See award-winning COCK – you won’t regret it

REVIEW

Cock by Mike Bartlett

Minerva Theatre, Chichester

Mike Bartlett is a master of dialogue, especially in triangular relationships where visceral emotions surface. Anyone knows that if they became immersed in the recent BBC TV series Dr Foster. This revival of his earlier award-winning play Cock, first produced at the Royal Court in 2009, lights up Chichester’s Minerva stage with coruscating brilliance.

On a bare stage, with no props, scenery, or furniture, John and his seven-year boyfriend quickly introduce us to their strong gay relationship, which has become strained. John insists to his partner that he loves everything about him and living with him, but he feels put down and unable to express himself.

Matthew Needham and Luke Thallon in COCK by Mike Bartlett at Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by The Other Richard

Soon we learn that John has met a woman, they have had sex, he has fallen for her, and wants to leave M (that is his partner’s name in the programme, where only John is named). He says that he and the woman have met on the street regularly on the way to work, and, in time, one thing led to another. Before long, however, John wants to come back to M.

The play then recalls John’s meeting and rapture with the woman (known as W), who has become single after a broken relationship and effectively seduces him with her feminine wiles. The account of their sexual fulfillment is cleverly told in words and body language without any physical engagement.

Thus John has a dilemma. He loves both his partners in different ways, but is indecisive and cannot choose between them. A dinner party is arranged between the three of them, and this is just as fraught as the one in the first series of Dr Foster. John promises to announce his decision over the pudding. The inevitable early awkwardness at the beginning of the dinner party is interrupted by the arrival of M’s widowed father (F), who has been secretly invited. The intricate dance between the trio becomes a convoluted quartet.

The father insists that John makes his son happy, has been gay for many years since coming out at university, and needs to stay in his established gay relationship. The woman retorts that John is the only man for her, and he admits that he has felt more liberated as a person with her and enjoyed heterosexual sex more. Asked by the others to decide who he is, John is torn asunder and cannot make up his mind. While there is a sort of resolution, you are left unsure whether he has made the right choice, or even made a final decision at all.

Mike Bartlett says that Cock is as much about love as about sex. And, language warning – the theatre is blue with four letter words for most of the evening, a 90-minute one-piece staging of the play. Relationships and communication are all-important in Cock. The problem for John and his two partners is not even gender specific. The questions are: whether to stay with his difficult and overbearing partner who does not allow him to grow up and truly find his identity, but he knows and loves; or whether he should take the risk of moving into new sexual territory, which is unfamiliar but where he may just have a chance of finding himself. This is gripping stuff, beautifully played by Luke Thallon (John), Matthew Needham, Isabella Laughland and Simon Chandler (the father); and tightly directed by Kate Hewittt (named in 2017 as one of Variety’s ’10 Brits to Watch’).

This production of Mike Bartlett’s marvelous play is certainly well worth watching, and you can see it until October 27.

www.cft.org.uk

Nick Keith

Hares set to make huge sum for Haslemere charities

After a summer of seeing giant decorated hares all over the town, Haslemere held its grand auction of the resin sculptures, with a glittering reception.

The Grand Finale Auction was a huge success, the auction lots alone raising £15,000, with ticket and merchandise sales still to be finalised.
Thanks to the generosity of both Lythe Hill Hotel and Aspinal of London, every penny of the ticket revenue is going to Stepping Stones School and Christophers Chase Shooting Star Hospice.
This is in addition to the online auction which raised £7,670.

Blue Hare, decorated by Ziggy J Simon for Blue Hairdressing in Grayshott, raising money for Pancreatic Cancer Action. Photo by Kerry Jordan, @FurandFables

Haslemere Hares are a part of a community arts project to raise funds and awareness for a variety of local and national charities.

See www.haslemerehares.co.uk to find out more.

Inventors – your chance to win £31,000 of help from Petersfield company!

Could you do with £31,000 of expert help to get your invention to market? The Morgan Innovation Prize 2019 is open for entries.

The judges are searching for innovators who believe their ideas will have a positive global impact by dramatically improving lives.

The prize is run by Morgan Innovation and Technology, an inventions company based in Petersfield, with 31 years of experience in designing, developing and manufacturing brilliant ideas.

The winner will receive research and development (R&D), production and marketing help to the value of £31,000 from Morgan IAT’s specialist team.

“We know from our own experiences that practical help and support can often be more valuable to an early-stage inventor than cash, so we decided the prize should be made up of R&D and manufacturing services to ensure we deliver a tangible benefit to the winner,” said CEO Nigel Clarke.

Morgan IAT has a real passion for innovation and a strong desire to be an enabler in bridging the gap between inventors having a great idea and being able to bring it to market.

The Morgan IAT Prize was launched in 2017/18 to celebrate Morgan IAT’s 30th anniversary and received 87 fantastic entries.

Last year’s winner Arslan Khalid is currently working with the team on his life-changing invention to detect disease by using a smartphone to profile a single droplet of blood.

Jon Bentley of the Gadget Show will be returning as a judge for the MIAT Prize 2019, along with business experts from Santander, solicitors Moore Blatch, Menzies accountants and East Hampshire District Council. Morgan IAT chairman Sue Clarke and Design Engineer Rajiv Linge will also be judges.

Jon said: “I’m excited to help judge an award that fosters innovation and harnesses creativity to generate ground-breaking visionary products.”

Morgan IAT invests 20% of turnover every year into helping inventors turn their ideas into reality. It has a first-class record in the medical, defence and commercial industries and won The Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade in 2011 and 2016. Its prize-winning Salurate test for pre-eclampsia is out to user trials overseas.

To enter the MIAT Prize for the chance to win £31,000 worth of R&D visit http://www.miatprize.co.uk/. Entry is free and open until November 11. The MIAT Prize will be awarded to the entry which satisfies the judging panel that it has real commercial potential to change people’s lives for the better. Entrants must be UK residents.

Synchro club really in the swim – with medals galore!

It has been another successful year for Portsmouth and District Synchronised Swimming Club which trains at three pools – Churcher’s College in Petersfield, Redwood Park Academy in Cosham, and Fleming Park Leisure Centre in Eastleigh.

The club entered four teams into the National Synchro Combo Cup at the London Aquatic Centre on July 7. The 13-15 team won silver medals in their age category for the second year running.

Picture by Allan McKenzie – Swim England Synchro Combo Cup – London Aquatics Centre, London, England – clockwise from back left: Eloise Coath, Isabella Clarke, Breanna Neill, Tia Tattersall, Marianne Shaul, Isabelle Jupe, Jasmine Pitchford and Vianne Spiller

The 15-18 team came fifth in their age category (missing out on a medal by 0.1667).

The 12 and Under team were placed 16th and the 15 and Under team were placed 14th in their age categories.

Then on September 22 it was pretty much a clean sweep of the medal table at the SE Regionals for Portsmouth and District Synchro Club. The club dominated the top 12 places in the 13-18 figures with Isabel Benson, Emily Jupe and Marianne Shaul winning the gold, silver and bronze medals respectively.

The 15-18 team won gold medals too for their routine to “That Man” by Caro Emerald.

If you would be interested in trying synchronised swimming send an email to portsmouthanddistrictsynchro@hotmail.co.uk

The club is recruiting new swimmers to start beginner sessions at Redwood Park Academy on a Saturday morning between 9.30am and 11.30am.

The 13-15 team won gold medals for their routine to “Go West”.
Clockwise from top left Emily Jupe, Megan Lee, Lauren Shaul, Isabel Benson, Hazel Lee, Lauren Philp, Saffron Finch, Abby Mitchell and Beth Birch

The Old Ones – sorry, but Vulcan 7 is a damp squib

Vulcan 7, by Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer

Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

Monday, September 24

Oh dear. I was so looking forward to a good laugh. But this didn’t deliver. It had moments of fun and I did laugh out loud on a number of occasions, but this could have been so much more.

Set in a trailer on an active volcano in Iceland during filming of a sci-fi film, Vulcan 7 is really about two ageing actors and their historic rivalry. Both having trained at Rada, one is a former hell raiser who can’t forget lines from the many performances he’s been in (Adrian Edmondson), the other always playing second fiddle (Nigel Planer). Now they’ve been reduced to an alien in an awful costume (Edmonson) and a series of butlers with upper-crust accents (Planer).

Meanwhile, the young runner Leela, played by Lois Chimimba, tries to keep the two from drinking themselves to death (Edmonson) or killing each other as they find themselves trapped in a tipping trailer on the wrong side of a widening chasm as the volcano becomes far more active than they’d like. This young woman may or may not be the daughter of either of the two actors.

So. While Edmonson does his best to keep the sitcom style play afloat, Planer is ponderous, almost apathetic in his performance, and gives little for the others to play off, forcing Chimimba to ratchet up her performance to overdone levels.

The whole play is just a bit dull and dated – it doesn’t say anything new about what it is to be old in the film industry, and there were moments of downright amateurishness (in the worst sense) such as when Planer can be seen in front of the window before suddenly rushing on for his next scene.

The set was fun – the trailer tilting to alarming angles during the course of the play. It was probably the best part of the show. But the set can’t save the play.

It’s all about as sad as the lives of the two old actors they’re portraying. I can’t be the only one in the audience to have been thinking ‘oh if only Rik Mayall had been involved…’.

Maybe the actors were thinking it too… hence the lacklustre performances. Or perhaps they’re just knackered.

I’m so disappointed. Guys, you’re better than this.

Kat Wootton

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