Rain never stopped play for fifth Petersfield Shakespeare Festival

Petersfield Shakespeare Festival

Outdoor theatre space, Bedales School, Steep

July 2017

Hey ho, the wind and the rain. The fifth Shakespeare festival braved the open-air space at Bedales just as the backlash after the heatwave struck – but gales and lashing rain were a trifling matter for the hard-working cast.


Company in rehearsal before the rain cover had to go on!

The main event, As You Like It, directed by Jake Smith and Chris Cuming, and starring a number of local performers, was a very agreeable torrent of colour, music, comedy and general bonkersness.

The costumes, from the slick blacks and greys, leather and tailoring of the court attire to the hippy/90s grunge-glam multi-coloured flamboyance of the forest-fest crowd, were excellent – well done Nicole Small for design and Eve Oakley as wardrobe mistress.

The production rolled along a fair old pace, interspersed with lively musical numbers, and it was good to see people taking a number of roles, including some scene-stealing sheep! The shearing was an inspired touch, adding extra laughs to a scene between Audrey (Katie Solly) and William the countryman who is pursuing her (Freddie Wride).

Several cast members were also proficient musicians – jumping onto the drums or grabbing a guitar when not required onstage.

It feels unkind to single out actors as everyone was so good, but Twyla Doone as Rosalind gave a very strong performance, engaging and expressive, as did Laura Peterson as Celia.

Twyla Doone as Rosalind

The night I watched it was Sam Hollis playing Orlando – and he did very well as the young lover, as did young Crispin Glancy as Silvius, mooning after Phoebe, played by Freya Sollis, the youngest cast member. It was easy to forget just how young many of the cast are.

William Bedford-Russell played Touchstone as a rangy, bewhiskered hedonist, rude and rough. He reminded me of a film character but the name escapes me.

Albert de Jongh as Jaques had great stage presence and the PYT gang of Adam Young, Fred Hughes-Stanton, Tom O’Kelly and Susie Coutts brought out much of the comedy, as well as pitching in with the singing and dancing.

Meanwhile, representing both the more mature section of the cast, and Petersfield’s Lion and Unicorn theatre group, were Simon Mackarness as Adam and Norman Stewart as Corin the old shepherd, providing some calm in the midst of the feverish goings-on.

Ed Taylor-Goodby added his solid professionalism as both boo-worthy Oliver and the drunk priest, with David Podger as the Duke bringing it all together, and Nada Sharp as Duke Frederick (not sure why the part was played by a woman but it didn’t make a jot of difference to the story).

Dannie Pye as Hymen the god of marriage, as a silver-clad drag act, leading the singing at the end, pushed the whole thing completely over the top as everyone crowded onto the little circular stage in a melee of sound and colour and movement.

The wind threatened to drown out the voices, and whisk away the sheet which protected the stage, and the rain lashed down on the poor cast, but they battled on regardless. I hope they each got to have a hot bath after the show! Well done all – great fun.

Shakespeare’s Lost Women is a new play by Greg Mosse with onstage music by John Gleadall. It is a one-woman, one-act show about an actress, Deirdre Compton, who has made a career playing the milkmaids, victims, fools and clowns – Shakespeare’s bit-parts – while her mother mourns a fading career playing the leads. Harriet Benson swept us along with her as she told us the tale of these female characters, which she fleshes out with empathy and good humour. She moved adeptly from character to character, bringing the women to life, with songs revealing their ‘back stories’. A clever, inventive and interesting play.

The Buried Moon, written by talented young playwright Laura Turner, brings the relationship of Caliban and Miranda from The Tempest, up to date. Set in a Lincolnshire marsh, where teen tearaway Caliban’s tent is pitched as he fishes for eels, and miranda seeks solace after the death of her mother, the play looks at issues of friendship, sex and love, parenting, loss, and being an outsider.

I found the two performers, Georgina Hellier and Michael Kinsey, absolutely mesmerising. The play takes twists and turns, getting ever darker and more difficult, but the pair carry it on their young shoulders, inhabiting these characters completely. These were subtle, mature performances in a thought-provoking, beautifully scripted play.

Kat Wootton

World-renowned cellist to perform in Grayshott

One of the world’s most celebrated cellists, Raphael Wallfisch, is making his first visit to Grayshott in September.

Raphael Wallfisch

He is regularly invited to play at major festivals including BBC Proms, Edinburgh, Aldeburgh, and events in Italy, Spain, Norway, Germany and the United States – and now Grayshott.

Accompanied by the famous London Mozart Players, he is to perform one of the three great romantic works for cello, Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor. Grayshott has already staged cello concertos by Elgar and Dvorak and now completes the trio with Schumann’s final emotive, enigmatic and lyrical masterpiece.

“It’s a huge privilege to bring Raphael to Grayshott. He’s such a star,” said Concerts artistic director, Vivien Harrison. “We’ve featured some amazing performers over our 15 years – and Raphael is among the very best!”

Mr Wallfisch has performed with most of the finest orchestras across the world including London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, Halle, Berlin Symphony and many others. He has also recorded every major work for his instrument, releasing hundreds of acclaimed CDs and many leading composers have worked closely with him in premieres of their works. Teaching is one of Raphael’s great passions and he is much in demand all over the world, holding professorships in London and Switzerland.

The event on Friday,September 15 will be the 58th to be staged by Grayshott’s ambitious classical music promoters, Grayshott Concerts, whose performances attract music lovers from an increasingly wide area. Booking online is now open. Demand for tickets is expected to be high – early booking is recommended.

Grayshott’s next event, on November 24, features the world famous choral group The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers. This a cappella group is known to many through their regular appearances on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and on television. This concert will include a newly-discovered arrangement of Allegri’s Miserere, written in 1638 for the Sistine Chapel Rome and first written down by the 16-year-old Wolfgang Mozart in 1770.

Grayshott Concerts’ reputation of attracting bookings and selling out at all events is resulting in a growing number of members, Friends of Grayshott Concerts, who are entitled to priority booking. Friends can book at any time whilst general booking opens online seven weeks prior to each event.

For more information, visit www.grayshottconcerts.co.uk or ring 01428 606666 (voicemail).

Fiddler on the Roof – another Chichester masterstroke

Fiddler on the Roof

Chichester Festival Theatre

Tuesday, July 18 2017

The lone fiddler, perched atop a black, empty stage, opens the show.

All at once doors open, light spills out and on come the residents of Anatevka, the little Jewish settlement in 1905 Russia where this story is set, for the opening number Tradition.

It sets out the importance of family, of heritage, of clinging hold of beliefs and ways despite being surrounded by a different and often hostile culture. But the tradition so powerfully sung about here (when all the voices are raised together in this show, it’s like a wall of sound – thrilling) is under threat, not only by the ruling forces but also from modern ideas, represented by the student Perchik. These ideas, about women and arranged marriages, politics and faith, disturb the delicate fabric of this mini-society, before the Russians rip it apart wholesale by forcing the Jews to get out of the country en masse.

It all seems very apposite – transpose Islam for Judaism, Syria for Russia, and you start to see some similarities: people ousted from their homes, the fear of ‘aliens’ and their strange customs, mistrust of other faiths and languages, refugees, the fear of mass migration…

As Tevye, the dairyman, Omid Djalili is spot-on casting. The comedian brings a self-deprecating warmth and a wry nod to the audience as if to say ‘families, eh? they’re all the same’.

Omid Djalili as Tevye in Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Fiddler on the Roof. Photo by Johan Persson

There’s a subtle approach to this production – it seems underplayed slightly; more realistically perhaps than I’ve seen it performed before. The accents do seem a bit, well, varied, but that’s a minor quibble.

Tracy-Ann Oberman plays Golde his wife with assurity.  The three main daughters – Simbi Akande as Tzeitel, Emma Kingston as Hodel, and Rose Shalloo as the bespectacled Chava all seem a little unsure of themselves – I wasn’t really feeling the emotion if some of their scenes. But they’re young, which might explain it.

Omid-Djalili, Tracy-Ann Oberman and company. Photo by Johan Persson

The dream sequence was, in complete contrast, totally prog rock, over-the-top, panto style with flames and smoke and Thriller zombies – Laura Tebbutt screeching and wailing as the butcher’s dead wife. Very funny.

Some highlights for me include Gareth Snook as a really creepy Lazar Wolf the butcher – “but I liiiike her…”; the Russian soldiers’ dancing and the ridiculously extended note sung by one of them (apologies for not recalling which of the actors); the ensemble scenes when the vocal power could have knocked over an army; the beautiful Sunrise, Sunset song which had me in tears, and the incredibly poignant final scene with the cast tableau in front of huge photographs of the actual Jewish emigrants trying to start a new life in America, in ragged clothes, with haunted dark eyes, staring ahead. A waterfall in front of them represented… what? A barrier? A veil? A clean start? A sea of people, little droplets falling together to make a huge stream? Whatever it meant, it was very effective.

This a production that will no doubt head for the West End, as so many Chichester shows have done. There was a standing ovation on the night I attended – well-deserved. Get a ticket if you can.

Kat Wootton


Statue of Jane Austen placed today, 200 years since her death

A life-size bronze of Jane Austen is to be placed in the Market Square in Basingstoke to mark 200 years since the author’s death.

Today is the bicentenary of the death of Jane Austen, and all across Hampshire people are celebrating her life and legacy.

Adam Roud has been commissioned to create the sculpture, which he hopes will represent Jane not only as a writer, but also as a strong-willed and independent character in her own right.

Jane was born in 1775 in Steventon, just a few miles outside Basingstoke, where she lived for more than half her life. The places, people and landscapes of the borough had an enormous influence on her novels, and she created the first draft of Pride and Prejudice whilst living at Steventon, where her father was vicar of St Nicholas Church. Jane Austen knew Basingstoke well: she attended social gatherings at the Assembly Rooms in Market Square, near the current-day Lloyds Bank, and regularly visited family friends at the Vyne, Oakley Hall and Ashe House, amongst others.

Many events will be part of Hampshire Cultural Trust’s Jane Austen 200 project. For up to date information on events visit www.janeausten200.co.uk

Petersfield Shakespeare Festival is As You Like It

The Petersfield Shakespeare Festival is set to return this summer and love is definitely in the air…

Themes of disguise and mistaken identity dominate the joyful programme which is packed with comedy, romance – and quite a lot of cross dressing.

Company in rehearsal

The intimate theatrical festival takes place in the inspiring grounds of Bedales School in Steep, next to the 17th century Sotherington Barn between July 19-30.

This year’s centrepiece is a production of Shakespeare’s most elegant comedy, As You Like It which will be directed by last year’s dream team of Jake Smith and Chris Cuming. The show will create an energetic world which captures a joyously displaced portrait of life and theatre in the Elizabethan era and now.

A firm favourite among Shakespeare’s comedies, and featuring some of his best-loved characters, as well as four weddings and no funeral, As You Like It will be performed July 19-24, and 29, at 7.45pm, with a 2.30pm matinee on July 28.

To inspire and delight audiences further, the festival is pleased to welcome two acclaimed touring companies, Illyria and Merely Theatre.

The Comedy of Errors (July 27 at 7.45pm) is the bard’s shortest comedy. Two sets of identical twins, separated at birth, unknowingly end up in the same city, and through a series of chance meetings their lives and sanity begin to unravel. Illyria returns with its intrepid band of five actors, desperately trying to work out how they can possibly reach the end of the play without needing more actors! It’s fast, polished and authentically Elizabethan in style.

Merely Theatre are joining the festival for the first time, on July 30 presenting fascinating productions of Romeo and Juliet (2.30pm) and Twelfth Night (7.45pm).  Each actor is twinned by another actor of the opposite gender, and they rehearse their parts together. The result is men and women playing every role in any and all potential combinations, creating five-hand Shakespeare plays with immense energy, pace and clarity.

And to cap it all the Petersfield Shakespeare Festival presents the world premiere of two short, Shakespeare-derived works – The Buried Moon, by Laura Turner and Shakespeare’s Lost Women, by Greg Mosse and John Gleadall.

Shakespeare’s Lost Women charmingly tells, through dialogue and song, the stories of some of the Bard’s forgotten female characters. Actress Deirdre Compton has made a career playing victims and luscious milk maids, fools and clowns. Meanwhile, her mother plays Desdemona, Titania and Lady Macbeth. They do not get on. With words by well-known local writer Greg Mosse and onstage music by John Gleadall, Shakespeare’s Lost Women is performed by the wonderful Harriet Benson, who returns to the festival for her fourth season.
In The Buried Moon, playwright Laura Turner uses a 21st century Lincolnshire setting to explore the youthful relationship between Miranda and Caliban, charting its twist and turns. Miranda is a young woman struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death and to understand her father. Caliban is an awkward outsider. A friendship is born between them but Miranda is never sure if Caliban is a malignant spirit of the marshes or a lost soul looking for a home.

Both performances begin at 7.45pm.

Book tickets for Petersfield Shakespeare Festival online at petersfieldshakespearefestival.co.uk or go to One tree Books, Lavant Street, Petersfield – 01730 261199.

Audiences are encouraged to bring picnics or order a pizza and relax with a drink from the Courtyard Bar prior to the performance.

Guildburys’ Nell Gwynn – a delightful feelgood evening

Nell Gwynn (Guildburys Theatre Company)

Waverley Abbey

Wednesday, July 12

Welcome to the witty, bawdy romp that is Nell Gwynn – Jessica Swale’s award-winning play set in 17th century theatre world. The playhouses have reopened after years of Puritan rule, and there’s a king back on the throne, making hay while the sun shines.

This is a lovely play; as open and warm yet as knowing about human frailty as Nell herself. There’s no sub-plot, no turgid passages pontificating about weighty issues; just rags to riches, real romance, a bit of earthy humour, some memorable songs, and a lot of laughs. Just the sort of play Nell would have liked. It’s a little bit Love Actually in fact.

Best known as the orange-seller who stole the heart of King Charles II, Nell Gwynn was also one of the first female actors on the stage. There is much discussion in the backstage scenes of the play about real women not being able to play women on stage, and about there not being good parts for women when they do get the chance to act.

Director Laura Sheppard must have thanked her lucky stars when Amy de Roche auditioned. She’s perfect as Nell; cheerful, expressive, cheeky – she seems great fun, the kind of person you’d want to hang out with. And she can sing and dance. (The ‘I can dance and I can sing’ ditty will not get out of my head!)

Playing her Charlie is Jason Orbaum, quietly regal and delivering the drily witty lines with elegance and warmth. Phill Griffith as Lord Darlington provides a nice bombastic contrast.

Ally Murphy as the Queen Catherine, her torrent of invective in Portuguese about the king shaming her by forcing her to meet his mistress, was very impressive; as was Tessa Duggleby as said mistress, the ambitious Barbara Castlemaine, looking upon Nell as a rather stupid lamb about to be eaten by a lion. Jemma Jessup as Louise de Keroualle, angling for the king’s affections in order to secure French interests, is also excellent.

In the theatre scene, Andrew Donovan plays the increasingly harassed-looking theatre owner Killigrew; Graham Russell-Price is Dryden the uninspired playwright, Tim Brown is the likeable Charles Hart who first trains Nell for the stage, Michael Thonger is Ned the unassuming young actor, and Eddie Woolwich plays the female impersonator Edward Kynaston – furious that an actual woman has stolen his roles. One of the funniest scenes is where he has created a ridiculous back story for his character, who has but one line to say.

We were also in tears – with hysterical laughter – when Nancy the dresser has a go at acting in the absence of Nell. Her obvious discomfort and desperation to get offstage, much to the exasperation of the other actors and the director, were hilarious. It would be so easy to overplay this, but the timing and expression were spot on and it was one of the highlights of the show. Well done to Pam Hemelryk.

Rose Hall as Nell’s sister Rose was suitably grimy and guttersnipy, while Old Ma Gwynn played by Gilly Fick, has her Doolittle moment to remind Nell where she came from.

The whole production, on a simple but effective set, with lovely costumes and the beautiful backdrop of Waverley Abbey, makes for a very entertaining and feelgood evening. Well done all.

Nell Gwynn is at Waverley Abbey until July 15, then at Haslemere Museum July 27-29.

Kat Wootton

Nell Gwynn, performed at Waverley Abbey by the Guildburys

Petersfield Arts and Crafts exhibition opens August 23

The PACS annual art and crafts exhibition will fill the Festival Hall will take place August 23-28.

Petersfield Arts and Crafts Society was founded in 1934 when Lady Margaret Nicholson became the first president. Among the founder members was well known local artist Flora Twort along with a group of distinguished local artists and craftspeople.

PACS has 300 members from Petersfield and the surrounding area. Members include professional artists as well as people who have discovered their creative side very recently, from painters and illustrators to woodturners, jewellery makers, potters and textile artists.

Throughout the year PACS has monthly meetings and Saturday workshops. These are open to both members and non-members.

PACS exhibition will be open August 23-28 10am-6pm;  Friday, August 25, 10am-8pm.

See www.petersfieldartsandcrafts.org.uk to find out more.


PACS exhibition, Festival Hall, Petersfield

Headley Theatre Club predicts a Riot!

Riot! cast outside the gates of Headley workhouse (now Headley Grange)


In November 1830 a mob of several hundred men stormed the dreaded workhouses at Selborne and Headley and laid them waste.

This year Jo Smith’s play called Riot!, performed by members of Headley Theatre Club, brings the action to life again as a team of actors visit local venues to tell the story with music, words and action.

The production runs over two weekends from July 14-22, visiting Alton Assembly Rooms (8pm Friday 14), Liphook Village Hall (2.30 and 8pm Saturday 15), The Rural Life Centre, Tilford (2.30pm Sunday 15), The Triangle Liss (8pm Friday 21) and Headley Village Hall (2.30 and 8pm Saturday 22).

Tickets can be obtained from the individual venues, or centrally by visiting the Headley Theatre Club website www.headley-village.com/drama or by ringing 01428 717358.


Evening of music and song in July for Farnham choirs

A grant of £1,500 from Farnham Town Council is enabling Voices Together Community Choir to organise an evening of music and song in July.

A Festival of Song is a collaboration of five local choirs which will see each choir sing individually and as a massed choir.

The Mayor of Farnham Councillor Mike Hodge, enjoyed an early musical treat when he visited rehearsals to present Voices Together with the cheque.

Voices Together

“Having listened to Voices Together rehearse, I know the audience will love watching A Festival of Song. The show finale will involve about 200 people from all five choirs coming onto the stage and singing together – it should be quite spectacular.

“It’s always a pleasure for Farnham Town Council to support worthwhile groups and activities like this with a grant. The net proceeds from the event will be donated to Melanoma UK so please do buy a ticket,” says the Mayor.

Catherine Johnson from Voices Together Community Choir says: “We couldn’t put on the show without this grant. The £1,500 has paid for the hire of the venue, lighting, sound and other costs so we very much appreciate the support from Farnham Town Council. We are also grateful to the Farnham Institute for giving us a grant which has gone towards the cost of buying music for all the choirs. Please support us and enjoy our show by coming to the performance in July.”

The event will take place on Saturday 2 July at Princes Hall, Aldershot. Tickets are available by contacting the Princes Hall box at www.princeshall.com/bookingtickets.

Farnham Town Council provides community grants ranging from a few hundred pounds to several thousand to local organisations. Visit its website to find out more and how to apply,www.farnham.gov.uk/grants.

Visit www.farnhamvoicestogether.uk to find out more about Voices Together.

Churcher’s student Libby shortlisted for Saatchi prize

A Churcher’s College student has been shortlisted for a prestigious art award.

Libby Gervais’s artwork ‘Untitled Self’ has been shortlisted for the 2017 Saatchi Gallery Art Prize for Schools.

The Prize received more than 24,000 entries from 66 different countries, where only 20 works are shortlisted.

An exhibition of the 20 shortlisted works will take place July 4-13 at the Saatchi Gallery, London. The winner and runner up prizes will be announced at 7pm on July 4 at an awards evening.

This year’s judging panel consisted of Alice Anderson, Artist; Alistair Hicks, Writer and Curator; Nigel Hurst, CEO of the Saatchi Gallery; Megan Piper, Gallerist and Founder of The Line; Dea Vanagan, Curator and Director, Hauser & Wirth Somerset.     The winning school has the opportunity to win £15,000 for their art department and the winning student getting £3,000 with a further £1,000 to another student to spend on computer equipment.

Libby Gervais was 17 at the time of completing the painting as part of her Art coursework at school. She is now is a Sixth Form student at Churcher’s in Petersfield.

Libby said: “This painting was produced as a part of a project at school on the theme of ‘Self’. It is the result of a culmination of smaller drawings, paintings and photographs which were produced as preparatory studies. I wanted the self portrait to show something of the person that I am at this stage in my life. The title ‘Untitled Self’ reflects the transitionary stage I feel I am in, where/as the development of my sense of self is not complete, but very much still in progress. Part of this is my creative journey, which is about to move to another stage as I leave school and embark on a course at London College Of Fashion.

“The title also works as an antithesis to the current trend of the ‘selfie’ which has become embedded in our recent culture. The pose is also carefully considered as I wanted to do something that engaged the viewer but also says something about my personality. I am very excited about being short – listed and feel it is a great honour.”

Al Saralis, Head of Art at Churcher’s College, said: “We are delighted that Libby has been recognised by the Saatchi Gallery and an expert judging panel.

“Beating off so many international competitors and being one of only 11 UK finalists, is testament to Libby’s talent and her phenomenal self-portrait.

“Libby is one of many talented Art students here at Churcher’s, and it is incredibly rewarding to see them grow beyond school.  Our A Level course is Fine Art based, which I believe gives the platform for students to flourish in any creative area they may wish to pursue.  Libby is, in fact, about to embark on a Degree in Fashion Marketing at London College of Fashion.”