Surefire hit for Petersfield Theatre Group

Annie Get Your Gun (Petersfield Theatre Group)

Festival Hall, Petersfield

Friday, May 26

They certainly rolled up for PTG’s latest show, Annie Get Your Gun, by Irving Berlin, directed by Roger Wettone. The true story of gun totin’ Annie Oakley was a surefire winner for Petersfield audiences, who packed the Festival Hall.

The story follows rough and ready country gal Annie who uses her gun to shoot game, to support her little brother and sisters. Her skills bring her to the attention of Colonel Buffalo Bill, who invites her to join his travelling Wild West Show. There’s a romance, of course, this being a musical – enter rival sharp shooter Frank Butler. But of course, it ain’t easy being eclipsed by a woman, and tension ensues. But it all comes good in the end, in a final shootout.

It’s not quite feminism but bearing in mind the time it’s set and was written, it gives a strong woman the title role, as well as a bit of US folk history.

The two leads were excellent – Suzie Dove as Annie and Elliott Port as Frank. Suzie has a beautifully fluid voice, soaring to extraordinary heights without ever sounding strained or harsh. Her expressive face and irrepressible cheeriness won the audience over immediately – a lovely performance.

Elliott also gave a strong, likeable performance, commanding the stage. He has a warm, easy-to-listen-to singing voice and can dance, too – romantic lead material in spades.

The three youngsters playing Annie’s siblings – Georgie Gardner-Cliff, Bethany Hickey and little sprite Max Merricks were very engaging and obviously having the time of their lives, with broad cheeky smiles on their grubby little faces.

John Edwards as Buffalo Bill really looked the part, all white bewhiskered and fringed jacket. Jo Stephenson as Dolly looked incredibly glamorous in her costumes and brought a bit of her panto stepmother nastiness to the character. Emma Read was great as Dolly’s sister Winnie – I hope to see her in a lead role again in the future. And Joe Dove, straight from picking up a main part in Winton Players’ last production at the last minute, gave it his all as Winnie’s intended, Tommy.

Simon Stanley as Buffalo Bill’s right hand man, Charlie, gave an assured performance, keeping the pace up and pulling scenes together in a subtle yet essential way. Stage experience shows.

Tim Coyte as Sitting Bull worked really hard to maintain dignity without letting his performance become too comedic. I do feel uncomfortable about the portrayal of native Americans in this show. It’s very easy to veer into panto territory, making them caricatures. How would the audience have taken someone ‘blacking up’ to play an African American, I wonder? Sitting Bull has some sardonic lines, giving us a small window into attitudes towards ‘Red Indians’ at that time. But it’s a tricky thing to get right, and I think this element needed a bit more careful handling. But Tim did a good job, despite this.

The ensemble pieces were beautifully sung – as always for PTG. The group contains some great voices, and when combined, the sound could take the roof off!

Quieter moments, too, were delicately done –  Moonshine Lullaby was genuinely touching.

The big top set was good with its red and white drapes (looked familiar, somehow…!) and the moveable set pieces such as the boat and the train worked really well.

The band was very versatile, and being at the back of the stage meant it was part of the action but didn’t drown out the cast. I could hear every word onstage.

Standout moments for me definitely include Anything You Can Do – great fun. And There’s No Business like Showbusiness was being hummed by everyone as they left the theatre. Indeed there is not.

Kat Wootton

Annie Get Your Gun in Petersfield – show opens this week

The Petersfield Theatre Group is bringing one of the all-time classic Broadway shows to the Festival Hall this week, May 24-27 (not June as incorrectly stated in Life in Petersfield magazine).

Annie Get Your Gun is a musical with lyrics and music by Irving Berlin and a book by Dorothy Fields and her brother Herbert Fields.

The story is a fictionalised version of the life of Annie Oakley (1860-1926), a sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and her romance with sharpshooter Frank Butler. It features well-known songs such as: ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, ‘You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun’, ‘I Got The Sun In The Morning’ and ‘Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)’.

The cast includes Suzie Dove as Annie Oakley, with Elliott Port as Frank Butler, John Edwards as Buffalo Bill and Tim Coyte as Sitting Bull.

 

Elliott Port as Frank and Suzie Dove as Annie

 

Tickets can be booked online at petersfieldtheatregroup.org or from the Petersfield Library (Tourist Information Centre).

Performances are: Wednesday, May 24 at 7.30pm, Thursday 25 at 7.30pm, Friday, May 26 at 7.30pm, and Saturday, May  27 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Prices are £16 for adults and £11 for children under 16.

Brook Village Fete has traditional family fun

Monday, May 29 marks the 71st annual Brook Village Fete, (sponsored by local independent boarding and day school King Edward’s Witley); one of the most popular and longest-running village festivals in southern England.

This year, the event will be officially opened by Jane Vlach, Vicar of All Saints Church in Witley on Bank Holiday Monday, at 1pm, on the picturesque village green opposite the Dog and Pheasant Pub.  In keeping with the spirit of this time- honoured and renowned local tradition, the emphasis remains on good old-fashioned family entertainment with a broad choice of attractions, designed to provide something of interest for everyone.

This represents the third year that the event is sponsored by King Edward’s Witley, whose pupils and staff play an active role in publicising the fete, as well as providing some much-needed man power on the day itself. The 71st village fete looks set to deliver yet another fun-packed day out, offering a host of activities and games for children of all ages, in addition to a large number of stalls showcasing a variety of produce.  The legendary dog show which always attracts an eclectic assortment of entries is destined to be a crowd- puller, along with the various fairground rides, shooting gallery, hook-a-duck, bash-the-rat, face painting, lucky dip, plate smashing and coconut shy on offer.

The competitive spirit will no doubt be very much in evidence, from the closely-fought children’s races to the tug-of-war competition featuring teams from local firemen, local villagers and the Brook Cricket Club.

Vintage car enthusiasts will be in their element, admiring the display of super classy and ultra-stylish classic cars and Godalming’s very own dance troupe – the Fleur de Lys Morris Dancers – will be on hand to demonstrate some traditional folk dance moves.

Other attractions include the plant stall, jewellery stalls, crafts, ladies clothing, bags and scarves. Inside Pirrie Hall there will be the usual huge selection of bric-a-brac for the bargain hunter, as well as many hundreds of second-hand books, children’s toys and games.  Donations for these and for the tombola can be made beforehand and over the bank holiday weekend by phoning the Fete Organiser on 01428 288835 or emailing [email protected].

No-one attending the fete is likely to go hungry, as there is a tempting array of culinary treats to choose from, including the mouth-watering barbecue, tea tent, homemade cakes stall and Pimms Tent, together with stalls selling sweets, popcorn, ice-cream and candyfloss.  Visitors will also be encouraged to try their luck at the tombola, while the Grand Draw Raffle will see winners take home a fabulous range of prizes.

Fete organisers are appealing to local residents for their support, as all the money raised is vital to the maintenance of Pirrie Hall and its grounds, which host the well-known cricket club, tennis club, nursery school, children’s playground and other highly valued local community clubs and activities. Pirrie Hall is a registered charity that receives no outside funding.

‘Mister Le Mans’ to celebrate his 50th birthday at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Tom Kristensen, legendary Le Mans and Sebring champion, will be celebrating his 50th birthday and the 20th anniversary of his first Le Mans win at the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, taking place from June 29 to July 2.

Following his 1997 Le Mans win with the Joest racing team, driving a Tom Walkinshaw Racing- designed and Porsche-powered WSC95, TK, as he is affectionately known, went on to top the podium at Le Mans nine times, six of them in consecutive years. He is also the only man in racing to boast six Sebring wins.

The Festival will honour TK’s 36 years in motorsport with a collection of his greatest racing machines, including offerings from his glorious career at Audi as well as the stunning Bentley Speed 8. Meanwhile, the BMW V12 LMR, the first car to take TK to the top step of the Sebring 12 Hours, will be in action, tackling the famous Goodwood hillclimb.

In anticipation of this year’s Festival, Goodwood Road and Racing (GRR) have further released a competition to win tickets to the Festival of Speed, hinting at some of the awesome machines ticket-holders and GRR viewers will be treated to at the world’s most glamourous motorsport event: https://www.goodwood.com/grrc/event-coverage/festival-of- speed/2017/4/competition-win-fos-tickets/.

Saturday and weekend tickets are now sold-out, with Thursday, Friday, and Sunday tickets selling fast. Hospitality packages are available throughout the weekend. To buy tickets or enquire about hospitality visit www.goodwood.com or call the Goodwood Ticket Office on 01243 755 055.

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First open gardens event for village of Liss

Liss Community Association is delighted to announce its first Open Gardens event which will take place on Sunday, June 25, from 11am – 5pm.

Nineteen gardens will be open across the village and visitors will be able to hop on and off a dedicated shuttle bus, which will be on hand all day, to ensure they get to visit all of the beautiful gardens.  The Triangle Centre will be open and serving  refreshments including sandwiches, homemade cakes, hot and cold drinks and Pimm’s.

You can stroll around in large formal gardens with wide sweeping lawns or enjoy smaller gardens bustling with ideas and inspiration for your own garden. Riverside locations, cottage gardens, ponds, formal vegetable and herb gardens, rose gardens and beautiful terraced lawns are open to discover.

The children of Liss are encouraged to get involved with this event and have been invited to design their own mini garden in a tub/container of their choice. The gardens should be brought down to the Triangle Centre by 11am on June 25, where they will be judged by members of the Horticultural Society.  The gardens will then be on display for all of the visitors to admire at The Triangle.  Local gardening celebrity Peter Catt will be conducting the official opening ceremony and be on hand to answer any gardening questions.

Programmes cost £5 and will be available from The Triangle Centre from the end of May, along with shuttle bus tickets which cost £2.

Schools host debate on impact of AI on the future

“Like an asteroid heading towards us that will hit between 2029 and 2050, reshaping the workforce of the future” – this was the message delivered to leading educationalists from Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire at a conference held on April 27 at the Four Seasons Hotel near Hook.

Entitled ‘The Rise of the Robot: Is our curriculum relevant’, the aim of the conference was to hear from two leading experts, Dr Nick Baylis of Cambridge University, and Shamus Rae, lead partner with KPMG, about how and when the rapid growth and advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will affect the workplace and therefore what practical life skills students will need to learn at school to prepare them for what will be a massive – but inevitable – shift in their working lives.

As part of a successful three-year ‘Viable Alternatives’ initiative, Lord Wandsworth College and Frensham Heights once again joined forces to bring together senior staff from both independent prep and state primary schools to share the latest advances in AI and their likely impact – and, importantly, to generate a debate on how to better equip today’s children for an uncertain future.

Shamus Rae

Shamus Rae, lead partner for Innovation at KPMG in the UK, is spearheading the programme to digitally transform the firm. As the AI advisor on several government committees, he is highly regarded as one of the leading business experts in the coming wave of disruption. He shared his expertise, explaining and demonstrating where robots already are in terms of technical capacity. According to him, computers will be 1000 times more powerful than the human brain within just over a decade and will be learning and creating new knowledge without us understanding how.

Nick Baylis

Psychologist Dr Nick Baylis, who has a PhD in the psychology of successful life development at Cambridge and has written and lectured worldwide on wellbeing and life development, shared what life skills and characteristics he believes schools need to cultivate in their students to allow them to flourish in this rapidly changing world of work: the courage to experiment and explore, encouraging emotions, touch and movement, celebrating difference, embracing and learning from failure, thinking outside the box and the ability to challenge the status quo.

Both speakers were from different ends of the spectrum but interestingly came to the same conclusion – how essential creativity will continue to be, in thought, word and deed. And it is something that robots are short on.

The conference ended with a spirited debate about the need to educate parents that exam results should not be the sole focus of an education – strength of character, resilience and creativity will be just as, if not more, important.

Co-host, Adam Williams, Head at Lord Wandsworth College, said: “To listen to the thoughts and views of two of the leading minds in their respective disciplines as to what the future looks like for the next generation and how we can prepare our students for that was inspirational.” Andrew Fisher, Head of Frensham Heights agreed: “Although challenging times lie ahead, both Adam and I were reassured that the paths our respective schools are treading are very much in step with what the world wants and needs: character, courage and creativity.”

 

 

Pratchett fans gather for opening of owl parliament at Birdworld

On Friday, April 28, Birdworld near Farnham officially celebrated Sir Terry Pratchett’s 69th birthday with the official opening of its brand-new exhibit, the Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament with the assistance of Discworld dignitaries, Rob Wilkins and Stephen Briggs.

The beautifully crafted exhibit has been created in collaboration with the World Owl Trust (WOT) and has been named in honour of the award-winning author, Sir Terry Pratchett due to his well-known love of wildlife and in particular, all species of owl.

As well as showcasing a wonderment and diversity of owls from the magical snowy owl to the reputedly wise long-eared owl, the Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament will aim to educate and raise awareness of these amazing birds. The display will also provide an interactive space for visitors to learn fascinating facts about Strigiformes – the order in which owls belong.

The Owl Parliament has been created both as a satellite of the WOT’s collection and to recognise Sir Terry’s passion for these mysterious birds of prey. Visitors familiar with the popular Discworld novels will be able to easily recognise a number of the references but with the unique stylizing of these aviaries, everyone exploring the exhibit will be drawn into the mythical and wonderful world of Sir Terry Pratchett.

To celebrate the day, visitors attended the official opening ceremony in their finest Discworld-themed costume before Rob Wilkins cut the red ribbon and christened the Owl Parliament with a bottle of champagne.

After the official opening ceremony Discworld Auctioneer, Dr Pat Harkin led a prize-packed auction that featured prizes from rare signed books, Paul Kidby artwork and the star prize of feeding Birdworld’s African Penguins alongside Rob Wilkins that very afternoon.

As a result of the Discworld Auction and Raffle, the day raised over £1,400 for the Birdworld Conservation Fund which will in turn be donated to the World Owl Trust to support the fantastic work they do on both a National and International Scale.

Pratchett fans were also treated to a special Q&A session with both Rob Wilkins and Stephen Briggs which included time for personal book signings and photos as a reminder of the day.

Elsewhere in the park, the Birdworld Keepers were delighted to welcome into the world a Humboldt Penguin chick and as a fitting tribute to both the author and the day itself, it was decided the only appropriate name for the hatching was Terry!

Mark Anderson, Birdworld General Manager, commented: “We were extremely proud to host Discworld Day to celebrate the official opening of The Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament.

“We would like to thank all the fans who attended the day and of course, Discworld dignitaries, Rob Wilkins and Stephen Briggs for helping to make the day such a special one. The hatching of another Humboldt Penguin chick was a pleasure for all of us to hear and it was only apt for the chick to be named in honour of Sir Terry himself.

“We are looking forward to continue showcasing such an extraordinary selection of owl species, many of which are threatened with the loss of habitat in the wild and for visitors of all ages to immerse themselves in the mysterious world of Sir Terry Pratchett in the process.”

Already one of the largest bird parks in the country, the 26 acres of landscaped park and gardens at Birdworld are home to over 800 birds and 180 species from around the world. The park also is home to the Underwater World aquarium and the Jenny Wren Farm.

For more information about the Terry Pratchett Owl Parliament and Birdworld’s other attractions or experiences visit: www.birdworld.co.uk or call 01420 22992.

 

 Satisfying start to the new season at Chichester

REVIEW 

Forty Years On by Alan Bennett

Chichester Festival Theatre

Daniel Evans, the new artistic director at the Festival Theatre, has chosen to direct ‘national treasure’ Alan Bennett’s first play as the opener to the 2017 season. Having enjoyed John Gielgud, Paul Eddington and Bennett himself on stage at London’s Apollo Theatre back in the 60s, it was intriguing to see how the old play would stand up, with octogenarian Richard Wilson (who had a heart attack last August) and a large, mainly youthful cast.

The setting immediately gave hope, with a real organ as the vast centerpiece of the stage at Albion House, a minor public school where the headmaster (Wilson) is celebrating his final day in charge. The school and staff are performing for parents and alumni a skittish revue written by Franklin (Alan Cox) who is to become the next head. In the context of the 60s ‘revolution’, Forty Years On takes a nostalgic, romantic and witty view of some of the major events in the 20th century. The revue flits back and forth with gentle pastiches of life in Edwardian England and the two World Wars, interspersed with sketches on T E Lawrence, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, Oscar Wilde’s plays, and upper class thriller writers like John Buchan.

There is lots to laugh about and plenty to smile about, although the play is overlong and some of the sketches don’t work (might have been omitted?). However, fans of Alan Bennett will emerge with satisfied grins. His acute observation, satirical sketches and lyrical speeches evoke laughter and even tears. As a man with a 1st class honours degree in modern history from Oxford University, Bennett gives his play a strong sense of historical truth, and there is no fake news although the tone is usually humorous. Bennett himself was state-educated in Leeds and apparently his insider information about public school life came from his friend Russell Harty, who taught English at Giggleswick School.

Despite a few falterings, Richard Wilson provides sound headship to a lively cast. Danny Lee Wynter, as the master Tempest, makes the most of his parody turns. Mischievous contributions from members of the Youth Theatre include a raucous interruption to proceedings by the school rugby team. The play is also graced by an invigorating tap dance sequence and some rousing anthems from the public school songsheet. Daniel Evans seems a safe pair of hands for CFT, and we can all look forward to the rest of the summer with keen interest. The 2017 programme includes: Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, Fiddler on the Roof, Ian McKellen in King Lear, and Alan Aykbourn’s The Norman Conquests.

www.cft.org.uk

Nick Keith

Winton Players audience had the time of their lives

REVIEW 

TIME OF MY LIFE (Winton Players)

Festival Hall, Petersfield

Friday, April 28

Set in an Italian restaurant, with three strands of timeline: present – the family dinner to celebrate mum Laura’s birthday; future – son Glyn and wife Steph meeting after the dinner and beyond; and past – son Adam and new flame Maureen meeting and getting to know each other leading up to the family dinner.

The marvellous Dil Peeling played five characters – restaurant owner and all four waiters – to great comic effect – a standout performance.

Eileen Riddiford also gave a masterly performance as Laura, the bitter , sniping wife of businessman Gerry, drinking her way to revealing ugly truths about her past.

As Gerry, Nick Witney was rather too kindly, his outrage at his wife’s infidelity with his own brother not quite believable. Nick seems altogether too lovely a person to hit anyone, especially a woman! But his was an intelligent performance, with great clarity.

Lawrence Cook came across well as the pathetic elder son Glyn, the philanderer, disliked by his own mother for being weak. His other half Steph was played by Anne-Lise Kadri, showing a nice arc from mousy downtrodden wife to smart, no-nonsense businesswoman, still kindly towards Glyn but strong enough to say goodbye at the end.

As Maureen (an odd name for a young girl in the nineties), young Monika Jankowska was sassy and bright, funny and beautiful, and it was easy to see why Adam, the adored younger son, would fall in love with her. I’m not sure what the accent was, but it was charming.

Finally, I was sad to see that Charlie Essex, who had been rehearsing for months for the role of Adam, was struck down with illness just before the dress rehearsal. He was back to play the Saturday performances which I would love to have seen, as he is a very talented young actor. However, the last-minute stand in, Joe Dove, script in hand, in his stage debut no less, picked up the role and did so magnificently. Well done, young man!

Directed by Brenda Adams, with an attractive set designed by John Chapman, Time of My Life was written in 1992 but feels somewhat older. I felt that some of the darker undercurrents – about enjoying what we have rather than looking for better or mourning a past which seems happier – were a little lost. However, the packed Festival Hall audience very much enjoyed this production, and it was good to see experienced and new actors onstage together giving polished performances.

Kat Wootton