A dollop of Lewis Carroll, shards of C. S. Lewis and Roald Dahl, and perhaps even nicer elements of Tolkien, The World Under the Wood will put a smile on your face and bring out the inner child in you.…..
Being honest, it doesn’t take too much to bring out the inner child out in this grumpy old man, but more to cheer me up, and this did both, delightfully!
Running until Sunday, with matinees and evening performances at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre, this simply charming hour-long play, written and directed by Helen Langford is so whimsical, such a delight, you will be captivated by its magical cross-realms. Ideally you need a child aged six plus, but anyone into fairytales you can drag along, I suggest you do. Break out some glitter!
Yet while citing the obvious influences of classic children’s literature combines the settings and themes, it overlooks the subject, a contemporary feel of industry versus nature, the environmental angle on everyone’s lips, especially children. And it presents it in such an easy, fantastical way, without complication or ‘rubbing your face in it’ any age will be absorbed by the moral. Anymore synopsis and I’m verging on spoliers!
All homegrown talent, The World Under the Wood is an unmissable Wharf exclusive. The protagonist, Jodie, a kind of Dorothy-Dora hybrid is played confidently and spectacularly by Georgina Claridge, and her interactions with archetypal characters manage to retain the charm of those they pastiche, a talking tree, played gracefully by Chris Smith, pet dog by Carolynn Coomer, and Louise Peak as the queen-like Great Leader of an industrial underworld of robotic oompa loompa-like humans adds pantomime humour to the show.
Yet, it is not pantomime, in so much its zany or sing-along element is slight above the morals, but it is partially musical, with simple but effective original songs. If I’m honest, I huffed at the thought of going to see a “family” show, but I came out the other end chuffed, sprinkled with psychological fairy dust and mused with an emotion of sustainability on equal terms.
Your kids will love it, you might love it more! The World Under the Wood is running now, ending Sunday 26th June at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes. Tickets HERE.
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
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!
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!”
How will the Wharf Theatre follow the huge success of Jesus Christ Superstar? I can tell you this much; it will be Glorious!
How do I know? Press release, see, the production is called Glorious, and it’s the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, dubbed “The Worst Singer in the World!” A play by Peter Quilter, directed by Liz Sharman, neither of whom have obviously heard me singing in the shower!
It enjoyed a West End run, starring Maureen Lipman, and takes a more humorous approach to its subject matter than the recent Meryl Streep film. Our wonderful Wharf Theatre in Devizes are running it from Monday 25th – Saturday 30th October, shows at 7.30pm.
Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) was an American soprano, socialite and philanthropist. Her love of music and performing became evident at a young age when she played the piano and performed at various functions under the name of ‘Little Miss Foster’; on one occasion even performing at the White House.
After graduating high school, she nursed dreams of going to Europe to study music but her father staunchly refused. When an accident then left her unable to play the piano to the level she had previously, she reluctantly pursued a career as a piano teacher.
In 1909, after one failed marriage, she met British actor, St Clair Bayfield, who remained her partner for the rest of her life. That same year her father died and, having been left a considerable fortune, she seized the opportunity to pursue her singing dreams despite having little obvious talent.
The poet William Meredith wrote that a Jenkins recital, “was never exactly an aesthetic experience, or only to the degree that an early Christian among the lions provided aesthetic experience; it was chiefly immolatory, and Madame Jenkins was always eaten, in the end.”
In the 1920’s she began financing her own shows and with her charm and shining costumes she did, in many ways, find success. In reality she was both adored and mocked by her audiences but although now considered possibly the worst opera singer in the world, who sang out of tune and had no discernible rhythm people still remember her.
One especially amusing anecdote tells of Florence’s high-pitched scream when in a taxi once, which collided with another car. Arriving home, she made haste for her piano, confirming, least to herself, that the note she had shrieked was the mythical F above high C, a pitch she had never before been able to reach. Ecstatic, she refused to press charges against either involved party, and even sent the taxi driver a box of expensive cigars.
But the most perplexing question surrounding her life was whether she was in on the joke, or honestly believed she had vocal talent, this remains a matter of debate. This hilarious farce picks up her story in 1940’s New York, and sounds a blast!
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.
With Jesus Christ Superstar coming to Devizes’ Wharf Theatre, I’m pondering, just how outrageous was it at the time, and how has adaptations and satires of biblical stories become more acceptable?
So yeah, from what I remember, knee-high to a puppy at the time, he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, pulled a skid, killed a kid, trapped his balls in a dustbin lid.
Other rhymes circulated school playgrounds nationwide, but all the variations of the Jesus Christ Superstar theme were considered on the topper-most level of naughtiness, most likely because we figured it lampooned Jesus. When in all actual fact, above the tittering of school children, had the damage not already been done by the very thing we were parodying?
In a competitive era when the concept album had come of age, so rock musicals and rock opera were becoming fashionable, one had to raise the controversy bar in order to get noticed. With Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat already under their belts and bugging religious zealots, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice knew blasphemy long before Madge frolicked with an ethnic Jesus in Like a Prayer.
Cover story was, by twisting the Easter story into modern terminology and themes, it reached out to a new generation, but many didn’t see it that way. Banned briefly by the BBC for being sacrilegious, Christian and Jewish orders despised the album alike, and the musical was banned in South Africa and Hungary.
Such was the narrative, focussing on Judas rather than Jesus, his fears the compassionate movement had become a cult, Jesus’s declarations being besmirched by his followers, and this was a dangerous game which would attract the attention of the Romans, not forgoing it was condoning the common assumption Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, it might seem an unusual choice for the Wharf Theatre in Devizes. Yet, if anything, the degrading in offensiveness of Jesus Christ Superstar, is symbolic of how far we’ve progressed and become more accepting towards biblical adaptations and ret-cons.
After all Monty Python’s Life of Brian was only eight short years away, and today we live in a world where Homer Simpson prays for doughnuts, Trey Parker and Matt Stone depict Jesus in a boxing match with Satan or else hosting a call-in chat show called “Jesus and Pals,” and even locally where The Boot Hill All Stars sing a song about a “tiny Jesus” crucified on a hot cross bun!
For extreme retroactive continuity of the character of Judas, though, I’d highly recommend the self-published series by author Roy Bright, whereby, punished by God with immortality and banished to Earth, Judas rights his wrong by becoming a super-heroic, Hollywood-fashioned action hero!
Still, the revival of the controversial musical is trending, which through the aforementioned hullabaloo, took best part of decade to alter from rock opera album to the stage in London, and only because of its success in the USA. A new production was staged at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, in Ontario, in 2011, and by the 45th anniversary of its run, on Broadway, it returned to London at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Whether you were intrigued or outraged at the time, or if like me, too young to form an opinion further than the amusing notion of Jesus’s nad-sack caught in a dustbin lid, to see it now might cast a different perspective on the synopsis than how it was perceived at the time, and you can do exactly that, a stone throw away.
A rescheduled performance from last year, The Really Useful Group Ltd presents Jesus Christ Superstar at Devizes Wharf Theatre from Friday 10th to Saturday 18th September. The strapline runs, Jesus must be stopped…. which is tricky to say the least, I mean, on a Yamaha and all!
It will, at last, be open to a full house, after restrictions have reduced capacity of our lovely theatre, and Devizine wishes it well. “It has been a long hard wait,” expresses publicity manager Karen, “as we were due to stage this just days after the first lockdown was announced.” And further to this, plans are ahead for the Christmas panto, Dick Whittington, with auditions on Wednesday next week, 18th August.
The box office is also open for the adaption of The Navy Lark, a classic radio comedy which originally featured Leslie Phillips, Dennis Price, Ronnie Barker and Jon Pertwee, on 2nd October, and Just Like That! The Tommy Cooper Show on the 16th.
The end of October sees an hilarious farce play, based on the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, dubbed ‘the worst singer in the world’ in 1940s New York, running from 25th to the 30th of October, and a one-off on the 16th November, Dan Clews portrays Paul Simon in The Paul Simon Story.
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.
Despite the gloomy pushback to the 19th July for step four of the roadmap to reopen venues, government announced plans to pilot test live theatrical performances with increased capacities, as it has already done for music festivals and sports events.
While this will delight larger city venues, our Wharf Theatre in Devizes must continue with a limited socially distanced capacity for its reopening performance of The Brothers Grimm. All the more reason to book early for this delightful sounding family-orientated presentation!
Collected Grimm Tales runs from Tuesday 13th to Saturday 17th July, with doors opening at 7.30pm. It’s adapted by Carol Ann Duffy of the Young Vic Company, dramatized by Tim Supple and directed by Debby Wilkinson.
In this acclaimed adaptation of Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and more are bought to life by a small adult cast using a physical and non-natural style of performance. It will take you on a journey into the world of imagination, as you discover the elusive paths that wind through the dark woods of fairy tales and invite you to experience again the living power of theatre.
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.
Have you any young budding actors in your family? Drama kings and queens?! You might like to know Devizes Wharf Theatre have just launched a Youth Theatre. See I could have done with this when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, as I liked to act. Okay, you got me, that was act the fool. I’d think myself lucky if I got the rear-end role of the pantomime horse!
In the past, The Wharf Theatre has produced some amazing youth productions, if you remember the hugely successful Legally Blonde Junior in the summer of 2019, for example.
“We have long felt and recognised that to safeguard the future of the world of theatre it is vital to inspire and encourage the next generation and have been working, behind the scenes, to create a group especially dedicated to them,” they say, announcing two youth theatre directors now in a position to officially launch The Wharf Youth Theatre, ready for September. Here are the details:
Senior Actors Company
Friday 6-8pm. Sept 24th – Oct 22nd/Nov 5th – Dec 3rd
For school years 10-13 (as of September ‘21)
This group will be led by Lou Cox. Lou’s career highlights include theatre tours, The Edinburgh Festival, singing professionally at Glastonbury festival and stand-up comedy. Lou is now a freelance drama teacher at various schools in the area and is a LAMDA examiner. She also directs and has recently started exciting projects with Barnardo’s adoption agency, using drama as a training tool for adoptive parents and a refugee charity in Swindon.
This Company bridges the gap between school drama offering you further practitioner knowledge, a chance to develop your performance skills and many opportunities to perform in our very own theatre. It is a chance to work with like-minded people once a week who share the same passion for drama. You will explore theatre through the ages, engage in practitioner acting theories, work with text and devise your own work. There will be opportunities for students to compete in performance festivals, perform a live play to a paid audience and most importantly have fun!
10-week term £90. (Concessionary places available – please contact; firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lou at: email@example.com
Junior Actors Company
Thursdays 4.30-6pm Sept 23rd – Oct 21st/Nov 4th – Dec 2nd
This group is for school years 6-9 (as of September ‘21)
This group will be led by Lucia Pupilli. Lucia studied at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and has worked professionally in various theatre and film productions including ‘White collar hooligans’ directed by Paul Tanter in Rio de Janeiro and ‘His and Hers’ directed by Lisa Spirling at The Egg theatre in Bath. Lucia has performed in clubs and restaurants as a cabaret singer and has also worked as a Primary School teacher for five years in Wiltshire. She founded ‘Music with Lucia’ teaching instrumental lessons on Piano, Flute and Voice and, in addition, enjoys performing with ‘The Invitation Theatre Company’ and The Fulltone Orchestra.
10-week term £75. (Concessionary places available – please contact:firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lucia at:
Bookings for Autumn Term Opening Soon
In order to book please find details of the membership system on their website: wharftheatre.co.uk
Look under ‘get involved’ and click on ‘wharf youth theatre’
The concentration will be on fun at the junior actor’s school workshops, building confidence and gaining skills through drama, games and improvisations. They’ll be rehearsing and performing scenes from plays and devising their own. The aim is to put on an annual show as they progress.
The workshops are not only an opportunity to develop acting and drama skills but also to make friends and become confident young adults. The Wharf encourage all children to reach their full potential in a safe and inclusive environment.
In addition to the fuller workshops of these new youth companies, the Wharf are also offering two Summer Workshops this year. These will offer an opportunity to have fun and participate in various drama activities. Whilst they will give you a flavour of the work you could be exploring over the forthcoming terms these are stand-alone sessions and are open to all.
Senior Actors with Lou
Wednesday July 28th 10am-1pm
Wednesday August 11th 10am-1pm
Junior Actors with Lucia
Wednesday August 4th 2-5pm
Wednesday August 11th 2-5pm.
Each 3-hour workshop costs £15.
Bookings can be made on Ticketsource via their website wharftheatre.co.uk . Look under ‘get involved’ and click on ‘wharf youth theatre.’ Places are limited but they will be operating a wait list system if groups are full.
Me? I’m passed it now, I’m afraid, but I’ll always have my moment in the spotlight, my Shakin’ Stevens impression on my cub scout pack-holiday. You had to have been there…..or not!
The struggle is real; the theatre world in general is facing many issues and they lit their exteriors and foyers up in a red alert tone. Devizes beloved The Wharf Theatre joined forces again with fellow venues and took part in the Light It in Red campaign. They say, “the message this year is one of hope and support and we are using the universal symbol of the heart with the message; We’re still beating.”
Anyone passing The Wharf next week will note a series of posters created specially to celebrate this campaign, but they also have some exciting news. Subject to government guidelines eight shows are in pre-production and the scheduled dates are:
JULY: Collected Grimm Tales
SEPTEMBER: Jesus Christ Superstar
OCTOBER: The Navy Lark; The Tommy Cooper Story; Glorious (subject to rights)
NOVEMBER: The Paul Simon Story
DECEMBER: Dick Whittington
JANUARY: My Mother Said I Never Should
Tickets can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website or, when open, at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. Whilst restrictions remain in place please continue to refer to their website for the latest details or and don’t follow on Instagram and Twitter.
In the meantime, there’s still a few places left for the on-line masterclass with West End star Luke Bayer on Thursday 25th March 7pm – 8pm. Would you like to be able to spend an hour with the Star of Jamie the Musical, learn a routine from the show and take part in a Q&A afterwards? Tickets can be purchased from TicketSource – see website for further details.
Devizes Town Council announced the result of an assessment by the Environment Agency yesterday, following last week’s outbreak of pollution in Crammar, a spillage from … Continue reading “Update on the Crammer”
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement Devizes’ Wharf Theatre has been forced to postpone their production of Adam and the Gurglewink which was due to open later this month. They have now rescheduled the show for the 18th and 19th December.
Suitable for adults and children this delightful and original pre-Christmas show tells the story of Adam, played by Karl Montgomery-Williams, who is planning to run away when he stumbles across The Gurglewink, a childhood toy who has come to life in the attic. Reality blurs as Adam is whisked away to meet Rainbow girl who challenges him to a dangerous quest to travel to the end of the rainbow for a cup of magical golden dust.. Rainbow Towns survival depends on Adams ability to keep going…..
In addition the December production of The Grimm Tales has been postponed to the New Year and they will be contacting customers to arrange transfer of tickets. Please continue to monitor the website for the latest details.
The Wharf were delighted to have been awarded the COVID-19 industry standard ‘Good to Go’ certification by Visit England and they are therefore hugely disappointed to have to re-schedule shows.
However they remain determined to re-open as soon as possible and send strength and solidarity to everyone across the industry who is working tirelessly to bring theatre back. Finally they want to thank the amazing community for your continued support.
30 tickets are available for each performance, in line with current guidelines. They can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm
Whilst social distancing restrictions remain in place please continue to refer to the website for the latest details.
Word on the towpath is our wonderful theatre, the only theatre in Devizes, The Wharf Theatre is preparing for curtains up in October, starting with an amateur production of My Mother Said I Never Should.
Since being forced to close in March the team have been working tirelessly to keep East Wiltshire’s best loved and only theatre afloat. There was a time, in June, when the future looked rather bleak for the little theatre. After the renovation three years ago, surplus funds were already low, then lockdown happened. The Gazette reported it may have to close due to a £30,000 shortfall in income. Celebrity patron Christopher Biggins praised and promoted a campaign, at the time they hoped to reopen for 2021. So good news is, we’re some months earlier you can enjoy the Wharf productions once again.
While it’s great news for entertainment in town, be aware and be quick to book. Only thirty tickets are available for each performance, in line with current guidelines. They can be purchased by ringing 03336 663 366; from the website Wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm
Last years’ Chair, Oli Beech says: “Break out the bottles, the phoenix of theatre does rise from the ashes and soars high above Devizes! Our dear little theatre is back in the black after a close encounter with disaster! The call went out and boy, was it answered. We’ve had donations pouring in, generous members and locals passing the hats around, bake sale proceeds, even an overwhelming donation of £10,000. We are so thankful to everyone who has helped us either financially or with their many words of support and encouragement….”
During their enforced closure the team hosted three costume sales to raise further funds; completely updated their website and launched a YouTube channel to keep people entertained with specially filmed monologues and some short behind the scene films.
The Wharf also welcome a new Artistic Director, Debby Wilkinson. “Restrictions are beginning to lift but with social distancing still very much in place,” Debby said, “anything we do in the theatre itself will be limited. However, we are very proud to launch the first three plays of our Autumn/Winter season.”
Whilst social distancing restrictions remain in place please continue to refer to their website for the latest details. But I’m happy to announce the new performances will be:
My Mother Said I Never Should
Friday 16th and Saturday 17th October 2020 7.30pm each evening
Written by Charlotte Keatley and Directed by Debby Wilkinson
This rehearsed reading is scheduled to run on October 16th and 17th. First performed in 1987, this play breaks with convention in that it doesn’t follow a linear timeline. The text is now studied for both GCSE and A level and tells the stories of four women throughout several periods of their lives. It explores the relationships between mothers and daughters along the themes of independence and secrets. It is a poignant bittersweet story of love, jealousy and the price of freedom through the immense social changes of the 20th century. Copyright: this amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of Samuel French Ltd concordtheatricals.co.uk
Tickets: £10/£8 concessions.
Adam and the Gurglewink
Friday 13th and Saturday 14th November
7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee
Written and Directed by Helen Langford
Three rehearsed readings of an original play by the Wharf’s own Helen Langford. Adam is planning to run away when he stumbles across The Gurglewink, a childhood toy who has come to life in the attic. They form a reluctant friendship where reality blurs and magic happen. They meet Rainbowgirl who challenges Adam to a dangerous quest which will depend on his ability to keep going when things are not always what they seem.
Suitable for children 6-12 years and their parents. Tickets:/ £8/£6 concessions
Collected Grimm Tales
Monday 14th to Saturday 19th December 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm Saturday Matinee
By: The Brothers Grimm Directed by: Debby Wilkinson
Familiar and lesser known stories are brought to the stage using a physical and non-natural style of performance. These stories journey into the warped world of imagination. We will meet Hansel and Gretel, Ashputtel, Rumpelstiltskin and others, performed by a small adult cast, on a simple set. The audience will need to use their imagination and fully embrace the living power of theatre. Suitable for children and adults.
Copyright: this amateur production is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. On behalf of Samuel French Ltd concordtheatricals.co.uk Adaptor Carol Ann Duffy Dramatised by Tim Supple and the Young Vic Co. Tickets: £14/£12 concessions
Everyone having a nice March so far, been alright, innit? I promised, when I featured the first fortnight of events, here, that I would return to complete the last two weeks. I’ve promised this before and totally spaced on it, for which I apologise; not enough hours in the day. Nothing to do with my goldfish memory. Here though, this month, I’ve actually only gone and done it, before the 31st March too! See below if you don’t believe it’s true, the last fortnight in March, stuff to do while waiting for the supermarkets to restock on bog roll, and all that. I know, it scares me sometimes too.
Bear in mind, mind, our calendar is constantly updating, so do check in as more events and gigs are bound to magically appear like the shopkeeper in Mr Ben.
Sunday 15th is where we were up to, and I got two fantablous gigs, Burbank are the White Bear in Devizes, while Jon Amor is at the Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon; nice.
Monday, I never know if the Devizes Folk Club is on down the Lamb or not, to be frank, but it’s a place for a beer if I’m wrong and it’s not!!
Tuesday 17th The Stonehenge lecture at the Wiltshire Museum is now sold out. Celebrated cartoonist and artist, Norman Thelwell is at The Merchant’s House in Marlborough, for a fascinating hour illustrated talk, tracing his life, passions and artistic development. Thelwell produced 1,500 cartoons and 60 front covers for the famed Punch magazine alone and some 32 books translated into a dozen different languages. His works were full of beautifully observed detail and mainly of rural subjects, including country and leisure pursuits, sport, house sales and renovation, stately homes, gardening and sailing. Failing that, Cracknakeel provides live music at The Sun in Frome for their St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Wednesday 18th is jam-packed, for a Wednesday! Acoustic jam down the Southgate, Devizes. Bromham’s Farm Cookery School has a Taste of Morocco class, where you could be learning how to make a Briouat which is like a Moroccan Samosa, make your own Khobz and Kefta Mkaouara. £40.00 per person. Over in Marlborough David Evans gives the second of three lectures in The Merchant’s House Study Series, focussing on Reformation in England and the Arts. The Roots Sessions continues at Frome’s Cheese & Grain with the fantastic Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue.
Thursday 19th and you could be back down The Farm Cookery School in Bromham for a Mozzarella & Halloumi Masterclass with Josie. She will teach how to make both cheese which is technical but fun! £35.00 per person. The fantastic Ed Byrne is at the Bath Forum and Moles has a punky/metal night with the Anarchist’s Bookfair, Butter The Pavement and Out Of Reach.
If it’s a slow start to the week, Friday 20th March makes up for it. If, like me, all you know about Jesus Christ Superstar is that he came down from heaven on a Yamaha, and you have doubts with your conviction of that, it’s the opening night for this amateur production by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Devizes’ Wharf Theatre. Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical portrayal of the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot runs until Sat 28th March and while tickets are still available as I write this, do be as quick, as if you were on a Yamaha yourself; take care not to skid though!
Meanwhile Devizes Town Hall is the place to head for opera fans, as The White Horse Opera presents their Spring Concert. Including Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan and Hadyn’s Creation, this would be the perfect introduction to opera for those, like me, who thought Donizetti was a type of pasta sauce!
If you fancy music more pop, the local supergroup I’m always raving about, the Female Of The Species play Melksham’s Assembly Hall. Fusing all their respective band’s influences, expect the best of rock, soul and ska as the girl’s combine forces for a fun-filled gig; I’ve been to see one of these shows and I’m not hyping it up because they’re all awesome chicks, I highly recommend it!
Day one of two, at the inspiring Shoebox Theatre in Swindon of their FUSE Festival where six emerging artists test a new performance idea over three days. Fuse is about supporting the beginnings of new work before it’s fully developed. Watch, discuss, and be part of the creation of something brilliant. Two performances Kat Lyons’ Dry Season, interweaving music and movement with original spoken word poetry and extracts from medical literature. And the debut one-woman-show from Mighty Mammal Theatre, Swine of the Times, where you can meet the piggies at the troff; they sing songs, say prayers and even mime. Alice Wolff-Whitehouse employs her skills in physical comedy, dance and song to bring to life a series of flawed and quintessentially British characters, looking at the grotesque nature of privilege in the UK through a warped and colourful lens.
Staying in Swindon, Baila Coffee & Vinyl have some Disco Voodoo with DJ Amir, or try indie rock covers with Joli & the Souls at the Vic. Elsewhere, the Leathers play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford on Avon, Clannad are at Bath Forum, and Jack Dee’s Off The Telly tour is at Salisbury City Hall.
Saturday 21st then. After the hugely successful free concert in the Market Place last summer, The Full Tone Orchestra have taken their show to Marlborough, and return to town to rave the night away at the Corn Exchange. Taking the most popular section of their show, the club anthems, expect this to be something innovative and all glowsticks, as conductor Anthony Brown’s beloved orchestra reproduce the club classics which defined an era.
The Cavalier go country with the Stone Mountain Sinners, caught these guys before, they’ve a refreshing approach to country-rock which is a cut above the rest. And breezy, original songwriter Ed Witcomb makes a welcome return to The Southgate. For surf beats, odd time signatures, eccentric tunes and irony-fuelled free jazz, try The Barge at Honeystreet, where bonkers surf surrealists Mustard Allegro do their stuff.
Super Trooper Abba tribute, Sensations grace the Seend Community Centre, while Swindon’s Meca has a Whitney Houston tribute. Don’t forget though, it’s day two of the Shoebox’s Fuse Festival too.
Mercy Lounge at The Three Horseshoes, Bradford on Avon. Recommended ska night at Warminster’s Prestbury Sports Bar with the Train To Skaville, and Paul Carrick is at Bath Forum.
Head to the Southgate for an afternoon pint or three, on Sunday 22nd, and our fantastic singer-songwriter Vince Bell will entertain you. Meanwhile, Groovelator play The Three Horseshoes in Bradford.
Tuesday, Devizes Film Club at the Town Hall have the latest Ken Loach film, Sorry We Missed You, which you will be if you miss this one film fans. Full of drama, tension and heartbreak. Ricky and Debbie are the parents of teenage children. Ricky joins the ‘gig’ economy with a franchise for a parcel delivery firm. The job is sold to him as one where he will become master of his own destiny. Providing, that is, he complies with the labyrinth of deadlines, rules and conditions imposed by the company, a near impossible task. Debbie is a care worker who wants to care for the old people as though they are her Mam. But her working conditions thwart her in doing the job as she thinks fit. This modern Dickensian story dramatises the conflict between work and family life in contemporary Britain.
Don’t forget Wednesday’s acoustic Jam down the Southgate, and blues-folk singer Elles Bailey is with Phil King at the Chapel Arts, Bath. Thursday you can witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen at The Banff Mountain Film Festival world tour, coming to the Salisbury City Hall. Staying in Devizes on the last Thursday of every month though is no bore, as the regular and celebrated open mic night at the Cellar Bar is something to behold.
Seventies punk bands never had such a great name as Brighton’s Peter & The Test Tube Babies. Still going strong forty years on, they play the Vic in Swindon on Friday 27th. Tenner on the door. Swindon also has an Improv Jam at The Shoebox, and homemade function band Locomotion at the Swiss Chalet.
While it’ll sadly never be possible for the boys to be back in town, Preston’s tribute Twin Lizzy will. They make a welcomed return to the Cavalier, Devizes on Friday. Meanwhile, the Devizes & District Twinning Association take over the town hall to bring us some French Café Music with Jac & Co, tickets are also a tenner for both these diverse evenings.
How much more diverse do you want? A dedicated club night for adults with Learning Disabilities? This Is Me at the wonderful charity youth centre, Young Melksham is precisely that, a night of great music and friendship. There’s a series of these events, first one is Friday.
Another welcomed return to Marlborough Folk-Roots at the Town Hall on Friday, when Steve Knightley explores the themes and stories that inspire him and shows how music and words can become lyrics and chords and notes can meld to create songs that acquire a life of their own.
For want of an authentic tribute band, From The Jam play The Cheese & Grain in Frome, and I’ve heard all good stories about them. If originals are what you want though, The Queen’s Head in Box has a double-booking Friday. Katy Hurt stretches the country music genre in exciting new directions; haunting blues vocals, towering country rock guitars, even a reggae vibe, and she is followed by psychedelic alternative rock band, The Bohemian Embassy.
Saturday night of the 28th March is alright, but no fighting, please. Time for the Devizes Lions’ Spring Concert at St Andrew’s Church, where Ian Diddams comperes Bath Coleman, Bangers & Nash, and the Trowbridge & District Youth Band. Tickets are £10, proceeds to Wiltshire Young Carers.
The Corn Exchange has a Gin Festival. Tribute act, Motley Crude are The Cavalier and local heroes Rockhoppaz play The Black Swan. For high octane original and classic rock mixed with some tasteful Bluesy tracks, check the Mark Smallman Band at the Southgate.
Devizine is the unofficial Tamsin Quin fan club, if you wanna hear why, head to Bromham’s Owl on Saturday. Another Abba Tribute, Swede Dreams play Market Lavington Community Hall.
Highly recommended for the mods, The Roughcut Rebels are at The Pheasant in Chippenham. Also, Blondie & Ska are great fun, they’re at the Wiltshire Yeoman in Trowbridge, checking ahead, they play in Devizes, at the Pelican in May. The Blue Rose Band at The Westbury Conservative Club and an Amy Winehouse tribute at Bath’s Odd Down AFC & Social Club. Level III have a “One Step Beyond-ska and punk club-night.
Elsewhere in Swindon, homemade Damm at Coleview Community Centre and P!nk tribute, Beautiful Trauma play Brookhouse Farm, and a Pearl Jam tribute, Earl Jam at the Vic.
Sophie Matthews explores the links between the visual and the aural in a one-hour presentation at the Merchant’s House, Marlborough. Drawing on the works of great painters including Brueghel, Hogarth and Rigaud, Sophie presents a feast of images featuring historical woodwind instruments in their original social context interspersed with live performances of historical music using authentic instruments.
Sunday 29th – Nearly there, and breath…. Yin Yoga & Gong Bath at Devizes Corn Exchange, The Sunday Sessions continue at The White Bear with Matt Cook and Gary Hall at The Southgate. There’s a Comic-Con at Bath Pavilion, to be frank, it’s a commercial affair rather than a genuine “comic” con, with cosplay, gaming and meeting vague TV actors and ex-Gladiators, but might be fun for the kids.
That’s it, folks, March done, save Bradford on Avon Folk Club have Geoff Lakeman on Tuesday 31st. Let’s regroup in April, but feedback on these articles are needed. Do they work for you? Long-winded I know, but in order to fit it in. Devizine is a work in progress, I enjoy and need to know what’s working and what’s not. So, if you’ve read this far, I salute you! Tell me about it!
Monday 21st – Saturday 26th October sees the next Wharf Theatre production, Living Together, by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Mervyn Harrowven.
When the Norman Conquests (named after the plays leading character, assistant librarian Norman, as opposed to the Kings William and Harold!) burst onto the theatre-going public in the early 1970s, they were a revelation. Here was domestic comedy that spoke to everyone; intelligent, well-observed and extremely funny. Today they are regarded as possibly Ayckbourn’s most ingeniously constructed set of plays.
The second in the trilogy, which features the same characters in the same house during the same weekend, Living Together takes place in the living room. Here we are introduced to incorrigible womaniser, Norman, his wife’s family and a vet.
Certain liaisons have been arranged but when plans change, and Norman drowns his sorrows in a bottle, the scene is set for the testing of married relationships and the comic dissection of middle-class morality.
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. Tickets for this year’s panto, Cinderella are being snapped up, so get in quick!
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.
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!
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.
It starts 23rd -28th September with a ghost story, and everyone loves a ghost story. The Turn of the Screw, which we previewed here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As big chief of the Invitation Theatre Company and partner of Anthony, conductor of The Full Tone Orchestra, you cannot deny, Jemma Brown knows a thing or two about performing arts, so I’ve pinched her words of praise after watching Things I Know to be True at the Wharf Theatre…….
Jemma Brown – 26.4.19
I don’t think I have ever heard so many people, prior to me going to see something, telling me how incredible it is. So, it was with a gently raised eyebrow, that I went to see Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know to be True – directed by a friend, with good friends in it, on a stage that has an awful lot of personal connection, I girded my loins. Now before I launch into what I thought of it all, one must know that I am horribly critical, an awful theatre goer, and the fact that I know the performers and director, my thoughts must not be deemed as bias. Because I would tell you how it is.
It was totally and utterly beautiful. Beautiful.
It made me think about every single possible aspect of life. The love, the pain, the happiness, the sadness, the euphoria, the devastation. And, what’s important.
The set – simple, sensual, unfussy – was the perfect setting for what lay ahead. Six breathtakingly superb performers, performing a piece that is so brilliantly written meant I was hooked from the second it started. The lighting, and the setting was sublime. I loved the fact simple accents were used, because it meant each cast member could grasp the text and tell the story and it made them all the more relatable.
The use of film, laying out a relationship of a family, was an inspired and delicate way to set everything out. We knew from it, that we were going to be meeting a family who loved each other. It drew me in, and it made me gently weep. And how it made me feel at the end…. not everything you see is how it is. The things you know, they change, and they grow.
Interspersed throughout was the most wonderful physical theatre, to the most brilliantly chosen music that enveloped you. The dance elements fell into place like a comfortable shoe, as though it was the most natural thing in the world. And they made me brim with tears. The interconnections between the family was brought to life by this touch and made all the more powerful by the tenderness as it was steered by the cast. A glass of wine that passed from one to another at one point, like it floated. The brother and sister connection that playfully danced.
The coming together of all of them to support and move and just be there, in gentle, significant movements was just stunning. The scene at the end was quite simply one of the most powerful and beautifully executed pieces of theatre I have ever seen. I couldn’t get out of the theatre quick enough at the end so I could get to my car and howl. And I sobbed. I sobbed because of the story, but I sobbed because those six people, the director and the technical team had created something so beautiful, it was all I could do. When I got home, I couldn’t explain what I had just seen, I sobbed and I jumbled a sobbing garble to my husband about what I had just seen. I held my daughter so tight and just could not tell her deeply enough how much I loved her. The effect the whole production had on me was profound. And I really am not the only one. This play has deeply touched everyone who has seen it.
The four children were played by four exceptional actors, each of whom played their roles with such excellence, I found myself wondering why they aren’t all on the professional stage. I forgot I was at The Wharf and that they all have normal lives. They handled their characters with such care and maturity – real kudos to Freddie Underwood and her exemplary direction. I just knew that rehearsal process had been special, that what they had undertaken was a passion for the text and for their director. Because it showed.
Jessica Whiley as Rosie was enchanting. Her storytelling and perfect diction had me feeling and believing and imagining every single thing she was telling us. I felt the love she felt, I felt the passion she had had and I wanted to go home and share a bowl of cereal with the love of MY life. She captured the sense of travelling but wanting to be at home just perfectly. Her performance throughout was captivating. She broke my heart at the end of the play, her gentle voice and the beautiful but devastating words that came tumbling out of her mouth made me want to bawl. Her performance was outstanding.
Lou Cox, a stalwart of theatre, surpassed my expectations as Pip. Her characterisation of the role drew you in and you felt every feeling that she had. Her brilliant usage of inflections and the light and shade of her expertly executed use of the stage and the script meant that you knew who she was, her relationship with her mother and her siblings. Her relationship with every other character on stage was real and unmistakable. Lou’s handling of the character meant you knew exactly who Pip was, it was a striking and beautiful performance. I felt the pull she felt and that earth-shattering realisation that you need to follow your heart.
Fraser Normington as Ben – I loved him. His flexibility within the character was excellent. He caught the busyness of his life perfectly. He looked good, he sounded good and when he royally messed up, his manic panic was caught so brilliantly, I thought I was going to have a panic attack.
Karl Montgomery-Williams played the role of Mark magnificently. We knew something was wrong, he brought something to the stage when we first met him that we could just feel there wasn’t something right. As it unfolded, his storytelling was exquisite. His sensitivity to the subject, his relationship with Rosie and the response to his parents, was heartbreakingly brilliant. Again, you just felt every emotion, every word. His performance was remarkable.
Debby Wilkinson and Paul Butler as Fran and Bob. Well what can I say. I have seen these two perform and have been lucky enough to be on stage with both of them. They blew me away. Paul was bimbling and kind, and his parenting was just what every child needs; calm, gentle, principled. You yet again, felt who he was and felt every inch of his loyalty to his wife and the life they had made together and that he had always done what he thought was right. His aversion to swearing and how he reacted to it made you never want to swear again – yet his ‘F*CK YOU’ was one of the highlights for me. Because it came from Paul as Bob in such a way at the direction towards his son, the disappointment and pure and innate despair, was palpable. It hung in the air, it bounced around the theatre, we felt it. But his relationship with his wife was beautiful was what I loved the most – he broke my heart, his performance when he broke was simply heartbreakingly beautiful – his collapsing on his beloved roses made me want to howl, holding that in was near on impossible, but he captured absolute, all-encompassing pain, gut wrenchingly perfectly.
In response to his portrayal of Bob, Debby played the part of Fran with extraordinary professionalism and realism. She was quite truly excellent. Her connections with the words, the emotion, her relationship with each of her children was breathtakingly intense. She made me feel like I didn’t know who she was – I thought I had her, then she changed. A friend of mine hated her character, describing her as a bitch – I didn’t see her as a bitch, I just saw her and felt her as someone who just didn’t quite know how to ‘be’, her children were all different and the one who was the most like her was the one who she loathed.
So, was she self-loathing? Was that what the problem was? I just did not know, and that was down to how to she was directed, but also how she interpreted such a great and complex piece of writing that captured so many issues and feeling and life experiences. Her handling of the character, the script, the stunning, stunning movement that was incorporated and then her explosion at one of her sons that simply took my breath away, made me weep – her brilliance made me weep.
The production was better than clever. There is just so much in it to talk about. The characterisations of each character left me totally unable to explain what I had just seen. The lighting and music made me want to tap on the lighting box door and tell them how excellently they had handled it all (a real rarity), but the whole vision from the director that had spilled out onto the stage and in her performers, was exemplary. The pure emotion that had been poured into every single aspect was truly on a professional level. It did, quite frankly, blow me away. Even when I sensed there might have been a few line struggles, it just didn’t matter. It was slick, it was calm, and you felt them all working together to make the whole thing ‘happen’.
One thing I know to be true, was that it was, quite frankly, one of the best pieces of live theatre I have ever seen.
And not just because it is an incredible script, but because of who directed it, her tech team and who she had cast to be in it.
Ever since Little Shop of Horrors, the things I know to be true about The Wharf Theatre are that, it’s a lovely, unpretentious theatre Devizes should be proud of, and it’s dedicated to bringing quality shows to our town.
Written by Andrew Bovell and directed by Freddie Underwood then, The Things I Know to Be True is their latest offering. It runs from Monday 22nd to Saturday 27 April, curtain at 7:30pm, and despite being a relatively new piece, its first UK production in 2016, it is already on the GCSE syllabus.
Claiming to be an inspirational compliment of text and movement, Things I Know to be True is as beautifully touching as it is funny, a portrait of marriage and family as seen through the eyes of four siblings, Pip, Mark, Ben and Rosie, all of whom have their own struggles and secrets.
Bob and Fran Price have worked hard to give their family all of the opportunities they never had and now, with their children ready to fly the nest, it should be their time, a time to sit back and smell the roses. But a change of season brings some shattering truths as reality is tested and lives are redefined.
Aye, heareth this, mine own cater-cousins, Shakey is backeth at the Wharf Theatre in Marcheth; timeth to beest did enlighten and amus’d.
Liz Sharman, who directed the incredibly successful, “A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum” last year, is taking the helm again for William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It;” it promises to be a strong show.
Showing from Monday 11th to Saturday 16th March at 7.30pm, this 1599 pastoral comedy has remained an audience favourite for over four hundred years.
Duke Senior has been usurped by his younger brother Duke Frederick and is now exiled from the controlling confines of court. His daughter Rosalind and her cousin Celia have also run away and arrive in the forest with Rosalind now dressed as a young man in order to avoid detection. Others taking refuge amongst the country folk of the Forest of Arden include Rosalind’s admirer Orlando, the court fool, Touchstone and melancholy traveller, Jaques, who gives many of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches including “All the world’s a stage”, “Too much of a good thing” and “A fool! A fool! I met a fool in the forest!”
As with all good comedies much confusion ensues amongst the wooing as society’s rules are overthrown. As You Like It remains an exuberant theatrical journey featuring several songs, a wrestling match, a joyful quadruple wedding and no funeral!