Monday, 25 March 2013

Guys & Dolls - Hessle Theatre Company

Chris Holmes as Nathan Detroit (L) & RIchie Donaldson at Big Jule - for more photographs see HTC Facebook Page

On Friday last week, Keith and I went to watch this musical show at the Hull New Theatre. It was a first time for both of us, although Sally, who we went with, had appeared in it a few years ago with another society and she recommended it. We were not disappointed. Having no prior knowledge of a show can sometimes be much better since you have no pre-conceived ideas of how it should be staged, who should play certain characters etc. Even though there was a synopsis in the programme, and I read it before the show began, I still was a tad confused until the characters actually appeared on stage. The synopsis had too many characters and different story-lines for me to grasp all at once, but that didn't matter once the show began.

Here's a more concise version, as shown on the Hessle Theatre Company's website recently:

In the twilight world of gangsters and their molls, Nathan Detroit is losing his grip on the institution of the floating 'crap game' (the dice gambling scheme he runs that switches venue to avoid detection by the local police) and is desperate to find the money to pay for the only location he can currently get his hands on. To seal the deal and quell the tempers of the gangsters who are gathering in town and keen to 'shoot crap', he bets his buddy, Sky Masterson, a thousand dollars that Sky will not be able to take a local Salvation Army girl, Sarah Brown, on a date to Havana.

Meanwhile Nathan, engaged for fourteen years to cabaret artist Miss Adelaide, is struggling to keep her demands for marriage at bay, whilst she continues to battle with the symptoms of an incessant psychosomatic cold that plagues her all the time she is waiting to go down the aisle...

We've seen Hessle TC performing several times over the years, and they always put on a very professional production, despite the majority of their members being amateur and having no formal training. We look out for realism whenever we watch a live performance, whether it's musical or a straight play, and I would say that 99% of the performers achieved this. Having many years of experience in amdram ourselves probably makes us more aware of how hard it is to achieve such a standard - we are limited in our theatre due to the size of it, so cannot compare in any way with such a large company. However, we still strive to be as professional as possible and I can only hope that we give our audiences as much pleasure as Hessle gave us last week.

Onto the show itself. The opening scene was a visual feast. What impressed me more than anything was how well choreographed it was. The whole company were in that scene, in Times Square in New York. I didn't know who to watch, as everyone was moving at the same time, but it was all very carefully planned and seamlessly put together - big congratulations to Martin Beaumont, the director and choreographer.

The musical numbers weren't all to my liking, although none were on my hate list either! I think I was particularly impressed with the song sung by Terry Halliwell who played Sarah Brown's Grand-father, Arvide Abernathy - his number "More I Cannot Wish You" was very moving and he had a lovely tone to his voice. It was really good to see Richard Skelton in the role of Sky Masterson - the love interest of Sarah Brown. He used to be a member at Bilton Amateur Dramatic Society, and was in the same first play I was in there 23 years ago! Back then, I think he preferred singing to acting, but to see him on stage on Friday, you wouldn't know - he was equally impressive with his acting and singing ability. His American accent was faultless, too.

I liked the comedy portrayed by Russell Fallon in his characterisation of Nicely Nicely Johnson - he even raised his speaking voice a pitch to add to that comedy element, and obviously enjoyed spending much of the time eating!!! He was central to one of my favourite scenes, the song ""Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat", and you can see a clip of it here:

What impressed us so much about that particular number was not just the way it was choreographed, which was effective in itself, but the way everyone knew exactly what they were doing and when - not one person was out of sync, and they changed positions throughout, too - credit to everyone involved with this number!

The actress playing the part of Adelaide, Sarah Lazenby, was stunning. Her acting skills and singing voice put together were first rate, and I really enjoyed her performance throughout - particularly in her solo piece, "Adelaide's lament".

I have been reflecting on the show all weekend, and it's not often that a production has such an impact, but this one certainly did. The attention to detail within the direction was evident throughout - one moment I will never forget is the scene in the Mission when all the gamblers are looking in through the window for quite some time before any of the characters in the scene realise. They are almost stuck to the glass, as if they've been paste on from the outside, and it had a really comical effect. I loved the way the signs lit up in Times Square, the backdrop for the underground tunnel with all the pipework etc, and the shop fronts such as the Barber's shop window and the Tailor's shop. It all added to the atmosphere of the production and must have taken a lot of time and effort to create (I'm assuming it was created by Hessle and not hired in, actually - but even so, the scenery was excellent).

I thought Chris Homes played a superb role as Nathan Detroit, and I did wonder if he actually does walk like that in reality or if he just created a perfect stoop for the part! His facial expressions were clearly visible even from where we were sitting in row "O" - no opera glasses required for his acting, that's for sure.

I was also mightily impressed with the "Big Jule" character, played by Richie Donaldson. I don't know how he managed it, but I've never heard such a deep voice in my life. Perhaps he just naturally speaks in a deep tone, but for this character it was perfect and every time he spoke or sang, I was mesmerised!

If I could remember the show in detail (and not just bits of it that stand out) I would write more, but as it is I will just say that I am so pleased Sally suggested we went with her, and that we were entertained from start to finish. I did not want it to end, it was that good. Oh, I also loved "Luck Be A Lady" - the singing and the choreography were both top notch.

I look forward to their production of "Oklahoma" which is their next big show I believe.

Hessle Theatre Company have a website where you can read all about their history, see photographs of past productions and even apply to be a member if you wish: Hessle Theatre Company

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Fur balls and sulking cats

If you own a cat, or have ever owned one, you will know that they can be such a source of amusement, annoyance, irritation, pleasure and amazement in equal measures (if you can indeed divide your sources into 5 equal parts).

We currently have two cats. One is an elderly moggy who we got from a friend who was changing his job and couldn't look after her due to the time he would be spending working away from home. She is called Mavis Riley (we added the Riley, I admit) and was 2 when we adopted her in 1998. Her name then was Pumpkin - something we could not bring ourselves to maintain!  She is a very pretty cat and has beautiful markings, but is also very nervous and she cowers at the slightest noise.

Oscar is a pedigree - a birman. He's nearly 10 now, but still plays and charges around the house like a crazy thing at times. He is rather like the lamb in the nursery rhyme "Mary had a little lamb" - he follows me everywhere - in fact Keith sometimes jokes that if he comes in and wonders where I am, he just looks for Oscar and knows I will be somewhere nearby! He's a bit of a rascal at times, likes to terrorise poor Mavis by "playing" with her - this usually entails him stalking her as she walks through from the kitchen to the living room, then pouncing on her and pinning her to the ground by gripping her neck with his mouth. This wouldn't be so bad if Mavis was up for it, but most of the time she just wants to be left alone and ends up hissing at him and trying to escape.

He also sulks when he knows we are going out for the day - like he did last weekend when we were at the Prospect UPMarket event. As soon as he saw all my plastic containers and table etc in the living room, he knew we were planning on deserting him. Therefore, he sneaked into our bedroom before we had chance to shut the door, and this is how I found him on our bed:

He actually looks a bit evil on this photo due to the red eye, but I couldn't be bothered to alter it and I think it adds to the "sulky" mode!

As both our cats are long-haired, they need grooming regularly - and still manage to produce fur balls at times (which I thought would be ball shaped, but they're actually tubes of fur in case you were wondering). Mavis is not so keen at being groomed, and she has a very knotty underbelly and side - she only lets me groom her head and back, unfortunately. However, Oscar adores being groomed and lays out on his back for me to brush his tummy as well as everywhere else. When he was quite young I once collected all the fur from the grooming session and rolled it into a round ball. He saw me doing this, and "pawed" it out of my hand, chasing it across the room like a football. We've played this game ever since! He lets me take it off him, flick it across the room then he charges after it, kicking it as he goes. Today, there wasn't much of his fur on the brush, so I had to use the fur from Mavis instead. I took a photo of the two balls of fur- the one he played with is about an inch high - and we get lots of play-time from this. I wonder if anyone else has ever played this game with their cat or if I am just as silly as Oscar for inventing it!

This morning, I tried a new game with it - throwing it down the hole in the middle of his cat tower - the first time I did it, he leapt straight onto the shelf where it disappeared and stuck his head down the hole, trying desperately to find it. Once I'd shown him that it had actually fallen to the bottom of the tower and he could access it from ground level, he watched me do it over and over, retrieving it each time from the base!

He's now sleeping behind me on the chair in the computer room - I'm precariously perched on the edge of the seat in order to make room for him - cats eh? 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Easter Craft Fair

Today I will be at the Easter Craft Fair in Paull, East Yorkshire, from 12pm till 4pm.

 I will have these new A5 notebooks for sale as well as several other new items.

Monday, 4 March 2013

On my work area today.....

Wooden hanging hearts - painted with added bead embellishments.
I've been working on a few more items for this weekend's event, the Prospect UPMarket, so thought I'd show you what I've been up to so far. Some of these are finished, some nearly finished and some are barely started - but that's the beauty of working on several items at once - whilst waiting for one area to dry you simply move on the the next item! My work area looks like a tip, but I have a big tidy up every so often until it gets cluttered again with all the stuff I need to hand!

Decopatched Cat - with collar added, waiting for additional embellishments.

Wooden Hearts - first coat of paint just on.

Papier Mache Cat - painting started, lots more to do.
Dark green and lime cup-cake key-rings.

Violet and pink cup-cake key-rings.
I will be continuing with these tomorrow, as after lunch I will be helping to prepare our slow-cooker meal for tonight, then off to pick up our grand-daughters from school to here and on to Bilton for the Junior drama rehearsal tonight.