The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on November 20, 1985 · 22
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 22

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Wednesday, November 20, 1985
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ARTS GUARDIAN Wednesday November 20 1985; 22 Michael Billington halls David Edgar's Entertaining Strangers at Dorchester If aseem Kahn on the new man in charge o an old routine BACK IN 1978 Ann JeUicoe staged the first of her remarkable series of Dorset community plays. Now. when the idea has spread through-out Britain, she is directing her last: David Edgar's Entertaining Strangers at St (Mary's Church, Dorchester. She is resigning from the Colwajr Theatre Trust in protest at a peculiarly witless bureaucratic decision by South-west Arts to halve its 20,000 grant As someone wanly remarked, . it is just such committees to whom the Glory of the Garden seeks to devolve power. Fortunately her final production is a reminder of the festal cheer community plays can generate: it is like a secular Oberammergau with-. out any of that event's artistic dreariness and political dubiousness. As you enter the church, you step into a carnival with people flogging furmity (a wheaten sweetmeat), children dancing and the band pumping out popular tunes. And the highlights of Edgar's ensuing play are often scenes of mass-celebration : the Dorchester races of 1835 with pint-sized tray-jockeys straddling the backs of harnessed men with manes of horse-hair or the Equestrian Procession of 1854 with its giant-sized puppets representing such Crimean figures as befurred Cossacks or our tri corned Gallic allies. But David Edgar's play is more than a piece of local hoopla. It focuses on Dorchester History from 1829 to 1873 and the interwoven fates of two protagonists: Sarah EldrWge, a thriving entrepreneur - who founded a famous Dorchester brewery, and ' the .Reverend Henry Moule, the evangelical vicar Bemlsjro MRS Thatcher's father, whose memory reduced her to tears in Woman to Woman (Yorks) had. oddly enough, exactly the same name as Alf Roberts of Conation Street- Both grocers, councillors, mayors, hefty pillars of the community. And Independents. Perhaps Grantham customers would have hesitated to call that formidable citizen Alf though his friends, it seems called him Sugar. Which is more than Mrs Thatcher's friends dare call her. When Disraeli felt some sentiment was not getting the spontaneous applause it deserved, he drew out his handkerchief and primed acolytes in the crowd cheered on cue. I give Mrs Thatcher credit for being genuinely devoted to her father, that self made, strict and self-educated man. I remember my WIGMORE HALL Bu Office a Cmdtt Ctnk 01-935 2141 Sunday, 24 NovamUr at 11 -30 am. Sunday Homing Coffee Concert CARMINA BURANA New London Consort directed by PhtHp Pickett Ail Mats 3.00. including frw slwrrycoffaesquash o o o o o o o o o O O O Q O O O AWTONYSMER HARVEY FIERSTEIN'S WRCH. WNG IS 4k WBBESMSlWnmiSBtM o c OALBERY Theatre. St Martins hone, London WC2. BOX OFFICE 01-836 3878. CREDIT CARDS 01-379 6565, 01-379 6433. o o o TELEPHONE TODAY o o o Ann JelHcoe . . . last production of Fordhigton who campaigned against the demon-drink but- who also strenuously fought the cholera epidemic that struck his parish in the mid-1850s. Eventually the two families are brought together by the loss of children (Henry's son Horace, Hardy's great friend, committed suicide) and by the revelation that the 'Eldridge daughters in 1854 wheeled their copper brewing-boiler into Fordington to disinfect the clothes of the dying; and the show ends with a company hymn ("Our Jerusalem") to the shared vision of a better future. David Edgar has written already of the tension in the idea of "community drama;" and sometimes the obligation to tell a carefully-woven panoramic story, with a cast of 180. covers the hidden play which is the story of Henry Moule. He emerges as a great dramatic character: a Dorset version of Ibsen's Brand. At first, his uncom own father singing "The common round, the daily task Can furnish all I need to ask" as he changed the barrels in the pub cellar, but later, reading aloud a poem from Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia about Maud Muller who felt "A longing she hardly dared to own For Something better than she had known." That thirst for education was not uncommon and, in retrospect moving. On the other hand she brought that emotional moment on herself. She was explaining how " Eventually when the political complexion changed they threw him off being an Alderman. That was such a tragedy." When Miriam Stoppard, who thought she was conducting an interview about women, asked i" Did your mother protect him?" Mrs Thatcher, like Iser rolling rapidly, s IS FOR NEWT Have another drink. You may need it ZOO o o o o o o o c o o o o o o o 12 - 8. 01-379 6433. o o o promising fundamentalism seems ludicrous as he stops his happy parishioners toast- , ing Jesus's health with the communion-cup, banishes the choir and replaces the dreadful church-orchestra with a seraphine. But he gradually turns into a truculent hero; and there is one superb scene when, invited to receive a , silver salver and 170 sovereigns for his work against cholera, he fulminates against the managers of the Duke of Cornwall's local estates who have allowed an excretnental cesspit to fester in their midst. At which point (pure Ibsen) the Mayor suggests, they sing God Save the Queen, Moule, who destroyed his own son but saved) a community, is worth a play in hs own right : particularly as his played, in later years, by the fearsome!? craggy John Hanson. The other problem is that the church's shaky acoustic sometimes makes it .difficult to hear, whether you are promenading with the crowd or sitting on one of the three stages. But aesthetic niggles are overcome by the joyous vitality of Ann Jellicoels production (which wants little in comparison with Mnouchkine's 1789 or Bryden's The Mysteries) and by the extraordinary sense you get of a community) coming to terms with its own past. In the age of the global village (when Dynasty rules the world) it is heartening to find local culture defiantly thriving ; and when the whole company, after the extirpation of the plague, join forces to sing "Praise my Soul, the King of Heaven" it becomes difficult to withhold one's tears. Nancy Banks-Smith on the night Mrs Thatcher shed a tear for her father swept her mother aside: 'Yes. I remember when my father was turned off that council, making his speech for the last time. Very emotional. ' In honour I took up this gown and in honour I lay it down '." According to one of her biographers "He simply removed his alderman's robe, folded it over his chair and left the chamber." Or according to another "He said just audibly ' No medals, no honours, but an inward sense of satisfaction. May God bless Grantham forever'." 1 In any case that frustrated school teacher lived to be a hearty 77 and see his daughter Secretary of State for Education. You can tell straight away that the accordion is a irredemably Hail fellow well met and What's yours, old cock? Its bright red ribs heave in and out as if it had just heard a good one. Its teeth gleam. Every inch that isn't chrome is mother of Searl. It is the bookie in the and. Our fat and flatulent friend was always carried onstage by a girl in a shirt frilly frock with knickers to match, tap shoes and a bow in her hair. This sweet young thing turned' to the right smiled and squeezed, then turned to the left, smiled. The blood fled from one's face fearing that ST JOHN'S Meirion Bowen Amoyal OPENING a week of recitals od (French music at St John's, given by a variety of French . artists, Pierre Amoyal and Michael Levinas presented three violin and piano sonatas long established in repertory. Their performances had tremendous drive and fluency but tended to skimp over the music and even take it for granted. Faure's A Major Sonata and (Debussy's G Minor Sonata were both played too fast either for the notes to be fully comprehensible to the listener in this resonant acoustic, let alone for any nuances to register. Indeed, this was less a marriage of two compatible musical personalities than a prospective partnership. Each had formidable technique (Levinas should not be missed in bis solo recital tonight), and Amoyal played throughout from memory with only a couple of noticeable lapses. But their interpretations had too many awkwardnesses of phrasing and ill-judged changes of gear. Not until the finale of Faure's sonata did they engage with the generally languid pace of this composer's flow of thought, and here at last the texturally simpler writing also cohered well. In the scherao, prior to this, they began to catch something of the sparkle and fantasy of the music but pressed1 it on too ruthlessly, ultimately leaving a rather jumbled impression. MF Cesar Franck's Sonata often as Schumanesque as Faure's benefited from broader treatment, but there was a lot of reckless playing, especially in the second and fourth movements, which shattered the impact of long phrases and chromatically in BIG BAND AID .,. . Charlie Watts drumming up a storm. Picture by Allan Titmuss Ronald Atkins on the Charlie Watts Big band at Ronnie Scott's Watts with high voltage THE WEALTHY patron,- lording it over concerts at his country mansion or financing records for a nobDy, has oeen unknown to the players and supporters of British jazz. Now, at last, we have Charlie Watts. Having earned a few bob over the years with the Rolling Stones, he is putting a nana uiat, at aw pieces ana two singers; is nearly double the accepted size. A week at T ......... CiwHV mIiih IliiMAfi. MM Can ila' at nuiLUlc duii. o, jMua a vcucu, vu 0uuua; ah the Albany, is surely just the beginning. The net has been cast wide. At . one end you have drummer Bill Eyden and trumpeter Jimmy Deuchar, leading figures of modem jazz at the time when Watts was learning his trade. The 10-strong saxophone section includes both establishment Azures like Don Weller, Peter King and Bobby Wellins and newcomer Courtney Pine, whose headlong Coltrane-insplred flights reminded me of the young -Alan Skidmore also in the band and seated some seven places to this flashy character would pinch 'her in some improper place but it never did. He was just jolly and jolly loud. In The Accordion Strikes Back (Arena BBC 2) directed by Richard Spence close friends of the accordion strove to give it an air of spurious respectability. "Do you remember" said one Cambridge busker to another Cambridge ' busker mistily "years ago in Cologne when Stockhausen came up to us." ("And his wife, Doris" said the one with the flbte). "And said 'I very much like the sound of the accordion.'" They gave us a blast of Stockhausen's Zodiac for t' cordton and flute from his Music for the Stomach. The jokey nature of the accordion makes you wary. Is ' it possible Stockhausen's wife is called Doris ?,- My God, I'm not going to-ring Cologne and ask him. r You can't make me. Everything in The Accordion Strikes Back was. unlikely. There was a Chinese musician called Who Hje, an authority on music called Ebenezer Trout and - the Chief Constable of Manches i. a m T 1 1 ' ier wire on ais wiusKers ana revealed himself as the President of the British College of Accordionists. I wouldn't believe a word of it if I hadn't just discovered she was called Doris. flected harmonies. One prays for rather more French sophistication in the rest of this series. HAMMERSMITH Robin Denselow Prefab Sprout ON their current showing Prefab Sprout could well become the 80's answer to Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan. After all, they play well crafted, quality pop songs that range from jazz-tinted soft-rock, to more TObust but still thoughtful pieces, and one can imagine them being studied at midnight in bedsits across the country. It is delicate, personal music that works well on record, but whether it would work so well in the noisy dance hall setting of the Hammersmith Palais seemed more of a gamble. All credit then to this Newcastle quintet (they have acquired a black keyboard player since recording their last album), that they not only managed to perform their intricate songs so well, but actually looked and sounded like a performing band rather than a studio based group, and at times showed an unexpected new igutsy approach. This is clearly an outfit in transition. Their first album Swoon was just a little too clever, with its stylistic echoes of Steely Dan, while the latest Steve McQueen is a far more original mixture of tuneful ballads like Bonny and . When Love Breaks Down and the more upbeat Faron Young. The latter was performed twice at the Palais as if to emphasise the new versatility. Paddy McAIoon now a clean shaven athletic looking figure, almost made the Palais seem like an intimate night club with his cool breathy singing, some of it into C.C. BOOKING NOW OPEN OI-836 3464 THREE KNIGHTS LTD. THE SHUBERT ORGANIZATION. ROBERT FOX LTD FOR CHESS PRODUCTIONS LTD PRESENT o BENNY ANDERSSON SCENIC DESIGN BY ROBIN WAGNER BOOKING ACCEPTED FOR ALL PERFORMANCES FROM MAY17TH 1986 PRINCE EDWARD THEATRE OLDCOMPTON STREET, LONDON Wl TELEPHONE 01-734 8951 FIRST NIGHT MAY 14TH SOLD OUT. MAY 15 8c 16TH STALLS & DRESS CIRCLE SOLD OUT PREVIEW PERFORMANCES TO BE ANNOUNCED PERFORMANCE TIMES: EVENINGS AT8.00PM. MATINEES: THURSDAY AND SATURDAY 3.00PM PRICES OF ADMISSION: STALLS & DRESS CIRCLE: 18.50, 15.00. UPPER CIRCLE: 10.00. 7.50 POSTAL SO OWN CI Send th i cached coupon PERSONAL tOOKTNOS AtthcPrlnctEctirardThutra IOim-mMondy&turdqr GROUPMIJB For croup of IS or more, telephone 01-9306)23 TELEPHONE BOOKINGS' 24 HOURS A DAT 7 DAYS A WEEK 'All telephone credit eird bookings only through "Frit OH' (plus 1,25 booking fee per ticket). (7.50 teatf, 75p booking fee per ticket.) CALL NOW! 01-8363464 his right John Stevens made, up the drum choir alongside Watts and Eyden and, with two basses and 10 brass on top, the uninitiated might expect a shambles. Far from it. The Band's director, Alan Cohen, has reworked Bobbins Nest, Flamingo and other standards so as to exploit the fullness of texture and tone colour. Lovers of big bands will find the trip worthwhile just to wallow in the sheen of the saxophones on Skyliner. Tempos never exceeded a brisk medium Soloists were variable, as you might expect with so many stars to be catered for, among the more successful being Ray Warleigh and Danny Moss. No problem, because units from the band play between sets, so most of the members will get ths chance to add to the strong impression made by Stan Tracey and Peter King on the opening night CH THE MUSICAL BY TIM COSTUME DESIGN BY THEONI V. ALDREDGE CO-CHOREOGRAPHER BOB AVIAN DIRECTED AND CHOREOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL BENNETT I I I I I I I To: FIRST CALL, 'CHESS', FO BOX 92, LONDON WC2H 9SU PLEASE SUPPLY THE FOtLOWING TICKETS: STALLS! DRESS CIRCLEUPPER OKIE AT EACH. TOTAL FOR MATfEVG' PERFORMANCE ON (DATE) . ALTERNATIVE (DATE) I WISH TO PAY BY CREDIT CARD AMEWVISAACCESSDINERS (delete as afpiica&LE) CARD NO I I I 1 1 I I EXPIRY DATEL Oft I ENCLOSE CHEQUE PAYABLE TO 'FUST NAME : ALL POSTAL BOOKINGS FOR PERFORMANCES FROM MAY 17th IH6 I PLEASE ENCLOSE A STAMPED ADDRESSED ENVELOPE "PltM delete where tnipplicible THERE are few places more dispiriting than Cecil Sharp House on a cold winter's day. It is a large, cumbersome, uncosy monument to the folk culture of Britain: rediscovered with much delight by Cecil' Sharp in the early years of .this century, revived again with skiffle in the '60s and now some claim fading away again.- , : Folk, however, is a striking example of how you can prove whatever youlike with statistics. On the one hand, membership of Sharp's English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) based in Cecil Sharp House, has steadily dipped. (It now stands at a puny 9,000, a growing percentage of which are 'elderly.) On the other hand, practitioners are growing in number. In 1934, for instance, there were only six morris sides left in Britain: Now there are 672 "ritual dance" clubs, which include, morris. , Within the EFDSS's own membership, some feeling exists that the society has not kept pace with the world outside. Jim Lloyd, who takes aver today as the society's fourth director, has a great deal of sympathy for that view. His career has included station announcing for Tyne Tees TV, news reporting for ATV. and instigating and presenting much folk music on radio. There is, in his view, no contrast in scope between an audience of 50 million and a membership of 9,000. "There is ho doubt," he said firmly, " that folk as enormous. The whole business of it is part of us, we can't get away from it Where we have failed is in convincing a wider audience that what we're doing, is something of RICE I I II I I I I I CALL' FOR TICKETS. SIGNATURE. TElNo:. value,; , that it's preserving the heritage rather;than just dances -and, songs. Yes, the problems are horrendous; but there ds definitely a, new spirit about the place. More people are rallying to the cause. Tve got to try to turn the ship around." Lloyd would see his own appointment the first non-dancer director as part of that new spirit: an enabler, he says, a communicator. " We are an insular movement." he says caustically, lumbered with the image in the non-folk world of -beer and beards: an image that folk (itself does-too little to correct "We have to stop having festivals in little fields all over the place : and put them in the community," he says. By the community,' Lloyd means the mainstream. Croydon's Folk .Song Society, for instance, has tripled its attendance by moving out of a pub, after 19 years, into the glass and gloss of the Fairfield Halls. As Director-Designate. Lloyd has been touring the country meeting folk enthusiasts. He's found -much, that he expected copious talent, acres of commitment " (But for all that in the eyes of funding bodies Britain's folk . arts are invisible. The Arts Council (though, it has recently, after much pressure, set up a one-man review) has always refused to fund folk. Money and subsidy are not however, the heart of the problem. At the core, believes Lloyd, is the heed for wider public recognition. That ds where Lloyd through schemes for developing all those skills foreign to the folk world (marketing, publicity, fund-raising, animateurs and so on). has really set his sights. BJORN ULVAEUS LIGHTING DESIGN BY THARON MUSSER 6DJ

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