a telegram praising Ayckbourn's "beautifully constructed and very very funny comedy". Almost 50 years later, Relatively Speaking is still as enjoyable as ever and the Theatre Royal Bath Productions, together with Kenny Wax, now present a touring production of the play starring Robert Powell and Liza Goddard.

Greg has spent the night with Ginny in her bed-sit in London. He is still in bed while Ginny is getting ready to catch a train, supposedly to visit her parents in the country. Greg is somewhat confused. The phone rings and the caller hangs up. There are flowers and boxes of chocolates everywhere. Is Ginny seeing another man? Despite his suspicion and although he met her only a month ago, the rather inexperienced Greg is convinced that Ginny is the girl he wants to marry. Greg decides to catch an earlier train and ask Ginny's father for her hand. But Ginny is not planning to see her parents. She has been having an affair with Philip, an older, married man, and intends to visit him at his home to break off the romance. Greg arrives at the house before Ginny and assumes Philip and Sheila are Ginny's parents, which leads to a series of misunderstandings until things spiral completely out of control.

Robin Herford's production transports us straight back to the 1960s, which makes sense because the play works best in the time period when it was written. Greg and Ginny are in a sexual relationship without being married, but Greg still intends to do right by Ginny by marrying her, even involving her father. Many of the conventions and ideas in the piece would appear rather strange and old-fashioned in a production that was set today. The clever construct of the play and the richness of the characters still make for great entertainment.

Robert Powell is hilarious as the pugnacious Philip, who thinks he has everything under control, including Ginny, who he is trying to force into joining him on a "business trip". Yet the opposite is true. His wife Sheila has received mysterious letters, possibly from a lover, and his affair with Ginny is not going as well as expected. Liza Goddard's Sheila appears to be a dutiful housewife with infinite patience but there is a hidden side to her. Lindsey Campbell and Antony Eden convince as Philip's secretary and ex-lover Ginny and the naive but charming insurance clerk Greg. 

Peter McKintosh's design for Ginny's London bed-sit impresses with typical 1960s wallpaper in showy patterns, held in warm colours, and film posters of the time. Ginny's trendy flat is in stark contrast to Philip and Sheila's traditional country estate "The Willows" in Buckinghamshire.  

A delightful evening out.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until  8th October 2016 at Richmond Theatre

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassdortickets.com/whatson.aspx

Running time: 2 hours including one interval

Tour schedule: http://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/page/3899/Relatively-Speaking

Oct 2nd

Adding Machine: A Musical at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Adding Machine, Joseph Alessi (Mr Zero) (c) Alex Brenner (_DSC7086).jpg

Joseph Alessi as Mr Zero

I dream in figures in my head.

Based on Elmer Rice's 1923 expressionist satire with echoes of Thornton Wilder, this chamber musical by Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith tells the story of mediocre nonentity Mr Zero who spends his life crunching numbers in a department store. For his Silver Jubilee he expects his long overdue promotion but receives his notice instead - he is to be replaced by an adding machine. After years of frustrated hopes and expectations, Zero snaps and kills his boss. He is swiftly sentenced to death. Does Mr Zero now have the freedom he always desired? 

Joseph Alessi inhabits the role of Mr Zero, a henpecked husband whose disappointed wife, played with indignant offendedness by Kate Milner-Evans, starts off the first solo number of the show "Something to be Proud of" - which is obviously not her husband. Picked on at home and ignored at work, Mr Zero is trapped in his mediocrity but still feels superior to those with a lower status in society - recent immigrants and people of colour, whom he derides at "The Party". Only Daisy Dorothea Devore, charmingly played by Joanna Kirkland, brings a ray of sunshine in his dreary life. Edd Campbell Bird impresses as the fresh-faced killer Shrdlu who is looking forward to his execution and an eternity of pain and torture, only to find himself with Mr Zero in the Elysian Fields. 

Adding Machine, Kate Milner-Evans (Mrs Zero) (c) Alex Brenner (_D3C1393).jpg

Kate Milner-Evans as Mrs Zero

Josh Seymour's gritty production of this anti-musical is set on a bare traverse stage. Joshua Schmidt’s haunting score, inspired by gospel, opera, jazz and rock and roll with a touch of Philip Glass, is beautifully sung by the cast and skilfully played by the band - Ben Ferguson (Musical Director / Piano), Tristan Butler (Percussion), and Hamish Brown (Synth). At the department store, the cast move like automatons to Butler's persistent beat, resembling robots at an assembly line. Daisy has a beautiful jazzy number in "I'd Rather Watch You", singing into a 1920s style microphone. When Mrs Zero meets her husband for the last time, their expected reconciliation explodes in the discords of "Didn't We?"

Adding Machine: A Musical premiered in Illinois in 2007 before it transferred Off-Broadway and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score. The Finborough Theatre now presents the overdue UK premiere.

Not to be missed.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 22nd October 2016 at the Finborough Theatre

Box office: 0844 847 1652

Running time: 95 minutes without an interval.

Photographs by Alex Brenner.

FREE POST SHOW DISCUSSION ON WEDNESDAY 5 OCTOBER 2016

What is the future for new musicals in the UK and the US? At a time when ticket prices are higher than ever and the need to cast stars seems increasingly urgent, how can creators of new musicals balance these pressures with their need to experiment and innovate? This discussion, featuring experts and artists of varied backgrounds and experiences, will explore whether there is any place for musicals that challenge and develop the form in today's testing theatrical climate.

Josh Schmidt, award-winning US-based composer of Adding Machine: A Musical, will be joined by Mark Shenton, theatre critic and Associate Editor of The Stage, Vicky Graham, producer of the recent critically acclaimed new British musical Flowers for Mrs Harris at Sheffield Crucible – nominated for three UK Theatre Awards, and British composer Pippa Cleary, whose work includes The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole at Curve Theatre, Leicester.

This event is free to ticket holders for the Wednesday 5 October performance.

FREE POST SHOW DIRECTOR AND CAST Q&A ON TUESDAY 12 OCTOBER 2016

Josh Seymour and members of the company discuss the process of rehearsing the UK premiere production of Joshua Schmidt and Jason Loewith’s provocative and darkly comic musical, and answer your questions.

This event is free to ticket holders for the Tuesday 12 October performance.

Sep 29th

Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities at the Richmond Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

7-ATOTC courtroom 2 cRobert Day.jpgEnsemble - Courtroom

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity...

Charles Dickens considered A Tale of Two Cities the best story he had ever written. It remains a timeless classic, as relevant today as it was at its publication as citizens protest around the world against globalisation and injustice. Co-produced by Touring Consortium and Royal & Derngate, Northampton, James Dacre's seminal 2014 production is presently touring the country. Adapted by Mike Poulton, with whom James Dacre collaborated on Wolf Hall, the production does not attempt to bring the entire novel to the stage but distills the essence of the epic story interweaving a family's personal drama with the violence and terror of the French Revolution.

Starting off with a gripping courtroom scene that sees French aristocrat Charles Darnay falsely accused of spying for the mutinous American colonies, it is only due to the intervention of the clever barrister Sydney Carton, who bears an uncanny resemblence to the accused, that saves Darnay from being sentenced as a traitor. Carton dilligently undermines the credibility of the witnesses - Jenny Herring, who works in a house of ill repute, and Mr Barsad who is anything but the English patriot as which he presents himself to the court. The testimony of the pub landlady of the Homesick Cabinboy brings some necessary comic relief to the tenseness of the trial.

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Sydney Carton (Joseph Timms) and Charles Darnay (Jacob Ifans) enjoying a drink after the trial, served by Waitress (Rebecca Birch)

James Dacre's production has the pace of a thriller. It keeps the audience in suspense throughout as the aftermath of the French Revolution unfolds and draws both Darnay and Carton into the bloody terror. 

The excellent cast of 10, some of which perform a variety of roles, is augmented by the Edmundian Players. As Darnay and Carton, Jacob Ifans and Joseph Timms are complete opposites in temperament though so similar in looks. Darnay is a selfless nobleman who is in a romantic relationship with Dr Manette's lovely daughter Lucie, a delicate Shanaya Rafaat. Joseph Timms gives an outstanding performance as Carton, an embittered, self-destructive drunk who, although desiring Lucie Manette, knows that he will never be worthy of her. Michael Garner impresses as the sympathetic banker Mr Lorry, a loyal friend to the Manettes and Darnay. Noa Bodner is relentless in her longing for revenge as Madame Defarge as she cries: "Vengeance before justice!" 

Although James Dacre's production is set in the late 18th century, the play still speaks to us today. When the odious Marquis de Evrément states that "Repression is the only lasting philosophy” contemporary dictators come to mind. The witch hunt and paranoia after the revolution recalls the excesses of Stalinism and the Cultural Revolution in China.

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Carton (Joseph Timms) and Barsad (Sean Murray) execute a bold plan

Mike Britton's shifting stage design creates picturesque views of the English countryside contrasting with the imposing walls for the courtroom and prison scenes in Paris. Ruth Hall's costumes and Paul Keogan's lighting paint beautiful images and Oscar winning composer Rachel Portman's stirring score boosts the tension of the piece.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 1st October 2016 at Richmond Theatre, then touring

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes including one interval

Tickets: http://uktheatrenet.ambassadortickets.com/whatson.aspx

Tour dates: http://touringconsortium.co.uk/show/twocities/

All photographs by Robert Day. 

Sep 25th

Imogen at Shakespeare's Globe

By Clare Brotherwood

EastEnders family The Carters have been out in force at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Actors Danny Dyer and Kellie Bright, who play publicans Mick and Linda Carter in the BBC soap, were there to support Maddy Hill, who played their on-screen daughter Nancy.

Maddy’s credits, apart from EastEnders, only amount to a handful of parts, but two of them are Shakespearian, and now there’s a third - Imogen, the title role in a ‘renamed and reclaimed’ production of Cymbeline.

Part of the Globe’s artistic director Emma Rice’s first season, Imogen couldn’t be better for attracting new, young audiences to Shakespeare.

Gang warfare, it seems, is nothing new, and director Matthew Dunster has brought this play literally kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Imogen is bang up to date with a cast clad in tracksuits, trainers and baseball caps, rapping and street dancing its way through a bloody tale of murder, revenge - and, of course, love.

Designer Jon Bausor’s set is stark and dark, the only dressings, butchers’ curtains! And there’s plenty of butchery, I can tell you! Oh, and occasional drugs and can of lager.

Fights between Imogen’s black-clad Britons and the Romans, dressed in white, who are harbouring Imogen’s banished husband Posthumus, are both balletic and realistic, with the added attraction of sometimes taking place in midair! The energetic young actors take everything in their stride. To the pounding beats of sound designer George Dennis’s atmospheric music, their performances are invigorating, and aggressive, especially Ira Mandela Siobhan’s powerful Posthumus, with added gravitas from Jonathan McGuinness as Cymbeline, king of the Britons, and Martin Marquez as Belarius, who for the last 20 years has been bringing up the king’s sons as his own.

I don’t know whether it’s politically correct to single out William Grint, one of those sons, but he and the rest of the cast should be applauded for making William’s deafness part of the action and giving this play extra depth and some humanity. I doubt many briefs include sign language!

The play is, however, Imogen’s story - of how she marries against the wishes of her father, the king, who punishes her by banishing her husband. How her husband believes her to be unfaithful and sends someone to kill her while she, dressed as a youth, searches the land to be at his side, on the way being poisoned and waking up beside an headless corpse. Always fiesty but with a soft side, as Imogen Maddy Hill shines, appearing streetwise and yet with that vulnerability which made her so popular in EastEnders. She’d certainly give The Mitchells a run for their money!

The story may be a familiar one in today’s world where drugs and street crime are sadly all too common, but there are lighter moments: Joshua Lacey causes a laugh every time he struts onto the stage as Cymbeline’s loutish, football shirt-wearing stepson, and the appearance of an illuminated greenhouse apparently growing marijuana, also causes amusement.

 

Imogen is at Shakespeare’s Globe until October 16

www.shakespearesglobe.com/imogen

Sep 24th

OUT THERE at the UNION THEATRE, Waterloo

By Elaine Pinkus

Out There

Suspend belief for two hours at the Union Theatre, Waterloo. It is 1969, a time of excitement and mystery in the sphere of space travel. We are in Texas, awaiting a space launch when astronaut, Newman Carter, receives devastating news and is pulled from the mission to disappear into obscurity. Fast forward 40 years to the world of business and a clearly dysfunctional relationship between business magnate David Carter and his rebellious (engineer) son, Logan. These are troubled times with tempers and frustration at boiling point. In his anger, Logan is sent to small town, Hope, in Texas with a letter which will change everything for everyone.

Essentially this is an allegory crossing three generations of grandfather, father and son. It is a story of lost ‘hope’, of lost dreams and of lost connection where space (both actual and metaphorical) are desired more than human connection. ‘Out There is a fiction. A fable. A make believe.’ (Elliot Davis)  However, the confusion of the (too many) subplots spoil the premise of this concept and prevent an effective ‘lift off’.

The country-inspired score is created by James Bourne and Elliot Davis, the team behind the musicals Loserville, Out There and Busted. It is pleasingly melodious and is sung with superb harmonies by the enthusiastic and energetic cast, whose voices are strong and whose synergy is evident. Lyrics are less effective and there are times when the need for couplet rhyming is cringingly over-powering rendering the score tedious.

A small, intimate venue, Nick Corrall has adapted the space (excuse the pun) so that the audience sit on two adjacent sides in close proximity to the players. Staging is minimal, with cardboard boxes and chairs being the main props, demanding unreasonable generosity of imagination by the audience.

Directed by Michael Burgen, the cast includes Dave Willetts, Luke Street, Neil Moors, Imelda Warren-Green, Melissa Veszi, Adam Pettit, Rhys Owens, Jodee Conrad, Melissa Bayern, Thea Jo Wolfe and Shane Gibb. Musicians are Joe Louis Robinson (MD/Keys) and Ollie Hannifan/Will Bennett (Guitar).The Union Production features musical direction by Joe Louis Robinson, choreography by Lisa Mathieson, lighting design by Iain Dennis, set designs by Nik Corrall, and costume designs by Zoe Engerer. Out There is produced by The Union’s artistic director Sasha Regan.

Out There

Wednesday 21st September to Saturday 8th October 2016.

UNION THEATRE

Old Union Arches, 229 Union Street, London, SE1 0LR

(closest tube: Southwark station on the Jubilee line or Waterloo station)

Performances: 7.30pm Tuesday - Saturday, 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: All seats £15 in week one (excluding Sunday) then £25, with £22.50 concessions and under 18 at £15.

Box Office: 020 7261 9876 or www.uniontheatre.biz (booking fees apply)

Twitter: @theuniontheatre

Facebook:/TheUnionTheatre

Sep 21st

Haydn's London Ladies at St Paul's Church Knightsbridge

By Carolin Kopplin

HLL_GENERAL_02.jpg

My heart is fixed in thee.

The Austrian composer Joseph Haydn made two hugely successful visits to London in 1791-2 and 1794-5 where he was welcomed as an international celebrity by the musical society and the Royal Family. During his visits to London, Haydn developed strong friendships with several of his female admirers, some of which were artists themselves - pianist Therese Jansen, soprano Harriet Abrams, poetess Anne Hunter, Rebecca Schroeder, and Lady Emma Hamilton. Some of the relationships are preserved through notes and letters, others only through Haydn's music and other writers references.

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Clare McCaldin

St Paul's Church, Knightsbridge, is a magnificent setting for a concert and the acoustics are rather good. Clare McCaldin begins the evening by illustrating Haydn's voyage from Vienna to London with "The Sailor's Song", a rousing tune about a swashbuckling seaman. When Haydn went to London he was trapped in a childless, loveless marriage and hampered in his creativity by his connection to the wealthy Esterhazy family. He came to London for big ideas and big money - subscription concerts were money-making machines. Many composers from the Continent came to London because English gentlemen did not perform and there was a huge demand for concerts. Haydn returned to Vienna as a wealthy man.

Although not a matinee idol, Haydn had considerable charm and enjoyed the company of women. He admired pianist Therese Jansen and dedicated a sonata to her. When he met Harriet Abrams at a benefit concert, they formed a friendship and collaborated on various songs, which appealed to Haydn's love for folk music - "Crazy Jane" and "The Ballad of William and Mary". He also used some of Anne Hunter's poems for his compositions, such as "The Mermaid's Song". Yet Haydn lost his heart to Rebecca Schroeter, who caused a rift in her family by marrying a German musician.

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Paul Turner

The charming Clare McCaldin provides an intriguing picture of London society in the late 18th century and describes the social position of women at this time. As Ms McCaldin talks about Haydn's relationships with his London ladies, it becomes clear how dependent women still were on their families and their husbands. Financial independence was rare. Gifted performers had to quit the stage or concert halls once they got married because they were not supposed to upstage their husbands. But Joseph Haydn was also trapped, married to the sister of the woman that he actually loved, and unable to leave his loveless marriage for Rebecca Schroeter because of his strict Catholicism.

Performed by Clare McCaldin (voice) and Paul Turner (piano), this delightful concert includes songs by Joseph Haydn with lyrics by Harriet Abrams, Haydn's beautiful cantata Arianna a Naxos and excerpts of various sonatas and other solo piano music.

By Carolin Kopplin

The concert took place on 20th September 2016 at St. Paul's Church in Knightsbridge.

Running time: 2 hours including one interval.

Further information: http://mccaldinarts.com/

Photos provided by McCaldin Arts

Sep 10th

The American Wife at the Park Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

Julia Eringer in The American Wife, Park Theatre. Photo by Orlando James (2).jpg

Karen Ruiz (Julia Eringer)

All we care about is saving people from a very serious and imminent terrorist attack. Are you going to help your country or not?

When I returned to the U. S. after 9/11 the country had changed. There was paranoia in the air. People were led to believe that terrorists could hide anywhere - in NYC as well as in a barn in North Dakota. Therefore, restrictive laws and human rights violations became justifiable and accepted to protect American lives. The American Wife attempts to discuss some of these issues.

Karen Ruiz lives an idyllic life with husband Eduardo, a former Spanish football star, who now works as a soccer coach, and their two children. They are ready to move to Phoenix, AZ where Eduardo has been offered a job, when Eduardo suddenly disappears. Karen soon finds out that Eduardo has been arrested on terror charges by the American authorities. Advised by AP journalist Mark Loomis that her husband has been transferred to Afghanistan as an enemy detainee, Karen tries everything to see her husband released. Yet is the gentle Eduardo really the man she thinks he is?

Sanee Raval, Julia Eringer & Sophie Angelson (l-r) in The American Wife, Park Theatre. Photo by Orlando James.jpg

Eduardo Ruiz (Vidal Sancho) restrained by Egyptian soldiers (Sanee Raval and Sophie Angelson) 

Co-written by New York Times bestseller author Ralph Pezzullo and playwright Stephen Fife, American Wife is a failed attempt to deal with a very complex subject. Instead of a thoughtful play, they have produced a script for a cheap B movie with clichéd characters and a good deal of unhealthy nationalism and xenophobia that trivialises the problem of terrorism. The storyline is so preposterous that it might work as satire but hardly as a serious drama. 

Eduardo Ruiz (Vidal Sancho) an alleged "sleeper", supposedly committed terrorist acts whilst his Spanish team played away-games and he was laid up with a bad back - the matches "coincided" with terror attacks. No wonder his wife doubts the truth of this accusation. Karen (Julia Eringer) is understandably shocked about the way her husband is treated, especially because she considers him innocent and a patriotic American who has even painted the U. S. flag on his garage door. When she travels to Afghanistan, with the help of AP reporter Mark Loomis (George Taylor) who has some incredibly good connections, she is robbed, mugged, almost raped and ends up in prison. Thankfully, she lets the authorities know her nationality: "Please don't hurt me, I'm an American!" or worse things could happen as Afghanistan is obviously inhabited and ruled by thugs and thieves. The U. S. authorities are hostile too - she is almost shot in one instance - but these actions are justified because she is associated with an enemy detainee. After Eduardo is shipped off to Egypt, where he supposedly committed a terrorist attack, Karen is informed by the U. S. Ambassador (Mitchell Mullen) that "justice in Egypt is very different" before he picks up the phone to arrange an appointment with Dr Hassan (Emilio Doorgasingh), the man who has her husband tortured. The charismatic Dr Hassan immediately makes a pass at Karen and suggests a deal. However, in the end he does not use his powerful position to get what he wants. Instead he advises her: "Go home, pretty woman, and forget this piece of s***." It is surprising that the audience did not start giggling before the interval.

The actors have a difficult time working with a badly written, implausible script and some of the time I got the impression that they did not want to be on stage any more, which is understandable because their talent was wasted. The production itself is very cinematic and seems more like a TV show than a theatre play.

A disappointing production.

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 1st October 2016 at the Park Theatre

Venue: Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP 

Booking: www.parktheatre.co.uk / 020 7870 6876  

Running time: 2 hours including one interval.

Photographs by Orlando James.