Standing ovation at CFT for new musical

REVIEW

Flowers for Mrs Harris

Chichester Festival Theatre

British theatregoers love a musical. As long as it has a heart-warming story. strong voices and good acting, it doesn’t even need a memorable song. ‘Flowers for Mrs Harris’ ticked all these boxes and the Chichester Festival Theatre audience took it to their hearts.

Mark Meadows as Mr-Harris, Clare Burt as Ada Harris in CFT’s Flowers for Mrs Harris Photo: Johan Persson

Festival Theatre artistic director Daniel Evans has reprised his award-winning production in Sheffield two years ago when it won several awards, including best musical. The story is from a sugarcoated novella by Paul Gallico. The music is by Richard Taylor, who has composed for West End shows, the National Theatre and the RSC; and the Gallico story was adapted by Rachel Wagstaff, who re-worked Sebastian Faulks’s novel Birdsong for the West End.
Ada Harris (Clare Burt) spends her widowhood arranging flowers and keeping her Battersea home clean in the imagined company of her husband Albert. She is a saintly daily, supporting neighbours and her cleaning clients. Without demur and without any thought for herself. But most people take her altruistic efforts for granted. Her aspirations and her life change when she spots a beautiful Christian Dior dress in a brochure, and she determines to find a way of getting to Paris. The first act shows how she helps people and scrimps and saves to raise money for her dream ticket to Paris, with a little help and guidance from her friends.

Clare Burt made a marvellous Mrs Harris, reprising the role for which she had won an award in Sheffield. Support from the likes of Joanna Ridding and Gary Wilmot was strong, and the cast performed parallel roles in the Paris part of the show.

It was rather disappointing that the evening lacked a memorable song, with recitative prevailing, and some of the lyrics were drowned by the loudness of the music, so a minus mark for musical director Tom Brady. Spoiler alert: there is a happy ending, and the CFT audience rose as one to give the production a standing ovation.

www.cft.org

Nick Keith

Anglo Saxons to invade Chalton for Equinox celebration

Anglo Saxon re-enactment group, Herigeas Hundas, will be celebrating the Autumnal Equinox this weekend, September 22-23, at Butser Ancient Farm in Chalton.

Visitors will be able to enjoy action-packed fighting demonstrations, along with ancient crafts and everyday camp life at the farm’s Saxon long hall, throughout the weekend.

Group leader Rich Bonner said: “We are excited to be celebrating the Autumn Equinox at Butser Ancient Farm. It is a unique experience to be able to show the public what life would have been like in 5th to 7th century Hampshire with the inspiring backdrop of a Saxon long hall.

“Our warriors are ready to show off their fighting skills to visitors and we’re looking forward to demonstrating everyday aspects of camp life, from blacksmithing to ancient crafts and skills.”

“The Hundas musicians will also be practising their story telling and warming up their ancient musical instruments ready to celebrate the change in seasons.”

Herigeas Hundas portray the early pagan Anglo Saxon period of British history and are at Butser Ancient Farm for several weekends over the year.

Butser Ancient Farm’s Creative Developer, Rachel Bingham said: “It is always brilliant having Herigeas Hundas take up residence at the farm. They put on a fantastic display bringing our Saxon Hall to life and it is wonderful that they will be celebrating a traditional autumn equinox here at Butser.”

Butser Ancient Farm offers a unique experimental archaeology site nestled into the rolling countryside of the South Downs National Park and features reconstructions of Stone Age, Iron Age, Roman Britain and the Anglo-Saxon period.

Butser Ancient Farm will soon be closing at the weekends for the winter season, so this is the last chance to see the Herigeas Hundas Saxons in action.

See www.butserancientfarm.co.uk or http://www.hampshirereenactment.com to find out more

Casino Royale night for charity in Petersfield

Petersfield-based charity FitzRoy is hosting a James Bond-inspired Casino Royale Night on Friday, September 28, at Churcher’s College Assembly Hall, in aid of supporting people with learning disabilities and autism.

The night offers plenty of exciting entertainment, including casino games, music and dancing. There will be a cocktail bar for those who prefer their martinis ‘shaken, not stirred’. An Aston Martin DB9, kindly loaned for the evening by Classic Parade Cars, will be available for photo opportunities. Attendees are encouraged to ‘dress to kill’.

Tickets are just £25 and include a glass of prosecco on arrival and hors d’oeuvres.

Jim Apted, FitzRoy Community Fundraising Manager, said: “For one night only we’re bringing James Bond to Petersfield. Come and enjoy the glitz and glamour of the casino with your friends, brush up on your Black Jack and have a spin on the roulette, while sipping on champagne and cocktails.

“We’ll have prizes for the best dressed, as well as the opportunity to take a selfie in an Aston Martin. Come as your favourite Bond character, or just dress to kill. We’re looking forward to a great night out, all in aid of improving the lives of people with learning disabilities.”

Money raised on the night will help FitzRoy to support people with learning disabilities and autism to live the life they want and have greater independence and control over their daily lives. For example, a sensory room to liberate those with complex needs from a wheelchair, an iPad for someone to communicate with loved ones for the first time or a talking microwave so someone can make themselves a meal.

FitzRoy is a national charity and runs 11 services in Hampshire supporting 147 people.

To find out more or to get tickets visit www.fitzroy.org/event/casino-royale/ or available at One Tree Books on Lavant Street and Beatons Tearooms on the High Street in Petersfield. FitzRoy will also have a stand in Rams Walk on Saturday, September 22.

Cynthia will smash it at Write Angle poetry night

Be prepared for the very highly commended poet, Cynthia Hamilton, at September’s Write Angle in Petersfield.

Cynthia is a comic performance artist who began while still at the University in Liverpool. She became the Allcomers Slam Champion at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature and went on to perform for BBC-TV, Channel 4 and Central Television.

Performance poet Cynthia Hamilton

She’s had poems published by Poetry Review and has performed with John Hegley, Stewart Lee and John Cooper Clarke – who described her as “metrically sound” – and she’s also the proud author of one of Benjamin Zephaniah’s favourite love poems. In addition she has done work for the BBC World Service and was published in The Bloomsbury Book of Love Poems, The Penguin Book of New Black Writing in Britain and Moving Voices: Black Performance Poetry. She’s also had two plays produced by Radio 4. 

In addition to performing, Cynthia currently works in publishing where she likes to “mix things up”. She has promoted books for authors from the Archbishop of Canterbury to Frank Bruno and knows a surprising amount about the lesbian witchcraft book market…

Write Angle poetry and music cabaret is on Tuesday, September 18, at 7.30pm, at the Townhouse, 28 High Street, Petersfield.

Admission costs £6 and there will be the usual open mic spot for anyone who wants to share their work with an enthusiastic audience. 

See www.petersfieldwriteangle.co.uk

Haslemere Remembers – a festival of flowers to commemorate centenary

To add to the poignant poppy cascade on the outside of St Chrisopher’s Church, Haslemere, the inside of the church will have more than 20 floral arrangements created by local community groups from all over the area, in Haslemere Remembers – a Festival of Flowers, September 15-16, 10am-5pm.
All the arrangements, tributes and installations, inspired by World War 1 poems and songs, will include a giant poppy wreath hanging over the nave of the church and a memorial tomb naming all the men from the Haslemere area who lost their lives during the Great War.
Admission is free and all donations will be given to the Royal British Legion.

St Christopher’s Church, Haslemere

Free heritage day at Waverley Abbey House

Every year in September, thousands of hidden, historic places open their doors to the public for free during the Heritage Open Day event, to celebrate their fantastic history, architecture and culture.
This year the main theme is Extraordinary Women, so why not take this chance to explore who the women were who left their mark on Waverley Abbey House, which will be open on Saturday, September 8, 10am-4pm.
Learn about the house’s rich history, dating back to the reign of King George I, discover the remarkable role that Waverley played during the First World War, and walk in the footsteps of some famous visitors.
Free guided tours of the house will take place throughout the day and a history display will be available on the first floor (accessible by stairs only).
The café will be open for homemade light lunches, cakes and refreshments.
No booking is necessary but for any enquiries, please call 01252 784733 or email info@waverleyabbeyhouse.org.uk


https://www.waverleyabbeyhouse.org.uk/

New networking group for Petersfield

Fabulous Networking, the Collaborative Business Community, launches in Petersfield on Friday, September 21. With more than 30 groups in the South East, Fabulous Networking’s monthly meetings are structured but informal, with networking, an exchange of business cards, a 60-second pitch, and a speaker.

The leader of this local group is Nick Keith, founder of Life in Petersfield. “I can assure everyone a warm welcome to this special network, which thrives on ‘Netwinning’ – collaboration, inspiration and support,” he said.

To discover more and register, go to: https://fabulous-women.co.uk/event/detail_3070

Explosive dialogue as Frayn trains his searchlight on scientists at war

REVIEW

Copenhagen, by Michael Frayn

 Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Ten years have passed since Michael Frayn’s cerebral play ‘Copenhagen’ made its debut at the National Theatre. This marks the playwright’s take on a famous meeting in 1941 between two of the world’s leading physicists, Werner Heisenberg from Germany and his one-time mentor Nils Bohr from Denmark. “Exactly what happened, and what Heisenberg’s intentions were, have been endlessly disputed,” Frayn notes in the programme.

The third protagonist is Bohr’s wife Margarethe (Patricia Hodge), a vital witness to events as her husband’s secretary who had to transcribe his many drafts and re-drafts when he was preparing a scientific paper. The three of them are all dead and, from their heavenly vantage point, they set out to offer various scenarios of what was said and what happened at the meeting, with some ‘live’ reconstructions.

Copenhagen by Michael Frayn at CFT

Heisenberg  (Charles Edwards) was half-Jewish but he was roundly condemned after the War because of his perceived Nazi sympathies, and because of the suspicion that his visit to Copenhagen was to wheedle information out of Bohr about making an atomic bomb and to discover how far the Allies had got with their research. But that is shrouded in mystery in Frayn’s telling of the story, as he lets Heisenberg tell his side of things, for which he was criticized when the play went to New York.

In Frayn’s account the meeting between the two men starts amiably (although Margarethe is more suspicious), but quickly provokes a rupture. Bohr (Paul Jesson) was Heisenberg’s mentor when they worked together between 1924 and 1927 and is referred to as ‘the Pope’ by his German protégé. “If I am the Pope, then Einstein is God,” jokes Bohr.

It is a remarkable coup de theatre that Frayn’s dialogue fizzes with intensity and interest in long discussions over electrons, photons, neutrons, Quantum mechanics, fission, reactors and chain reactions. Heisenberg never says openly what he wants, but the dark shadow of the war hangs over their discussions, and he hints that his role has been to hide the weapons of mass destruction from the Nazis. At the same time he expresses his love of Germany where he and his children have been born and raised and have prospered.

His Danish hosts try hard to get Heisenberg to say what he wants but his line remains that producing an atomic bomb would have been too difficult. And he insists that his goal is to build nuclear reactors to create energy. The two men often return to discussions of mutual sporting pursuits in sailing, table tennis and skiing. Heisenberg was proud to be a fast and fearless skier and based his scientific methodology on his fast instincts, while Bohr was more careful. Sailing brings bad memories for the Bohrs as their son was drowned at sea.

The discussions take place against a bare set with only three wooden chairs, but the stage is filled with fine words, and subtle activity as the two men pace round in memory of their frequent walks. The dialogue never flags and Margarethe often raises a laugh as she gently (or firmly) contradicts the two men for their false memories and scientific contradictions. Frayn explores dilemmas for scientists when their nations are at war and lucidly explains the scientific challenges of producing a nuclear weapon. If Germany had won the race to create the Atom bomb, who knows what would have happened.

The actors maintain a fast and furious pace and, for me, the diction was clear (although I heard one theatregoer complain that Jesson had mumbled in the first act). There is crisp direction from Michael Blakemore whose long experience has included directing ‘Noises Off’, Frayn’s famous and enduring farce, and the original production of ‘Copenhagen’ during his time at the National Theatre. There is theoretical and actual  explosive material in this production which merits five stars.

www.cft.org

 Nick Keith