Eastern Branch

The Eastern Branch welcomes enquiries from budding and new group organisers to our existing family of over 90 members in the Branch which covers Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, Suffolk and the London post code areas of London E, N and NW.

 

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MEMBERS IMPORTANT NOTICE:

All Members, please advise the Membership Secretary if your email contact details have changed since you first joined the AGTO - this is most important for continued contact and Membership updates.

 

The Branch Committee

Enid Pamment, Chair - telephone: 01462 851397

Committee:

Joan Hanks - Branch Director

Maria Maltby - Secretary

Linda Nicholas - Treasurer

Yvonne Hodson - Editor Eastwise

Maureen Hardingham, committee member


2018 Events

 

EASTERN BRANCH MEETING AND FAM TRIP TO THE LONDON MUSEUM OF WATER & STEAM, PLUS THE MUSICAL MUSEUM, SATURDAY, 7th JULY 2018
 
Programme for the Day (Itinerary may be subject to change)

10.30 am        Meet for coffee at The Museum of Water & Steam

10.45 am       Introduction and Welcome by our Associate Member from the Museum

11.00 am       Short Branch Meeting followed by a Tour of The Museum

 1. 15 pm       Light Lunch in Birdie’s Kitchen Restaurant

 2.15 pm        Walk to The Musical Museum (3 mins approx.)

 2.30 pm        Welcome by a member from The Musical Museum including

                        Tour and Wurlitzer Organ Recital, and much more

3.30 pm         Afternoon Tea

Cost per Member and Guests £20 p.p. -- includes lunch and afternoon tea.

Booking Form available from:

Mrs Joan Hanks  -  joan.hanks@virginmedia.com

 

'Eastwise' - Our Branch Publication for Members

Our quarterly newsletter which holds our news, photos, trips, gossip, tips and much more is called 'Eastwise' and is produced with content provided by our members. 

 Editor -Yvonne Hodson

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CARLIE'S THEATRE TRIPS

 

CONSENT

 

There is plenty to mull over in this play which has transferred from the National Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End.  While feeding the intellect it also provides an emotional reaction, especially for the females in the audience.  Bang up to date, although Nina Raine’s play premiered in April 2017, it deals with the subject of rape and looks at consensual rape in and out of marriage in a manner that is completely of today.

The play focusses on a number of issues: how the law courts deal with rape, what the victim has to face in court, marriage and sex within it; friendship and even the changes having children bring to a relationship and a consideration of what constitutes consent in a sexual encounter including the difficult issue of marital rape.

The play starts with a scene where two couples are meeting to celebrate the arrival of a first baby for Edward (Stephen Campbell Moore) and Kitty (Claudie Blakley). The baby – and in this production there is a real very small peaceful baby, who is passed around so gently from one person to the other – has altered the relationship between the parents; they are no longer at complete ease with one another. We gradually learn that there is trouble in the marriage of the other couple.  Rachel (Sian Clifford) is about to chuck her husband Jake (Adam James) out of their home because he is unfaithful.

Into the mix comes single Tim (Lee Ingleby) and Zara (Clare Foster) who is also single.  In her late 30s she is desperate to have a baby, and Edward and Kitty hope that Zara and Tim will get together. It doesn’t seem to be happening though.

All except Kitty and Zara are barristers and we see some at work on rape trials. Edward and Tim work on opposite sides.  We meet a victim of rape who asks, “Who is my lawyer,” as she realises there is a defence lawyer and a prosecuting barrister but nobody for the victim.”  She is just a witness in the proceedings. The author shows how it ends up being the female victim who is virtually put on trial as her actions are questioned and often she is just not believed.

When Tim shows that he is attracted to Kitty, matters get somewhat out of hand. 

The set is simple but effectively shows the different places in which the action takes place.  Technology enables furniture to rise easily from the floor of the stage, so the flow of the scenes is not interrupted.

In a well- structured play, Raine gives each of her characters a complete persona and director Roger Michell lets the actors develop their characters in a rounded manner.  While the matter is, of course, serious, there are lots of amusing lines. Excellent acting all round gives the play depth and meaning. Fascinating and all-absorbing, it is highly recommended.

CONSENT is on at the Harold Pinter Theatre, London (booking until 11 August 2018. Box office: 0844 871 7622)

Rating ****

 

TINA – The Tina Turner Musical

What a singer! What an actress! What a star! And this is what Adrienne Warren gives us in this new musical.  She plays Tina and seems to actually become her in all her various styles as she dons wigs and dresses to show her transition from a young naïve girl with a powerful voice to a super star.

We first see her as a child.  She is called Anna Mae Bullock (played on the night I went by Claudia Elie) and lives with her family in Nutbush, Tennessee.   She is told off for singing too loudly in the local Baptist Church.  Her mother walks out with her daughters when her husband physically abuses her once too often. Anna Mae then gets together with Ike Turner (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith), who she marries and eventually escapes from after many years of being the victim of terrible violent behaviour from Ike.  He gives her nothing and she is left without money or work and with two young children. She finds rejection as a black woman working in a white world and is almost a has-been. We see how she builds up her career, changing her image to become the famous rock star we all know.

Well certainly the audience at the Aldwych theatre know as they cheer throughout and give a tremendous standing ovation at the end as Warren reprises many of Tina Turner’s greatest hits. Is the show just an excuse for listening to TT’s songs?  No, it is more than that. Directed by Phyllida Law, the show is always exciting to watch with simple effective lighting and staging. Holdbrook-Smith is a fully developed Ike – we never feel sorry for him as he is so brutal, but the actor gives us glimpses of his bad childhood and his current bursting ego. The chorus can sing and dance and choreographer Anthony Van Laast makes sure that they keep moving. Actually,  I liked the moments best when Warren was allowed to sing centre stage by herself.

This is a world premiere with Tina Turner, herself, as an Executive Producer so we can assume all the incidents are authentic.

But the night belongs to the young American actress, Adrienne Warren, who gives us an extraordinary portrayal of Tina. She looks terrific in the Tina costumes and her movement captures the real star, but it is her amazing voice which is so astonishing.  Close your eyes (not that you would want to) and it could be Tina herself

TINA is on at the Aldwych Theatre, London (booking until 16 February 2019. Box office: 0845 200 7981)

Rating ****

 

HAMILTON (Victoria Palace, London booking until 30 June 2018

Box office: 0844 482 5138)

  

 

Wow! And Wow again for this musical marvel. Spoken about as a hip-hop show, it is so much more than that. There is, indeed, a lot of rap and all of Hamilton is set to music, but there are many good songs using various musical styles interspersed with the rap. It has, too, a cast who interpret the music perfectly.

Lyn-Manuel Miranda, author of the book, lyrics and music has composed a wonderful musical. It tells the story of one of the founding fathers of America, Alexander Hamilton, as told by Aaron Burr who acts as Narrator for much of the show.

Most of us in the UK know little about Alexander Hamilton (Jamael Westman).  Perhaps we identify him with the head on the $10 US bill or the more erudite might have heard of Hamilton as one of the founding fathers of the United States of America in the 18th century.  Here we see young Hamilton as a 19-year-old arriving in New York.  We learn a lot about what happened to him in the first few minutes of the opening. Aaron Burr, Alexander’s mentor and the narrator of most of the musical, tells us that Alexander Hamilton was born in the Caribbean to an unmarried Scottish father and half-French, half-British mother. He was soon orphaned but eventually arrived in New York.  Very intelligent, charming, with a knowledge of languages, he rose to become a leader in the political scene of the time, before he was killed in a dual at the age of 47 by his former mentor, Aaron Burr. Unusually, we are told the end of the story right at the beginning.

It’s how this story is staged, of course, that is the  outstanding element of it and this is chiefly the work of Lin-Manuel.  Together with director Thomas Kail the two have ensured that the musical has a set that works for the content, a cast who delivers and that the music under the delicate hand of Musical Director, Alex Lacamoire, who, worked alongside Miranda, enhances the lyrics.

The set, which reminds me of Sean Kenny’s wonderful set for the first outing of Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! is all wooden platforms, stairs and walkways with lots of ropes.  It is just right for the different elements of the musical as it moves from     place to place, with a centre revolve, showing the different stages of the life of Alexander Hamilton.

The costumes have been expertly designed to fit in well with the story-line. So, at the beginning the ensemble is dressed mainly in white and cream.  Later - to show mourning – the women wear black tops, Eliza is in a black dress and Alexander in a black coat.

Miranda’s music and lyrics combine so perfectly that it is almost impossible to separate the two.  The show is mostly in rap interspersed with songs.  The songs reference Sondheim, the words of Shakespeare and even Gilbert and Sullivan.  I particularly liked, The Room Where It Happens, which tells us about an important meeting of politicians while progressing the characteristics of the man – Aaron Burr – singing the song. It is also a catchy, tuneful ditty put across well by the actor/singer Giles Terera. Later Eliza finds out about her husband’s affair with Maria and her song is reminiscent of the mother’s lament in Miss Saigon.

Some of the songs have lovely melodies such as the one Alexander sings to his baby son. One must listen carefully to the words as within the lyrics lie the very bones of the story. The music is almost non-stop throughout.

Politics and the role of immigrants in the foundation of present day America are brought to the fore. To begin with Alexander Hamilton is himself an immigrant who comes to America with nothing and by the time he dies, at a too young age, he is one of the most powerful men in the country. The importance of immigrants and their contribution to society is emphasised and while the line, “Immigrants – they get the job done” is loudly applauded by the London audience, it is important to note how immigrants played a main part in the creation of modern America.  We must also take on board that Miranda stresses,

“Until we end slavery there will never be freedom.” Although the musical obviously deals with the revolutionary politics of 18th century America, there are enough points of commonality to ensure that it hits home to current audiences.

The moves and dancing by choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler are not over-flamboyant but fit in well with the music and songs. The chorus is excellently drilled even when not dancing and the ensemble always moves well and with precision.

But to my mind it is the casting that gives this musical the edge above all the others.  Jamael Westman, newly out of RADA, has been given the title role.  He develops, before our eyes, from a hesitant 19-year-old listening carefully to Burr’s instructions not to talk too much and to smile more into a self-assured leader of his country.  For a young actor in his first major role to show such an out-standing control of the stage is remarkable, but Jamael does just this.  He is also very charming and good-looking so that we can believe his attraction to women – particularly his wife Eliza (played by Rachelle Ann Go who has a lovely pure voice), his sister-in-law Angelica (given a suitably feisty interpretation by Rachel John) and his mistress Maria (Christine Allado). Westman has, too, a very pleasant singing voice, noteworthy in the lullaby he sings to his baby son. This is a charismatic performance from a new star who, I am sure, will continue to grace the London stage for many future years.

Almost equally important is the part played by his rival and ultimate killer, Aaron Burr.  Giles Terera, seen in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom plays the villain in a way that is neither over the top nor too obviously villainous, but gives us the correct amount of believability as he moves from mentor to fellow politician and then on to political rival. Terera has great personality.

The almost completely non-white cast all perform well and even the small parts are presented forcefully and with emotion. There are some almost show-stopping moments from Jason Pennycooke in the parts of the revolutionary Marquis de Lafayette and a camp Thomas Jefferson.  Also, most amusing is Michael Jibson as the English King George 111 jigging to a simple melody.

This is one show which, although it is long, we wish it would just go on and on.  It moves at a fast pace with the cast – particularly Westman and Terera – leading all forward in an at times moving but always exciting and innovative show which, I am sure, will keep on running.  Tickets are selling fast so get in there and book your group visits for the earliest date you can get!

Rating *****

Carlie Newman

 

 

 

 

 

 

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