That’s Entertainment

THE phrases ‘tour de force’ and ‘timeless classic’ are often overused but never more apt to describe Shirley Valentine, currently at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking.

Most people will be familiar with the 1989 film starring Pauline Collins. In that version, Shirley’s husband Joe is brought to life by Bernard Hill, her snobby neighbour Gillian by Julia McKenzie, and the dashing Greek lothario Costas by Tom Conti.

In the play, in which Collins made award-winning performances, Shirley is on her own throughout – with her only companions the famous ‘wall’ and later the ‘rock’.

One-person plays are notoriously difficult to stage and run the risk of seeming static and monotone. No such danger here. Willy Russell’s 31-year-old script has lost none of its bite and wit.

Admittedly, this is helped by some usefully timeless references – the Middle East, sadly, remains without a solution and fad diets are still around.

But the core of this stunningly good play is the deep truth at the heart of a stale marriage and mother and wife taken for granted by all around her. It is not just about Shirley’s predicament, but of others too – letting life pass them by.

The play opens, as does the film, with Shirley in her kitchen, cooking Joe’s tea. While the setting is purposefully claustrophobic, the action moves around the kitchen – and beyond – with Shirley at times dashing about, giving impressions of the various characters in her life.

If Pauline Collins made the role her own in the 1980s, Jodie Prenger is the perfect modern incarnation. Witty, highly intelligent, strong and self-aware, her Shirley oozes reality and sparky determination.

This most life-affirming tale hits the spot yet again with the audience recruited as Shirley’s biggest fans.

Prenger is mesmerising in her delivery and movement around the stage – sometimes it is hard to believe that there is only one person performing.

He’s well known as a stand-up comic and countless TV appearances on programmes like Have I Got News For You as well as his own show, but Omid Djalili also has a notable career as a film actor.

The London-born star has worked with everyone from Russell Crowe and Brad Pitt to Johnny Depp and Sarah Jessica Parker, so singling out the megsatsr who was the most fun to film with is a tough question…

But, after some thought, Omid states: “I’d say Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones, was probably the most extraordinary. He played the father of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

“His character shoots and kills my character for no reason. This seemed to bother him. In fact, he shot me about 14 times and after each take he’d come up to me and say ‘Listen, you do know I don’t mean this?’ After every take. It was almost like a joke but it wasn’t.

“Bang! and he’d shuffle up and say ‘Nothing personal mate, I hope you realise’. Then after another take, with the same sincerity and intensity ‘It’s all acting. You know that. You’re not upset with me, are you?’

“Once he shot me and just said ‘Forgive them Lord, they know not what they do’. The final time he shot me he just stood over me and mumbled ‘We’ve all got issues… it’s all about mummy innit?’ How right he was.”

Omid might now be known to millions for his roles in Hollywood blockbusters and West End appearances, but he started his career in fringe theatre, moving on to the theatres of Central and Eastern Europe in the early ’90s, and then the alternative comedy circuit. And although he’s swapped dingy pub rooms for the big theatres, it’s still live on stage doing stand-up where he’s at his best.

Djalili is on the road again with a new tour, Schmuck for a Night, and he explains: “I like the word ‘schmuck’. It means ‘fool’ or buffoon. You have to be a schmuck to do comedy in today’s climate.  I’m embracing the schmuck in me to take on the big issues of our day. Plus, it’s a word that ends with ‘uck’ which can only be a good thing.”

He says the latest show will touch on Brexit, ISIS and Donald Trump but changes regularly to stay up to date. Although not usually overtly political, Omid won awards for his Edinburgh fringe project, Iraq Out & Loud, which involved reading the Chilcot report about the Iraq War in full, 24 hours a day.

“It took 285 hours and 1,444 people to read it,” he explains. “I read too. It was a truly one-off experience.

“It was important to us that the readings were a simple, non-political, people-powered, public service but even such a serious report had its funny moment. It was in the final moments of the readings – after 285 hours and 1,444 people – the very last paragraph of the Chilcot report is: ‘How to read the Chilcot report’… It was a great punchline.”

Omid was also executive producer on the documentary, We Are Many, about the 2003 protests against the war in Iraq.

“It’s not a comedy but you could easily say it’s my crowning achievement so far,” he says. “I’ve worked on the project for the past five years, countless edits, screenings, meetings, discussions… the fact that Universal Pictures bought it, that it’s been so well received and hit number one on iTunes in about ten different countries, you could say I’m very proud of it. A film promoting worldwide public opinion as a ‘Second Superpower’ has got to be doing good.”

As for whether the film or the Chilcot report reading make a difference, he’s unsure.

“You can never quantify the impact of such things, but certainly it felt like they were important projects to be part of,” he says. “In this life you’re either a problem or a solution. I’d like to think these projects – which raise more questions than answers – are firmly entrenched in the solution camp. Or at least trying to be!”

Omid Djalili brings Schmuck For A Night to the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Sunday 12 March.

Wishee Washee?   Oh No It Isn’t!

BYFLEET Players wowed audiences with their performance of Aladdin at the Village Hall last week.

With packed-out evening shows of the ‘Village Pantomime’, directed by Linda Street, last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and a full-house matinee on Saturday, the production included a heady mix of all the magic and mayhem that bring together the truly British tradition we all know and love today.

Byfleet Players Panto 2017

Fabulous costumes transformed an exuberant cast – including Emily Fennell (Aladdin), Paul Stiff (Widow Twankey) and Kim Sullivan (Wishee Washee) – into familiar favourites, with all the gags, music, dance and slapstick we expect and had the audiences rocking in their stalls and roaring with laughter.

Excellent dancing by the youngsters of the Allegro Performers Academy complemented the energetic efforts of the older members of the cast.

It was The Players’ fifth production of Aladdin with the script, provided by Noda Pantomimes, written by the late Peter Denyer, best remembered for his role of Dennis Dunstable in the TV series Please Sir and The Fenn Street Gang.

The pantomime was dedicated to the memory of Pauline Francis, who was very much involved with previous pantos and many other productions as an actor, director and a wardrobe mistress, who sadly passed away in December. ‘A very talented yet modest lady, sadly missed’.

WOKING residents have been sharing memories of Rick Parfitt, the rock superstar from Sheerwater who died on Christmas Eve.

The Status Quo guitarist passed away in a Spanish hospital after contracting a severe infection.

One local person shocked to hear the news was Denise Edwards, who remembers working with Rick at a Woking garage in 1966. He was 17 years old and still waiting for his big break with his band which was then called Traffic Jam. The group changed its name to The Status Quo a year later, before dropping the ‘The’. Denise said in a BBC interview: “He was an apprentice mechanic and I was a receptionist in a garage in Woking. He was quite shy.

“His father pushed him into doing something, and not to mess around with guitars. I remember paying him his weekly salary of £5!
“Two years ago I was lucky enough to meet up with him after his concert at the Hammersmith Apollo. We caught up on the old days. It’s so sad to hear of his death. It’s like the closing of a chapter.”
Jean Flemming also remembers Rick. She said on the Facebook group ‘Woking when we were young’:  “My sister, Jackie O’Malley, went to the same school in Sheerwater and as youngsters they had a date or two. Now he’s another relatively young one gone.”
of his former neighbours remembers the Status Quo guitarist as a schoolboy and said he was ‘just one of the lads on the estate’.

A 60-year-old Sheerwater man, who did not want to be named, said Rick was well liked in the community and used to drink in his local, The Birch & Pines pub, and that after Rick became a famous rock star, he used to return to Sheerwater in his Bentley to visit his mum Lil.

In 2010, Rick and Quo partner Francis Rossi were awarded the OBE for their services to music.

Rick had left Quo’s touring activities on medical advice after a number of health scares, including a heart attack.
Before he was admitted to hospital on 22 December suffering complications from a shoulder injury, Rick, 68, was looking forward to launching a new solo career, with an album and autobiography planned for later this year.

Richard John Parfitt was born on 12 October 1948. He once described his upbringing in Woking as ‘wonderful’ and his childhood self as a ‘typical naughty boy’.

PERFECT PANTO -Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Picture: Ian Olsson

PERFECT PANTO – Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs Picture: Ian Olsson

By Alice Saker

FUN for all the family! The New Victoria Theatre’s production of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs really sparks the magic of Christmas. The whole theatre was transformed into a winter wonderland, with accents of the panto filling the foyer – there’s even a magic mirror in the aptly named bar.

The spellbinding magic continues on stage with the multi-award winning mind reader Chris Cox, who plays Snow White’s best friend Muddles, introducing himself with a fabulous magic trick.

Along with the wonderful enchantment, Andy Ford, one of Britain’s most successful pantomime comedians, provides some great entertainment for the adults and makes the experience enjoyable for the whole family.

Quite the ‘prof’-fessional, Warwick Davis was extremely popular among the younger members of the audience, captivating their festive enthusiasm and channelling it through his performance.

Anna Smith who plays the malevolent Queen Morgiana put on a truly ‘wicked’ act, feeding off all the ‘boos’ and jeers her evil behaviour invoked.

By contrast, Snow White was a pure delight with such an angelic voice to charm the audience and, evidently, Prince Wayne of Woking, who himself distracted some of the audience with his performance as the handsome royal.

As much as it is a family affair for the audience, the same is true for the dwarfs with both Warwick Davis’ daughter playing Loopy and his sister-in-law in the role of Snoozy.

The back-up dancers made the set come alive with amazing choreography and incredibly realistic costumes, especially in the forest scene which was quite freaky.

Everyone left feeling truly festive and a great time was had by all.

 

A ‘RELAXED’ performance of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs will take place at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre on Thursday 5 January. 

The special productions are aimed at those who have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, sensory and communication disorders, a learning disability or anyone who would benefit from a more laid-back environment, enabling more people to enjoy the magic of panto.

There may be some small changes to the show in terms of lighting and sound cues, but the overall content will not change. A more relaxed attitude to noise in the auditorium will reduce anxiety and ensure a safe, enjoyable outing to the theatre.

People making bookings will be sent a visual story (details and photos) and there will be a designated chill-out area for use during the performance.

General Manager of the theatre, Kate Lee, said: “We are committed to welcoming everyone to our venue and are delighted to offer a Relaxed performance of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.

Pantomime is such a tradition at this time of year and we believe that families and groups who might not otherwise consider attending a performance should be able to look forward to a magical theatre-going experience.”

Hollywood and TV legend Warwick Davis stars in the spectacular adventure, with comedy favourite Andy Ford, award-winning magician Chris Cox and theatre stalwart’s Anne Smith, Shaun Dalton and Melissa Potts.

Receiving rave reviews, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs features traditional panto ingredients including glittering costumes, sensational songs, dazzling dance routines, bags of audience participation and magnificent slapstick comedy, guaranteed to delight of all ages.

The Relaxed scheme was introduced by the Ambassador Theatre Group in 2012 and is supported by the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association, alongside panto producers First Family Entertainment.

The New Victoria Theatre’s Relaxed performance of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs on Thursday 5 January at 7pm. Tickets can be booked at www.atgtickets.com/woking or 0844 871 7645 (fees apply).

Other access productions include a Signed performance on Tuesday 27 December at 7pm, a Captioned performance on Wednesday 28 at 7pm and an Audio Described performance on Thursday 29 at 2pm. 

All the ingredients for the perfect panto

Aladdin, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

This year’s pantomime at the Yvonne Arnaud will certainly not disappoint the children or the grown-ups, with something for everyone.   It has the perfect concoction of a dashing, thigh-slapping Aladdin, superbly played by Emma Thornett, a beautiful Princess Jasmine and a delightful and magical genie.  The wicked wizard Abanazar, is a devilishly evil character, brought to life by Kit Hesketh-Harvey.  Abanazar sneers sarcastically at the audience and his cackling laughter is enough to send shivers down the little ones sides, encouraging a cacophonie of ‘boos’.

yat-aladdin_emma-thornett-jamie-brook-and-peter-gordonA packed out theatre, quiet with anticipation, were soon roused into an evening of revelry and hysterical laughter.  Wishee Washee, played by Jamie Brook, and the grandest of dames Widow Twankey, played by Eagle Radio’s Peter Gordon, gave the audience a hilarious demonstration of their new washing machines at the Peking Laundrette, with unfortunate consequences for poor PC Pongo the policeman.

The traditional Twelve Days of Christmas has been updated for a newer version, where “a bra that was meant to hold three” replaces the partridge in a pear tree, and every time we get to five, five custard pies are splattered all over poor Wishee Washee’s face.   The stage becomes such a muddle of props and custard pies, it’s no wonder Wishee Washee slid right off the stage.   This is pure unadulterated silliness, and the crowd loved it.

As for the story, evil Abanazar tricks the young Aladdin into believing he can make him rich, convincing him to go deep inside a cave to find the magic lamp.   However, all is not lost.  With some help from the audience of course, Aladdin uses the ring to summon up the Genie, Janie Dee.   Partial to a drop of fizz, the sparkling and charming Genie casts a magical spell over the audience and you will be entertained as if by magic.

yat-aladdin_janie-dee-and-ensembleThe costumes and choreography brought a smile to everyone’s face.   With sequins aplenty and a carpet that really does fly across the stage and through the night, this production of Aladdin is everything that panto should be, with bonhomie, innuendo and singing in abundance.  The young members of the cast deserve a special mention as they are truly brilliant and their singing and dancing bring a touch of the West End to the show.

Genie of the Lamp              JANIE DEE

Abanazar                              KIT HESKETH-HARVEY

Aladdin                                 EMMA THORNETT

Widow Twankey                 PETER GORDON

Wishee Washee                  JAMIE BROOK

PC Pongo                             RAY GRIFFITHS

Spirit of the Ring                RACHEL KNOWLES

Princess Jasmine               CHARLOTTE O’ROURKE

ALADDIN is like the Olympics for panto star Emma Thornett –oh yes it is! She’s back in Surrey
to take on the role of the young boy with a magic lamp for the third time in eight years.
Now a puppeteer for the West End production of War Horse, she made her pantomime debut at
Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre back in 2008, then returned to reprise the role in 2012 and has
chosen to sustain her record, claimingthe Aladdin title for 2016 as well!

emma-aladdin
“How could I not?” says Emma. “It will feel like coming home for Christmas. It’s like the Olympics,
every four years I do Aladdin!” However, the graduate of Birmingham School of Speech and Drama admits: “I was quite nervous for my first panto because it’s a very different discipline to any other kind of theatre – it’s like nothing else. What I really love about it is directly addressing the audience and having
fun, telling jokes and enjoying their feedback – I really love that immediacy.
“For Aladdin, the importance is really in the storytelling and about playing the truth – that’s what
director Gerry Tebbutt taught me – and he’s right. Each character in panto has their role and if everyone
sticks to that, it turns out really well. That’s what I really enjoy about it.”
This year Emma is looking forward to treading the boards with stage star Janie Dee, who plays the Genie. She has won the Olivier Award, Evening Standard Award and Critics’ Circle Theatre Award – a triple honour she shares with Dame Judi Dench!
“I was so excited to hear that she was doing it, what a legend!” says Emma. “It will be brilliant, I’ll really enjoy sharing the stage with her and taking some tips from this wonderful award winner.
She’s done so much so hopefully she’s got some anecdotes and stories too!
“And I’ve never met Ray Griffiths, who plays PC Pongo – but I’ve seen some banter on Twitter
already between Ray, Peter Gordon (Widow Twankey) and Jamie Brook (Wishee Washee), and I
think we’re going to make a great team.”
Emma’s own stage credits are getting more and more impressive. She created the role of Mary in the
original cast National Tour of David Essex’s All The Fun Of The Fair, and her West End roles include
Donna Marie in Blood Brothers and most recently, Paulette and Baby Joey in War Horse.
“War Horse was just such an incredible job,” she says. “It’s a huge production, with 38 people in the cast, 15 dressers and countless crew, and it felt like quite a big responsibility to be taking over such an important role. I was puppeteering Joey (the main horse) when the audience first met him as a baby foal and I really, really wanted to get it right.

“I’d never puppeteered before so I learnt a new skill! I had two weeks of intensive puppetry training,
learning all the ethos of puppetry, every aspect of a horse – how they think and breathe as a pack animal and how they sound. I feel really blessed to have been a part of it and I’ll always draw on my experience from that show for future productions.”
Now, Emma’s thoughts have turned to panto – and Christmas. “I love the food and the presents of course,” she says. “But I get really moved when I hear anybody sing carols – I’m a bit of a softie though, I cry at anything!”
lEMMA Thornett will star as Aladdin at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre from tomorrow (Friday 9 December)

It is 40 years since The Damned herald the punk revolution by releasing their first single, New Rose.

Now recognised as the first UK punk record, it preceded the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks et al and made singer Dave Vanian and co instant legends.

In the countless Damned gigs that have followed, they’ve played the song every night – except one.

“We always move stuff around to keep it exciting for us and the fans,” explains Dave. “But we came off stage one night and the Captain (guitarist Captain Sensible) said ‘We didn’t play New Rose’. It wasn’t that long ago either, we just moved stuff around and forgot it!

“The thing is it’s never automatic with us because we’ve never got blasé about it. Believe it or not, I still like the songs and each time we do it is the best we can. It’s not just nostalgia because we’ve changed it over the years – sometimes we strip it back and play it as it was originally and that way it’s even more exciting.”

The band’s debut album ,Damned Damned Damned, which includes the classic single Neat Neat Neat as well as New Rose, is also regarded as the first UK punk album and it’s being re-released to coincide with the band’s 40th anniversary tour. Dave says he’s still proud of it.

“We’ve been playing the first album in its entirety recently and sometimes you forget how good those songs were,” he says. “I don’t tend to listen to my own records, but I can be more detached from the early ones because I didn’t write them, I was just the singer.  I listen to them as not mine in a way – and I think those songs still stand up.

“People have thought over the years that the songs are deceptively easy to play, until they try it. Then they realise it’s a bit more complicated than they thought. That’s a good thing.”

The intervening years have seen The Damned have a string of hits like Love Song, Eloise, Just Can’t Be Happy Today, Smash It Up and Grimly Fiendish as well as about a dozen studio albums.

“It makes me feel ancient!” laughs Dave, a former gravedigger, looking back on his career. “I think anybody in a band who was told they’d still be going 40 years later wouldn’t believe it. What a terrible mistake I made!” He says he’s proud of just about all the music but admits the band have gone off course occasionally.

“Some of it I think is fantastic, some of it I think I screwed up there…but if you don’t make any mistakes, you don’t create anything great either,” he says. “I have different ways of feeling different things about different times. I look back and think why did we keep that manager or make that mistake.” He says the band never adapted as the music business changed and downloading changed the way people listen to music.

“If we’d worked a little harder in selling ourselves from the ‘80s to ‘90s, we’d have been in a better position,” he says. “We just hold it together financially even now. I often think – and I’m not complaining – but I think I could probably earn as much if I was a mechanic, and actually I’d love that if I could work on hot rods!

“I’m a jobbing musician. In this day and age there’s so much music around and it’s available but there’s not really any way to make money from it.”

The Damned are about to release a new album via PledgeMusic and the singer says: “Pledge has been amazing for us, to put out our new album we’ve been working on.

“The problem is, a lot of people may come and see us and think it’s a great show, but we’re a bunch of old men and there’s a lot of ageism in music. I think it’s worse than ever.

“If you’re in a certain type of music, you’re supposed to be 20 years old for ever. I don’t feel pressure to stay looking young because I’m going to look however I look, because that’s how I am. But there’s definitely a thing that works against old bands.”

So, The Damned won’t be changing their image for anyone.

“We’ve always been first and foremost us,” says Dave. “That’s who we are as people. That didn’t happen because we were in a band.

“I was probably more extreme before I was in the band. I was picked to sing in the band by (original guitarist) Brian James because he said I ‘looked like a singer’. We got on well and had similar interests but if I had turned up like a long-haired hippy (like everyone else was at the time) I don’t think I’d have got the job.”

FILM and TV star Warwick Davis joined comedy favourite Andy Ford and award-winning magician Chris Cox to promote their version of this year’s panto, Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs, at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.

Snow White | New Victoria Theatre Woking 2016 | Photo: http://wwWarwick will be playing head dwarf Prof, while Andy will appear as Herman the Henchman and Chris will be taking a turn as Muddles.

Others in the cast include Anne Smith as the evil Wicked Queen, Shaun Dalton as the royal Prince and Melissa Potts in the lead role as Snow White.

Warwick’s gang for the picture included panto players Annabelle Davis, Peter Bonner, Simeon Dyer and Jon Key, while Ray Griffiths and Harry Jones stood in for Hayley Burroughs and Harrison Davis who could not make the photo shoot.

Warwick said of this year’s production, which will run from 10 December to 8 January: “I’m very proud of the show we have created.I can guarantee that you and the family will have a great time!”

Sunny Afternoon, New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The so-called British Invasion of the US in the mid-‘60s is best remembered for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who taking our music (and culture) over there. The Kinks only had a slight involvement following a union bust-up and a refusal to ‘play the game’ in the US – but, looking back, their back catalogue matches (and often surpasses) the others.

sunny-afternoon-tour-mark-newnham-dave-davies-ryan-odonnell-ray-davies-garmon-rhys-pete-quaife-and-andrew-gallo-mick-avory-photo-kevin-cummins1

It’s the sheer depth and quality of The Kinks’ material that shines through in this musical trawl through the band’s early history. The story – told very much from frontman Ray Davies’ point of view – is very similar to that of many other musical icons, i.e., working-class lads make good, get ripped off by the biz, fall out with each other and eventually power on through to success.

 

However, as hit follows hit, it becomes very clear just how talented the lads from Muswell Hill were. Just Go To Sleep, A Well Respected Man, Dead End Street, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, You Really Got Me, Stop Your Sobbing all get an airing…and that’s just the first half!

sunny-afternoon-tour-garmon-rhys-pete-quaife-ryan-odonnell-ray-davies-andrew-gallo-mick-avory-and-mark-newnham-dave-davies-photo-kevin-cummins1

The second part of the show concentrates on Ray’s depression, loneliness and ever- decreasing relationship with his first wife Raza and his guitarist brother Dave – but this offers a chance for them to play I’m Not Like Everybody Else, Sunny Afternoon (of course), Days, Waterloo Sunset and Lola. Incredibly, songs like Victoria, Dandy, Death Of A Clown and Village Green Preservation Society don’t even get included!

 

Ryan O’Donnell shines in the lead role as Ray, portraying him as a delicate songwriting genius, just as the singer wanted when he penned this musical. Brother Dave appears as the goofy hellraiser and almost steals the show, with Mark Newnham displaying superb guitar skills as well as immaculate comic timing.

 

It’s a common enough story well told but is worth going for the music alone – what a catalogue of fine work!

 

Runs until Saturday (5 Nov)

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