Hands free!

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Paul Zerdin on his Hands Free show at Camberley Theatre on Tuesday, 21st September

By popular demand, ventriloquist Paul Zerdin is back, with Sam, Albert, Roger the bodyguard and an urban fox, all set for his show & tour. Liz Nicholls finds out more about the “one-man Muppet show”

Most of us have felt as if our wings have been clipped over the last 18 months. But Paul Zerdin and his motley crew of puppets are feeling more than a little liberated ahead of their live tour…

“Cannot bloody wait!” says Paul. “For once I think I know how the puppets feel being locked away after this last year locked down! I’m itching to get back on stage with a load of new gags and just be able to travel again.”

In case you’re uninitiated in his shows, Paul, who wowed the judges to be crowned winner of America’s Got Talent in 2015, describes it as a mixture of stand-up comedy with puppets… “Some sections use animatronic puppets which I control and voice, all live, and so it’s kind of like a one-man Muppet show with me at the helm trying to control my alter egos!”

Over lockdown Paul was kept busy writing the tour script for Hands Free. “It takes me a long time to come up with a new show. Lockdown has been a very creative time for me – I was lucky enough to work all last summer for Butlin’s as they moved their shows outdoors. I also wrote, produced and presented my own TV comedy series for YouTube which took up a lot of time but was enormous fun and am now talking to a major broadcaster about it. I also worked on my culinary skills, worked out at home and enjoyed vodka in the evenings!

“Camberley & Basingstoke [both on the tour] are two venues I know really well as before I was able to tour on my own I used to support a lot of famous names on tour including Brian Conley, Joe Pasquale and Ronnie Corbett. I have nothing but happy memories of touring these venues with what I can remember amazing audiences.”

With the lines of reality blurred in his shows, sometimes it’s confusing even for Paul to know who’s running it. To make sure he remains in charge, Paul is bringing his bodyguard Roger – who claims to be ex-CIA – to help him keep Sam, Albert and Baby in order as well as an urban fox. Hands Free also features Paul giving us a glimpse into his own reality, demonstrating what it’s like to be able to throw your voice in everyday situations where anything and everything can talk back.

If Paul had a magic wand what would he wish for the world? “I’d wish everybody download my Paul Zerdin – All Mouth Live Special on Amazon & iTunes; that way I could spread happiness, laughter and become financially secure!

* To find out more, please visit paulzerdin.com

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Goblin Market at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre welcomes BYMT’s Goblin Market

This August, opera, fairy-tale and musical theatre will combine in a spectacular show, Goblin Market at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.

“Goblin Market is a chamber opera like no other that stands out from other British Youth Music Theatre shows. With complex musical harmonies, it reveals the unlimited imagination and enthusiasm of its young cast, who will at last unleash their incredible talent after many months of confinement. It promises to be a truly spectacular show,” says Zoë Wanamaker, BYMT patron.

A new extraordinary musical theatre adaptation of Christina Rosetti’s famous tale, Goblin Market is coming to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 26th-28th August.

With music by renowned composer Conor Mitchell, this enchanting chamber opera of high energy physical theatre and complex musical harmonies charts the story of two sisters tempted by goblin merchant men. Unmissable, tempting, controversial, seductive… can you hear the Goblin call?

Grace Murray
Richard Gerard Jones

Director Gerard Jones (The Royal Opera House, English National Opera, La Scala) says: “Theatre centres on shared experiences, both for the audience and the performers. BYMT’s work gives this experience to the young people, and to us creatives working closely with them. I wanted to work again with the company since the first time I directed a piece there. That show had one if the very best group bonds I’ve ever experienced among cast and crew, and I’m sure that will be the same again also with this darkly exciting piece.”

One of the young performers, Grace Murray 18 from Market Drayton, Shropshire, says: “I have absolutely loved my BYMT experience. I’m playing Laura in Goblin Market and I’m enjoying every second of rehearsals. It’s so rewarding to take part in a show where everyone is as dedicated to the project as to each other, which also comes from the incredible score and an amazing team of creatives”.

This spectacular production was last seen in Edinburgh in 2005 and was hailed by press and public alike as a huge success:


“Magical… Kath Burlinson and Conor Mitchell have created the ideal vehicle for such a versatile and talented company of performers’Belfast Telegraph


“A brilliant production…energetic, dynamic, exciting, superb… Conor Mitchell has excelled here with a demanding and ambitious score…”Irish News


“The greatest musical Sondheim never wrote…” Broadwaybaby.com

To book tickets visit www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/whats-on/goblin-market

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High five for Guildford Shakespeare Company

Editor

Shows & Reviews

As they celebrate their 15th birthday, Guildford Shakespeare Company are preparing to bring She Stoops To Conquer to life in the gardens of Guildford Castle. Rick Murphy & Lisa Dvorjetz review their recent live-streamed performance of Henry V…

Live theatre is one of the countless scarcities of the Covid-19 era, and during an exhausting lockdown, as the nation craves a return to art and culture, the Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) staged a virtual production of Henry V. Maybe the play’s timely theme, which reveres British power over Europe, reminds us that, for the last 800 years, history has been set to repeat. In a mere 75 minutes, the cast and crew transported us from the alehouses of England to the battlefields of France. But, can our modern video technology really compete with the grandeur of a theatre performance?

Watching Henry V on a tablet felt like receiving a Zoom call from the 1300s. The fifth wall was creatively protected by a five-actor cast who meticulously changed clothes, props, scenes, accents, stage positions, from the comfort of their own homes, while presumably entertaining hordes of neighbours too. This was a fascinating and novel experience because, as well as being transported into the homes of the actors, we were also “Zoomed” into the homes of other audience members. Performing a show online has the potential for losing a theatre ambiance; however, this production created a slight voyeuristic effect which allowed you to track viewers’ reactions and feel part of a shared experience.

Don’t worry, you could switch your camera off!

Historical plays are sombre, and they yearn for a strong fit between each element of the performance. Watching each actor on “speaker view” made the characters seem intimate and the drama immersive. In one night-time scene, Henry, played by Gavin Fowler, was considering his claim to the French crown. It was choreographed in such a way that the background images were dimmed, home lights were turned off, and phone torches were used to create a fluttering sense of firelight. Sitting inside a theatre means each poignant whisper must carry to those unfortunate souls in the back row, but in the ease of a virtual play one is invited into a dialogue with each character personally. This made for a stirring entry into their fictional world.

Gavin embodied the energy and focus that one could imagine the young Henry V to have possessed. Chris Porter, Emily Tucker, Paula James and Matt Pinches managed to transition between the diverse country folk and nobles by use of their colourful costumes and wide array of accents. Some moments were unintentionally slapstick, particularly where the storyline hurried along too quickly, where background images were cartoonishly bright, with one actor showing clear signs of dial-up internet; but experiencing the victory of the battlefield from the comfort of home, patriotically munching on popcorn from our own front row, made this modern-take on Henry V a welcome and entertaining experience.

Rick Murphy & Lisa Dvorjetz

To book your seats for the next outdoor highlights, She Stoops To Conquer & AS You Like It, visit guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk


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What have you missed?

Liz Nicholls

Shows & Reviews

Here we are, a full year after lockdown was announced. Let’s face it, tempers feel a little bit frayed this week, which is natural, really, as we approach the final furlong towards (hopeful) freedom!

So we were wondering… what have you missed most over the last 12 months? Maybe it’s something you took for granted BC (before Covid). That coffee & cake break with workmates… Your routine hair appointment… Saturday sport.

Hospitality

As you know we’re raising a glass to our hospitality heroes with our R&A Good Cheer awards because eating & drinking while supporting our local pubs, restaurants, delicatessens is right up there at the top of our list. Watch this space for news of the winners soon!

Entertainment

Entertainment is another industry we salute, as we remain hopeful of the roadmap to freedom allowing us to enjoy theatre again. As Louise Chantal, co-director of The Oxford Playhouse puts it: “We miss our friends. I think of the scores of youngsters in our 17-25 Young Company, who were in their last week of a year’s preparation for their showcase production when we closed [in March 2020], and our long-standing amateur partners – Oxford Theatre Guild, Oxford Operatics and Opera Oxford – whose yearly extravaganzas at the Playhouse bring together hundreds of local people, from every possible background, to put on a show.

The Oxford Playhouse team, intermittently furloughed and each covering several people’s jobs, transferred all the participation and artist development programmes online (leading the march to digital nationally) and have worked with over 4,500 young people and community group members to ‘stay creative’ during lockdown. “We kept telling stories and supporting artists all through this crazy year,” says Louise.

Check out the Oxford Playhouse co-production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, starring Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley, and upcoming highlights.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring

Festivals

With a summer of festivals shelved last spring, the idea of enjoying the pick of the area’s crop of get-togethers this summer feels like a dream… Boomtown near Winchester is tentatively set to go ahead in August, with tickets selling out this month.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring and the collective excitement to reclaim the summer for hugging friends and family and dancing until our shoes fall off…” said the team.

“It’s still a long and rather complicated road to get there, but if we’re allowed to go ahead, words will never be able to fully describe the sheer love and energy that will radiate through this year’s fair.

The team behind Reading (and its northern sister festival Leeds) are also delighted to have sold out all tickets to eager festival-lovers, with Stormzy, Postmalone, Disclosure and Liam Gallagher ready to rock after a quiet year!

So…. what have you missed? Tell us on Twitter and we will be here to celebrate all of these returning joys with you!!!


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The Three Daggers in Edington

Grace Tracey

Shows & Reviews

A stay at the dog-friendly The Three Daggers certainly made my tail wag, not to mention that of terrier Roger

Anyone who knows me knows I love dogs. Another thing I love is staying in beautiful B&Bs in the gorgeous countryside (who doesn’t!). So a stay in The Three Daggers, a dog-friendly inn in the middle of Wiltshire’s valleys, was perfect for me!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a dog (yet) – so I borrowed my mum’s rescue terrier mix, Roger, for the trip. I‘d seen the pictures online but the whole property had such charm it simply can’t be captured in an image.

The self-proclaimed “quintessentially British” accommodation certainly lived up to the title. Our room was spacious and luxurious with a massive comfy bed and bathroom fit for a king. There was also a Roger-sized armchair which he soon settled into with his favourite blanket and one of my mum’s shoes.

We were shown Edington Farm Shop, full of local produce and much from their own Priory Farm inclduing their special Three Dagger ales from their micro-brewery. They also had fresh fruit & veg, pies, sausages, some rather lovely dog treats and even local artists’ work.

In the micro-brewery we were told by Jackie the Accommodation Manager, who was very kindly showing us around, they hold small weddings and with this year’s restrictions they have had a lot of interest from couples in using this stunning location for their big day, holding the reception in the upstairs of the restaurant which doubles as a quaint events room.

Just in case a pub, accommodation, brewery and farm shop were not enough for you – they also have a Spa Barn onsite which has an extensive treatment list and also includes a sauna, steam room, outdoor hot tub and a plunge pool! What more could you ask for!

Roger was in need of exercise by now, so we took a walk around the quiet roads and fields surrounding The Three Daggers as the sun began to descend. The hills and valleys made for a fantastic sunset, and the pinky-purple sky guided us back to the inn.

I’m envious this isn’t my local as it had a lovely warm and welcoming atmosphere – the staff could not have been nicer to Roger (and us of course). We ordered starters and mains and ‘cheers’ed a delightful house red to having a great time so far.

I’m not just saying this because we’ve not been out much since the lockdown, it genuinely was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I enjoyed a creamy baked camembert to start, a delicious veggie pie while my partner (often disappointed by small portion sizes) was pleasantly surprised with his pig terrine starter, steak and chips main. We both opted for the salted caramel cheesecake for pudding as we’d seen it pass on the way to another table earlier and decided sharing one wasn’t an option.

After a heavenly sleep, we were greeted by a basket of warm pastries and other breakfast treats outside our door – I loved the pain au chocolat. A brief walk with Roger in the morning sun and it was time to head back to reality.
If you’re a lover of the countryside and looking to treat yourself – and your pooch – this is an ideal destination!

If you fancy booking a visit for yourself or to find out more about the beautiful venue visit www.threedaggers.co.uk

Mini plays in response to Covid-19

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Four Reading writers have penned mini audio plays about their town and their relationship to home in these challenging times.

Reading Rep has partnered with the UK’s leading new writing company Paines Plough to commission the work.

The plays, part of the project called Come to Where I Am, are available free online and, in a first, people who may find it difficult or even impossible to access digital content can hear the plays over the phone. Prospect Park Hospital which treats mental health and Purley Park Trust patients with learning disabilities will receive the free telephone and online readings.

Links to the plays will also be available www.readingrep.com.

The Reading writers are:

•Sam Butler, co-artistic director of Fevered Sleep which works across artforms making performance, installation, books, films and digital art.

•Camile Ucan, a comedy writer-performer and one third of comedy sketch group Birthday Girls whose podcast Birthday Girls’ House Party is available on BBC Sounds now. She has an extensive body of work in TV, film and theatre.

•Ali Taylor, an award-winning playwright and teacher who has created work for stage and radio.

•Adrian Tang, Artistic Director of Exit Pursued By Panda, a theatre company promoting the interests of East Asian writers, directors, actors and other creatives.

Reading Rep founder and artistic director Paul Stacey says: “We have loved collaborating with Paines Plough to create this unique project and it joins the educational outreach work we have been undertaking since theatres shut and Britain went into lockdown.

“The plays also allow isolated audience groups to access on-demand culture.

“We are also excited that we will host live performances of the plays when we begin our first season next year at our new theatre on King’s Road which is currently being built. We have plans that will incorporate social distancing if this is still the guidance by then.

“Meanwhile, please have a listen to the plays and learn more about what Reading means as home to all of us. We have all spent so much time in our home town for the last few months that it makes them especially poignant.”

Actors including David Bradley, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lisa Hammond and Sally Dynevor will read the plays over the phone for isolated audiences. In total, 30 short plays are being commissioned.

More info

Links to the plays will also be available at…

Hurst Show & Country Fayre

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Hurst Show and Country Fayre are championing ‘the show must go on’ ethos by holding their first ever virtual show.

The traditional event has had to be cancelled but the hope is its virtual equivalent will still be able to raise much-needed funds for local good causes including Alexander Devine Hospice and Just Around the Corner, as well as St Nicholas CofE Primary school, Pre-school, Scouts and Guides.

Chairperson Suzy Turner said: “We are very conscious that now more than ever, local good causes are struggling for funding. Last year the Show was able to donate over £15,000 funding so as a committee, we wanted to do something towards raising an equivalent amount.

“We have been able to kick off the fundraising effort with a £5,000 donation from show funds, and are hoping to make up the £10,000 shortfall through the virtual show. We also hope that the virtual show enables people to have some fun and celebrate the fantastic community spirit that has been shown during lockdown.”

People from all over the area are invited to take part in a calendar of online and socially distanced events all over June, culminating in what would have been the show weekend, June 27th and 28th. These include:

· Hobbyhorse Competition – households are encouraged to make and display their own hobbyhorses, with online voting and the overall winner judged by BBC sports presenter, Mike Bushell

· Virtual Classic Vehicle and Dog Shows – enter your ‘pride and joy’, whether it has wheels or a waggy tail, into the competition on Facebook and encourage friends to vote for your entry

· Virtual Market – an opportunity to browse the online shops of the stallholders who regularly support the show

· Village Souvenir Magazine – a magazine kindly produced by Alexis Jaworski Photography capturing photographs and memories of community spirit. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Over the show weekend itself, a timetable of interactive events from Hurst Show favourites will take place on Facebook, including sing-a-longs with Ukuladies Plus One and virtual sessions with Wokingham charity, Just Around the Corner.

Around the village, there will be displays of art and the popular church bookstall will be set up. Visitors are reminded to observe social distancing measures while enjoying these.

Take-away options will be provided by Hurst caterers, The Castle Inn pub and Vintage Hog Roast, with an ice-cream van also scheduled to stop around the village over the weekend.

There will even be an online disco on the Saturday night provided by local DJ, Thames Valley Discos.

More info

The majority of these events are free to participate, but donations towards the show are kindly requested. These can be made at any time by visiting www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hurst-show.

For the latest details of what’s on, or to get involved as a sponsor or stallholder, please follow the Hurst Show on Facebook page, Twitter and/or Instagram, or visit

Wind in the Willows

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Join Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger in GSC’s online Wind in the Willows

Motor-cars, boats and the battle for Toad Hall are all re-imagined in this unique live performance in which the award-winning GSC have joined forces with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford and Jermyn Street Theatre, London, to bring their 2015 adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic to online audiences. The production will run from June 4th to 7th.

GSC first staged the story in June 2015 amidst the gardens and woods of Watts Gallery at the foot of the Surrey Hills.

This adaptation of the 1908 family classic is now being reimagined for audiences to enjoy from their own homes. GSC has met with recent success with a series of sell-out online Murder Mystery ‘parties’, created and delivered by their own in-house team.

The 2015 Willows script is being revised for six actors and will once again be directed by Tom Littler who directed the original production.

The 75-minute show will also include elements of audience participation ensuring the immersive style of GSC’s work continues on this new platform.

Matt Pinches, GSC Co-Founder said: “We’re a site-responsive theatre company, so given the current change in our theatrical landscape, we’re excited to be exploring this new ‘site-specific’ context of live theatre online.

“Our Murder Mystery audiences clearly relished being able not only to look forward to a social event and connect with friends and family as in a real theatre, but also expressed a great desire to support their local arts organisations. We’re thrilled to be able to share this production with the audiences of our good friends at Jermyn Street and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.”

Joanna Read, Director and Chief Executive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre said: “The Yvonne Arnaud and Guildford Shakespeare have worked together on many productions over the years. We’re pleased to be a part of this foray into producing online performance and exploring new ways of working with them, and with Jermyn Street Theatre.”

Tom Littler, Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre (JST), who also directs, said: “Kenneth Grahame’s enchanting story has been a favourite for grown-ups and children alike for over a century. It’s a novel about the gifts of friendship. Many of us use Zoom for a meeting or a family birthday, but now we’re going to transform it into a place of magic, wonder, and some very naughty weasels. I can’t wait to get back to the Wild Wood and the riverbank.”

Performances are on: Thursday 4th, 7pm; Friday 5th, 3pm & 7pm; Saturday 6th, 3pm & 7.30pm and Sunday 7th, 3pm & 7pm.

Tickets are £20 per device (max two people per device) and are strictly limited.

Running Time 75 mins (approx.)

Book now

Booking via GSC Box Office only

Guildford Jazz Fest

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

The team behind Guildford Jazz are getting ready to hold their first festival this month
with a variety of jazz –as well as funk and Latin – on the bill

Guildford Jazz are getting ready to blow their own trumpet as the first Guildford Jazz Fest is set to take place between 20th and 22nd March.

The three-day event at Guildford’s Electric Theatre will feature music from leading UK jazz, Latin and funk artists and begins on 20th by putting some of the best young jazz musicians from across Surrey in the spotlight, from small ensembles to big bands.

Ease yourself into Saturday with a New Orleans jazz brunch with live music from clarinet maestro Duncan Batchelor and his quartet. Follow that with a wide choice of jazz styles including rising star of the British jazz scene Nicolas Meier who is influenced by his love of Middle Eastern and Turkish music; funk and world-music roller coaster from renowned trombonist Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio and Sandy Burnett reliving The Age of Jazz.

Rounding off Saturday, Pete Churchill sings jazz before headliner Iain Ballamy performs 21st Century Pastoral, an arrangement for big band of music by Ballamy spanning his 30-year career.

Sunday brings Alan Barnes and Dave Newton before a Creole jazz lunch spices things up ahead of the afternoon offerings featuring a tribute to the music of Henry Mancini from The Mark Nightingale/Alan Barnes/Steve Waterman Sextet before a showing of classic Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr featuring live musical accompaniment by Gareth Williams, one of the country’s leading modern jazz pianists.

Photos from left: Ian Ballamy, event poster, Marianne Windham

The festival finishes with Latin jazz salsa 
courtesy of Heads South combining Cuban and other Latin rhythms.

Founder of Guildford Jazz which is behind the festival, Marianne Windham is excited about the first for the community-based arts organisation.

She said: “The festival represents a celebration of all that Guildford Jazz is about: bringing the finest UK jazz musicians to Guildford to play a wide spectrum of accessible music in a friendly-club like atmosphere. There is something for everyone in the programme whether you are just looking for great live music or are a committed jazzer.”

Guildford Jazz has been running regular events since 2011, has organised more than 250 gigs, holds two outdoor concerts a year as well as hosting a monthly jam session.

All profits from the festival will go the local charity partner Guildford Philanthropy which helps local people disadvantaged by disability, poor education, mental illness or caring responsibilities.

Find more details

For more details and to book tickets click below or call 01483 501200.

Home help

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Didcot’s own Matt Richardson tells Peter Anderson how much he’s looking forward to his show at the Cornerstone – not least because his mum always helps his home gig sell out!

Matt’s first tour at the tender age of 21 was called Hometown Hero, and now he brings his latest tour Imposter to his home town. With this tour, he’s celebrating a decade delighting audiences, both as a stand-up and as a link on many television shows. When I caught up with the lad from Didcot I found, among other things, his mother is still one of his best, and busiest fans.

“I love the show at The Cornerstone whenever I do it,” says Matt. “It’s full of familiar faces and it’s always a lovely sell-out! My mum basically does all the leg work and promotes it to everyone she knows, so it’s a very stress-free show for the promoter!”

What can the audiences look forward to?” It’s loads of new material, about growing up and settling down with some stories about my slightly unusual life on the fringes of the public eye, with one or two of my old routines thrown in from my previous shows as a slight celebration of my decade in the business!”

Feeling he is an imposter as an adult now 28, what’s Matt favourite age? “About 21 or 22. You’ve broken into the world and feel like everything is in front of you and anything is possible, but a lot of the reality hasn’t set in yet. And your parents are still happy to cover your rent once in a while.”

His career has included television work, does the stand-up experience stand him in good stead? “Yes, I really think it does. I’ve done a lot of shows that require dealing with members of the public, and I think years on stage talking to them really sets you up for that. Live TV is such a different beast to stand-up, but I’ve had to make up 10 minutes of a show after the autocue failed and there was nothing to prompt me. The one thing live TV and stand-up have in common are this – when it’s going badly time slows down to a crawl!”

Is there somewhere he would love to perform? “I’d be quite keen to gig in America. I’ve filmed there lots over the years, but I’d be really interested to see how my act goes down with their comedy club audiences. I’ve got a lot of routines I worry are far too UK centric, and I am planning on world domination (once I can sell out Didcot without my mum, of course).”

More info

Matt is performing on Saturday 15th February; visit the Cornerstone website for ticket information.