Pride of the arts in Devizes, The Wharf Theatre say,“if you love the story of The Railway Children, first serialised in The London Magazine in 1905 and published as a book in 1906, before being made into the classic 1970 film; then we can assure you that the stage play will not disappoint.“
Being honest, it’s a story I’m unfamiliar with, believing, if memory serves me well, there was also a popular TV series of it in the early eighties, but at the time I was cosumed rather by Monkey Magic and The A-Team! I think today, though, I can look upon this with matured eyes and be equally as intrigued by its genius synopsis as those the Wharf deem “lovers” of the story.
Therefore, I’m pleased to highlight that they’re proud to present this renowned story of a prosperous Edwardian family from London, forced into near-penury in the rural north of England, after their Father is falsely imprisoned. Come and meet ‘Bobbie, Peter and Phyllis as they adapt to their new life in the cottage by the railway and join them as they meet someone who might just be able to help them get their happy ending.
Under Freddie Underwood’s direction, this stage adaptation perfectly captures the anxieties and exhilarations of childhood with great tenderness and insight. Adults and children will be enthralled by the heart-warming story and the clever use of imaginative theatricality. This is definitely one ‘not to be missed’…
Running from May 8th to May 13th 2023 @ 7.30pm. As you might predict, tickets are selling well on this already, so I encourage your urgency to snap up a seat.
Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street. For group bookings, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Again it was a real pleasure to bowl along to our town’s little theatre and to enjoy a wonderful opening night. The fare on offer was that Mr. Shakespeare’s tragi-comic offering Measure For Measure……
To be honest, it was (many) years since I’d last read or seen a performance of this often neglected play. It just doesn’t get wheeled out as often as those wonderful chaps Othello, Hamlet and Lear. I wonder why that is? Perhaps it’s because it doesn’t quite plumb the emotional and tragic depths in the same way as those giant figures? Or perhaps because it’s not as funny as the classic comedy capers we see in Midsummer Night’s Dream? Or maybe tragedy and comedy don’t mix together too well in the same play?
Notwithstanding these difficulties, Liz Sharman’s production made light of such concerns, and a competent and well-drilled cast delivered an excellent opening night performance to a near-full theatre. The themes of corrupt power, of vice vying with virtue, of hypocrisy and double dealing remain as a relevant commentary on the political events of today, to say nothing of the resonance of the #MeToo movement. In this case, of course, The Bard of Avon ensures that all is wrapped up well at the end, where deception is uncovered, virtue is rewarded and the criminals are punished. If only that happened so neatly in real life.
Using a sparse black set, a simple staircase and a gallery, and little in the way of props or scenery, the focus was very much on the words and the actions. The only real exception was the frequent use of cloaks and hoods, a necessary device given that the plot hinges on disguise and deception. Pete Wallis as Vincentio, Simon Carter as Angelo, Paul Snook as Lucio and Eleanor Smith as Isabella all delivered their leading roles with great aplomb, but they were just as ably supported by stalwarts of the Wharf Lewis Cowan. Oli Beech and Tor Burt. And it would be churlish not to mention the old “rude mechanicals”, Ian Diddams as the bawd Pompey and Lesley Scholes as the prostitute Mistress Overdone, whose exaggerated comic performances gave the show that comic lift that it occasionally needed. It was worth the entrance money alone to witness the bizarre shirts worn by Ian.
All in all, a great ensemble performance from faces both new and familiar. Well played!
The show runs until Saturday, so I urge you to go and see it. There are still just a few tickets left, available via The Wharf’s website.
Saturday April 1st, between 10am and 2pm The Wharf Theatre in Devizes are holding their second ever open day, it’s free and open to all. Whether you’ve been in the theatre before, or not, everyone is welcome to come and see what goes on at the Theatre and what goes into putting on a show…..
There will be a collection of costumes, and guided theatre tours – even to darkest depths of the Wharf visitors don’t usually see, like the tech box and green room.
An entirely free event which will be offering refreshments. If you’re interested in joining the theatre groups, either on the stage or behind the scenes, people will be on hand to chat about the various roles, but even if you fancy popping in for a cuppa and a look around, they’re welcome.
Publicity director Karen said, “following the lockdowns, when it looked for a while that we might not survive, we were saved with the help of the lovely local people who donated to our Just Giving Page, we would like to think that we are the little theatre who the town took to its heart and helped to save.”
Next show at The Wharf is hidden Shakespearean gem, Measure for Measure, running from March 27th to the open day on April 1st. See our preview here.
February, not hotting up much temperature-wise, nevertheless plenty of stuff going on across the county and beyond; here’s what we’ve found to satisfy your soul this week….
You know the score, no links here, find them on our event calendar – something you need to keep an eye on as it has been known to get updated from time to time! If we missed anything you told me about, I apologise, let me know and I can add it. If I missed anything you failed to tell me about, that’s your own lookout, but still, if you’re nice I might add it, but it will cost you a cupcake.
Let’s not mess about, Wednesday 8th sees the regular acoustic jam at the Southgate, Devizes, an over 60s event at The Neeld, Chippenham, Macie J Kulakowski at the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon, Chris McCausland’s Speaky Blinder at Komedia, Bath, and a folk open mic at Brown Street, Salisbury.
On Thursday 9th we welcome back Devizes Film Club, who are setting up camp at The Wharf Theatre, tickets for the film, Minari have sold out, please note upcoming screenings, here.
Pound Arts in Corsham have a triple bill of folk, Flo Perlin, Daisy Chute and Fern Maddie.
The Tuppenny, Swindon, have one on my hitlist, Canute’s Plastic Army, with the wonderful Harmony Asia in support.
Phil Beer plays Chapel Arts, Bath, and Terence Blacker presents The Shock of the Old at Rondo Theatre.
Opening night for How The Other Half Loves at Salisbury Playhouse, running until 4th March.
Friday 10th sees the acoustic folk-indie project of now London-based but former Devizes resident Neil Phillimore, Brave New Broken Hearts Club come to St Johns in Devizes for a one-off gig with London folk poet-singer Pearl Fish. Previewed Here.
Upcoming bands battle it out for heat two of Take the Stage 2023 at The Neeld, Chippenham.
The Corsairs play The Bear in Marlborough.
Emily Breeze plays the Pump in Trowbridge for Sheer Music. You need to get in quick on any events at the Pump, they will sell out before you know what’s-what!
Guitar enthusiasts head for Swindon Arts Centre for a show celebrating 50 Years of Fender, while The Shudders play The Vic, with Celtic folkers Liddington Hill and Death is a Girl.
Aaron Azunda Akugbo plays Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon, Sara Pascoe appears at Bath Forum, while there’s a free indoor fest at Komedia, featuring Year of the Dog, Nookee, Drop in the Ocean, Ryan D’Auria and Bohosapiens, and at the Rondo Theatre there’s a play called Thirst, running over the weekend.
Jolyon Dixson & Steele play The Royal George in Salisbury, Break Cover are at Brown Street, and Jarlath Regan and Garrett Millerick’s Work in Progress at Salisbury Arts Centre.
Henge at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Start your Saturday 11th with some deliberation, as the Devizes Town Council Roadshow meets at The Market Place, 10am-1pm! In the evening, find Ben Borrill at The Three Crowns, and Junkyard Dogs at The Southgate.
Big Mama’s Banned play the Pilot, Melksham, Be Like Will play The Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, while The Worried Men are at the Pump.
Dave B & The Bop Won’t Stop presents The Ultimate Shakin’ Stevens Tribute at Chapel Arts, Bath, and there’s a West End Winter Show at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon.
If that’s not enough difficult decisions already, Don Letts is guest at The Cheese & Grain in Frome, as the Dub Pistols headline.
Find Six O’clock Circus at The Phoenix in Wotton Bassett, Thickcut play The Swiss Chalet in Swindon, and Bella Notte features Bel Canto, Belle Voci and Bella Musica in an evening of songs from shows and popular music in Everybody Sing at Swindon Arts Centre.
However, Editor’s Pick of Week will see us trek to Swindon, unless a serious hurricane-blizzard-tornado hits, where Adam Ant tribute Ant Trouble play the Vic. If you want a lift from Devizes, give me a shout, but you’ll have to help with my war-paint! I’ve been looking forward to this for ages, rekindling my youth with some ant music… we are the family!
Sunday 12thsees Bee-Gees tribute Jive Talkin at the Wyvern, while Tom Stade takes The High Road at Swindon Arts Centre.
Phil Cooper is live in Session at The Electric Bar, at Komedia in Bath, while comedian Lloyd Griffith’s One Tonne of Fun play the main hall. Eliza Carthy & The Restitution’s 30th Anniversary tour comes to the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon.
On Monday 13th Strictly Come Dancing champion Giovanni Pernice invites you to join him on a journey to his homeland for his production of Made in Italy at the Wyvern, Swindon.
Tuesday 14th sees The Classic Rock Show at the Wyvern, Swindon. Bath Phil & Jeneba Kanneh-Mason at Bath Forum and Future Cavemen at Komedia.
Into The Future…..
That’s all for this week folks, should be something to please everyone there, I think, but nothing will beat some kings of the wild frontier in my honest opinion!
Do scroll through the event calendar, some things you should take note of; Devizes Winter of Festival Ales is near-sold out, you best hurry. Seend Community Centre sees it 43rd village pantomime, The Princess & The Frog start on Thursday 16th and runs the Friday and Saturday.
Friday 17th in Frome, though, with birthday boy Ruzz Guitar at The Cheese & Grain, featuring The Real John Lewis and Peter Gage, and over the road, The Lost Trades play The Treehouse; wowzers! Talking of birthdays and Ruzz, don’t forget, Devizes people, not only is Ruzz playing his own birthday, he’s playing mine too! All welcome on March 4th to the Three Crowns where we’ll have a daytime open mic, the fantabulous Talk In Code will playing too and you can laugh at me reaching the half-century mark.
Spoiled for choice in Devizes on Saturday 18th, Thin Lizzy founder and guitarist Eric Bell arrives at Long Street Blues Club, head-to-head with Devizes Festival of Winter Ales, fantastic improv comedy with Instant Wit at The Wharf Theatre; decisions, decisions, but you need to make your mind up and get tickets, though if you fail, Black Nasty is at our trusty Southgate.
Thank the heavens we can kick January out of the door! It’s been a warmer week though, hasn’t it? Still wouldn’t reach for the Hawaiian shirts and straw sunhats just yet. The weather is a tease, loves to give you a taster of the potential of the coming season, then reverts without warning or the slightest concern that you risked lobbing your thermal long-johns in the wash!
Some people prefer winter though, apparently; weirdos! Here’s what we’ve found to do in Wiltshire for the rest of us; hermits stay in, covered in blankets, re-watching Wednesday and praying into a bag of cheesy puffs for season two! Get a life, Wiltshire is not a cultureless void, see below if you don’t believe me!
Links and details can be found on our event calendar: here. Just takes ages adding them in here a second time; ain’t nobody got time f’ dat!
Ladies Day continues at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes until Saturday 4th all sold out now, but the next production hosts improvised comedy Instant Wit, for one day and that day being 18th February. Not forgoing the welcome return of Devizes Film Club showing the 2020 film Minari, about a Korean-American family moving from California to a remote Arkansas farm in search of their own American dream. That is on Friday 9th February.
Pinch, punch, Wednesday 1st February it will be then, and Trowbridge’s Pump celebrates Independent Venue Week with The Howlers, Langkamer and Mumble Tide.
Regular acoustic jam at The Southgate, Devizes.
Seventh Avenue Arts presents Simon & Garfunkel Through the Years at Pound Arts, Corsham. Danny Baker’s Sausage Sandwich Tour comes the Wyvern, Swindon.
The Greatest Magician continues until 4th at Rondo Theatre, Bath, and staying in Bath, Monkey Bizzle meets The Scribes Komedia, Flats & Sharp at Chapel Arts, and Junior Bill at The Bell.
Thursday 2ndQuiz Night at The Devizes Literary & Scientific Institute in aid of Devizes & District Food Bank by Devizes Labour Party.
Moon plays The Vic in Swindon, Truck at The Tuppenny. Ben Portsmouth’s This is Elvis 2023 Tour at the Wyvern, and Limehouse Lizzy at Swindon Arts Centre.
Brennan Reece’s Crowded come to Rondo Theatre, Bath, and for music, find Del Barber & Band at Chapel Arts.
Still Moving DJs at Salisbury Arts Centre, Open Mic at The Winchester Gate, and Jamie Lingham’s regular From The Book at Brown Street, Salisbury.
Friday 3rdand it’s Potterne Cricket Club’s Quiz Night at Potterne Village Hall.
While revellers descend on Weston-Super-Mare for the Incider Festival, Jaz Delorean is at The Pump, Trowbridge, but I believe is near sold out, you’ll need to be quick, or own a time machine for this one!
A new regular feature at The Barge on Honey Street, open mic session continues Friday.
Sophie Duker’s Hag at Pound Arts, Corsham, Phoenix Dance Presents ‘We Are Connected’ at The Neeld, Chippenham.
In the top three flamenco guitarists in the world, Juan Martin is at Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford-on-Avon, Malaya Blue Band at Chapel Arts in Bath, some Impromptu Shakespeare at Rondo Theatre, and David O’Doherty’s Whoa is Me at Komedia.
Wow; Fairport Convention play the Wyvern in Swindon, with Lucy Porter’s Wake Up Call at Swindon Arts Centre. Dohny Jep headlines a triple at The Vic, with Nervendings and Riviera Arcade.
Cressers Last Stand’s The Growing up Tour at Brown Street, Salisbury, while The Jonny Phillips Trio play the Winchester Gate.
Saturday 4th, The Shudders come to The Southgate, Devizes, (Update: The Shudders can’t make it on Saturday. To the rescue, they have laid back dude Grizzly Rhys Morgan at The Southgate instead,)while Devizes Scooter Club hold a Back to the 80’s Party at The Cavalier. But the concentration in Devizes should focus on The Corn Exchange, where we are thinking green. Make a hot-water bottle at Devizes Library during the day, and bring it to the Wiltshire Climate Alliance fundraiser with Seize the Day; preview here.Editor’s Pick of the week? Could be!
Damm! play The Bear, Marlborough, meanwhile it will be Vyv & Jackie’s farewell at The Lamb, after over an incredible 43 years they’re retiring and we wish them all the very best. A solemn occasion it refuses to be, as Pants will out! If you don’t know what that means, I suggest you read undoubtedly the funniest interview we’ve ever done, with Pants, last week. Got to be Editor’s Pick of The Week, if Seize the Day is too, I can’t decide this week!
Phoenix Dance presents a second night of ‘We Are Connected’ at The Neeld, Chippenham.
Still Marillion play The Vic, Swindon, with One Chord Wonders at the Queens Tap, The Bellflowers at The Tuppenny, Homer at The Swiss Chalet, and Six O’clock Circus at Coleview Centre. Troy Hawke’s Sigmund Troy’d at the Wyvern, and Paul Foot at Swindon Arts Centre.
Stray Dogs will be ‘Unleashed’ for a Charity Gig for The Music Man Project at Burdall’s Yard, Bradford-on-Avon.
The Roy Orbison Experience at Chapel Arts, Bath, with Akasha at The Bell.
From 11am, Drag Queen Story Time at The Winchester Gate, while the evening in Salisbury gets punked, with Carsick headlining at foursome at Brown Street with Who Ate All the Crayons, Lucky Number Seven, and Seaside Glamour.
Staying punk, The Cheese & Grain hosts the Frome Punk Fest.
Sunday 5th and if you’ve achieved nothing over the weekend all is not lost, the monthly Jon Amor Trio residency at The Southgate, Devizes at around about 5pm, with guest Thomas Atlas.
Also, Julian Gaskell & His Ragged Trousered Philanthropists are at The Bell, Bath, while Stephen Lynch’s The Time Machine Tour arrives at Komedia.
The Psychology of Serial Killers at the Wyvern, Swindon, wraps up our weekend, but do keep a check on the calendar, for updates and planning.
Monday is Monday, not a lot going on. Do a jigsaw puzzle or something.
Tuesday 7this the Wyvern Theatre Swap Shop at the Wyvern in Swindon, Randy Feltface’s Feltopia at Komedia, Bath, and Wiltshire College FE Student Showcase Samphire at Salisbury Playhouse.
Have a great week, behave yourself, within reason, and don’t forget to keep up-to-date with our calendar, for next week sees aforementioned return of Devizes Film Club, now based at The Wharf Theatre, a triple bill of folk at Pound Arts, Canute’s Plastic Army & Harmony Asia at The Tuppenny, Swindon, Emily Breeze at the Pump, the second stage of Take the Stage 2023 at The Neeld, in which we wish Nothing Rhymes with Orange the best of luck, 50 Years of Fender at Swindon Arts Centre, Ben Borrill at The Three Crowns, Devizes with Junkyard Dogs at The Southgate, and Big Mama’s Banned at the Pilot, Melksham, Adam Ant tribute Ant Trouble at the Vic, the Dub Pistols with Don Letts The Cheese & Grain, Frome, and so much more!
Trust other websites or Facebook pages with what’s to do and you’ll miss truckloads; Devizine is the only one around these darkened backwaters to collate them all; give the man a Twix.
A wet and windy Halloween night was quite an odd elemental preparation for going to see this atmospheric play. Set in the wide-open spaces and searing heat of 1900 Southern Australia, the tight confines of our lovely little Wharf Theatre seemed as if it would present a stretch of the imagination just a step too far. But not a bit of it, and Director Debby Wilkinson had done a marvellous job in transforming the obvious physical limitations of a small stage into a much bigger canvas.
The plot of this mystery tale, rumoured to be loosely based on real events, is initially quite straightforward. On St Valentine’s Day in 1900, a group of schoolgirls from Appleyard College set out for a picnic at Hanging Rock, a volcanic beauty spot in rural Victoria. After their picnic, a group of the girls climb into the blaze of the afternoon sun. But their idyllic day turns to tragedy as three of their number inexplicably vanish, never to be seen again. The complexities then arise. Despite extensive searching, no bodies are found. Questions begin to be asked, and the answers are rarely forthcoming. Back-stories and under-currents are discovered. Memories differ. Uncertainly prevails. We begin to understand that, in fact, there are many things that we do not understand.
Using just five female actors to both narrate and to act out the story, there is little room for manoeuvre. We are compelled to use our own imaginations to fill in many of the blanks. The bare, stripped-back set, and the use of virtually no props, only serves to reinforce the bleakness and emptiness of the rough landscape. We are taken through the disappearance and its aftermath, its many layers of uncertainty and a whole range of contrasts – truth and lies, light and dark, dreams and nightmares, the real and the imaginary, and the unsettling way in which facts seem to simply dissolve into nothingness. The open-ness of the great outdoors is set against the stifling atmosphere of the school, and the claustrophobia of the rules of genteel society.
This was a wonderful cast. There were five very strong, word-perfect performances from Helen Langford, Imogen Riley, Louise Peak, Lucy Upward and Cassidy Hill. Their pace and movement around the stage, as one role melted into another, was confident and assured. Their ability to switch genders, voices, tones and attitudes was excellent. Without apparent effort, they immersed you in both the story itself and into the motives and feelings of the different characters. Totally convincing and professional throughout. Top work.
The adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s original 1967 novel by Tom Wright is a tautly pared-back affair, yet there is no loss of poetic and lyrical language. Previous film and TV adaptations have had the luxury of using the great Australian landscape as their background, but here it all had to be in the language and the acting. And the five actors absolutely nailed it. The sense of mystery was never lost, and the audience were bound in.
This is exactly the sort of production that the Wharf excels at. The stage and the arena are, by many standards, very small. There’s always going to be a skill in selecting the right productions and using the best directors to make the best of these limitations. Picnic At Hanging Rock is absolutely one of those productions. Please go and see it. This production is excellent and fully deserves your support – you won’t be disappointed! The production runs from tonight (Tuesday) through to Saturday 5th November at 7.30pm each evening. Book your tickets HERE
Future productions at The Wharf Theatre:
Mon 14th – Sat 19th Sept TITCo Evening of Musical Theatre
Here’s our weekly summary of things to do over the coming week. It saves you surfing every individual event calendar, and saves me waffling on about some unrelated rubbish, which I admit I have a tendency to do, but in the words of the great philosopher, KC, and, of course, his Sunshine Band; that’s the way, uh-huh uh-huh, I like it…… oh, I’m doing it again aren’t I?!
Onwards, not forgetting further details and links can be found on our event calendar, it’s too time consuming adding them a second time, and besides, there you can scroll away until your heart’s content, planning future weekends.
Best way to kick off live music early is Swindon’s experimental dub duo, Subject A, are at The Bell on Walcott Street, Bath, on Wednesday 19th; consider it highly recommended. Meanwhile, Beth Nielsen Chapman plays The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Thursday 20th sees a Very Hungry Caterpillar, on show at Neeld Hall, Chippenham.
Mr Love & Justice are at The Beehive, Swindon, Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage at Chapel Arts, Bath. But the link to Faustus at Salisbury Arts Centre seems to be broken, unsure if that’s still going ahead.
Friday 21st and Trowbridge’s Pump is the place to be, Matt Owens of Noah & The Whale headlines, with the amazing Concrete Prairie in support.
The magical Lady Nade plays Pound Arts, Corsham, The Little Unsaid at Chapel Arts, Bath.
Hatepenny at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon, The Reservoir Hogs at The Old Ham Tree, Holt. And in Marlborough you’ll find @59 at The Wellington, and the incredibly good fun, Dr Zebos Wheezy Club at The Bear.
That just leaves me with the tributes, Queen tribute, Majesty at Melksham Assembly Hall, while Fleetwood Bac are at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Devizes, I have got nothing at all for this Friday, unless you know different? When near-on every known pub in town put live music on last Friday night, with a guaranteed crowd-puller from Longcroft at the Corn Exchange too! This town isn’t a competition, guys, please try to coordinate, through us, if you like, but it works better for you all if we do. Rant over!
Swiftly onto Saturday 22nd, it’s Trowbridge Carnival, plus Lego Club at Chippenham Museum, free and at 3-4pm every Saturday; everything is awesome!
There’s an evening of Irish classics with Asa Murphy and Shenanigans at the Devizes Corn Exchange, and the unmissable Eddie Martin Band is back for some blues at The Southgate.
Daz n Chave at Neeld Community & Arts Centre, Chippenham sounds a laugh, and there’s a Melksham Rock n Roll Club dance this week, with Glenn Darren & The Krewkats.
Full-Tone Orchestra presents their Symphonie Fantastique at Marlborough College, and if you check the quote on the poster, yes, I said that! It’s always nice to be quoted, on the rare occasion I say something nice, that is!
Sheer are down the Trowbridge Town Hall, putting on Lucky Number 7 and the Lindup Brothers, with promising local teen band Boston Green in support. Meanwhile The Forgetting Curve play The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon. A tribute to Pearl Jam at The Vic, Swindon, Earl Ham, and Tundra plays The Woodland’s Edge.
But if you want to boss the night away with some serious skanking, I cannot recommend Bristol’s legendary ska and reggae skinhead, Ya Freshness, of Strictly Rockers Records enough, who is with his Big Boss Band at Odd Down Football Club in Bath. Fiver a shot for a cracking knees up. In fact, what the heck, let’s make this one Editor’s Pick of The Week!
For a mellower experience in Bath, try The Tom Petty Legacy at Chapel Arts.
The Grief Opera, Love Goes On at St Andrew’s, Chippenham, Shift Social presents I Was Born in the Wrong Decade at Salisbury Arts Centre, and a Vintage Bazaar is followed by Moments of Pleasure, The Music of Kate Bush, at The Cheese & Grain, Frome.
Halloween Scavenger Hunt at Hillworth Park on Sunday 23rd October, PSG Choir hold an autumn concert at Devizes Town Hall, and the Chas Thorogood Trio play an afternoon session at the Southgate.
Kavus Torabi, Richard Wileman & Amy Fry at The Vic, Swindon, Richard and Amy appear on our Julia’s House compilation album, show them your support if possible. Always in for a great night with the Joh Amor Band, who play The Three Horseshoes, Bradford-on-Avon. And oh, CSF wrestling at the Cheese & Grain finishes our weekend off.
Got nothing through the weekdays I’m afraid, but lots of updating to the calendar still to do, so check in from time to time. That is, of course, until Wednesday, the 26th, when White Horse Opera presents L’elisir D’amore at Lavington School, which is running until 29th October, and also running on the same dates, Female Transport at the Rondo Theatre, Bath.
Opening on Halloween and ending on Guy Fawkes Night, the next production at Devizes Wharf Theatre promises to be a mysteriously eerie….
Written by Joan Lindsay adapted by Tom Wright and directed by Debby Wilkinson, Picnic at Hanging Rock takes place on St Valentine’s Day in 1900, when a group of schoolgirls from Appleyard College set out for a picnic at Hanging Rock, a volcanic beauty spot in rural Victoria, Australia.
After lunch some of them climb into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of the rock. However, their idyllic day turns into a nightmare when three of their number inexplicably vanish, never to be seen again.
The question remains and intrigues audiences to this day – is the plot an eerie re-telling of a real event? ‘Hanging Rock’ exists, as do the surrounding towns mentioned; the boarding school is loosely based on Clyde Girls’ Grammar School in Melbourne, which the author attended and there was reportedly a case of two girls who went missing in the 1800’s. Or could it be that the author simply dreamt the plot, as she once said? Shrouded in mystery Picnic at Hanging Rock remains a firm favourite with film and theatre audiences alike.
In this Wharf production five female narrators perform all parts and recount the mystery of the disappearance and looming hysteria as the illusion of genteel society is torn apart. Tom Wright’s adaptation pares down the events and uses evocative and poetic language to create an edgy and mysterious play and Debby Wilkinson’s incredibly strong cast bring a wealth of experience and talent.
Home after previewing a dress rehearsal at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes last night, I kissed my wife goodnight. She didn’t understand the relevance, but Henrik Ibsen’s magnum opus, Hedda Gabler is one seriously thought-provoking play……
They didn’t have Billy Joel’s doo-wop fad in nineteenth century Norway, see, otherwise the protagonist’s husband, George Tesman could’ve benefitted by taking heed of the lyrics of Tell Her About It, such as the line “let her know how much she means.”
Whereas it’s typical for a fellow to be wilfully pig ignorant in taking their partner for granted, George, played impeccably by Chris Smith, is seemingly oblivious of his psychological man-shed. In modern terminology one might suggest he’s on the autistic spectrum, but definitely, this academic lacks common sense over a work obsession. This is expressed rather amusingly in the opening scene with the assertive “Aunt Ju-Ju,” grandly represented by Jessica Bone.
She interrogates him in pompous nineteenth century mannerisms, in the hope of gaining some pregnancy gossip, but poor old George just doesn’t take the hint any more than Frank Spencer.
Seems he proudly spent his lengthy honeymoon researching for his new book, much to the dismay and rancour of his rather stubborn wife, Hedda, who, longing for a spirit of adventure and drama, finds herself feeling trapped, lonesome and unloved; it’d be an epic fail for Match.com!
Together, her frustrations and his nescient glee, combined with four other exceptionally well-defined characters, twists the kind narrative Ricky Gervais needs to be taking notes from. Character-driven, elements might feel comical at first, but subtle black humour is gradually collapsing into tragedy; such the reason you’ll come away from it realising its stroke of genius.
A feminine Hamlet, perhaps, as the plot thickens to a dramatic climax, but I’ll relax my waffling for fear of spoilers. Though if the plot relies on conflicting characters, this wasn’t the case behind the scenes. Director, Lewis Cowen delighted to tell me the casting immediately fell into place effectively, and indeed this convincing team bounce of each other so well it’d be impossible to extract their real personalities. There’s no way I’m going to attempt to obtain trigger-happy lead role Ange Davis’s phone number, for instance, not after witnessing her sublime expressions of bitterness and contempt for her fellow characters! Her second stint at the Wharf Theatre after appearing in Revlon Girl in March; in layman’s terms, Ange takes on the protagonist roll like a boss.
Pete Wallis wonderfully plays the woeful Eilert Lövborg expressively, personifying the bleeding heart of the artist. With his heart on his sleeve and love for the bottle, he’s easily convinced, but the kingpin to George’s jealousy.
The weak and diffident Thea Elvsted is played to perfection by Anna McGrail, her despair at her broken marriage is paramount to yield Hedda’s vengeance and bullying nature.
Undoubtedly housemaid Bertha, acted subtly but professionally clownish by Merrily Powell, retains the comedy noir while it spirals into tragedy, via her shocked expressions, omniscience but knowing her place to remain silent.
The unscrupulous and advantageous persona of Judge Brack, played sternly by Rob Gill, pitches him as the dark horse, the archetypal baddie, if there has to be one. Rather the depth of all the characters, needy or lusting after Hedda in their own way, here shows far more layers to them then the typically flatness of the Hollywood template.
For if said template is becoming tiresome for you, you know the sort; a couple or amount of people with conflicting personalities come together with an abhorrence of each other but thrust unwillingly into a set of circumstances find mutual ground and befriend with a happy ending, perhaps you should grab up a ticket for Hedda Gabler, running at the Wharf Theatre from the 19th to the 24th September. Because if the cliche template is a reversible jumper, akin to classics such as Easy Rider or Quadrophenia, this intelligently crafted dark play turns it inside out.
I mean, I’m no theatrical critic, just know what I like, but if the hospitable and non-pretentious Wharf Theatre welcome me to assess such quality productions as this, on our doorstep, I’m game!
If opposites attract, love is calmly discussing and accepting your differences, but the escape clause wasn’t so simple in days of yore, and in the confines of the era’s strict conducts, a terrible entrapment can twist a person; that’s the contemplation I took away with me after this engaging and quality production; go see for yourself.
The wonderful Wharf Theatre in Devizes is reopening this month for a new autumn-winter season; I know, don’t say “winter,” not yet!
Hedda Gabler is the first production, running from 19th to 24th September. It’s written by Henrik Ibsen with a translation by Michael Meyer. The Wharf’s chief director, Lewis Cowen is on this one, and it’s the second work of Henrik Ibsen to be performed at our trusty theatre.
In 2007 The Wharf Theatre staged an adaptation of the highly successful ‘A Doll’s House’ by acclaimed Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. They are now delighted to introduce, perhaps, his greatest work, Hedda Gabler.
Having its world premiere, in Germany 1891, the play initially opened to mixed reviews however, a more sympathetic, naturalistic London production three months later was a triumph. Now considered a masterpiece within the genres of literary realism and 19th century drama it is rarely out of the repertoire of the great theatre companies of the world.
The title character herself remains one of the greatest female dramatic roles and has been portrayed by some of the biggest names in theatre and film, including Ingrid Bergman, Peggy Ashcroft, Dianna Rigg, Geraldine James and, more recently, Sheridan Smith.
Sometimes described as a female version of Hamlet, Hedda is a character firmly set against the backdrop of the Victorian era when women could only achieve success vicariously through the men in their lives. The daughter of a General and national hero, Hedda idolises her Father but harbours her own political ambitions. She attempts to achieve these by influencing firstly her husband and later an admirer
A drama which starts quietly and humorously gradually builds to a riveting and terrifying climax.
Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street……and don’t forget to follow them on Instagram and Twitter
“It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood.” So says Macbeth to Lady Macbeth following his vision of Banquo’s ghost….
And audiences at the Rondo Theatre Company’s performances of the titular show last week were not deprived of that substance. From slit throats, gory locks and shirts, to bloodied faces, neckerchiefs and a finale of a trail of blood as Macbeth’s body is unceremoniously dragged from his home, there was no letting up of the blood (pun intended) throughout the riveting two hours of the show.
Directors Matt Nation and Will Jesmond de Clermont’s vision of a 1920s London organised crime gang setting delivered – Peaky Blinders meets William Shakespeare with a gritty, no holds barred presentation of violence inherent in the struggles for supremacy, whether over rival gangs, traitorous turncoats or internal seizure of power and the retributions to maintain power. But this was no pastiche of Tommy Shelby and Co. – this was full Shakespearian tragedy brought into the 20th century brilliantly. Chrissy Fryer’s costumery sublimely captured the era with tweeds, caps, flapper dresses and the ubiquitous used of orange gang colours throughout as neckers, ties, hair ribbons and pocket handkerchief. And no more so that the thoroughly perfect witches, played by Sophie Kerr, Tasha Bye and Anna McGrail, as drug addled opium den management resplendent in flapper dresses, overseen by the powerful Maria Finlay as Hecate.
Set design was simplistically excellent. Duncan’s gangland headquarters a timber merchants’ front – the Birnam Wood Co. of course – and a gauze separated backstage area for the opium den. Which brings further praise for the lighting from Andy Cork, with the dark, sombre mood of the play enhanced by subtle changes… accompanied by the brightness of the opium den to display the rich colours of the silks and drapes therein.
And so to the rest of the cast. Not a single weak member – all thoroughly convincing and believable, fronted by the perfect pairing as Sam Fynn as Macbeth, and Alice Grace as his scheming, power hungry wife. We all looked to the lady as she ensnared her uncertain husband, then dealt with the lecherous and seedy Duncan in turn and tidied up the mess left by Macbeth. Sam Fynn portrayed the slide into madness perfectly as his world collapsed around him, culminating in his torment when Lady M kills herself. I challenge anyone to find a more harrowing depiction of these power crazed lovers, one coldly calculating, the other increasingly crazed.
Rob Finlay played the jovial Banquo who realises oh too late that he is on the hitlist, then the battle hardened and focussed Siward – once he had shaken his gory locks and broken the good mirth at the banquet of course. Maria Finlay as well as Hecate provided wonderful comic relief as the porter cum cleaner – and invented a whole new scene as an epilogue swabbing the floor of Macbeth’s blood. To complete the family set, Freddie Finlay in classic casting style played Fleance, Banquo’s son, as a no mean wielder of a razor himself.
More double up casting saw Steve Brookes as the contemplative, pipe smoking Menteith and a murderer, enacting Macbeth’s violent requests with his fellow despatcher, Ian Diddams. Praise is needed here especially – the fight scene between these two, Banquo and Fleance left no holds barred with stabbings, slicing, punches, and the razored throat cutting. As well as murdering at the drop of a surly hat, Ian Diddams opened the play as Duncan – far from the oft played kindly benevolent leader, this was a nasty, lecherous characterisation fully deserving of losing his life – and fully fitting the gritty vision of the directors.
Thence to Ross, played by Becky Waters, and Lennox , Natalie Prescott, two increasingly disillusioned gang members, And Jack Strawbridge as Malcom, whose journey moved from uncertain, shy son of Duncan to assertive, and even nastier eventual victor, his metamorphosis highlighted by the wash of red light in his victory speech… all that was needed was unfurled swastikas to finalise the image portrayed. Lady Macbeth’s doctor was elegantly and eloquently portrayed by Julia Marshall-Wessendorf… all crisp and professional demeanour, not totally supressing the disquiet and concern beneath. Two further younger cast members joined Freddie Finlay in the show also – Dilan Minto as the brave but doomed Young Siward, hatred for Macbeth pouring from his every pore, and Scarlett Nation, the youngest cast member effortlessly working her way through servant, messenger and slaughtered pretty chicken of Macduff.
And speaking of Macduff… Lucy Upward played the angry Lady MacDuff, remonstrating against the ills of the world as an abandoned wife… and screaming her way to her death before brilliantly appearing as a west country maid to the Lady of the house. Which leaves the hero of the hour… MacDuff himself, silkily played by Chris Constantine exacting revenge for his family’s slaughter by seeing off the chief protagonist in a slashed throat and streak of blood left on set.
Two hours of non stop action delivered at a frenetic pace. Two hours of truly class acting and technical presentation – the piece de resistance being the genius portrayal of Banquo’s lineage of kings presented to Macbeth by the witches. And this is “amateur” theatre – some bloody amateur production that was I say (NOT!) … and bloody they were indeed by the end.
“It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood.”
A historic Devizes church will host a professional theatre company later this month as it performs a play that shines a light on the realities facing children in the care system in Britain today……
My Place is a powerful and moving evening of theatre and conversation, telling the interwoven stories of children – an individual, a sibling group and a refugee – as they journey through the care system.
As part of its 8 week nationwide tour, My Place is coming to St Mary’s Church on New Park Street in Devizes on Sunday 26th June at 7.30 pm.
The evening will combine a performance of My Place with an opportunity to hear about the national fostering and adoption charity Home for Good and how each of us can play our part in transforming the lives of vulnerable children and young people.
WHAT’S THE STORY OF MY PLACE?
Both entertaining and thought-provoking, My Place follows the stories of four children in care, an individual child, a pair of siblings and an unaccompanied child refugee. They have different backgrounds and journeys, brought to life through a range of colourful story-telling techniques, including song and spoken word. Each story highlights the need for all vulnerable children to have a safe, stable and loving home where they can thrive.
Home for Good is a charity that exists to find a home for every child who needs one. We hope to inspire and equip people to open their homes to children and teenagers through fostering, adoption and supported lodgings. We resource churches to be a welcoming and supportive community for families who care for vulnerable children and advocate on their behalf at all levels of government.
WHO IS THIS EVENT FOR?
Everyone! Any individual who cares about children, has a passion for justice and compassion for our society’s most vulnerable would be inspired by this event. We hope that many people will gain a better understanding of the experience of young refugees and children in care. The play is suitable for teenagers and adults but not recommended for younger children.
For personal reasons Strong Lady Charmaine Childs was unable to perform her show, Power at the DOCA Street Festival this year, but came to visit Devizes as a one-off separate show in St Andrew’s Church yesterday, and it was as advertised, inspiring……
I can stagger home from a music gig already with an oven-baked opinion, and have a broad idea of what to write about it. It may take serious grammar corrections if I do jot intoxicated notes down, but the basis is there. Whereas in, as what was essentially street theatre, it takes a little time and reflection for what I just witnessed to fully sink in; that’s certainly the case with Power.
Often the fascinating world of street theatre DOCA artistic director Loz Samuels brings to us is abstract, provocative, and most importantly for our market town, completely off the wall. A Strong-Lady conjures ideas of circus, of ta-da-da…and-for-my-next-trick-type acts, of which Charmaine was keen to elucidate the roots of her talent lie there. But this was different, this was theatre, and it had an enthralling narrative.
There was no big top, crazy clown costumes, blinding stage lights, in-your-face effects, and shows of acrobatic talent were minimal, in context. There was only, at first what might appear somewhat disappointing to those in want of dazzling mainstream spectacles, just a fortysomething Australian lady in gym shorts and vest carry two tote bags of house-bricks.
I mean, yeah, props expanded to some books, planks and two wallpaper stands, but that was all you were getting. Yet, through charisma, magnetism and skill she weaved an autobiographical tapestry with audio excerpts taken from other’s personal reflections on the subject of times they felt, or didn’t feel powerful, of which she had collected on her journey, and visually created an act of tragedy, comedy, and thoughtful prose which was itself, powerful.
If there were feminine connotations, they were subtle, the message was neutral on every level, open to all. The idea we all have it within ourselves to overcome mental obstacles and have the power to continue, was prominent, though other angles like attaining power through success was touched upon, as Charmaine opened up her story, and related the recorded ones accordingly. And for the times when she did perform acts of strength and agility, they were backed with reason and relation to the monologue. She is one strong lady indeedy, yet while there was wasn’t the crowd counting along and drum rolls, these shows of strength were incorporated in such a way as not only to impress, but to provoke an emotion; there is no circus act which does this.
It was indeed something entirely different, and unable to pigeonhole, and for that alone, deserves recognition and commendation. The result was apparently, to leave the audience “energised and hopeful,” and it was indeed a positive catalyst, but more so, it was inspirational, conjuring your own stories of times you were powerful. I reminisced upon two occasions immediately afterwards, and while I could reveal them in interminable yarns, I think you’d rather me get directly to the point. You don’t want me to get all Uncle Albert on you, not on a Friday at any rate!
Needless to say, the stories differ in two basic elements, one was a time when due to a personal tragedy I had to undertake tasks I’d rather have not, nor ever expected I’d need to, whilst retaining a plastic smile, and it was, I guess, the power in me and my love for that person, to have managed. The other is less abstract and more physical, but I did once, in my younger years have one of these massive super-heroics shows of ability, accomplishing a feat I’d never even contemplate attempting, if it hadn’t been for the fact if I didn’t, I could’ve died. Now I know, if you know me, you’re thinking, na, mate, get out of town, but it is true. Now I find myself contemplating which one was more relevant to Power, which show of power was the Strong Lady getting at, mental, physical, or both? But it doesn’t matter, what matters is it got the cogs revolving, it got me mulling it over, and in turn, it evoked personal reflection in its narrative; hence I rightfully call it inspiring.
Charmaine Childs is a Strong Lady touring internationally as an independent artist since 2002. She trained in theatre at university, before focusing on outdoor arts festivals and circus/variety shows; if you get the opportunity to see this show, don’t argue with a strong lady, just go!
Been a while since I’d been to our town’s lovely little theatre, and it was a joy to go back again.…..
The occasion was the staging of Abi Morgan’s “Lovesong”. Now I happen to be a fan of Abi Morgan’s writing, and anyone who watched the recent BBC1 three-series drama “The Split” will know exactly what I’m on about. Her catalogue of work in TV, film and live theatre has won plenty of much-deserved critical acclaim. Accordingly, I was very much looking forward to this production, about which I’d heard many positive comments (and which we briefly previewed here at Devizine recently).
The play, directed by the talented Freddie Underwood, no stranger to Wharf productions for a few years now, is a tight emotional drama. Starring only four actors – Imogen Riley, Adam Ball, John Winterton and Tor Burt – “Lovesong” tells the story of one couple from two different points in their lives, both as young lovers in their 20s, and as older companions looking back on their lives. Their relationship is reviewed by their past and present selves, blending youthful yearning and optimism with more worldly experience. The start of a youthful relationship blends with an impending death.
I found the production quite mesmerising, captured by the verbal and physical choreography of the piece. The tactile interactions of the two couples (being really the same couple) was offset by their inability to talk to their future or past selves, only their contemporaneous partner. It made for some interesting debates, particularly in the second half, about whether time (and space) is linear, or whether the past, present and future are somehow all fused together. Life events happen, they come and go, but emotions and feelings are far more complex than that.
The two younger members of the cast – Imogen Riley and Adam Ball – gave confident and assured performances, looking quite at home on the stage as the younger version of the couple. But it was the elder version of the couple – played by John Winterton (in a rare appearance in front of the audience), and the talented and evergreen Tor Burt – that edged it for me. It may be an age thing, but I found the way that they inhabited their roles quite fascinating. Their concerns, their issues and their undoubted love for each other were conveyed in an utterly convincing performance.
I won’t spoil the ending (and you can see it coming a mile off) but it was pretty heart-wrenching, and there were plenty of weepy eyes in the auditorium to prove it.
For me, this was an ideal type of production to run at the Wharf, given its tight space restrictions on stage. A cast of only four had enough room on a sparsely-dressed stage to actually move and to breathe, and therefore you could concentrate on the words and the action, without your eye being distracted any purely physical/ practical stage constraints in productions with a larger cast.
I found the music in the first half slightly distracting, but the balance felt much better in the second half. That minor quibble aside, this was overall a superb production. Starting with Abi Morgan’s tautly-scripted prose, Freddie Underwood’s assured direction, working with four very good actors on stage, and we had the recipe for success. Very highly recommended.
There are still a few tickets left for tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday), so get along to see it if you possibly can. You won’t regret it. Box Office – 03336 663366 or www.wharftheatre.co.uk
Future productions at The Wharf Theatre:
23rd – 26th June The World Under The Wood 19th – 24th September Hedda Garbler 1st October The Lesson (Icarus Theatre Company) – one night only 7th October London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra – one night only
That’s overall, as in “taking everything into account,” and not the all-in-one pac-a-mac kind, I thought you should know before I commence waffling…
Do they even sell pac-a-macs now? Google it if you feel the need, but keep the results to yourself; ah, off I trek… Sunday, the second day of Devizes Street Festival, and the main stage had a little hat; unfortunately, weather turned more appropriate for April and I’d wager combined with fragments of hangover, it resulted in a slightly lesser crowd.
Nevertheless, the show marched on unperturbed. I confess, due to Dad’s taxi on call, I rocked up far too late to justify a precise evaluation, but you know me, I relish in the attention giving my tuppence brings, so I will, thank you.
Firstly, I’ll apologise if Saturday’s thoughts came across a tad preachy, about volunteering and playing your part, but my reasoning was concern. It is critical younger volunteers take up these posts as the years pass; I worry if generation next doesn’t replicate what DOCA have achieved, it could go all village fete fashion, rather than what we have now, the colourful array of variety, the festive-style we rarely see the like of around these backwaters.
Though I accept how it is, folk are busy, working, have other priorities (like dad’s taxi) and want the occasion to unwind and enjoy themselves, that is, after all, its purpose. I found myself caught in this dilemma helping out Saturday. Self-assigned myself to wheelie bin patrol, I figured I could keep one eye on them from the bar area! Anyhoo, let’s drift away from that thought and look at what an utterly fantastic show it was; don’t wanna jinx it.
An assessment of social media commentary hailed it a success, aside one ironic Facebook jester. Many suggested it was the best yet, though it came to us at a light at the end of a biennial tunnel, void of much entertainment at all, so a Jim Davidson tour would sound fantastic by comparison. But I agree, taking heed of various attendees’ observations, yeah, it was equally if not better than previous street festivals. I believe the change of stage positioning, binding food stalls into a horseshoe was a benefactor for this, but aside design the surprise icing on the cake had to be the Ceres show, the splendour of which was covered in my previous article. The local folklore subject breathed a sense of inimitability and distinctiveness to the whole shebang, it really did.
I confess, when I first read about the idea, I was sceptical, even at its commencement I doubted but now, the more I consider it the more astonished and overwhelmed I become with its magnificence. Sunday for me though had one highlight I simply couldn’t miss; I’ve been raving Bristol’s folk-Balkan ska ensemble Mr Tea & The Minions since I fondly reviewed their albumMutiny in 2019. So much so I’ve been trying to convince anyone and everyone to book them somewhere local since; you should’ve seen my little chubby chops light up when I noticed their name on the schedule, the like of a toddler at Christmas. Why did I then go about, recommending them to every passer-by? The proof was in the pudding, they didn’t disappoint despite the pedestal I put them on, as their album they were lively, jubilantly danceable, the perfect match for the spirit of the street festival.
With some brilliant new tunes and a handful from their album they won the audience over with their stylised formula of blending localised folk into this already deeply fused south-eastern European genre which reflects its own roots with the off-beat of Jamacia’s finest musical export. As an enthusiast of ska keen to ascertain its contemporary global progression, I’m resolute we castoff the polarized presumption it belonged to a time of yore, of eighties skinheads and Two-Tone. Memorable and fantastically beguiling though Madness, The Specials, et al were, developments internationally offer us a much wider variety often overshadowed by the aforementioned retrospective cult in the UK. I think Mr Tea & the Minions represent this, but as the tradition presides, they have a truckload of carefree fun while doing it.
I could chew your ear off about how much I enjoyed that particular act, but it is the combination of all which really made the weekend something special. Equally as much as I love the wealth of local talent, and do believe they too should be represented at the Street Festival, director Loz’s determination to present us with a variety of sounds unconventional to our usual local circuit, the liveliest and most colourful array of world music, is something I welcome with open arms. Just like the South American vibe of Mariachi Las Velentinas, Simo Lagnawi’s Gnawa Blues All Stars, on one act prior to Mr Tea, was the perfect example; you don’t get to hear Gnawa, the scared trance music of Morocco in the pubs around here, and they played it sublimely for our alternate jiffy.
In this, the most conventional act on the main stage was perhaps the Brass Junkies, and by our usual expectations they were pretty much unconventional! I note them because while a covers band, where I usually assess with their attention of making a cover their own, this Bristol-based versatile brass band of New Orleans style do this so absolutely proficiently. So, to appease the populace, covers of contemporary, foot-tapping pop hits, such as Daft Punk’s Get Lucky get a brass makeover, and they refined this angle with bells on.
But more so on this variety point is the vast array of circus and street theatre, too many to cover, they just go on, around you, in a breath-taking inclusive show you dare not blink at. If one constructive criticism I heard bounding about requested DOCA add more music to the main stage, the answer would have to be, aside the sheer cost and the time needed to soundcheck for these multi-instrumental seven- or eight-piece bands, is that DOCA want you to explore the Market Place and take in the variety of side-shows, and to have a continuous rave at the main stage would both distract the crowds and drown out the sounds of them too; and you know what? I think that’s fair point.
The combination of all these elements meant the Street Festival is restored post-lockdown, better than it ever was and is continuing to better itself through continued assessment and experimental changes; something we are very lucky to have here in Devizes. Though the smiles in the crowd said it all, then the topical and uniquely Devizes narrative of this added element, this sublime finale, combing dance, acrobatic performance, poetry and music truly was the binding component which confirms my assertion and made it, undoubtedly, the finest street festival yet. Thank you once again, all the organisers and volunteers of DOCA.
Onwards, carnival is July 9th, the Confetti Battle and Colour Rush are on 3rd September, but next up is The Picnic in the Park at Hillworth Park, Devizes, on Sunday 3rd July, all the info you need is at the DOCA website; enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
The World under the Wood is a new musical-play for children & family audiences written by Helen Langford, who brought ‘Adam & The Gurglewink’ to the Wharf in 2020…..
Jodie meets a magical talking Tree who asks for her help. The wood seems to be dying and Tree thinks the incredible World under the Wood may hold the answer…Jodie is whisked away to a super-world where life moves super-fast. But she discovers that this world is failing too; the super-humans have been collapsing and productivity is down. Jodie and Harley the dog must now journey between worlds to find an answer. Can the mega-multiplier plants restore the wood? And what is the mysterious Source?
The play highlights the need to stop taking the natural-world and its resources for granted. The world under the wood is an awe-inspiring land of invention and productivity, but Jodie discovers that the resources which underpin it are, to everyone’s surprise, finite. The ‘super-humans’ parody the rat-race of contemporary life, where achievement is king and the constant cycle of doing is reassuringly exhausting. Any long-term consequences of living this way have been ignored…until now. We learn through Jodie’s adventure, that it is through perseverance and working together that environmental problems can be tackled.
Though the message is timely and serious, the show is full of fun. With larger-than-life characters, catchy songs, and magical happenings, you’re sure to love your adventure to the world under the wood!
The World Under the Wood runs from Thursday 23rd June till the Sunday, 26th June.
Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website https://www.wharftheatre.co.uk/ and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street……and don’t forget to follow on Instagram and Twitter.
Ticket Prices: £6.00 – £8.00* Family 4 – £22.00* Family 5 – £28.00* *booking fee applies For Group Bookings please contact email@example.com directly to ensure that you only pay one booking fee.
Director Freddie Underwood, who brought the highly successful Things I Know To Be True to the Wharf Theatre, Devizes in 2019 once again puts her personal stamp on this production with the use of movement and music partnering text…..
Written by Abi Morgan Lovesong comes to the Wharf on Monday 23rd and runs until Saturday 28th May. Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem, the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – the story of a middle-aged man who, although in love, feels his love song has never been sung – Abi Morgan’s play revolves around one couple at two very different stages of their lives. First produced in 2011, the story introduces us to young lovers displaying all the optimism of youth alongside their older selves who have the wisdom and experience of age, but now face growing old with the ensuing frailties of the human body. Past and present literally intertwine as the older and younger couples move around each other on the stage and this poignant piece will take the audience on a journey which ultimately leads back to the belief that…love is a leap of faith…
Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk and at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street.
To those living in Devizes it should come as no surprise Jemma Brown can pull off a performance. Directing a stage version of the eighty’s sitcom classic Allo Allo at the Wharf Theatre has been hailed a massive success, Devizes’ sole theatre Tweeted this morning “Café Rene may have returned to the workshop, but the echoes of laughter will mark its place in Wharf history.”
But looking forward today at forthcoming performances, after the rescheduled feel-good musical comedy Sister Act JR, (25th & 26th February,) and the jocularity of award-winning theatre company White Cobra’s Betty & Joan, on the 5th March, the next in-house production takes rather a melancholic turn.
From the 28th March to 2nd April, The Revlon Girl is set eight months after the Aberfan disaster, the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip in 1966, in the Welsh village of Aberfan. The devastating slurry took the lives of 116 children and 28 adults as it submerged the village’s junior school.
The Revlon Girl tells the real-life story of a group of bereaved mothers who met every week to talk, cry and even laugh without feeling guilt. At one of their meetings, they secretly arrange for a representative from American multinational cosmetics, and fragrance company Revlon, to come and give them a talk on beauty tips.
Directed by Lyn Taylor, this is a play packed with character and heartache, entwining the restraints, gossip and sometime irrationality of a small-town community, with the poignancy of a mother’s loss. There are many humorous, uplifting and hopeful moments, allowing this piece to bring much emotion and entertainment to its audience.
Book office is open on this one now, tickets are £10-£14, with the success of the recently closed Allo Allo, the Wharf goes from strength-to-strength, yet while a show like the last one will sell itself based on its background in popular culture, it is the poignant and ground-breaking dramas such as this which really deserves the push. Personally, I’m impartial to putting on some slap, bit of lippy at the weekend p’haps, but please support your local arts anyway!
An exciting variety of arts and performance events are being offered to Chippenham residents from Friday 11th-13th February. The line-up for this year’s Fringe Feb festival includes live comedy, dance, theatre and music performances along with a host of interactive fun and entertainment for the whole family to enjoy. There will be events popping up across Chippenham throughout the weekend, from on the high street to local venues and cafés.
Chippenham’s Fringe Feb Festival has been set up and funded by Chippenham Borough Lands Charity to champion the arts in the town and bring exciting work to Chippenham. There is a wide selection of events to choose from with some completely free and others provided at a special subsidised ticket price.
Laura Graham-May, Arts and Education Officer for CBLC said, “This is now our third year of the festival following last year’s Covid safe online event. We’re very excited to be bringing a mixture of live arts and performance events to Chippenham people. We hope there is something for everyone to enjoy and brighten up this cold and quiet time of the year”.
For comedy fans, there’s an improvised musical from The Bean Spillers, quick fire comedy from the brilliant Instant Wit, and there are two special Fringe Feb gigs from Chippenham Comedy Club – one for adults, and an afternoon one for kids and families.
Book tickets at the Cause Venue to see ‘Cult Figure: Kenneth Williams’ for an hilarious and engaging evening and then the next afternoon ‘The Mary Lou Revue’, an all-singing, all-dancing celebration of Golden Age entertainment featuring the songs of Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee & others.
Chippenham performer Florence Espeut-Nickless brings her hard hitting monologue, ‘Destiny’ back to her home town for one night only at The Neeld Community & Arts Centre. For a 14+ audience, follow the story of a teenage girl growing up in a rural Wiltshire Council estate after a big night out takes a turn for the worst.
‘Mama G’s Storytime’ at the Yelde Hall, is a show that will make the whole family laugh, love and think. Combining panto and the art of storytelling, this all singing, partial-dancing extravaganza is filled with stories about being who you want and loving who you are!
Boogie along and clean up the streets of Chippenham with the ‘Disco Litter Queens’ and help ‘The Dance We Made’ dancers create some new moves and watch a performance come together on the high street and then on YouTube. Expect the unexpected watching ‘A real fiction’, a hyperactive mix of dance, theatre, meme and pop culture and ‘Chippenham you’re under a vest’ with the ‘Fashion Police’ who will be rolling out the red carpet ready for the best cat walk, hop, skip and a jump!
Travel back in time at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre with an evening of little seen silent film of the county dating back from the 1930’s to the 1980’s, accompanied by evocative live traditional west country music and song. You might also like to join the Chippenham Museum team for the premiere of its latest ‘Museum Jukebox’ piece where you can experience their latest exhibition through the music of John Noble, local saxophonist, composer and teacher.
Chippenham’s brilliant Knatty Knitters will be back again this year bringing their knitting magic to a town centre window with some surprises to look out for and a festival in Chippenham would simply not be complete without The Chippenham Town Morris Men in attendance. They have been dancing in the town and surrounding villages since 1978 and will be back by The Buttercross on Saturday lunchtime. The fantastic Chippenham Rock Choir will follow them, providing you with entertainment and classic pop songs to enjoy. There may be more to watch – so pop along and see who might be there!
You can view the work of local artists and crafters by visiting the latest Chippenham Craft Market at King Alfred Hall and blow away the winter blues with a “Sweet Soul Music Singalong” workshop with Chippenham Allsorts Community Choir.
There will be music to enjoy throughout the day in Grounded café and you can put your music knowledge to the test by taking part in “The Lyric Walk” around Chippenham. Hidden in the main streets of Chippenham will be 29 snatches of lyrics, from across the decade. Will you be able to find the most lyrics and win £50 worth of vouchers?!
Pop the 11th-13th February into your diary and get ready to be entertained in Chippenham. Visit www.chippenhamfringe.co.uk for more information and to book tickets.
That’s it – the set is now complete! Back in August we had the Fulltone Orchestra striking up once again after a long enforced lay-off. In September Devizes Musical Theatre shyly peeked out from behind the showbiz curtain. October saw White Horse Opera step out onto the stage, and now, in November, TITCO have finally switched on the lights back on! And what a delight it was to have them back, completing the fantastic range of local music offerings based in D-Town.
Switched from the earlier venue of St Mary’s to the, perhaps more suitable, surroundings of the Wharf Theatre, TITCO hit the stage with their presentation “Switch The Lights Back On”. From Chris Worthy’s opening number of “Wilkommen” from Cabaret, right through to the closing ensemble rendition of The Proclaimers’ “Over And Done With” we had a fast-paced and thoroughly enjoyable evening.
The two-hour programme included songs from Cabaret, Cats, Jesus Chris Superstar, Sunset Boulevard, School of Rock, Joseph, Spamalot, Billy Elliot, Les Miserables, Hamilton, Once, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and Sunshine on Leith. The numbers chosen were not always the usual ones from those shows, not always the obvious biggest “hits” that one would normally think of, but great songs nevertheless. The items chosen, and the sequence of those songs, nicely showcased the individual talents of the cast members, giving most of them at least one solo, with duets and ensemble numbers. It certainly worked for me.
The staging was simple and sparse, allowing the music to do all the talking. Dressed all in black, with little in the way of colour or props to distract the eye, the songs were completely to the front. Musical accompaniment was understated, but absolutely spot-on, provided by Dominic Irving on keyboard, Lou Hewitt on bass, and Becky Nottingham on percussion. And in front of them, although it’s always a little unfair to single out particular individuals, the stars of the night (for me at least) were Chris Worthy, Mari Webster, Matt Dauncey and Jemma Brown. But there were strong performances all round. And I also have to give a special mention to our local Fulltone Orchestra musical arranger and baton-wielder, Anthony Brown. I’m so used to seeing him from the back conducting his orchestra, that I’d almost forgotten what he looked like, and that he has a wonderful voice! Respect!
The show’s finale consisted of three songs from “Sunshine On Leith”, the musical by Stephen Greenhorn, based on the music of The Proclaimers, a fitting trailer for the full-length production which will take place at St Mary’s, Devizes next June 2022.
Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable show. Full disclosure – I’m not the greatest fan of musicals – but even I couldn’t help but warmly applaud this splendid show. And I was in good company – the audience throughout was loud and enthusiastic in their well-deserved rounds of applause.
The show runs through to Saturday 13th November, and I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending that you get along and see it. There are still a few tickets left (but not many!) – I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed, and that you’ll have a great night out. Trust me!
Spoiled Rotten in Devizes this November you are. In what is usually a quiet month leading up to yule, the easing of lockdown has detonated the month, opening it up as anyone’s game. It’s just so good to see a chockful event calendar for the whole county, and so many event organisers making a Rocky Balboa style comeback.
Aside our dependable Southgate, who’ve led the way for events in Devizes, and continue to provide top notch live music every weekend, free I might add, it’s exciting to see the Cavalier, The Muck & Dundar, and even the Condado Lounge in the running.
There are some big guns coming out too, as we welcome back the Wharf Theatre, who hosted The Paul Simon Story last weekend, and the return of the Invitation Theatre Company from Tuesday (9th) to Saturday (13th) this coming week. The Long Street Blues Club are back in force with three gigs this month, the Gerry Jablonski Band Saturday 13th, Force on the 20th, which is such a whopper it’s coming out of The Corn Exchange rather than usual Cons Club, and the Antonio Forcione Quartet on the 27th.
If it’s sounding good so far, we’ve not even touched on Devizes Eisteddfod from Thursday 18th to Saturday 20th, The Lawrence Art Society’s exhibition at the Town Hall from 25th to the 27th, and of course DOCA bring the Winter Festival and lantern parade on the 26th.
With all that I’ve mentioned it would be understandable to have overlooked the icing on the cake; Devizes Arts Festival surprisingly pops up to host some awesome events this month, when it’s usually confined to more summery months. Despite we’ve outlined the individual gigs lined up at the Arts Festival, back when it was announced in August, such has lockdown caused much jiggery-pokery with the dates of such things, and not forgoing I’d suspect the Arts Festival got itchy fingers and simply couldn’t wait until summertime to present us with some amazing performances, these things need reminders, so here I am!
Though the opening gig, Thursday’s Ronnie Scott’s All Stars Jazz Club Tour has sold out, tickets for the others are on the table awaiting your attention, plus, of course there’s free fringe events across town too. Let’s have another look at what’s on offer here, to wet your appetite shall we?
Under the banner, “the show must go on,” the Arts Festival are delighted to welcome Sally Barker to Devizes, on the 13th. In this new show ‘Sandy, Joni & Me’ she will bring some of the songs of both Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny to the stage, exploring the singer/songwriter legacy that was forged in the early ’70s.
Veteran folk-blues singer/songwriter Sally Barker became Tom Jones’ finalist on The Voice UK 2014 after reducing her mentor, and many watching the TV, to tears with her performances. Sally has toured with Sir Tom, Bob Dylan and Robert Plant amongst others. Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans said, “Sally changes the atmosphere in a room when she sings.”
And Friday 19th is Motown Gold time at the Corn Exchange. Dust off your dancing shoes for a fabulous evening from a fantastic band. Motown Gold celebrate the finest songs from the timeless Motown and Classic Soul era, which kind of speaks for itself.
As for free Fringe events, The Muck & Dundar have loop pedal guru Arif Najak bringing laid-back reggae sounds on Friday 12th. Sunday 14th is at New Society, where you’ll find Bristol’s dynamic jazz vocalist Lucy Moon, performing energetic swing and classic swing-era tunes to liven up your Sunday lunchtime. Booking is essential for this one, contact New Society to reserve your table.
There’s a couple more fringe events before the Arts Festival’s grand Motown finale; South Wales’s Big Sky are at The Crown on Wednesday 17th, with roots rock infused with touches of blues, country and psychedelia, they are known for being one of the few bands containing brothers who have not yet had an on-stage altercation! And Thursday 18th sees Mark Harrison at the Three Crowns. An original and interesting songwriter, a stunning guitarist, and a master storyteller.
It is, in all my years of running Devizine, the biggest November I’ve ever seen! But the Devizes Arts Festival doesn’t stop there, this is just filling a gap. I asked artistic director Margaret Bryant if there will be something in the pipeline for a summer arts festival too, and she replied “yes, we’re already planning 2022!”
It’s not often that you’ll get me schlepping down to a Community Hall in the middle of nowhere (well, OK, Lavington) on a Saturday night for a dose of Light Opera, but…well…it seemed like a good warm-up for the BBC Last Night of the Proms which was due to be broadcast later that night – and so it proved to be.
Devizes Musical Theatre (DMT), in their wisdom, had chosen this slightly out-of-the-way place to perform “A Gallery of Rogues” as their 2021 production (their first since 2019 following Lockdown for most of last year). And thus, breezing my way past the various posters for WI and other local events, I found myself in this rather modern and well equipped hall.
The evening was in two parts – the first being a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury”, a one act comic opera, and the second being the company performing a number of well known songs from many different musical shows.
“Trial by Jury” is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced in 1875, at London’s Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit. The story concerns a “breach of promise of marriage” lawsuit in which the judge and the legal system are the objects of light-hearted satire. As with most G&S operas, the plot of “Trial by Jury” is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique blunts some of the pointed barbs aimed at hypocrisy, especially of those in authority, and the sometimes base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. The success of “Trial by Jury” launched the famous series of 13 collaborative works between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as the Savoy Operas.
In this production, using mostly modern dress, no scenery, and virtually no props, the guys and gals from DMT had nowhere to hide. Using only a simple piano accompaniment, it was down to the strength and quality of the voices only. And, after a slightly nervous start, they pretty well nailed it, with each singer growing in confidence as the play progressed. The call-and-response choruses, so beloved of G&S fans, were used to great effect and the whole production swung along with very few flaws. Of particular note were Naomi Ibbetson as The Plaintiff, and Tom Hazell as The Defendant. The supporting roles, especially the three bridesmaids, were also strongly played to great effect.
The second half consisted of a series of songs from various musicals including “Cats”, “Oliver” and “The Wizard of Oz”, culminating in a full-cast version of the Lockdown classic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Not a dry eye in the house.
For me, it was a good evening of entertainment, and well worth the trip out to Lavington. And I’d say the rest of the audience agreed, as the applause was hard and long. However, I’m still mystified as to why a concert that clearly took a lot of time and effort to be produced was only to be given this single performance, and why at such an out-of-town venue. Surely more people would have gone to see DMT in action if this had used a more Devizes-central location?
One reason why I enjoyed Jesus Christ Superstar at Devizes Wharf Theatre yesterday evening, is similar to why I like sci-fi and fantasy genres.
No, hear me out, long winded it maybe, but there’s a point! With sci-fi you can take an earth-bound concept, and moving it from its usual perimeters, see it for what it truly is, without being predetermined via propaganda or personal opinion. Example; racism. Take a green coloured race of aliens fighting with a blue race, and from outside looking in you can see how completely meaningless and rash it is.
Jesus Christ Superstar throws out preconceptions of this renowned Easter story, bought about by biblical re-enactments and more commonly accepted adaptions. In essence, it’s a rock opera, opera is tragedy, and rock music is modernised, least it was when Tim Rice and Andrew Llyod Webber created it.
I often wonder what it was like for Michael Jackson, in the limo to the show, mobbed by obsessive devotees throwing themselves unashamedly at him. In a way, the tragic desolation and isolation of fame is more the subject in question, rather than the biblical Easter story. Just like our sci-fi scenario, it never suggests a religious connection, never states definitively that Jesus is the son of God. It takes the story out of the usual context and reconnects the dots.
The set is deliberately void, mostly of black backdrop, and props are minimal. Rather than a school play’s amateurishly painted scene, the darkness leaves the setting to your imagination. While Nazareth and Rome are mentioned, there’s no depiction of it. The concentration is flowed into the characters and music. For Jesus here is unlike another representation; in fact, I’d argue Brian from Monty Python’s “Life of” is closer! Played convincingly by Jordan Overton, if this was intentional, I found Jesus actually quite irritating. Far from blasphemous given the circumstances, for here he’s unforgiving, frustrated at the mounting iconic hysteria surrounding him. Probably more likely how it would be, especially in the modern era.
If Jordan made a grand job of it, more so did the surrounding characters, for Judas is Jerry if Jesus is Tom, the tension between the two the narrative. Arguably Peter Assirati’s performance is passionately executed greater, the focus on his despair is equal pegging, as Judas feels overexposure will be Jesus’s ruin. Like washed up rock stars or actors in the modern era, we know from tragedies like Marylin Monroe, to Whitney and Kurt Cobain, the feeling is real. In a way then, the lines between protagonist and antagonist are blurred, another reason why I liked this piece of musical theatre.
More general is the third reason; the Wharf is such a splendid asset to Devizes. This historic shoebox theatre central to town is so welcoming, if the doormat was curled at the edge staff would lie over it so you don’t trip. Chat in the auditorium is not of condescending theatre-goers and thespians, rather an almost family ambience with an age demographic to match. As with most venues, lockdown flogged this theatre, kicking it while it was down. Those who can, bearing in mind ticket stubs here are far more reasonably priced than city playhouses, are dutybound to help it to its feet. I witnessed said devotion firmly in place already, as Jesus Christ Superstar plays to a full house.
The fourth reason I enjoyed it is simply the surprise element. I went in critical, didn’t expect to actually like it, given the theme tune’s school playground variant of yore, set to ridicule it with Yamahas and dustbin lids, was wedged in my mind. Anyone younger will have to ask Alexa about this; I’ve exposed my age enough already!
I tip my hat to the performances of additional characters, Pete Winterton casted perfectly for the seventies-fashioned game show host version of Herod, breathing one humorous element to the tragedy, at least! Francis Holmes as Caiaphas made for the textbook managerial role and convincingly bellowed his solo with professionalism.
Emma Holmes and Chris Smith’s recitals of Simon and Peter, respectively, being especially poignant. None so much though as Mary Magdalene, played by Cassy Swann, who, with her astute expressions of woe and loyalty, her superior voice commanded the stage above all else. In this, full credit has also to be awarded to Victoria Warren, music director, and the band, Jennifer Cardno, Bob Ball, Claire Borovac and John Joy, for limited to a four-piece, amalgamated the show to epic and euphoric proportions.
You should note, if you go see this, at the time, amidst the hullabaloo surrounding its controversial subject, it took the best part of decade to alter from rock opera album to the stage in London, and only because of its success in the USA. True music fans will recognise this more as an album of music than a play, ergo the dynamics of elaborate stage effects are deliberately stripped back, the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar rightfully displays the band playing the overture prior to actors taking their stance. But go see it you should; decide quick and seize a ticket post haste. It’s only running at the Wharf Theatre until this Saturday, the 18th September, and last time I checked, tickets are up for grabs weekdays, Saturday is sold out.