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1:55pm Friday 7th March 2014
11:57am Wednesday 8th January 2014
11:51am Friday 20th December 2013
On stage bassist Norman Watt-Roy points out to Wilko Johnson that he is standing under a sign reading Final Tour. Wilko just shrugs and gets on with it, business as usual. Guitarist and singer-songwriter Wilko Johnson, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just before Christmas last year, has chosen to look death in the eye on his farewell tour, which called in at Oceana last Tuesday night.The 820-strong audience were suitably readied by fellow Essex rockers Eddie & the Hot Rods and south London bluesmen Nine Below Zero for what was the first in a series of new live band nights – Watford Live – at the nightclub.
11:45am Friday 20th December 2013
12:01pm Friday 20th December 2013
The Holocaust is what we are taught in history but new theatre company Voices of the Holocaust highlights the real people behind Hitler’s plan for Jewish extermination. The production opens with Fragile Fire, a play based on the 1942 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
10:16am Friday 21st June 2013
12:20pm Friday 24th May 2013
Interesting passengers brought together on board a cruise ship in the 1930s are sure to be fruitful of fun and romance. These are provided in spades in this production by the Watford Operatic Society of Cole Porter’s famous musical Anything Goes. It is done so well by the amateur performers (a number of them have professional experience) that it is as enjoyable as you could hope to see anywhere. Particularly impressive is the skilled dancing in period style which all the characters must engage in, as well as singing; the choreographer Jessica Rufey deserves special credit, as does the unnamed designer of the glamorous costumes.
2:30pm Friday 3rd May 2013
SOME 25 years ago Courtney Pine lived no more than ten houses from me in a quiet, tree-lined street in Harrow and here was I, on a Friday evening in late April 2013 at the Harrow Arts Centre, within ten metres of the man himself.
5:21pm Friday 1st March 2013
A bitterly cold night, an ancient cavernous church, the atmosphere at St Albans Film Festival's preview screening of Mike Newell's Great Expectations could not have been more apt - even without the dry ice and fake mice. The organisers really went to town with the decorations which included candles, cobwebs and even a mouldering Miss Havisham at her bridal table. The director's local pedigree is well known - the Newell family's connection with St Albans Cathedral dates back more than 200 years (though as Mike points out when we speak before the film starts, it is known affectionately as 'The Abbey' by those who reside within the city's environs). As well as having a strong link with The Abbey Theatre's Company of Ten just down the hill, Mike was head chorister at the abbey in his youth. In his introductory speech before the film he recalls bats swooping through the nave on autumn nights of yore making ladies in the congregation duck. "In an odd and mysterious way my work is connected to this place," he says. "I swear this is where I started to use that part of my imagination." He goes on to describe Dickens' most loved novel as a "great moral drama" and his film brings that ethical dilemma to the fore. When we first meet Pip he is an impressionable pup but his thirst for knowledge goes beyond pure bookish learning - what we see on screen is his quest for a meaningful way of life. Jeremy Irvine's enthusiastic portrayal as the adult Pip contrasts beautifully with Holliday Grainger's imperious ice queen Estella and the journey they embark on is thoroughly convincing. Dickens' minor characters - the Pumblechooks and Pockets et al may be played out as theatrical caricatures but all the major players are gratifyingly and edifyingly solid. Ralph Fiennes' Magwitch, Helen Bonham Carter's Miss Havisham, Jason Flemyng's Joe Gargery - Mike reveals their heart and humanity at every step. There may have been "countless other versions" as the director himself points out, but he is thoroughly justified in making this one - its infinitely more than one might have hoped for.
8:52am Monday 4th February 2013
The Primavera Ensemble is a sextet: two violins, two violas and two violoncellos. This is a comparatively unusual chamber music combination, and in this concert each of the works played had its extra element of novelty.
3:50pm Friday 1st February 2013
2:56pm Friday 1st February 2013
Window envelopes, old packaging and used tea bags - just everyday items that most of us would discard without a second thought, but not artist Ann Kopka, who is currently exhibiting at Harrow Arts Centre.
9:32am Tuesday 3rd January 2012
9:39am Friday 19th October 2012
Mike Bartlett visited The Palace Theatre 18 months ago with his very successful product play Love, Love, Love and his latest offering Medea, a modern version of the greek tragedy by Euripides, doesn't disappoint. In fact it has a show stopping finale that matches any I’ve seen over the years.
11:54am Friday 19th October 2012
Two people playing duets on a single piano is a form of chamber music that we do not hear very often. It is even less usual when the two are mother and son, as are Helen and Harvey Davies. In the home and in piano teaching, it is commonplace, of course, and the co-ordination and sympathy that we expect in those circumstances were very evident in this concert given for the Radlett Music Club. As the programme demonstrated, composers from the early days of the piano to the present have been inspired by this form. We do not always know why they chose it, but sometimes it provided the extra richness and dynamic range that would later emerge in an orchestral version. Or, as Harvey, addressing the audience, pointed out, this extra dimension might be valuable in a student work, as was the case in Joubert's Divertimento, opus 2, the first work in the concert. It was easy listening, and at once demonstrated the special techniques required when, for instance, the hands of two players must cross and when one player must use the sustaining pedal for two.
11:59am Friday 19th October 2012
This was a further recital in the series given by Richard Hills on the theatre organ at the Colosseum. The audience had been invited to send in requests. The result was a nostalgic programme of light music best remembered by older listeners, but well worth the attention of a new audience which we may hope will be attracted to hear it. Favourite numbers such as the Dam Busters march from the classic film and songs such as 'Singing in the Rain' and 'Those Foolish Things' from well loved stage musicals made up Richard's programme, as indeed at his previous recitals here. More ambitious requests were for music composed by Albert Ketelbey and Percy Grainger, for instance; for these, even Richard, who usually plays from memory, had the printed music in front of him. I wonder whether further expansion of his repertoire might attract a larger audience. The event tested one's memory of music that was universally known and popular in its time but has hardly been heard for half a century. These pieces may rightly be described as classics of their kind. They inherit the easy rhythms, simple harmonies and memorable tunes that derive from the romantic music of the nineteenth century. Much of the charm of Richard's performance is due to his expert use of the theatre organ's resources. A good theatre organ such as this is remarkably versatile. Loud or soft, fast or slow, dance or march or song, appealing and sometimes surprising tone quality, the technique of three manuals, pedals and a full range of stops and other controls - he is the master of them all, as this programme again demonstrated. Watford is fortunate in having acquired this sort of organ, but perhaps it sometimes tempts him to use its maximum volume when it may confuse the listener. Richard said in his opening remarks that this is one of the finest instruments of its kind surviving in this country (most such theatre and cinema organs of the mid-twentieth century were lost as public tastes changed). It is to be hoped that the reputation of these recitals will be widely circulated and will contribute to the revival of some excellent music. Graham Mordue
12:47pm Thursday 11th October 2012
12:41pm Friday 5th October 2012
Whether it was because your childhood sweetheart found someone else to push on the swings, or your live-in paramour delivered the lily-livered line: I love you, but I’m not in love with you – Breaking up, as The Walker Brothers sang in 1965, is so very hard to do.
3:57pm Monday 24th September 2012
3:13pm Friday 21st September 2012
Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize-winning, coming-of-age tale is set in New York with the focus on a dysfunctional family spanning three generations. Jay (Jos Slovick) and Arty (Keith Ramsay) reluctantly find themselves left in the care of their cantankerous Grandma Kurnitz (Bernice Stegers, pictured right) and their sweet, ditzy Aunt Bella (Laura Howard) while their father Eddie (Jonathan Tafler) travels the country trying to earn enough money to repay the family's considerable debt. We soon realise that growing up with Grandma has never been easy as we learn more about loveable Bella and meet the glamourous but intimidating racketeer Uncle Louie (Nitzan Sharron) and nervous Aunt Gert (Polly Conway).
3:10pm Friday 21st September 2012
3:07pm Friday 21st September 2012
IT’S your birthday and you should be feeling on top of the world – only life isn’t always like that. Watford Palace Theatre’s resident company nabokov especially commissioned ten young writers to pen a story under the collective title The Best Year of Your Life , each writer taking one birthday between 16 and 25 as their stimulus. The result was a series of delicious vignettes, depicting how the irrepressible spirit of youth is slowly shaped by experience.
3:05pm Friday 21st September 2012
THIGH deep in Glasto mud may remain the ultimate festival experience but the thousand-strong crowd at last Saturday’s Oxfest on The Green proved how fine it is to celebrate music in your own back yard.
4:29pm Monday 10th September 2012
9:58am Tuesday 4th September 2012
5:09pm Monday 20th August 2012
4:30pm Monday 6th August 2012
A rapturous standing ovation was the only possible outcome for Vivo D'Arte's stellar performance of Les Miserables last Friday night. It is a wordy, complicated, long and moving piece and the cast dealt well with its demands, aided by director/musical director Dan Cowtan and his team.
5:05pm Friday 13th July 2012
Choreographed routines featuring trolley bags and airline tap-dancing air stewards were among the cabin-load of delights that greeted the Pump House audience at last night's amateur staging for Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger's refreshingly modern musical Jet Set Go!, which debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008.
12:41pm Wednesday 11th July 2012
Peter Pan, the timeless classic by JM Barrie, has once again been brought to life by the talented young children of The Pump House Theatre. This is the heart-warming story of ‘the boy who never grows up’ and his adventures with the three young Darling siblings: Wendy, John and Michael in Neverland - a magical world of mermaids, lost boys, Indians and fierce pirates, including the most terrifying of them all, the dreaded Captain Hook.
5:49pm Monday 2nd July 2012
10:47am Monday 25th June 2012
2:23pm Thursday 14th June 2012
Words are sacred, Tom Stoppard tells us in his cleverly crafted play The Real Thing. Starting rather than ending with a fine twist, this wittily-wrought treatise on love and loss takes us through the emotional landscape of two professional couples Annie and Max, who are both actors and Debbie and Harry, an actor and a writer.
10:01am Wednesday 13th June 2012
The characteristic sound of the theatre organ filled the Colosseum when Richard Hills gave another lunchtime concert on Monday, June 11. In a programme entitled Great Music from Great Britain, he played, from memory throughout, music from stage shows and other popular numbers, some of them from as far back as the 1920s. Some of these, such as Noel Coward's 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen', are now part of the national myth. As Richard remarked in speaking to the audience, it was a programme that matched the time of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, for this is the light music that the young Elizabeth knew.
2:22pm Tuesday 12th June 2012
2:40pm Thursday 7th June 2012
Assembling 60 members of the public, assorted dancers and a band on the Watford Palace Theatre stage last month was a feat in itself but what choreographer and director Kate Flatt and her team created was a feast of dance, movement and song.
11:34am Tuesday 12th June 2012
If you wanted a refuge from the European Song Contest, you could not have done better than attend this concert in Watford given by the Ullern Chamber Choir from Norway. The choir comprises some 40 highly skilled singers with well balanced excellent voices. This was the last concert in a tour of famous churches in London and elsewhere.
10:08am Thursday 7th June 2012
Despite being a fiery Welshman, I can honestly say I've never found myself worked up about advertising boards in service station toilets. Nor have I whipped myself into a frenzy about the names of shower gels or the fact supermarkets sell jacket potatoes in packs of two.
2:16pm Wednesday 16th May 2012
Gypsy is a peach of a musical; on the one-hand its a gut-wrenching tale of one woman's ruthless determination to shove her daughters into the limelight and on the other it's a moving family saga of love and forgiveness.
3:56pm Tuesday 15th May 2012
With commendable ambition, for this concert the Watford Symphony Orchestra undertook a programme of 19th- and 20th Century works that was demanding for amateurs. It was held at Clarendon Muse - home to the Watford School of Music, whose director of string development, John Brennan, was the guest conductor. For those interested in musical education, he has an additional reputation as conductor of Hertfordshire Schools' Symphony Orchestra and for a number of other commitments. He has developed a conducting style that is both clear and enthusiastic.
1:59pm Friday 11th May 2012
The evergreen Sound of Music adamantly refuses to go out of fashion. OK, so it has been done to death but so what? It is a classic and still manages to stir up feelings of warm nostalgia and joy every time it makes an appearance. Love, romance, stirring songs and unfeasibly cute children ensures it swells heart, as well as the box office coffers every time.
12:01pm Friday 11th May 2012
First staged in 2007, writer Dennis Kelly (co-writer of the hugely successful musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda) takes us on a dark spiralling journey into teenage peer pressure, the cruelty of adolescence and the sanity-threatening complexity of weaving a lie.
4:33pm Thursday 10th May 2012
4:31pm Thursday 10th May 2012
9:28am Tuesday 8th May 2012
Ken Ludwig's 1986 comedy (not to be confused with the 2006 musical adaptation) is about much-mistaken identity and begins with the imminent arrival of tenor Tito Merelli (Jonathan Cox) and his feisty wife Maria (Holly Addison-Grocock) at a Cleveland hotel suite in 1934. Tito, known to his many fans as 'Il Stupendo', is booked to sing at a gala fundraiser but due to an overly bold fan, an upset stomach, an irate spouse and an overdose of tranquillisers, things do not go according to plan.
9:47am Friday 20th April 2012
Words fly about the stage at Watford Palace Theatre as Anthony Clark premieres his new work, Our Brother David. People talk at cross purposes – they discuss art, finance, beauty, truth, global warming, capitalism, love, death and a whole lot more, sometimes leaving the audience with heads spinning.
10:50am Tuesday 10th April 2012
Tom Basden’s There is a War, presented by Hertfordshire County Youth Theatre, throws the audience into a futuristic war zone between the Blues and the Greys. Neither army knows who started the war and both are unaware of the true events that took place. In fact, neither side has any idea what is going on. Each civilian, doctor or member of the army is simply taking orders from their senior officer (or the world famous star Andy Dog) regardless of the consequences that are indeed devastating.
2:25pm Tuesday 10th April 2012
You rarely get to see a play you can relate to personally. Like director Katie Smith, I have recently been a secondary school student, living within the timeframe of her latest production. With equal hindsight, I was in a good position to critique how accurately she portrayed that complex group of humans we both fall into: teenagers.
1:39pm Wednesday 28th March 2012
The Radlett Music Club continues to offer excellent programmes in its 75th anniversary season. In its concert last week at the Radlett Centre, the distinguished Navarra Quartet performed three major works of the string quartet repertoire.
10:08am Monday 26th March 2012
To mark their 50th anniversary, the Symphony Orchestra of the Purcell School of Music travelled from Bushey to the Royal Festival Hall on London’s South Bank to perform a programme whose musical interest fully matched up to the occasion. There was something in it for everyone.
10:00am Monday 26th March 2012
Few choral works better repay the use of a large chorus and orchestra than Verdi's Requiem. The Watford Philharmonic Society therefore added the St Albans Symphony Orchestra and the Carlow Choral Society to its own resources. There had been a previous performance in St Albans Abbey that must have provided extra rehearsal; the acoustics there are very different, and if you want to be heard clearly in a concert performance the Colosseum must be better.