That’s Entertainment

THE UK’s bestselling classical crossover artist of all time, Russell Watson, returns to the stage at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking on Sunday 18 March with his new show Canzoni d’Amore and will be joined by bestselling soprano Laura Wright.

Laura Wright

IF YOU like eating out, the chances are you’ll have a view on Jay Rayner, The Observer’s restaurant reviewer who waxes lyrical about (and puts the boot into) the top restaurants in the land.

He’s also a judge on the TV show MasterChef and is now on tour offering his Ten (Food) Commandments. The original Ten Commandments have very little to offer when it comes to the complex business of how and what we eat, so Jay has decided that it’s time to act with a new set of hand-tooled commandments for this food-obsessed age.

Jay Rayner brings The Ten (Food) Commandments to the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, on Thursday 15 March.

Jay Rayner

ANTON DU BEKE and Erin Boag are back on the road showing off their ballroom dancing skills in a new show for 2018 to celebrate the golden age of Hollywood.

The Strictly Come Dancing stars will feature new choreography and costumes and will be joined by six ensemble dancers and the full 25-piece London Concert Orchestra for From Broadway To Hollywood.

Also on stage will be singer Lance Ellington and the songs will include Somewhere in Time, Cry Me a River, Mr Bojangles, Downtown, This Nearly Was Mine, New York, New York, Couple of Swells, and Libertango.

Anton and Erin will be at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre on Sunday and G Live in Guildford on Saturday 17 February.


It’s taken five years for Inheaven to make the debut album they always dreamed of, and all their hard work is starting to pay off with widespread acclaim for the record, a sellout show at London’s Scala and their own headlining UK tour.

Now, the four-piece just don’t want to stop and frontman James Taylor is already planning the follow-up album.

“We’re really proud of that record and we’ve got there by playing up and down the country for years,” he says.

“It took a while because we always seemed to be waiting for things to fall into place, but it feels really natural. Now, we want to keep moving, we’re ready for the second one now.

“We’re hoping to get it out very soon, we want to keep up a high level of output and don’t want to stop releasing music. You can’t take a break nowadays, things are so fast paced.”

Inheaven is packed with riff-heavy, noisy anthems on which James shares vocals with bass player Chloe Little – but the duo won’t be resting on their songwriting laurels.

“We’re going to try and get to somewhere different,” he says. “We’re keeping our mouths shut for now, but it won’t be the same.”

Hopefully, any new sound will take all their fans with them – including a certain Julian Casablancas. The Strokes singer released Inheaven’s Regeneration as their debut single in the US on his Cult Records label.

“It was incredible,” recalls James. “We had released Regeneration here on a new label (AMF) and we’d put a video online, and then we just got this email through saying Julian loves your music and would love to release this as a single in America.

“We were dancing round the flat, we were so excited. I’m a massive fan of The Strokes so I still pinch myself to this day. We haven’t met him because we haven’t been to America yet, but we’re going this year so hopefully we could meet up with him in New York, that would be fantastic.”

Inheaven recorded their album in the famous Rockfield studios in Wales, used by everyone from the Manic Street Preachers and Black Sabbath to Simple Minds and Queen.

“There’s a lot of history there,” says James. “We were recording in the same room as Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded and you can just feel the history in the place. There really is a vibe, an energy about it.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere but that was great for us. There’s no pub nearby, there’s nothing so you just get on with it. We recorded the whole alum is about 12 days, we were constantly doing something.”

The band may have taken a while to get their album out but their video releases have been much more prolific – their YouTube catalogue is rammed.

“Chloe went to film school and she’s a fantastic editor, so it’s been a great way to get our music out there,” says James.

One of their most viewed films is for album track Stupid Things and is a montage of clips from iconic movies like Pretty In Pink, The Graduate and The Breakfast Club – all used without permission of course.

“We just went for it…we haven’t had an email yet,” laughs the singer. “We figure if we can get to the point where someone thinks it’s worth suing us, we’ll be doing OK.”

Inheaven will play at the Boileroom in Guildford on Monday (5 Feb).

GREYHOUNDS Holly and Dexter are coming under starter’s orders for a role with a difference.

The former racing dogs will be appearing at The New Victoria Theatre in the lavish opera Rigoletto on Friday 9 February.

Award-winning producer Ellen Kent’s productions have a reputation for lavishness, spectacle and grandeur and her latest one will be no different.

It features two elegant greyhounds and a magnificent golden eagle to add to the opulence and extravagance of the Mantuan Ducal Court.

Charlotte with Holly and Sheilagh with Dexter

Ellen has long been an animal welfare campaigner and she got talking to someone from a greyhound charity outside her supermarket. She learnt how these beautiful dogs, the “companions of kings”, can be cruelly abandoned once their running days are over and  decided to help to raise awareness of their plight.

Greyhounds 4U, which rescues and rehomes ex-racing greyhounds in Surrey and other counties in the south, is supporting the initiative.

Debbie Buxcey from the charity, said: “We take time getting to know each greyhound and we take great care in matching greyhound to adoptee and adoptee to greyhound.

“We want every homing to be successful first time round and our motto is that we would prefer to home one greyhound properly than ten badly.”

“We rely solely on donations from volunteers and supporters. We receive no financial help from the racing industry to home the greyhounds once they have retired.

“Holly, who is owned by David and Charlotte Stockley, and Dexter, owned by Sheilagh Shaw from Greyhounds 4 U, will be making their debut on stage.”

IMAGINE having to stand in at the last minute for superstar Glenn Close in London’s West End and being booed the moment you step on stage…

That’s what happened to Welsh actress Ria Jones – but her performance in Sunset Boulevard eventually led to a six-minute standing ovation and phone calls to the London Coliseum asking when she’d be on stage again.

LEADING LADY – Ria Jones stars in Sunset Boulevard at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday 22 January until Saturday 27 January.

Now, she’s making the role of Norma Desmond her own, playing the leading lady on tour and says she’s so glad she opted to be a ‘standby’ for a global star.

Having already appeared in Les Miserables, Cats and Chess in the West End, Ria says: “A lot of my friends said ‘You’re a leading lady in your own right, why are you doing this?’ but I thought I could learn a lot from watching Glenn Close work. It was almost like a private masterclass.

“I watched her throughout rehearsals and we talked every day in the wings. I didn’t think it was a step back, but a step forward. I always want to learn.

“She was lovely. She sent me a bouquet of flowers when I had to go on.”

In most shows the standby never gets on stage, but when Close fell ill, Ria was called into action – and the last-minute announcement led to cancelled tickets and boos from the audience that did turn up.

“I didn’t take it personally,” she says. “They didn’t know me from a bar of soap. They were booing the fact that Glenn Close wouldn’t be there.

“It gave me more incentive to go on stage and show them what I could do, portray the character and do the best for the show.

“My challenge was that they were seeing an unknown actress – to them – playing Norma Desmond. But hopefully the audiences click with the character. I only did four performances over three days but the publicity was huge and in the end people were ringing up to see if I was on stage!

“Everyone loves to see the underdog coming through. I had a six-minute standing ovation and that hit the press, so people wanted to come and see what the fuss was about.

“It changed the landscape of my career – and I’ve been doing it for 34 years!”

It was just reward for years of hard work by Ria, including being the first person to sing the famous songs like With One Look, As If We Never Said Goodbye and The Greatest Star of All as she worked on the original workshops for Sunset Boulevard as a 20-year-old.

“I was the first person to sing the role of Norma,” she explains. “I’d just done Cats and Andrew Lloyd Webber asked me to sing the role while he workshopped the show. I remember saying ‘I’m a bit young but I’d love to play her one day’.

“When I went on, he was in New York but he sent me a message saying ‘I’m so delighted the original Norma Desmond is now singing the role at the London Coliseum and I’m so upset I can’t be there’.”

What makes the story even more remarkable is that Ria has never had any formal stage training, but made her way into the business as a teenager.

“Both my parents are in the business and I went to a local dance school at the age of three,” recalls Ria. “I started getting paid for a summer season when I was 14 and I thought this is OK and I fell into it really.

“I was doing a panto back home and an agent saw me and asked if he could manage me. He got me my first audition for Joseph and 34 years later here I am.”

She’s back where she belongs – on stage playing Norma, a faded silent movie star living in a secluded mansion on Sunset Boulevard with her butler Max. She has been working on a comeback film script and when impoverished screenwriter Joe Gillis turns up, she persuades him to work on it…and then falls in love with him.

“It’s about love and loss and getting old, it’s just magical,” says Ria. “The end is quite tragic…the most dramatic ending of any musical I’ve seen.”

Sunset Boulevard will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday 22 January until Saturday 27 January.

YOU may have heard of Henrik Ibsen, but did you know that he is the second most-performed playwright in the world – second only to William Shakespeare?

The Norwegian wrote more than 25 plays and has been hailed as a man whose writing was well before its time.

Annabel Bates (Mrs Elvsted) and Lizzy Watts (Hedda Gabler)

Now, there’s a chance to see one of Ibsen’s most famous creations, Hedda Gabler, often called “the female Hamlet’’, in Woking. Although written in 1891, she is said to be a heroine for our time, especially in the latest production from the National Theatre, which arrives at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, this month.

For the uninitiated, Hedda Gabler is newly married and she’s already bored having just returned from her honeymoon with Tesman. She is fiercely independent but doesn’t have the confidence to live an independent life so finds herself trapped in both her relationship and her home.

“She’s terrified by the outside world but she also wants to be free in the way that only a man is free in this society,” says Lizzy Watts, who plays the pivotal role.

The play unfolds around a morning after the night before type situation which sees Hedda’s world unravel around her and Lizzy adds: “I’d like people to be pleasantly surprised by this family drama that does not seem to be a million miles away from their own lives.”

Director Ivo Van Hove says the themes of Hedda Gabler will resonate with today’s audiences and he has set it in the modern day in an anonymous loft apartment – but says it’s important to think about the time when Ibsen was writing.

“To have written the play about a woman at the end of the 19th century is amazing, even today it’s amazing to have such a leading character,” he says. “Hedda has all these demonic forces, she can be really harsh, she is merciless, she doesn’t have a lot of empathy with everybody, she’s not loveable.

“She is not an easy victim that you feel empathy for. ‘Oh the poor woman’, you don’t feel like that. At the same time, she’s not one-dimensionally harsh. Deep down what the actor playing her has to discover is this vulnerable spot, this fragility that is in her, but which she never, almost never, shows.”

Van Hove also rejects the idea of Hedda as a feminist icon, saying: “When you read the play very carefully that’s really clear to me. Hedda is trapped, but there are possibilities. There are escape possibilities.

“You see somebody who has this emptiness in her, who seems to have no fantasy. She is just stuck in her addiction to luxury, to having a so-called ‘good life’ for the outside world. She is trapped in herself.

“It’s not a marriage that traps her because it’s a marriage of convenience. She knows it and Tesman knows it. It’s not that Tesman has hijacked her. It’s an agreement between the two of them. It’s an agreement to have a life for the outside world, to be so-called happy.

“Hedda is the prison of herself, of her own incapacity. She is incapable of really changing her life yet she has all the opportunities to do that.”

The National Theatre’s production of Hedda Gabler runs at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Monday 29 January until Saturday 3 February.

A NEW art exhibition showcasing work by those who have experienced homelessness has opened at the Lightbox gallery and museum.

Woking-based homeless charity York Road Project is behind the exhibition called Don’t Stereotype, and all of the exhibited artwork is by contributors who have been actively rough sleeping or have been clients of the charity.

Sculptor Shaun Henry, left and former rough sleeper John Santos with his self-portrait Picture by Len Walker

York Road Project is tackling the complex reasons behind the causes of homelessness, and working to challenge pre-conceived ideas about rough sleeping – and the charity has been exploring this through artwork.

Deputy Chief Executive Cherisse Dealtry explained: “Art can change our client’s interpretation on how they think they are perceived by the general public, and it is a way for them to express themselves and boost their self-esteem.”

John Santos had nowhere to live and was a rough sleeper in the town, but after being encouraged to attend a painting workshop he found that his natural skills stimulated him to think creatively and develop his imagination. “I wanted to do it, and I loved it,” he said.

Internationally renowned sculptor Shaun Henry, who was born in Woking and whose sculptures adorn the town centre, was on hand and he assessed the exhibition: “I think it’s a really impressive group of individual artists and the work they do comes across as verbal communication and very direct self-portraits,” he said.

The exhibition, which runs for two months, demonstrates that the streets of Woking are home to gifted artists.

ON THE 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 12 drummers drumming – oh no they didn’t!

At least, a dozen percussionists do not feature in the traditional festive song as performed at this year’s Woking pantomime.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men use 12 copies of the latest News & Mail in their hilarious version.

Your favourite local paper is the final gift as Shane Richie and his co-stars perform The Twelve Days of Christmas on stage at the New Victoria Theatre.

It features along with items such garden hoses, sweaty socks, tatty frocks, Christmas roses, juicy apples – and a fairy from the top of the tree.

Dick Whittington at the Yvonne Arnaud – a lot of laughs for all the family

If you are looking for some truly entertaining family fun this festive season, Dick Whittington at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud is perfect for everyone.

Jamie Brook as Idle Jack has the whole audience on board from the off, we’re soon joining in enthusiastically as we practice our rendition of ‘Laid back Jack’ at the top of our lungs.  His all new ‘RatNav’ device has the crowd in stitches as he demonstrates how it helps locate the nasty critters.

Judy Cornwell and Georgie Leatherland, Credit Bryan Allman

Sarah the Cook’s costume and enormous hats seem to get more outlandish with every year.  Peter Gordon doesn’t disappoint and the truly hilarious rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas has him struggling to keep his wig from his eyes, whilst rolling about on the floor in true Panto style, and much to the audience’s delight.  The children couldn’t contain their laughter as Idle Jack gets repeatedly splattered with five custard pies, and as for the bra that was meant to hold three.  For us slightly older members enjoying the show, we couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing, when a string of knickers became entwined with a light on the side of the stage, fusing the lights and plunging us all into darkness.   It just added to the entertainment value and made the evening all the more memorable.

King Rat is truly dastardly and the audience in Guildford are clearly fond of Kit Hesketh-Harvey, who snarls and sneers, and interacts so splendidly with the front row.  Poor Jenny, she was still the centre of his attention right to the very last.  The dreaded pesky rats were brilliant with their twitching and dancing, and credit to all the young actors who smiled and performed their dances without a foot out of place.

Judy Cornwell as Fairy Bowbells managed to assert a calming influence over the proceedings, and even made King Rat cry.

If you are looking for a traditional Christmas panto this year, treat yourself and visit Dick Whittington, you will be truly entertained from start to finish and all of the bits in between.