Requiem Macabre

Requiem Macabre

Created and Performed by The University of Northampton School of The Arts and The Popular Music Department.

Holy Sepulchre Church 04th July 2015

A warm evening in Northampton in a medieval church, turned out to be a hot night of classical music with deep dark secret!

Described in the programme as an evening of canonical music with a dark, postmodern twist, I can honestly say I had no clue what lay in store as I took my seat but let me say right now, I was not disappointed. Having spent so much time watching the University’s BA Actors display their incredible talents, I was sure I was in for an entertaining evening. As I said, I was not disappointed.

The evening started with three solos and one duet. All were performed to perfection but for me the stand out performer of the first half was the Soprano, Rebecca Woodhead who sang “Un Bel Di Vedromo” by Puccini. Barely a dry eye in the house as Ms Woodhead hit every note and shook the old church with her power and delivery. What a way to end the first half!

After a 20 minute break to dry our eyes, the second half started and this is when the church almost moved off its foundations. This time we had the full choir in place backed by the Choir Band; Connor Durose on guitar, Scott Brindley on bass, Brandon Balou on drums and doing things I don’t understand but loved, James Robinson on Imac/Launchpad. I know Saint-Saens’ Requiem Op.54 quite well but it never sounded like this. The choir was astounding; a classical sound delivered with a rock ferocity and add this to Mr Durose’s axe you have the making of a truly awesome sound.

Last but not least, we were beaten about the ears by Grieg’s Hall of The Mountain King. I swear as I write this review 2 hours later, I can still feel the sounds reverberating through my body. How on earth the choir managed to sing that loud yet perfectly in tune, and compete with the band I will never know but they did. If I had any socks on at that point they would have been blown off. It was one of the greatest musical moments I have ever had the privilege to witness. I would have paid the money just to hear that piece alone.

This was a fantastic evening of great music, great performers and great musicians but I know one thing for certain that they were brought together by  their musical director and conductor Jasmine Shadrack. I know nothing of Ms Shadrack but it was evident to me that her performers adored her, trusted her and gave their all for her, just as she gave her all for them. True leadership as I have come to expect from this University.

Thank you all for a great evening. It my pleasure to be there.

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IMMUNE

Immune

Performed by Royal and Derngate Youth Theatre and Young Company

Written by Oladipo Agboluaje

Directed by Christopher Elmer-Gorry

Surely, Northampton’s own Royal and Derngate Youth Theatre must be one of the very best, the most focused, the most driven and most talented theatre companies in the country. I have just sat through just over an hour of fast, intelligent, thought provoking theatre, performed by young people who are most assuredly more mature than most of their contemporaries who do not tread the boards.

The fourteen strong company was blessed by each being cast into the right roll for them. Its seldom that a play is written for so many people, to have  real, solid individual part but this is definitely an exception. Not a single onlooker, crowd member or 2nd spear carrier to be seen. Each character allowed to voice his/her own part and what a great way to voice it. Initially to speak to or reply to another person. Then to speak to the 4th wall, passing on what was inside their head and often what they really wanted to say. It worked to perfection each time.

How lucky are we that we have a theatre in our town, with a Chief Executive like Martin Sutherland, an Artistic Director like James Dacre and a Youth Theatre Director like Christopher Elmer-Gorry, that believe in the future of theatre so strongly, they create a play alongside the writer specifically for their youth group? Check out most of the big theatres and see what they put on if you don’t believe me. We are blessed with original theatre year after year in Northampton and our Youth Theatre is right in the middle of it.

For the actors themselves, they gave their all and in the final scenes we saw through their eyes the death and destruction around them, we suffered alongside them, we felt their loss and their hopelessness. When the final bomb drops, there were tears in the audience both upstairs and down. Only when the actor actually inhabits the character can this emotion be shared with the audience.

I was privileged enough to do a Behind The Curtain tour of The Royal Theatre last week and I saw the set being constructed for Immune. I had no clue then just how amazing it would be and how well it would work on stage. It was still being constructed just seven days ago so the group have had very little time from The Hook set being struck to opening night to use this amazing piece of scenery. Yet, they moved everything like clockwork and made each change happen seamlessly. Amazing!

This was breathtaking, brave and inspired theatre and I feel privileged to have been there and to have experienced it fully. I am only sad that I am unable to see it again tonight. Thank you.

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JOSEPH and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

JOSEPH and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Looking Glass Theatre Stage School

Youth Group Production

Believe it or not, but I have got to the grand age of 60 and I have never seen a production of Joseph. I know the story, I know the songs but that’s all. Well forget Jason Donovan, Phillip Schofield and Donny Osmond; tonight we had Rory Traynor as Joseph and he rocked the house! At less than five feet tall, he gave a six foot performance and never missed a beat. On stage 85% of the time and with the big solos to perform he was a great choice of lead and he did himself proud.

Most productions of Joseph have a single narrator but we had five. The programme said there were six but no matter. Like a modern day Greek Chorus, the five young ladies we had were a show on their own, dressed in black leather jackets and sun glasses, they went from angels to divas and their singing talents were astounding. Each had at least one solo and everyone was loud, confident and perfect. Professional productions take note! Five narrators works perfectly.

Joseph is a true ensemble piece, often with an awful lot of people on stage at one time. Using the side and centre aisle to come on and off stage worked so well and we often had action on the stage with backing singers standing right next to us. A word here about the choreography of the show. The dance move choreography was excellent and very effective but the stage choreography of getting each and every person on and off a small stage and in the correct position was truly outstanding.

Two individual shout outs now. Joshua Mobbs as Pharaoh and Elizabeth Clancy as Mrs Potipher. Both of these young performers exuded the sheer delight of being on stage and they revelled in their roles. Joshua gets to spend time in a deck chair as Jacob and Ms Clancy appears in the ensemble but they really were both outstanding and deserve a mention.

All in all, this was a truly wonderful production. The casting was perfect and we, the audience, were left in no doubt that these young performers were having a ball for the whole ninety minutes. I can assure the performers that the audience was having just as much fun watching.

So, we know our performers were astounding but so were our back stage and technical crew. Sam, Kieran, Elliot, Harry, Archie, Kieran D and Esme worked hard to make sure everything was in place. Lighting and sound was to a professional standard, so good you took it for granted. The stage management, costumes etc really had to work hard with a cast this size and their hard work paid off.

Mr James, Miss Leigh and Miss Karin, you should be grinning from ear to ear as your hard work and dedication to these young performers was paid back in spades last night. You gave them your all, and they responded by giving you theirs. Be proud!

Finally, just in case anyone is unsure what colours Josephs coat was, I can assure you it was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and grey and purple and white and pink and orange and red and yellow and green and brown and blue!

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