Ian Wills is a punk poet but has teamed up with Clannad's Moya Brennan to produce a song which is worthy of being described as "probably the best Christmas single since Fairytale of New York" which is no mean feat!
With three albums under his belt and a new one "London Country" set for release next year, Ian chatted to Pete Phillips about the transition from poet to singer/songwriter and the reason behind the name of his band, Wills And The Willing
Velinski is Andrew Williams and Adam McEvoy who, with Clifton Medford on vocals, has produced a song whose lyrics are particularly appropriate for this time of year in the light of some of the catastrophes which have hit the country over the last 12 months or so
The song is Christmas Is A Time For Everyone and Andrew (whose ancestral family name is the Ukranian "Velinski") chatted to Pete Phillips about the song and how it came about
It's the time of the year when a theatre's costume department can really go to town and this year's show is no exception, given that it stars Su Pollard as the Wicked Queen and a Dame in the form of a certain Nurse Dolly (Philip Meeks) who cannot help but get into more extravagant and colourful costumes with each appearance, and her son Muddles (Mark James) who gladly tells the audience that he is effectively a reincarnation of his role last year, Buttons - so popular was he that he was invited back!
This year, it is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with Francesca McKean as the heroine of the piece, and Aidan Banyard as the Knight in hot pursuit the moment he spots her who is fortunately able to perform a bit of magic after the incident with the apple. And talking of magic, Muddles is an expert at a long-running joke with one member of the audience… Snow White is the step-daughter of the Queen however so the path to eternal happiness is never going to be easy.
Anyone walking in during the first couple of minutes of the show might think they have wandered into some kind of kitsch tribute to the Electric Light Orchestra as the first number is their Mr Blue Sky, which certainly gets the show off to a rousing start! As you would expect, the Wicked Queen gets all the boos and hisses from the audience whilst the Knight in shining armour (not literally!) and Snow White get to show their vocal prowess to great effect during the songs in the show. In fact, with the live band providing the music, all the songs were sung with great gusto, including the one which is everyone's favourite, "Heigh-Ho" which gave the 7 dwarfs their opportunity to shine (amongst who is Stijn Keuleers from Belgium, probably the first non-native English-speaking dwarf to play Pop - and whose day job is a telecom engineer!)
One particular highlight was the run through of the 12 Days Of Christmas, performed by 4 of the cast. As the days got more and more manic (day 7 was particularly inventive and local and the toilet rolls were certainly flying about!), by Day 12 it was finally time for the big guns to come out. And don't think you're safe up in the circle - they'll get you there too!
With all the essential panto elements firmly in place, the end of the year looks great in Malvern for kids and their parents alike to enjoy a real fun seasonal treat. And then it's just 12 months to wait for next year's extravaganza, Aladdin...
We interviewed the main members of the cast a few months back
Choice Radio Worcester. We are delighted to be returning to Huntingdon Hall with A Christmas Carol In Concert. Our unique adaptation uses new lyrics set to traditional tunes and Christmas melodies to retell Dickens' classic tale exclusively through songs. ... See MoreSee Less
Whilst the panto is doing very good business in the main theatre, generating plenty of boos, hisses and cheers for the villains and heroes, a very different type of Jaeger bomb has landed in the intimate Vesta Tilley Studio. The brand new (world première!) Bah Humbug! shows an alternative side of the season to be jolly, one which nonetheless will be familiar to those who abhor the commercialisation of Christmas or indeed its very existence. This is Christmas chez the disenchanted.
The table is set for Christmas. Except that in the case of market trader Keith (stock market not Angel Place, given that he earned £8000 in a single day!), this consists merely of a box of After Eight mints, some gooey dates and various nuts - all of which he hates. As he does other traditional seasonal offerings such as the Queen’s Speech, Brussels sprouts, tasteless turkey, Eric and Ernie and, especially, the carol singers who appear at his front door. In fact, the only thing that goes down well is a bottle of wine...
When he wakes after dozing off, he is somewhat surprised to find a woman sitting in his room. Unable to work out where she came from, who she is or why she is there, he succumbs to her insistent questioning about his past, about which she seems to know quite a lot. For this is a tale of redemption, a tale of past deeds being slowly and painfully revealed, a tale of remedial actions to be taken, a tale which is indeed a contemporary take on A Christmas Carol where a modern day Scrooge is encouraged, even forced, to acknowledge his past misdemeanors (as the woman is not someone to whom he can say No).
Maybe this intruder will prove to be the kick up the backside which he needs to finally admit who he has really become...
A simple two-hander starring Murray Andrews and Alison Hellings, the play’s running time of a little over an hour means it does not overstay its welcome (unlike many Christmas visitors!) or labour its point, telling its tale of morality efficiently and effectively, with a mix of humour and a fair smattering of bad language (not surprising, given the circumstances in which he suddenly finds himself). And rather than just talking to himself for much of the time, the play allows the character to acknowledge at various times that there is an audience watching, which makes the show much more inclusive.
So two utterly different shows running simultaneously from the pen of the same writer, both involving members of the Worcester Rep. Whereas the panto might want you to relive your childhood, Bah Humbug! is a little gem which might well make you think about being just a little bit nicer to people. This is the season of goodwill after all! ... See MoreSee Less
The Panto season has got off to a fine - and noisy - start at The Swan Theatre and this year, Worcester Rep presents a panto with a twist.
The Merry Men of Sherwood Forest have a new boss, as Robin Hood (Tom Riddell) has been kicked into touch and usurped by none other than Maid Marion (Geneviève Lowe, who was the Good Fairy in last year’s show). For in this “Year of the woman”, writer Chris Jaeger has chosen to reverse the traditional roles, giving the feisty Maid Marion some definite Girl Power. Not that this feels awkward or is in way jarring as panto thrives on blurring the lines between the genders. Indeed, the baddie of the piece - and peace - is the Sheriff of Nottingham played by award-winning baddie Liz Grand who has the stage to herself at the start of the show to ensure that the audience knows exactly who and when to boo till they're blue.
Then there's a character who has been a firm favourite in every panto for many years but who has undergone a subtle change. No longer is it Ben Humphrey donning the exotic costumes for whilst remaining as Director of the panto, he has passed the baton to fellow Rep actor, John-Robert Partridge, who obviously relishes the opportunity to wear, amongst others, a brightly coloured Christmas tree. Ben Humphrey gets the last laugh though by making Dame Ginny do not one but two complete circuits of the auditorium - in high heels!
If the Sheriff is the one to boo, Willy Wally (Charlie Ryan, in his first show at the Swan) is the one to get the kids involved whilst Friar Tuck (with chips!) is played in suitably fun and irreverent form by Jamie Kwasnik, with Wilf Williams as Guy of Gisbourne, the Sheriff’s preferred but rather dim suitor for Maid Marion as the way to get hold of her fortune. It falls to the fairy - or Mystic Mary, played by Heidi Gowthorpe - to use her magic to ensure that the Sheriff’s plans are foiled…
As you'd expect, there are some excellent well-choreographed dance and singalong sections - especially the extended 70s disco sequence - performed by the troupe of 4 dancers along with one of three juvenile dance groups from Academy Theatre Arts. Even the Stage Manager, Nick Wilkes, managed to make an appearance at one point!
The initial daytime shows are given over largely to school parties, with kids often on their first theatre outing and they certainly need no encouragement to get involved even before the show starts as they are in fine voice singing along to the pre-show Christmas songs and they particularly enjoyed the colourful UV section and dancing skeletons, but of course they all go absolutely crazy when Dame Ginny is in the audience looking for a boyfriend - male teachers beware for this is payback time for the kids, relentlessly screaming for their teacher (or, on this occasion, the school’s site manager!) to be “The Chosen One”... Oh, to not be a teacher!
It’s a long hard month for the cast, sometimes doing three shows a day but the rewards are clear. Unlike any other type of theatre, the audience response to panto is loud, immediate and relentless which makes all the toil - and high heels - so worthwhile for the actors, audience and backstage crew alike.
A hugely enjoyable show - whatever your age!
After the show, Pete Phillips had a chat with Geneviève, John-Robert and Chris about the panto, how much they are enjoying it so far and what they'll be up to next.
And for an antidote to the fun and jollity on the main stage, Chris Jaeger has written an alternative show to run at the Vesta Tilley Studio from December 11th. Bah Humbug! features Keith, who loathes the whole jingle-belling thing and Carol, who suddenly appears in his flat. This promises to show a different side to the Christmas festivities… ... See MoreSee Less
Dear Editor, I’m a volunteer at the Bone Cancer Research Trust and I’m looking for support for their Stamp Appeal. The Bone Cancer Research Trust (Charity Number 1159590) are the leading charity dedicated to fighting primary bone cancer, and we would love the support of your listeners. It’s so easy for your listeners to get involved, we would like to ask them to save used and new postage stamps from the UK and overseas, any amount at any time of the year is very much appreciated. In 2018, we are aiming to raise at least £30,000 just from stamps and stamp collections. I’ve provided some copy below, if you would be kind enough to include it in your broadcasts? The Bone Cancer Research Trust is the leading charity dedicated to fighting primary bone cancer and they need your help! Please save your new and used stamps for their Stamp Appeal. Christmas is coming and you may be getting lots of lovely Christmas cards, or maybe there’s a birthday coming up, or even your workplace receives lots of post! Instead of throwing stamps away, send them to the Bone Cancer Research Trust Stamp Appeal and they can turn your stamps into funds, so they can continue with their life-saving research, providing reliable information, raising crucial awareness as well as offering support to those who need it. Find out more at www.bcrt.org.uk/stamps Please send your stamps to: BCRT Stamp Appeal 20 Bowers Road Benfleet Essex SS7 5PZ England Or email – email@example.com Kind Regards, Terri Volunteer Stamp Appeal Coordinator Bone Cancer Research Trust t. 0113 258 5934 e. firstname.lastname@example.org w. bcrt.org.uk a. 10 Feast Field, Horsforth, Leeds, LS18 4TJ ... See MoreSee Less
Please collect your stamps and help to save lives! Small stamps, large stamps, old stamps, new stamps, franked & international stamps... we want your stamps! Collecting used stamps is an easy way to raise money and save lives. By collecting just 1kg of stamps you can help pay towards an hour of our....
Following on from the hugely successful ITV series, the staff and guests of the Costa Blanca's most famous hotel have landed at the Alexandra for a month-long all-inclusive package of fun and frolics.
The very cleverly-designed set embraces the 3-and-a-bit star Solana hotel, its reception and swimming pool (no water required!), the Blow & Go salon as well as well as its famous Neptune's Bar so fans of the series will instantly feel at home in these familiar locations.
Six of the main characters - Mateo (Jake Canuso), Jacqueline (Janine Duvitski), Liam (Adam Gillen), Joyce Temple-Savage (Sherrie Hewson), Sam (Shelley Longworth) and Kenneth (Tony Maudsley) - all of them cheered by the audience as they made their appearance - are joined by the bar's resident singer Asa Elliot and none other than the writer of the show himself, Derren Litten as "Gay Derek" and an ensemble of other new characters, including the hilarious Ricky (Will Jennings) with his wonderful Spanish accent.
Post series 10 of the TV show, the hotel is still potentially being sold off and the staff, who may be about to lose their jobs, are told to make sure that the guests, especially those who they suspect of being spies in the camp, are given the best treatment possible (which really doesn't amount to much at the Solana!).
Cue plenty of misunderstandings and some hilarious double-entrendres (Jacqueline just wants the "sausage in cider" (geddit??!)), Kenneth's barely-fitting T-shirts, the stereotypical Spanish barman strutting his stuff (to no avail, obviously!) and a romance/bromance being nurtured…
Then there is the question of who actually is the spy sent to monitor and report back on their activities - maybe it is not who you think it might be so no clues here…
Benidorm Live is one of those shows which the Brits do so well. Sailing close to the wind, it always stays just on the right side of decency where the puns and jokes remain funny and not offensive and having a live audience for the first time, Derren and his cast know immediately if they are getting it right, which is certainly the case here.
Even if ITV do not reverse their decision to cancel the show, this stage version has the potential to continue with further escapades in the future and an enthusiastic following of fans wanting it to happen.
The perfect antidote to a cold, wet December, the Benidorm sun is very definitely shining over Birmingham this Christmas! ... See MoreSee Less
It may be 12 years since Ruth Jones - star and co-creator/writer of Gavin & Stacey and Stella - was last on stage but her return to treading the boards is a corker.
Set in a village's community hall (shared with the scouts amongst others), "The Nightingales" by William Gaminara (writer of BBC's The Lakes and best known as Professor Dalton in Silent Witness) starts, unusually, with all 6 of the cast members on stage, 5 of them huddled around a piano and another, Maggie, about to tell the story of how she came to be in the small village and subsequently part of this group of acapella singers.
Head, in terms of being choir leader at least, is Steven (Steven Pacey), overseeing the small group consisting of his younger wife Diane (Mary Stockley), husband and wife Connie and Ben (Sarah Earnshaw and Philip McGinley) and local teacher Bruno (Stefan Adegbola).None of the characters seem particularly happy with their lot but singing, at least at the beginning, brings them together. Bruno, for example, recalls being the subject of a helicopter police hunt when once out jogging, raising the suspicions of the locals simply because he was black…
Five becomes six as Welsh newcomer Maggie manages to inveigle herself into the group through a series of circumstances and truths/lies (we are never quite sure which), and participation in a national "Talentfest" competition brings considerable conflict and disruption to the group. As such, Maggie generates feelings of sympathy and loathing in equal measures throughout the play, even in the dénouement at the end.
This is a very bittersweet comedy, bringing together themes of infidelity, deceit, race, stereotypes, problematic marriages, lust - just the sort of things which go on, often in unspoken terms, in small villages. As the deception appears to unravel, the second half in particular is much more bitter than sweet but it is not until the end that the audiences can finally differentiate fact from fiction. Or can we?
It's not clear whether the play was written with Ruth Jones in mind, but there is, in the script, a very definite need for a Welsh lead as it contains numerous references to Welsh cakes and the fact that she should be a good singer. Ruth Jones is perfect in the role, believable as the conniving Welsh infiltrator into Middle English life, especially on the numerous occasions when she is talking directly to the audience. Oh, and fortunately the ensemble can actually hold a tune too! ... See MoreSee Less