From Devizes to Disneyland with MACs!

For want of a feel-good story this stormy weekend, what a marvellous opportunity for the kids at MACS Theatre School, as a group performed a musical melody Halloween show on the main stage at Disneyland Paris this week. “Each and every one of them were absolutely fantastic, and a pleasure to take on the trip,” the Devizes theatre school announced.

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A proud moment for the school, and a memory that’ll last a lifetime for the group. Twelve-year old Evie, who performed, said, “I had the best time with MACs last night, attending has given me the confidence I never knew I had.” Many other parents and children have expressed their delight at the chance. It’s an achievement proving what we’ve said before, “Mac’s Theatre School is refining local drama and putting Devizes on the map!”

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With a high quality of standards, Mac’s aim is to “create and produce theatre that excites, entertains but more importantly inspires. Giving young people a chance to shine, to challenge themselves and exceed expectations,” and I think this news goes to show just that, if you’ll pardon the pun!

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“We’re so incredibly proud of them,” said Emily Dodd, assistant director and Mini Mac coordinator, “the show was a huge success!” Held in anticipation since the wonderful “Our House” performance, I asked if she could give us a hint as to what might be next for MACs, or if it’s top secret?!

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“We’re taking a break from big shows this year so we can spend time with our own little mini Mac! However, we will continue with our full membership groups, which run on a Wednesday and our mini Mac’s sessions on a Monday.” Membership fee is just £15 for weekly workshops. Weekly workshops run as Mini Macs (aged 5-10), First Stages Group (aged 11-13) or the Centre Stage group (aged 14-16.) Places are available, contact: macs_theatre@yahoo.com for more information.

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As for me, I’d risk a roller-coaster ride, but I’m not singing and dancing; no one needs to see that, even Mickey Mouse! I’m just wishing all those involved my very best wishes for the future. Well done to all!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Forty Years of The Wharf Theatre, we look forward as well as backwards.


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Now a trail of leisurely pursuits, remnants of an industrial thoroughfare are still visible on The Kennet and Avon Canal. While some lay dormant and dilapidated since its decline in the 1850s, many have been put to good use. Enhancing the tourist attraction, cafes and inns make use of warehouses and wharfs, but none perhaps as much as the small, 18th century warehouse, adjacent to the Kennet & Avon Canal Museum at the Devizes Wharf.

It’s been home for The Wharf Theatre for the past forty years, officially opening on the 16th May 1980 with a production of J B Priestley’s When We Are Married. Prior to purpose-built arts centres, Devizes was the only local town with its own theatre, and it remains the only dedicated theatre in East Wiltshire.

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Formed in 1947, The Devizes and District Amateur Dramatic Society, were never happy using the Palace Cinema or Corn Exchange, and though it gave them the name Wharf Theatre in ‘73, even the first premises in Couch Lane was unsuitable. It’d take another six years before Kennet District Council redeveloped the Wharf, and the site as we know it today was reserved.

Handy, perhaps that the then treasurer, John Hurley, was former assistant chief executive at Kennet District Council, but the fact we have our own theatre is largely due to him and wife Beryl. However, if you think the theatre is all a bit hoity-toity for you, consider it was renovated with labour provided by youth, under a Job Creation Scheme, and part-funded by the Manpower Services Commission, a quango addressing unemployment. It’s said all members chipped in to help, working alongside offenders on community service!

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If you’re still not convinced, thinking this is all before my time, (me too, honest!) stick around as Devizine wishes the Wharf a happy 40th birthday, and with their autumn-winter season brochure out, highlight what’s happening over the coming season. With an incorrigible womaniser, ghostly horror, an amateur boxer and a pimp, skiffle and comedy songs, flap-tastic family comedy and pantomime, oh, and Boycie, there may be something for you.

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It starts 23rd -28th September with a ghost story, and everyone loves a ghost story. The Turn of the Screw, which we previewed here.

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On Friday 4th October they trace back a plethora of comedy songs. Probably The best Comedy Songs in the World Ever…. Maybe! covers a history of comedy songs, from Noel Coward and Lonnie Donegan to Monty Python and The Goons. Bernie Cribbins is in there, and of course, if they need any props for the customary Benny Hill song, I’ve a milk bottle or twenty.

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Also note I can do a cracking impression of both Boycie and Marlene, but not to order. John Challis has an audience with on 12th October, revealing on-set secrets from Only Fools and Horses and the actors Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst. You know this one makes sense, Rodders.

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Comedy a running theme for the early autumn, Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together runs from 21st to 26th October, introducing us to the incorrigible womaniser, Norman, and his family of recognisable middle-class types whose personalities are never quite as predictable as they seem.

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One of the UK’s beloved comedians and impressionists, Duncan Norvelle and award-winning singer and entertainer, Maggie Regan visit the Wharf Theatre on November 1st. Combing eccentric humour with high energy roots music, it’s all funny songs, crazy costumes and virtuoso music with The London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra on Friday 8th November.

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In residence at Pound Arts, Corsham, but taking their show internationally, expect flap-tastic family comedy, when The Last Baguette Theatre Company presents The Bird Show on the 9th. Suitable for the “whole brood,” including fledglings from three plus, this madcap and touching show about birds facing changes to their habitat uses live music, puppetry and lots of silly bird jokes.

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Now, I don’t wanna think about it just yet, sure you don’t either, not while the sun is still shining, but the big C wouldn’t be the big C without pantomime, and the Wharf has Cinderella running from Friday 6th to Saturday 14th December.

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New decade, 2020 then, and nobel laureate Harold Pinter’s Tony Award-winning 1964 two-act play, The Homecoming runs from Monday 27th January to Saturday 1st February. Directed by Lewis Cowen, this is vintage Pinter, but its twists are worthy of Alfred Hitchcock.

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When Teddy, an expatriate American philosophy professor, brings his wife Ruth to visit his old home in London, he finds his eccentric family still living in the house; his father, a retired butcher, his uncle, a chauffeur and his brothers, an amateur boxer and a pimp. In the conflict that follows, it is Ruth who becomes the focus of the family’s struggle for supremacy.

With a rich history, notable past performances and maintening an eminent yet pragmatic, hospitable atmosphere, The Wharf Theatre is something for Devizes to be proud of. Check the website for more details of performances and tickets.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Q: What’s in the Yurt, DOCA? A: Los Galindos’ Udel

Images used with kind permission of Gail Foster

 

For me it’s not enough to say something is “weird.” To start, is it a “good” weird or a “bad” weird? If the opposite of weird is normal, and normal considered boring, then weird must surely entertain. It’s subjective; depends where you sit on the border of what constitutes an acceptable limit of weirdness. When it goes beyond this level maybe it fails to entertain you, by being so weird you cannot process any logic or reason within it, ergo “bad” weird, in your opinion.

Yet illogical or plain nonsensical has always been a backbone of humour. Many strive to extend said border, for if Spike Milligan or Monty Python pushed the limits in surrealism, Miguel de Cervantes did too, 350 years beforehand. I’d suggest there’s something very Don Quixote about Los Galindos’ Udel.

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Humour at its most basic level is visual, a baby will find perpetual peek-a-boo hilarious. Similarly, visual humour relies on those classic formulas; falling over, sudden disappearance and reappearance and dumbfounded surprise. Akin to silent movies, voices are minimal and slapstick in Los Galindos is bountiful, and executed with distinction. But it is weird.

See, I like weird, strive for weirdness, savour weird things, chat to sane people hopefully making me appear weirder. Perhaps I set the barrier of what constitutes too weird high. If you agree, you will love this show. If you’ve wandered past the Green and seen a Mongolian yurt and thought, well how is a circus act supposed to be staged in there, without spoilers I’ll enlighten; that’s part of the joke.

If you’re thinking where does this article stop being a thought on the word weird, and become a review for this fantastically curious show, then you’re already putting barriers at your chosen level. For I don’t want to ruin the surprise, for the show continues through to Monday, but it left me wondering at what point the show actually started. Could be as soon as everyone was seated, even when we were kindly ushered in, perhaps just outside the door. Maybe all walking past, contemplating said notion, well how is a circus act supposed to be staged in there, have already become the audience of sorts.

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It’s a prime example of what I’m getting at, the act is the production, the production is an act, the props are parts of the stage and yurt, and the yurt, stage, and possibly the audience too are the props. The costumes and overall impression are modest, yet charming. The acrobatics are deliberately played down like Tommy Cooper’s magic, but are exceptionally skilful.

Wrapped in essence of a humbled, poor circus family, who overdramatically welcome you, their efforts to make you comfortable and enjoy their show is the clowning element, perhaps it’s only narrative. The hazard of these disguised clowns executing daredevil circus stunts within inches of your face is worrying, and part of its attraction which will leave you in awe.

If you’re the sort expecting a traditional request, “I need a volunteer from the audience,” disregard your expectations. This is a unique and original take on circus noir, it’s clowning and acrobatics combined in a manner leaving you spellbound and pondering what exactly just happened, and why.

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There was a point in the act, without giving the game away, where the doors blew open, and in viewing a glance outside there was a gentle reminder you were sitting on the Green in Devizes, and not immersed in a scene from Don Quixote staged by amateurs with a homemade theatre, in some remote mountainous village north of Barcelona.

It’s fantastically abridged circus, something radical moulded into a Mediterranean era of yore, and honestly, something you’ve not see in Devizes before, or probably ever will again, even if you consider Devizes is weird!


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


 

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The Turn of the Screw at The Wharf

The forthcoming new season of productions at our Wharf Theatre, Devizes, kicks off with a haunting Henry James adaption they claim is not for the nervy.  The Turn of the Screw, a 1898 horror novella by Henry James, first published as a serial in Collier’s Weekly magazine, has been adapted for stage by Ken Whitmore and is directed by Lewis Cowen.

 

Running from Monday 23rd September to Saturday 28th at 7.30pm, The Turn of the Screw is set in a sprawling manor house in Bly, in the first half of the 19th Century. Henry James’ classic is one of the most famous ghost stories in the English language, and is a foundation for academics pledged to New Criticism. With contradictory understandings, critics attempt to regulate the precise nature of the evil implied. Others claim its brilliance grades its skill in creating an intimate sense of misperception and insecurity.

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By Collier’s Weekly, illustration by Eric Pape – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, Public Domain

Miss Grey is hired as governess to two orphaned siblings, Miles, 10 and 8 year old Flora. However, she soon discovers a dark secret and becomes embroiled in a supernatural struggle with the ghosts of the former valet and governess. She is forced to fight for the children despite fearing for her life and questioning her sanity.

Tickets (£12/under 16s £10) can be purchased from Ticketsource at: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/the-wharf-theatre/events or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366. To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a new Autumn/Winter brochure which is available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Spectacular Space-Bots at the Shoebox; Family Performance & Drama Workshop

Swindon’s Shoebox Theatre are getting excited to welcome Edalia Day to the Theatre, as part of their Artist Residency Programme, and invite children aged 7-12 to join in the fun!

Edalia will be developing a new piece of theatre called ‘Spectacular Spacebots.’ It’s a new family show about autism and space adventures. The children will be sharing a relaxed, work-in-progress performance with an after-show Q&A on Saturday the 21st of September.

Join Zee, robot adventurer, as they battle space wizards, gunslingers and a quizzical hippopotamus, asking what does it mean to be human. And how far do you have to go to be accepted as one…

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But the fun doesn’t stop there! There will also be an opportunity for to take part in a FREE pre-show workshop with Edalia.

In this physical workshop, you’ll play improvisation games and learn how Edalia makes theatre. Exploring the voice and movement of digital characters and acting alongside them, using a mixture of wordplay, puppetry, chorus and physical comedy.

Workshop: Saturday, 21st September, 11am-12.00 Midday
How much? FREE!
Suitable for ages 7-12

Work in Progress Performance and Q&A: Saturday, 21st September, 13.00pm
How much: £3

Suitable for all the family aged 5+
Approx. runtime: 45min

Book at www.shoeboxtheatre.org.uk/whatson


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Legally Blonde Jnr Comes to Devizes

You got into Harvard Law?

What? Like, it’s hard?

Hey, get your flaxen Barnett around this; Legally Blonde, rom-com, chick-flick adaptation of Amanda Brown’s novel of the same name is eighteen years old. Yeah, like, I know right. Two years later they made the sequel; although a smash at the box office, it never raised a reviewer’s eyebrow, banally crashing the blonde versus brunette joke which Archie Comics carried for over seventy years.

Yet the initial movie stands the test of time, I like it and chick-flick generally isn’t my thing; lack of spaceships blowing things up, see?! The foreseeable gags enhanced by Reese Witherspoon’s amusing characteristics, at a time when The Spice Girls’ run of “girl power” was fading. Challenging the blonde stereotype with comical narrative was a peg in female equality and certainly the break for Reese; ummm, Reese Witherspoon…… where was I? Oh yes, female equality.

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Like many trailblazing films, it received a theatrical reworking by 2007. Premiered on Broadway, Legally Blonde had an efficacious three-year-run at London’s Savoy and picked up many awards. Now, directed by Oliver Phipps and Hayley Baxter with musical direction from Naomi Ibbetson, it has found its way, least a “Jnr” version, to our own Wharf Theatre.

Legally Blonde Jr. The Musical opens at the Wharf Wednesday 24th July, runs until Saturday 27th (7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee) and promises to be pink: “The Musical is a fun and sassy journey of self-empowerment and expanding horizons, with instantly recognizable songs, this show will leave cast members and audiences alike seeing pink!”

Plot being, if the film passed you by: The Delta Nu sorority president, Elle Woods, seems to have it all; good looks, a relationship with the campus catch and a great taste in clothes. However, her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend, Warner, dumps her to attend Harvard Law School. Determined not to lose him Elle uses hard work and a fair degree of charm to get a place there herself so that she can prove she is serious and win him back. Whilst there she tackles stereotypes, snobbery and scandal but she also makes some great new friends along the way and gradually discovers how her new found knowledge of the law can really help others.

With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin, again it’s a rousing and prevalent choice for the delightfully quaint Wharf Theatre. Tickets, £12 with under 16s £10, can be purchased from Ticketsource, at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, or by ringing 03336 663 366. To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up a Spring/Summer brochure which is available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.

 

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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera sing Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado” – Saturday 15th June @ St Mary’s Church, Devizes

A Bit of Nanki-Poo in The Vize

By Andy Fawthrop

 

Do you like opera? What about “light” opera? With rather a lot of comedy thrown in? Good – because you’re really going to love this!

Last night I was privileged to attend the full dress rehearsal for “The Mikado” by the splendid White Horse Opera company. I was expecting something perhaps still a little rough round the edges, maybe the odd fluffed line, the occasional note or cue to be missed, but there was really none of that. The company had been rehearsing for months, had chosen their principals carefully, and were absolutely up for it.

Yet again – another gem in the entertainment crown of Devizes – we are so lucky to have these people doing this stuff!

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This particular bit of nonsense, a “comic opera” in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and words by W.S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaboration, opened in March 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, the second-longest run for any work of musical theatre, and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Since then it’s been translated into numerous languages, and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history. The setting is Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, which allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. And the company has done an excellent job of the now-traditional exercise in updating the lyrics of some songs to reflect politics Britain in 2019. Particularly pointed was Ko-Ko’s (The Lord High Executioner’s) song about who he’d like to execute (“I’ve got a little list, and they’ll none of them be missed”).

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It’s always difficult, and sometimes a little invidious, to pick out individual performances but I think it’s worth mentioning particularly Graham Billing, who delivered a hilariously nervous and dithering Ko-Ko, Charles Leeming as a wonderfully pompous and self-important Pooh-Bar (Lord High Everything Else), Lisa House as Yum-Yum, and the resilient Ian Diddams, playing The Mikado splendidly as a power-crazed modern dictator. But there were strong performances all round, from every member of the cast. It was so obvious that they were thoroughly enjoying what they do, delivering a top-notch production.

I’m not going to give the plot away, nor would I even attempt to summarise the complicated ins and outs leading to the hilarious denouement – suffice to say that the story is stuffed with disguises, mistaken identities, the fickleness of emotions, and the usual human drivers of fear and greed. The main characters ham it up splendidly, and deliver the songs with confidence and panache, squeezing every last drop of comedy out of the script.

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Given that it’s performed in modern dress, sung in English, and is a laugh-a-minute, it’s completely accessible and enjoyable. So, even if you thought that you didn’t like “opera”, I can assure you that you are going to love this. Thoroughly entertaining stuff!

It’s going to be performed on Saturday 15th June at St Mary’s church at 7.30pm. Tickets are an absolute bargain at only a tenner, and are available via Ticketsource or the company’s website at
https://whitehorseopera.co.uk/

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Future productions by WHO include:

• Wednesday 30th Oct to Saturday 2nd November @ Lavington School – Bizet’s “Carmen”
• Tuesday 17th December – venue TBA – Christmas Concert
• Friday 20th March 2020 – venue TBA – Spring Concert

And if you’re interested in getting involved yourself, whether singing, playing or behind the scenes, just head over to their website. You can also support them by becoming a “Friend” of the company for £20 p.a. Remember – they are an amateur company, supported by volunteer efforts and by voluntary contributions from their supporters.

 

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