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!
No, not some kid’s pap in Poundland, there’s been a kidnap in Pantoland, or at least there will be if the Wharf Theatre have anything to do with it. Me, I’m trying to imagine: “he’s behind you!…..Oh, he was behind you, now he’s bartering for your ransom demand.”
Still, The Wharf Theatre Group ask, “what better way to start the Christmas Season and get into the festive spirit than by taking the family to the Wharf Theatre to discover all the songs, jokes and slapstick fun you would expect from the magical world of panto?”
“Come and cheer, boo and generally join in as you help discover ‘who-done-it’ in this pantomime adventure featuring all of your favourite fairy-tale characters,” my money is on Buttons, never trusted that guy, always the quiet ones.
“Together you can catch the culprit and rescue Snow White, Sleeping Beauty & Cinderella who have all been taken hostage by someone in Pantoland. Help Detectives Maverick and Chirpy investigate the case with a little help from the goodies, including wacky washer woman Widow Twanky and silly servant Buttons. And remember to keep a look out for the baddies – Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, the Wicked Stepmother & the Wicked Fairy are hiding out at their club house, working on their alibis!”
I confess, I’ve a little crush on the Wharf Theatre since the fantastic Little Shop of Horrors performance and it sounds to me like The Wharf’s spin on pantomime will be highly entertaining family fun! Tickets £12/under 16s £10, can be purchased from Ticketsource at:
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 now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.
Zara is therapist to a sixteen year old refugee, trying to come to terms with the brutal horrors of war. Her own adopted daughter of the same age is dealing with her ‘inner’ conflict. As the characters of the two girls, Layee and Thea, emerge, they tell not only their own stories but each other’s, to a world which they often feel doesn’t listen or understand.
Showing the deep anguish, feelings of loss of identity and abandonment which can link both adoption and asylum, it’s the intriguing plot of Broken Wing, the world premier play of Devizes author Annie L Cooper. Annie was prompted to write it after her personal experiences as a therapist working in Bosnia with the victims of concentration camps, and having witnessed the complex issues involved in adoption. It’s being staged by director Lewis Cowen at The Wharf Theatre in Devizes for Tuesday 19th to Saturday 23rd June.
Not set in any specific time or place, because sadly these issues still occur in all corners of the world, it’s a powerful production with strong language and disturbing themes, hence its over sixteen guideline.
What an inspiring move for our local theatre, adapting a local author’s work and staging an exclusive play which hopefully will be taken up elsewhere.
Catch Broken Wing at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes: Tuesday 19th – Saturday 23rd June 2018 @ 7.30pm Tickets £12/£10; concessions can be purchased from the website: wharftheatre.co.uk or at the Devizes Community Hub and Library on Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm or by ringing 03336 663 366 For further information contact Karen Ellis firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle Magorian’s delightful novel about the experiences of young evacuee has been through a number of incarnations, most notably the TV film starring John Thaw. However David Wood’s stage version is enjoying great success, and directed by Kim Pearce, it’s the latest performance at The Wharf Theatre, Devizes.
Running from Friday 9th to Saturday 17th March 2018, 7.30pm each evening with a 2.30pm matinee on Saturday 10th March, this sounds like a heart-warming prose (please note: there are no performances on Sunday11th and Monday 12th March.)
Willie Beech is a boy from the slums of south east London who finds himself unloved and unwanted when he is evacuated to the countryside as Britain finds itself on the brink of World War II. Widower Tom Oakley takes the shy young lad under his wing. The aging recluses’ stony heart is gradually softened and the experience poignantly changes both, in this heart-warming tale.
Tickets £12/£10 concessions can be purchased from: The Devizes Community Hub and Library, Sheep Street, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The website Wharftheatre.co.uk. Or by ringing 03336 663 366.
To find out what else is on at the Wharf pick up the new Spring Summer brochure which is now available from the Community Hub and Library and many other outlets around Devizes.