2002 Reviews

High Peak Orchestra

'A' and 'Sounds Like the NHS'

Old Hall - Pauper's Pit

8th and 9th of July, then

This double-bill from writer Mary Hennessy, an award-winner at the Fringe before for original writing, showed us what an immense depth of talent we have in Buxton. Excellent scripting and sharp acting combined to make this an emotive and enjoyable evening.

"A" could certainly have been a difficult watch, dealing with alcoholism and disturbed relationships, but the occasional humour and strength of the performances made sure it never wallowed. The changes in mood were handled well, the actors showing their experience and quality. The arguments could perhaps have been a little more dynamic on stage - difficult with the limited stage space in the Pauper's Pit, and the set changes were too slow, but these are minor criticisms: the play never lost its momentum, and the emotional tension created was breathtaking.

To me, "Sounds Like the NHS" seemed an even more moving and better-executed piece. As an autobiographical monologue, based on Mary Hennessy's own experiences, it was both outstandingly honest and stunningly tender. Jane McGrother's performance was excellent, capturing beautifully the mixture of emotion and wry comedy. The simplicity of the work was the real strength though: no set changes to disrupt the flow (and a fantastic set to boot) and a script that avoided any self-indulgence. It would have been impossible for the audience to truly understand what effect this kind of experience really has on someone, but Hennessy offered them a glimpse: "I don't know whether I'm celebrating the past or welcoming the future."

It's always a pleasure to see original material on the Fringe, particularly when it has clearly been well-rehearsed and produced. Thanks to all involved: writer, director, performers, stage crew and the NHS.

Nick Butterley

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A Good Night Out

Those of you who stayed in missed a Good Night Out- and it was very very good.

Sex Sex Sex - sex on demand, sex by appointment, solo sex, sex in a v neck, sex in a wimple, funny sex- coercive sex -sex we all hope isn't going to happen. Bananas.

Was it Hugh Grant, was it Austin Powers- no-it was Dan Fox - sexy in a prat-ish way.

The anorak to camp transformation of Ged Mullen was impressive. Jan Toft's performance was powerful. Sue Parkinson's portrayal of a bizarre interpretation of the old adage 'it's grim up North' was sadly funny. If you stay at home on 26th July- watch Coronation Street. Ash Danton is good.

The production was slick, the set minimal and effective. Props become redundant in the hands of a talented cast working with fantastic material. Every actor on the stage was captivating, in turn hilarious and then poignant and always versatile.

Alan Bennett wasn't in the audience- but he will be in town and may even witness Debbie Bowers's subtle portrayal of the sad Travis.

Oh yes- Big men beware- sit at the back in the dark -she must not see you- you will not be safe if she does. Corinne is no coward. Luckily she only had the two legs in this particular scene.

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Art in the Dark

6-14 July 4.30-6.30pm

Regular Fringe-goers have come to expect special events from the Poole's Cavern team but this year's art and sculpture exhibition is particularly exciting, representing a wonderful new use of a unique space.

At the mouth of the cave is Paula Bowman's mixed-media mosaic, a shrine to the water goddess who was worshipped at the same location two thousand years ago. Journeying through the first chamber, we see Andrew Robinson's light installation, 'Exhume', in which small boxes light up periodically to reveal tiny 21st-century objects collected from Grin Low woods. These exhibits, from ring pulls to cigarette butts, could become the significant archaeological finds of the future, Robinson seems to be saying. A local artist, Robinson expertly uses the cave to his advantage, his other major work here being 'Pool', an arresting video installation whereby water appears to ripple on the cavern roof, calming occasionally to reveal ghostly faces and figures.

Every corner brings a surprise, whether it is Lucy Ridley's ice sculpture of stacked coins - a reference to Poole the outlaw's profession as a 'flasher' or clipper of silver coins - or Chris Robinson's sinister troglodyte, who looks as if he might always have lived in the cavern.

Doug Agnew's paintings and collages might have been better lit and Michael Clement's Sound Installation was atmospheric but not always audible. These though are minor quibbles. This remarkable exhibition, which also features ceramics and sculptures, complements the cave perfectly allowing the visitor to see it with new eyes. When you reach the familiar 'cauliflower cheese' flowstone formation at the end it looks more like a Henry Moore sculpture than ever reminding us once again of nature's own impeccable artistic credentials. The Cavern is planning an even bigger exhibition next year, an initiative to be richly welcomed.

(Stephanie Billen)

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Bed Among the Lentils

Hydro Tea Rooms 16th to 21st

If you are a fan of Alan Bennett this is the Fringe play for you.

Helen Grady is superb as the world-weary wife of a Yorkshire vicar. Her wan delivery and ironic humour is pure Bennett, in the best Talking Heads style. The audience enjoyed it so much they applauded after every clip.

For those unfamiliar with the beguiling plot of Bed Among the Lentils, our heroin takes us through the battlefield of church flower arranging, the horrors of the vicar's fan club and questions why a vicars wife is assumed to be a believer; for that matter does the vicar believe in God. Bored with her marriage and pretending to enjoy her wifely pastoral duties she turns to the bottle and then to an affair with an Indian corner shop owner. There are four more performances for you to find how it all turns out.

How does an actress put on an accomplished performance like this whilst taking a major part in another Fringe play? Full marks must go to the two directors who have coached Helen Grady to a portrayal equal to her triumph in Duet For One.

This was my first visit to the Hydro Tea Rooms in its guise of Fringe playhouse; it works well.


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The Middle of Nowhere

Beesknees Touring Theatre

Dusty Springfield's greatest Hits is probably selling out at this moment in the Buxton Branch of Woolworth's as a result of last night's performance.

Beesknees production of 'The Middle of Nowhere'- the Dusty Sprinfield story, is punctuated by fine renditions of all the old classics. These were belted out last night with power, force, talent and emotion and it was fantastic.

Laura Norman was convincing as Dusty with black-eyed makeup and beehive hair - a superb voice and truly terrible frocks. Teenagers- apparently- you can now go out dressed like that- because just look at what Grandma used to wear- and your mum was probably into punk.

The beautiful backing duo, 'the Dustettes' , Terri Silk- Neilsen and Kerri Beech, looked authentic and sounded lovely. A couple of numbers were illuminated by manic-stunning- androgynous evocative dancing which illustrated ideas about Dusty's mental health and sexuality in a way that words never could. Kerri Beech's interpretation, in dance of 'Son of a Preecher Man' is a highlight.

A disturbing puppet like Dusty doll opened the first scene sitting, waiflike in the background, in bobby socks and a nylon wig while the constant figure of Ronnie began his sad narrative about the highs and lows of the life of a sixties icon -'the White Queen of Soul'. The spoken word is important to set the context of the piece, and the script is thoughtful, funny, informative and moving but it is the music that stirs the audience.

The sound quality was slick and the set was suitable, if a little small. As a venue The Clubhouse, with it's sixties clubby atmosphere made last night's audience comfortable. The crowd was comprised of ageing sixties swingers-, people who had missed that boat but were on board for The Pet Shop Boys, and a few teenagers who were clearly surprised that their generation hadn't invented this. The Rolling Stones would attract a similar mix these days.

Worrying however that teens seeing this could be gathering plenty of ammunition to fire back when their parents criticise their dress sense, their habits and the volume of their music. We were wild- we were groovy- we still could be- Dusty would be if she was still here- but you- children- have to stay home and work hard for your GCSE's.

It's a shame that she isn't here any more to liven up the music scene- but nevermind -When you've worn out your Dusty's Greatest Hit's album, go out and buy Laura Norman's first release- it won't be ready until after Christmas but it will be big!

Nicola Martin

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University of Derby

Venue 21,15 July

When 'Blasted' opened in London in 1995 it was the subject of controversy and damning reviews - distinguished critics described it as 'puerile' and 'filth'. The critics are, of course, white middle-aged, middle-class men who make a living from showing themselves to be smarter than writers and audiences. The writer of 'Blasted' was a 23 year woman with a history of mental illness.

When Sarah Kane took her own life in 1999 many of the critics who had previously damned her in life sought to apologise to her 'ghost' for having mis-read the play. Is it possible - at this distance to approach 'Blasted' more rationally?

In this production a degree of calmness may be made possible because the acts of sexual violence that caused such alarms in London are not enacted - they are simply but calmly described. That leaves plenty of violence, abuse, hatred and despair still to contend with, however.

Drama need not, of course, be escapist entertainment, nor need it be literally real. 'Blasted' is neither of these things but it offers a view of the world and the lives that some people lead that is undoubtedly real. Whether this is the world as seen by the mentally ill - or the only sane response to a cruel and uncaring world is a matter for debate.

Ian is sick and is dying. He hates the world and speaks in violent terms of the subjects of his hatred - he loves only his country, he says, and Kate. He wants to be loving and tender but when she rejects his sexual demands he becomes brutal - abusing her physically and mentally.

Ian's brutality, however, is nothing compared to the calculated butchery of soldiers engaged in ethnic cleansing in Serbia. Ian who wanted to be ruthless is shown, by comparison, to be weak and cowardly.

To my mind, at least, this is a play which imagines life to be lonely, pointless, cruel and uncaring - but for all that how many of us could give it up?

Health warning: there are warnings to potential viewers that the language may offend - and so it might. Less well advertised - but perhaps more damaging - is the prolonged use of strobe lighting at the beginning of the play.

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The visual artist's relationship with his audience is a tricky one. He takes a sideways, contemporary, perhaps oblique look at things and suddenly you aren't sure that your interpretation of his piece - vast and detailed though that interpretation might be - is exactly what he intended. I'm told I may have read Mike Beecher wrong on this occasion, but this is what I saw, and I can't see anything else. Is that the beauty or the frustrating incompleteness of his relationship with me, the audience?

Mike's 2002 offering at first seems, (perhaps), slighter than last year's dark and disturbing Kreislaufen, but on closer inspection, has probably taken a far greater amount of personal investment, and certainly, for me, resulted in a superior and more meaningful work.

A number of people in the room with me took several minutes, and a prodding from a colleague, to recognise the twin towers reference; others saw it at once. The former group could be forgiven - a parallel so visually obvious can often pass us by in a "wood-for-the-trees" moment - and this could easily become one of those moments, because Buxton Babylon is just that: a pair of twin towers, probably 8 or 9 feet high, slightly conical, and turreted. Sectionally constructed and sandy beige in colour, with the addition of four primary gels around the small ceiling spots, the atmosphere is exactly as it should be: biblical, middle-eastern and a little mysterious.

Yet our two towers do not mirror one another, as did their late Manhattan counterparts. One is inscribed from head to foot with sayings, script excerpts, and the occasional mundane fragment of a person's everyday life. The other is crammed with that same everyday life: tiny window upon window with a contemporary souvenir (if there is such a thing) sitting comfortably on the sill. A zipper, a coin, a key, a rolled-up banknote, and dozens more. All the things that make our Babylonic, city-dwelling life consumerist, easy, and yes, (says Mike - on the one hand), happy and marvellous - "an escape from the choking parochialism of rural/small community life".

On the other hand, Buxton Babylon is at pains to remind us of the down-side of city dwelling: the sin of the original Babylon itself, and the potential for loneliness and alienation, and Mike draws upon the perfect contradiction that was 70s and 80s Berlin, with its East/West contradiction of vibrant cultural activity and concrete-tenement, spirit-crushing desperation. This latter feature is typified by the tiny, two-inch wide window in tower two which runs a constant loop of miniature videos, dominated by Gene Hackman in The Conversation - a middle-aged man driven crazy by the city, by the spooks he imagines and the whispers he believes he hears. Cities may give us endless opportunities to experience the good life, but they can destroy us as well. What a perfect time in history to spot this irony. While the debate rages about what to build on the real estate left at the foot of Ground Zero, you could do a lot worse (or do I mean better?) than recreate a sky-scraping version of Buxton Babylon to remind us of what Ground Zero's former inhabitants really stood for in their antithetical beauty.

Goodbye WTC, we seem to be saying. We have all told ourselves we will miss you. Maybe; maybe not. But at least we get occasional moments of thoughtful art like this to remind us that perhaps we shouldn't - or perhaps we will but for the wrong reasons.


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Candlelight Tours

Poole's Cavern

Tuesday 16th - Friday 19th July

'Twas a glorious summer's eve but I was to enter the gloom...

... as I stepped, not only into Derbyshire's most spectacular cavern, but back in time, to an era of imagination and mystery fired by flickering candlelight.

The Candlelight Tour at Poole's Cavern gave brave visitors the opportunity to experience the cave as it would have been encountered by it's earliest explorers. Poems and literary references, read by the suitably attired guide, provided descriptions of the cave dating back to the 1600s. The use of candle-lit lanterns in place of the usual electric light created the perfect historical, almost spooky, atmosphere and revealed the "hideous shapes of lions, bears, wolves and apes" that had apparently been spotted in the rocks by visitors of times-gone-by.

The tour was truly enlightening as it evoked the feeling that as you view the cave, whilst hearing the descriptions from those who have viewed it throughout time, you are insignificant when compared with the impressive limestone formations which will continue to change and form, long after our time here is up. As one man said in of the huge stalagmite known as The Font, "human history alongside the antiquity of this monolith is just a mere flash in time".

Alongside questioning human existence, the Candlelight Tour includes tales of "Peak bacon eaters", "weird women" and a "man eating giant" to make the whole experience superb fun!

Charlotte Barton

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Children's Creative Writing and Craft Workshop

The Pepperpot Café, Fairfield

12th July

"Dear Susan, Paula and toad,

Thanks for helping me and Annie. We really enjoyed our time doing writing with you. We hope you have a nice time with everyone.

With luck from Rosie and Annie"

"Nice people.

Nice cakes.

I loved the writing."

"I enjoyed making my banner map of my bedroom."

"It was great. I really enjoyed it. It was great."

"All children appeared to be fully engrossed in the activity and I was particularly impressed by their enthusiasm. What a wonderful event for children in Fairfield. The flags need hanging in a suitable position for all to see and take pride in. Well done!!!

Cath Sterndale

Community Development Worker

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Children's Art Workshop

13 July 9.30am-12.30pm

A welcome newcomer to the Fringe, Rachel Slaney knew just how to engage the dozen or so children who turned up to her enjoyable art workshop on the theme of 'letters'.

As a warm-up, the children were asked to write their own names in different styles and colours. Thereafter they were given huge pieces of paper on which to play about with a variety of giant letter stencils.

Rachel showed us some of the fascinating effects that could be achieved, from overlapping letters to mirror image writing. With the help of bright paints, marker pens, coloured paper and glittery shapes, the young participants created some arresting pieces of work based on their own decorated names.

After an efficient tidy-up session, the children were only too happy to write their own, highly complimentary reviews of the event - in different colours and on massive pieces of paper of course!

Stephanie Billen

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Derby Magic

The Old Clubhouse was filled with wonder and laughter last night as theDerby Magic Circle, Fringe award winners two years ago, entertained a packed-out crowd.

Many people agreed that the most refreshing aspect of the event was that it was not a stage show. Instead, the artists moved from table to table, giving the event a warm, friendly and personal atmosphere which really enhanced not only the enjoyment but also the wonder at being able to see the magic performed so close. And there really was some incredible magic, such as Chris Stevenson's invisible, rope-cutting 'magic scissors', Bernie Pedley making peoples rings appear within a rose and the youngest member, James Braybrooke, making balls appear magically withinpeople's hands and disappear out of sight just as fast.

Another credit to the evening was that every performer really brought an individual element to their act, particularly in Dave Forbes' wind-up turtle, Jeani Ellison's balloon animals and Steve Screen's tarot card tricks. Many thought that Ian Borradell just slightly edged it on technical ability, though he does currently head the Derby magic circle, and Clive Moore's blend of sharp,professional-quality humour with his magic was also highly popular. However,most agreed that all the performers shone and audience members remarked on the "fluid and friendly" nature of the magicians tricks and banter and particularly enjoyed the way all the artists' "mixed humour with magic".

All in all, a highly entertaining and enjoyable night for everyone involved which will leave one question lingering for weeks to come: "Just how on earth did s/he do that?".

Neil Armstrong

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The 2002 Derbyshire Art Competition

Buxton & High Peak Art Society at the Museum & Art Gallery

The mayor unveiled Buxton's very own Summer Exhibition today with little pageantry but an abundance of wine and good conversation. With 42 pictures on display there is something for everyone, except perhaps those searching for the abstract.

The exhibition is a fine celebration of the craftsmanship of our local artists. Away from the festive launch most visitors can expect to spend a happy half hour amongst this fine array of local landscapes and an eclectic collection of animals, plants and people.

Watercolours are well represented and indeed there was a prize for the best example presented to the Society's chairman. The Cottrell Shield for the Best Picture was awarded to Phil Knellor's West Highland Shore; which proves it can be equally stimulating to depart occasionally from the local landscape. To give all comers a chance there was a trophy for the Best Work by a Non-winner.

My favourite was the Mandarin Ducks painted by the competition's Judge plus others that caught my imagination - a picture of a donkey apparently in the stocks closely followed by a very large No Smoking sign on the f'c's'le of a ship. Less tongue in cheek I liked the draftsmanship of the Pavilion Gardens and the Monet suggestion of the flora surrounding Elizabeth.


Alan Thompson

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Derek Harley Calligraphy

"Calligraphy - that's fancy writing isn't it?"

Well that's what we expected on our arrival at The Royal Foresters for our introductory course with Derek Harley - pens, paper and ornamental script.

What we got was card mounts, tissue paper montage, gold embossed artwork together with a warm welcome and clear tuition from an experienced and enthusiastic wordsmith. Of course we had to write as well. All freehand too (no rulers or rubbers in this class), just follow the simple steps and build up your letters. If you can draw two straight lines (actually they don't even have to be that straight at first), then you can produce your own unique artwork.

If you want an idea of what can be achieved (in more than the two hours we had) catch Derek's impressive display at the Buxton Pump Rooms.

The only regret - expressed with genuine regret was from those unable to catch the next course at the Old Clubhouse on Wednesday 17th.

Forget sticky back plastic, this is quality Blue Peter for adults.

Great fun and highly recommended. Come along and produce your own Work of Heart

Rob Stevens 10th July 02

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As the manager of Venue 21 (The Old Clubhouse) and Artistic Director of the local REC Theatre Company, Martin Beard is a familiar name associated with theatre in Buxton. Don Juan however, as a one man show written by Martin, is the only chance many of us get to witness the writing and acting skills he also possesses.

Indeed, at its sixth performance in the Fringe, and past winner of the 'Best Drama' award, one wonders if there can be many people who haven't yet taken up that chance. It is for this reason, and the fact that the show itself was a late entry (replacing Martin Hall's planned gig), that the audience of over 20 (though relatively small) is a testament to Martin's popularity at the Fringe.

And it is certainly not ill deserved. A show that could be forgiven for appearing a little unprepared due to its hasty resurrection was as seamlessly produced and professionally executed as ever. The great acting ability and voice control allowed the exciting, colourful characters and even more colourful settings, akin to the story of Don Juan to be faithfully reproduced - the occasional overlong pause and slip of the tongue hardly detracting at all from the overall effect.

And so, even for those who had seen the show before, it did not fail to entertain. This production, perhaps even more emotive and powerful than it had been previously, delivered a thoroughly enjoyable evening for all. The lack of any scenery at all for this staging meant that even more work had to be done to create the scene; this was done with almost complete success and supported by some very impressive lighting. The audience was expertly engaged and attention held throughout. This show was no less then we would expect from the REC and highly successful.

However, with such a great number of performances under his belt one wonders if this is perhaps the last we will see of Martin's clever, witty and moving script, at least at the Buxton Fringe. But with a legacy Don Juan himself would be proud of, I don't doubt the show will be 'Juan' that is not forgotten.

Tom Crawshaw

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Fringe Review

Tetley's Fringe Bitter

The Old Clubhouse

This year, the Fringe Bitter has been a massive success. Specially brewed for the Fringe, this is as good a way to support the arts as

Reasonably dark, fairly strong without causing severe hangovers, and a decent taste all point to a good, honest pint of beer. In fact, for most of us, that's 3 or 4 honest pints of beer at least. The bitter has been enjoyed at lunchtime - a refreshing break during a hard day's Fringe-going; in the afternoon, during Fringe events, and then as "one for the road" after the late night comedy. A truly versatile pint.

Accompanied by Fringe Beer Mats, and staff wearing the rather spanking Fringe T-Shirts with the all-new logo, the Clubhouse has certainly felt like the heart of the Fringe, and the Fringe bitter has been a key part in this: Fringe Committee members, performers, employees and keen audience members have all enjoyed spending time at the bar in order to give money to the Fringe.

A change from the traditional light ales, this is creamier, smoother, and carries a good head. As ever though, 10p for every pint drunk goes to the Fringe. Sup up and support the arts!

Nick Butterley

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If the Opera House is the supposed hub of Festival and Fringe fortnight, then something went awry on this Thursday evening...I saw three incredibly different shows in under five hours at three different venues, all for just fourteen quid, and never went near the venerable old place. That's the Fringe for you.

And what's more, From Here To Absurdity (three blokes, two girls, an excellent sound track and twenty-one rapid-fire comedy sketches in 75 minutes) took place just across the corridor from the Buxton Musical Society Choir rehearsing for their Festival radio broadcast on Sunday and just fifty yards from funfair city in the market place. This was a busy night indeed.

Yet if From Here... was sandwiched, both geographically and in between my other two Thursday shows, it was a tasty filling indeed. The talented quintet (day jobs: lecturer, journo, solicitor, teacher and postgrad student) raced through this collection of their own work (sketches, impressions, monologues and songs) at a perfectly-judged pace that kept us chuckling the whole hour-and-a-quarter. From one-minute offerings (two Man City fans obscenely berating footballer Keith Dibble from the terraces even though they knew he'd been sold five seasons earlier) to five minute offerings (the BBC trying to fill a day's broadcasting with no-news after the death of "a very important royal person" - complete with Jennie Posh outside Buck House), everything was brought off with impeccable and assured timing and skill - and no small degree of hilarity.

It seems wrong to do singling out, but Richard Kelly's voices certainly did impress. The first-class musical selection (where else would you find Elvis and Elgar on the same soundtrack? - and no...miraculously, we never heard a squeak from either choir or funfair) gave him the chance to show us that he could not only adapt original pop songs into slick and clever topical parodies, but he can carry off a mean Presley and Bryan Ferry as well.

Karen Hannah also joined in the musical parody activity, using Tammy Wynette as the basis for an amusing little divorce ditty entitled Bankrupt Your Man - which, not unsurprisingly, raised more laughs on the distaff side than the male.

My own favourite? I never could resist an Elvis impersonator, and Richard's version of In The Ghetto, translated to a low-rent supermarket setting and re-titled In The Netto ("They got no veg and they got no fruit, but there's a smelly old man in an Oxfam suit, In The Netto"... you get the picture) kicked off the show and was the high point for me.

Biggest laugh? Peter Aspinall (a ringer for Hyacinth's hubby in Keeping Up Appearances) did a beautiful undertaker's variation on the old Smith & Jones routine about a man in a bar being offered every choice under the sun for drinks, glasses, snacks, etc, in endless comic lists (don't worry - that's in their too), and there's a line in it about his bus-driving father. Very funny. You can see it coming, but we all roared all the same. Go along to the Methodist Church Hall Friday 12th or Saturday 13th at 9.30pm to hear the punch-line. Well worth the three quid.


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Geological Walks around Buxton

with Bob Billing

The Buxton phenomenon - it is actually possible to sit out in sunshine quaffing a pint of Fringe Bitter after a leisurely walk up the hills - no, its that in the space of half a mile you can walk through 25 million years of history!

Bob Billing makes geology really interesting, amazingly he can make mud, grit and sand sound fascinating. Bob has a very relaxed delivery style; perhaps he sampled the Fringe Bitter (10p given to the Fringe for every pint sold) before we departed for Corbar Cross. Starting at St. John's Church we learned that the riverbed below us sits above limestone, and that as we walk up Manchester Old Road we are wading through shale and emerge on to the grit of Corbar Road. Surprisingly to us, natural to Bob, the grit is named after local landmarks, Kinder Scout, Corbar, Roaches and Chatsworth where the different types of grit were first discovered. Incidentally, if you are wondering about grit, the rest of the world outside Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire knows it as sandstone. Having learned that the grit was actually named after the road on which we trod a hush fell on the group as we walked towards the daunting slopes of the Cross.

Next we sat atop of the sandwich - limestone, shale and now grit. Sitting around the hillside, posed perfectly for the photograph that never came, we listened rapturously as our bearded sage described the horseshoe of limestone that partially encircles Buxton. We could see it all before us - (yet another clear day in Buxton!) somewhere out there beyond the horseshoe and the coalfields of Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire - the foundation of England.

We also learned that there are a lot of springs in Buxton and the geological reason why the roads around Flash are so bad. Go on Bob Billing's next walk to Solomon's Temple, Sunday (12th), and find out for yourself. You might also discover why Buxton was the warmest place in the Ice age, not a phenomenon oft repeated.

Alan Thompson

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A heartwarmingly funny trip on the charabang of life in the company of the warm and amusing Violet Sackville -Road.

Vi- if I may call her that,- alias Phillip Cox- (in disguise as his own Gran presumably) takes a sideways look at institutions we hold dear and invites us to ponder on exactly why.

Why feng shui, why feed meringue to poodles and tie budgies to elastic and why oh why would you want to genitally modify a tomato?

Well -I don't know why- but I spent an entertaining hour in the company of someone who might be able to advise me.

Presumably the volumes under the coffee table in her conservatory inspired Vi's homespun wisdom. 'Chicken soup for the Woman's Soul' possibly prompted her reflections on TV chefs.

I recommend an hour in the company of this lovely old lady at the end of a hard day.

Phillip Cox is clearly multi-talented, appearing as he does in Going to the Lordy earlier in the evening. Why not take in both shows?.

Never underestimate the power of a pale cream sherry..

Nicola Martin

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Going to the Lordy

written and performed by Philip Cox

at The Old Hall Hotel

Philip Cox, better known to Buxton Fringe audiences as Violet Sackville-Rhoad, shows us his serious side as this one-man play takes us, in just under an hour, hurtling through the life of Charles Guiteau the assassin of the USA President, James Garfield.

As the audience enter someone is sitting at a desk, scribbling pages of notes. As the last person takes her seat Charles Guiteau, and we are left in no doubt in our minds that this is he, turns towards us with unblinking hypnotic eyes to embark on the story of a life that has brought him here to this lonely cell. At first we are interested in the details of the family background, a faltering higher education in which he experiences even less success with the ladies and a countless failed jobs ranging from newspaper proprietor, priesthood and politics. As the story unfolds the episodes of his life become increasingly comical but pathetic and we begin to appreciate the insane diversions of the Guiteau character. However, witnesses at his trial attest to, but fail to prove insanity and the drama ends on the gallows.

For a comic, Philip Cox is an entirely believable and entertaining straight actor. He has a string of West End, television, radio and rep theatre appearances behind him and deserves a larger following than this rather sparse first night audience. All those who made their way to the Pauper's Pit enjoyed the experience of an expert in the craft of Fringe.


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Marvelous! Wonderful! Astonishing! These were but some of the many compliments paid to performance poet David Burns for his recital from memory of Paradise Lost, Book 1 (yes! the whole of it!). No less than six month's learning and research lies behind this performance. And the result is breathtaking.

To read Paradise Lost is one thing. But to catch the grandeur of Milton's argument, to appreciate the heroic but doomed character of Satan, indeed to be swept along on the majestic cadences of this immortal masterpiece - the greatest epic in any modern language - it needs to be declaimed.; and declaimed with understanding. And that is what David achieved in this remarkable recitation.

In Book 1 we hear how Satan, who with his fallen angels has been cast into hell, rallies his legions, comforts them with the hope of regaining heaven, and speaks of a new world and a new creature (man) that is to be created. And so the scene is set for Adam's fall and ultimate expulsion from Paradise. The spellbinding narrative, the dialogue between Satan and his chief lieutenant, Beelzebub, all are handled by David with confident mastery.It was, quite simply, superb.

For devotees of Milton, and for everyone who loves the English language this must on no account be missed.

(More performances on 16, 17 and 18 July at 1.00 pm and 3.00pm).


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On the Streets in Fairfield

Friday 12th July

Amazing! Insects on stilts! A beautiful giant dragonfly and a huge rather menacing wasp worked their way through the after-school crowd in Fairfield. Some children were following them pied-piper fashion. Others were keeping well away!

The performers made it look easy but I'm sure it was hot, exhausting work. Congratulations to H20 for a fascinating addition to this year's Fringe.

Catch them in the carnival procession or in the market place from noon to 3pm on 20th July.

Barbara Wilson

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Hello Life

Unforgettable Productions

Old Hall Hotel - Pauper's Pit

The first thing I must mention is the amazing voice of the - can we call her a heroine? Not being classically trained, as most people in Buxton are at the moment I found Heather Cairncross's voice seductive. She captured for me the pain and self recrimination? we all feel in a marital breakdown. This musical about that - the break-up of a long standing relationship and how one adapts and comes to terms with grief/anger/loss and then eventual realization that life is for living.

This was a very moving and entertaining evening, which encompassed all human emotion; fear, grief, love, hate and perhaps the most important - hope. The production in the Paupers Pit used a simple and elegant setting. With the use of a curtain and subtle lighting it created exactly the desired changes in mood required -.quite stunning. The sole musician - a pianist - succeeded in providing an accompaniment that stayed unobtrusively in the background while making his mark very effectively.

There are two minor criticisms however, a different medium other that narrative could have been used to move the story along - choruses went out with Greek tragedies, and secondly that the style of the music didn't alter enough. There weren't enough 'highs and lows'. But these are nit picking points for some of the lyrics were excellent and sung by Heather with great depth of feeling, reflecting perfectly the loving and protective care towards her children of a newly divorced mother. Anyone who has gone through (and survived) a broken relationship, whether male or female - will find this musical very authentic - believe me - I've been there.

Roger Berrisford

Further Performances: 17th and 19th July, 8pm

16th 18th and 20th July 10.30pm

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Exhibition of Art and Craft Work for Sale

The Pump Room - Open throughout the Fringe

Exhibitions every day.

The High Peak Artists and Craft Workers Association returns to the Fringe for the third time featuring 33 artists and craft people and including 7 who are new to the exhibition.

It's a pleasure to review (re-view) old favourites and see what they've been up to this year. I looked out for cartographer Derek Harley's beautiful combinations of words and colours, and found Shelley's Osymandias against a background of sandy shades underlain by blue, suggesting the mighty statue scattered to the elements. I re-visited the work of Alan Craig and was drawn once more by his watercolour-gouache paintings of Mediterranean scenes: the white walls glare, the heat is palpable. In contrast, David Ireland's soft colour-washed paintings evoke the cool dampness ranging to cold bleakness of the majestic Dark Peak.

Among the new exhibitors is photographer Bridget Flemming. The work exhibited was mostly drawn from her landscape photography taken all over the British Isles. I especially liked Hobbit Tree: an ancient, blasted tree magically transformed in a winter storm.

Printmaker Jill Kerr is also exhibiting for the first time. Her attractive many-layered lino cuts have immediate appeal. Garden Tools evokes a sense of order and an image of the well-loved, well-tended garden beyond the picture.

As usual, it's impossible to mention all the wonderful work exhibited. You'll have to go and discover them for yourself.

Barbara Wilson

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The annual Fringe concert in St John's church by the High Peak Orchestra has now become a major musical event. This year a packed audience gave an enthusiastic reception to a carefully thought-out programme of less well known works much enhanced by extensive and helpful programme notes.

Rachmaninov's second symphony formed the centrepiece of the programme. Not totally unknown - listeners to Classic FM will no doubt have heard the ravishing third movement - this is an incredibly difficult work to play and a brave choice for an amateur orchestra. That they gave such a good account says much for Andrew Hodkinson's ability to get the best out of his players. With the perspective of history it is sometimes hard to see why Rachmaninov's music was banned in the Soviet Union as being decadent lower middle class. What we could appreciate is the futility of attempting to politicise music by attributing it to a social class and accept the composition for what it is - a glorious and spacious work.

The programme opened with the Hussite Overture by Dvorak. Composed while Dovorak was countering the swamping of Bohemian nationality byAustrian Imperialism here he was emphatically speaking with his Czech voice. Most of Dvorak's instrumental music tells no story but this overture is an exception, relating events connected with the adherents of the national hero Jan Huss. Virtually unknown in this country this stirring call by Dvorak to his countrymen to assert their own nationality was splendidly communicated by the orchestra. A musical tour de force!

Beethoven's C major Triple Concerto completed the programme. Three professional soloists joined the Orchestra. This was a sensible provision because although Beethoven had tried to make the piano solo easy for his pupil and patron , The Archduke Rudolph, it was difficult enough to benefit from the sure touch of Janet Simpson ably supported by Steve Wilkie-violin and Dale Culliford-'cello. Following its disastrous first performance, for which the Archduke had not practised sufficiently, the concerto has rarely been heard. This a shame. While perhaps not as grandiose as some of Beethoven's later works it deserves wider recognition and it was good to hear such a fine performance of it.

Saturday 12 July 2003.

Make a note in your diary for the High Peak Orchestra's concert in next year's Fringe - programme includes Tchaikovsky, violin concerto and Elgar, Symphony No.2.

Peter Low

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If you're only going to see one play this year, don't see this one

Why not?

Three actors new to the fringe had a really good stab at some very funny material and had the audience laughing out loud all the way through.

Alternative spring cleaning, power point proposal, party political broadcast by Hyacinth Bouquet and Linda Snell (not literally), octogenarian gangsta rap and the old bag from hell. What more could we ask? All human life is here.

Some excellent performances showing variety and depth. Some first night nerves too but ,as the actors got into it ,these soon diminished.

And it only cost £2-

The best two quid I've spent for a long time- in fact it was too cheap.

An apologetic price and perhaps a slightly apologetic attitude from this company who openly expressed gratitude to the audience for turning up rather than staying at home to watch Casualty.

Actors please- claim the space- dim the lights- set the scene. It is we who should be grateful for you for an evening of fun and entertainment.

I hope we see Wednesday productions again next year and enthusiastically anticipate the same exuberance with a little bit more polish around beginning the piece and disciplining the audience when they return from the interval(with or without the marigolds).

Well done -keep us laughing.

Nicola Martin.

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John Duncan School

"Magic Moments"

"ATTENTION!" Please be aware that as you enter this magical world, you will encounter unexpected happenings! strange and mysterious lights! things that go BANG in the dark!"

Or so read the programme for the last-ever, eagerly anticipated, John Duncan School Musical Groups "Magic Moments". And I can't say I wasn't warned because it more than lived up to its word. The Paxton Suite, temporarily transformed into a magical, mystery tour of fairy lights, stars and the occasional firework, was full to bursting as people of all ages - friends and families of performers, staff of the school (those who weren't offering a guiding hand and providing the sing-a-long musical score on stage), and members of the general public, who came along solely for a night of pure entertainment, watched on as budding Leonardo DiCaprios, Kylie Minogues, and Madonnas were revealed.

Complete with a magnificent mobile magician, who entertained the audience before the curtain was raised, the performance consisted of short sketches, either offering an all-singing, all-dancing slice of English history ("World War 1 and World War 2" and "The Plague of 1665 and The Great Fire of London 1666"), a whistle-stop tour around the world ("Rockin' All Over The World") or well-known tunes from the world of Disney and Fairy Tale that got the audience bopping and clapping in their seats. The comedy skit, "When Father Papered The Parlour", revealed a double act that Morecambe and Wise would be proud of.

The finale, "You Can Try", ended to a shower of balloons, glitter and well-deserved thunderous applause, and I left my seat feeling thoroughly entertained by these hugely talented and remarkable children.

Danielle Mellor

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Buxton Fringe was the host last night to two musicians of genuine International stature - Rhonda Bachmann soprano with her accompanist Peter Gelhorn. Rhonda whose work in France led her to research the life of Marie Antoinette discovered that the unfortunate Queen was a talented musician, a composer and, surprisingly, an admirer of Robert Burns and even Beaumarchais. Her close friendship with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire extended the research to Chatsworth where Rhonda found a mass of correspondence between the Queen and the Duchess.

The result was a truly delightful programme of songs that had been sung by Marie-Antionette interspersed with poems written for her by Georgiana readings from the Devonshire Collection and impressive solos of Mozart's Fantasia K 397 and Rondo alla Turca K 331 from Peter Gelhorn on the new piano at St John's church. The Queen was a great supporter of Mozart and Rhonda gave us superb renditions of the arias Porgi amor from the Marriage of Figaro, an imposing Or sai from Don Giovanni and Martern aller Arten from Die Entfürung the latter highlighting the French court's obsession with Turky. Also included were two songs by Piccini the Queen's music teacher. Wildly popular in his day Piccini's 139 operas are rarely heard today in Britain so it was a revelation to hear his beautiful compositions from La Buona Figliula and Le Faux Lord.

We tend to think of Marie-Antionette as a rather empty headed aristocrat of limited intellectual capacity. With this clever programme Rhonda has shown that there is much more to the Queen. If we are to judge her from Rhonda's fine performance she must have had a lovely voice and remarkable technique.

(Performances on 16 July at 6.00 pm and 20 July at 4.30 pm)


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Off Your Head

Amsterdamaged And On Tour - Improvised Comedy

Come and see this show.

Alright, don't come and see it if you've got no sense of humour, but otherwise this is an absolute must.

Off Your Head, a group of native English speakers that live in Amsterdam (where, apparently, when you buy "coffee" you roll it up and smoke it) were stunning. A show based on audience participation could have fallen flat on its face, but this one certainly did not. "Razor sharp" does not do them justice - even razors occasionally go blunt. The lucky ones who boldly braved the late license went away lacerated, metaphorically speaking.

Some scenes were pure genius, my personal favourite the very first (on bestiality - not a show for the prudish!) but there was never a dull moment. The audience did not shirk their responsibilities either: suggestions for love letters included pineapples and unicycle toilets. Jokes were not discarded either, the whole show featuring references to goats, Buxton Water and tropical fruits. Political correctness was scorned refreshingly as well, with tasteless and hilarious gags throughout the evening.

All the performers were fantastic, and the ideas for scenes were extremely effective. I normally try to find something to criticise just to keep the performers on their toes but this was simply outstanding. My only negative thought was being jealous. The venue manager described it as "the best event on the Buxton Fringe ever" and I have to say it's definitely a contender. My sides still ache.

Improvised comedy at its best - and you'd be pushed to find a fully scripted show that was any better. As I said at the start, go and see this show.

Nick Butterley

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Life, Love and Second Helpings

Michelle Magorian - Unforgettable Productions

Old Hall Pauper's Pit

It was a pleasure to be given the chance to review such an established writer as Michelle Magorian. Although the Fringe gets a lot of quality performers, rarely does it get famous ones.

Magorian presented a number of works: a short play about young love during the Second World War, poems on diverse topics including divorce, adultery and old age, and witty songs on similar themes. Almost all of the material was written by Magorian herself, and performed with the help of only a few simple props and a jazz pianist. The actual performance was very accomplished - rarely even slipping at the start of a line, and with excellent voice control during the spoken pieces. Although Magorian's singing voice is not brilliant, the songs were at least half acted, and the characters and clever lyrics came across clearly.

At times, the script was certainly thought-provoking. The poem "Miss Invisible" - about the way old people are treated - was my favourite, although some of the writing in the final song was very sharp.

I thought there were a few problems with the show though. Firstly, it was rather short, and it would have been nice to have a bit more material performed. I would also contest the label "comedy" - although it was wry and at times amusing, rarely was it out-and-out funny, and I felt "spoken word" might sum it up better. Lastly, the timing of the show could perhaps do with some thought, and the small audience around me will not, I suspect, increase much as the show runs on - an early evening performance might encourage more people to turn up (what time was Goodnight Mister Tom shown?)

All in all though, a pretty good show. Witty, intelligent and well performed. Good Fringe stuff.

Nick Butterley

Further performances: 2pm, 15th - 20th July

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A cracking start to the Fringe by Made Up giving a lively performance of John Mortimer's "The Dock Brief". Two actors seen last year on the Fringe with the Liverpool University Drama Society but having graduated now returning as professional actors with vastly improved technique.

A tight and well paced production which had the audience involved form the start and held them with delight to the unexpected denouement

Mortimer, being a barrister himself and thus writing as an insider knew all about unsuccessful counsel hiding their lack of skills behind legal gobble-de-gook. Josie Burns' excellent interpretation of this role accurately identified the combination of pomposity, over enthusiasm and self doubt often found in real life in members of the bar, her confident characterisation being always just the right side of over the top and very very funny.

Among many moments to treasure were particularly the spoof trial rehearsals when Ben Rigby played with consummate skill the different parts of the thick prisoner, the irascible judge peering from beneath a towel representing his wig and an assortment of witnesses all with different personalities.

Definitely a comic success. If you are looking for something to make you laugh out loud and send you home feeling good then this is for you

(More performances on 6 and 7 July at 2.00 pm and 7.30 pm).


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Margaret Miller, Mark Pedus (violins); Clive Miller (piano)

St John's Church, July 12

On Saturday evening (July 13) St John's will be filled with people and the sound of the100 instruments of the High Peak Orchestra. Lovers of symphonic orchestral music will be enveloped with noise. Go - it will be terrific.

A rather different experience was offered by this trio (frequently violin and piano duets) - and for some a more approachable, more human experience it will have been. Listening to an orchestra can be a bit like sitting in front of a blazing fire - it is intense and overpowering at times, you need to turn away. Chamber pieces are rather more like the embers of the fire - smoke drifts and sparks leap, but it is possible to stay close and be absorbed.

So it was listening to Margaret, Mark and Clive. The music was reflective and engaging. The violin lines danced apart and jumped together - the piano chased sometimes ahead at other times encircling.

The programme began with a suite by the Polish born Moritz Moszkowski - better known for his piano music he composed this piece early last century. Fresh, light and suitably summery the audience was visibly charmed. Margaret Miller - accompanied by Clive - completed the first half with pieces by Brahms and Paganini which were tender and romantic but not sentimental.

Mark Medus and Clive Miller opened the second half of the concert with a Schubert sonata which offered more variety in the way of texture and rhythm. Pieces by Kreisler and Wieniawski gave Mark an opportunity to display his virtuosity - but he delivered the complex runs in a relaxed, unfussy fashion.

Sadly you've missed the opportunity to hear these sensitive and undemonstrative musicians in Buxton this year - let's hope they come again and are enjoyed by a larger audience.

Keith Savage

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St John's Church

How refreshing to hear such rare instruments played so beautifully. Partita gave a wonderful performance at St. John's church last night, playing a variety of renaissance music on suitable instruments including the lute, harp and harpsichord. Many people were not quite sure what to expect but word-of-mouth had ensured an excellent audience turn-out

The pieces ranged from the rather jolly I attempt from love's sickness to fly to the truly fascinating Vuestres ojos, but the it was Henry Purcell's O Dive Custos that really stole the show. Purcell apparently wrote the piece as a personal tribute to the death of Queen Mary and an appropriate sombre atmosphere was created by the musicians last night. The evocative voices of Sasha Johnson Manning and Holly Marland filled the church, and the impact of this piece was evident in the almost stunned gasp and hesitant applaud from the audience.

The whole performance was absolutely magical, revealing the inspirational beauty of renaissance music and certainly expanding the keen following of Partita.

Charlotte Barton

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Patricia Hartshorne.

Late Night Cabaret and a bit in the afternoon

The moment I clapped eyes on Patricia Hartshorne I found her mesmerising, elegant and colourful and that was before I saw her show! Her show then took me from hilarious laughter at her portrayal international comic characters, including the English, to moments of sharp poignancy at her rendition of Marlene Dietrich's Falling in Love Again' which left me quite moved.

Go and see Patricia to get some first hand advice on being a 'Modern Menopausolite' ( to the tune of a modern major general) who flies high on oestrogen, searching for the secret of youth. Any woman approaching, in or through the menopause will recognise this incredibly funny take on it.

And men are not left out either as she flirts outrageously with them in her many seductive guises. For me, Mademoiselle Patrice and Carmen Miranda were the naughtiest, they had me laughing louder than I have for a long time. Later in the show I almost laughed till I cried at her comic irreverence as an undercover nun.

Patricia gave a self confident and uninhibited performance which thoroughly entertained her audience and kept them on their toes. After a very stressful and busy month Patricia Hartshorne was the perfect tonic. Just one more thing - join in her fun - go dressed up for her and her Cabaret. She's worth it!

Mary Hennessy

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SAT 20 JULY 2002

This event began 25 minutes late - presumably Pugson was waiting for something to mature - and although many adjectives spring to mind to describe this fine 2002 vintage from Chateau Paxton Suite, (salty...approachable...forward...rich...fanned by the warm breath of a thousand Rhineland maidens...), only one befitted the preamble to the main event, as PP wandered round glad-handing...and that was: tardy.

But we soon forgot all that. The Pugson was in fine form. A rotund and amusing little number, the Pugson was, unsurprisingly, deeply knowledgeable about his chosen subject - the plonk of the Cotes de Rhone (not the best wines in Europe, puzzlingly enough, but one presumes he had a few holiday snaps to use up) - and he soon had us wrapt with tales of his countless cordon bleu experiences between and betwixt Lyon and Marseilles (explained away, very conveniently, I thought, by the assertion that "French wines are, among all other wines, meant to be taken with food", although there was no sign of the pork crackling or the cheese and onion).

The Pugson was soon in full flow...a smooth offering, to be sure, with a slight impudence, and a not unpleasant aftertaste, with little of its usual pomposity. The Pugson had even read up on Le Mistral ("I'm not an expert on wind" - thank you, Peter...a reviewer's gift), and treated us to some in-depth discourse on how the various grapes reacted to the weather and the geology. You cannot fault the Pugson's intellectual, almost powerful qualities, full of mind and soul as well as the accustomed and expected body.

Pugson had run out of wine number 8, and had sent one of his cohorts to Waitrose that same afternoon, where said cohort had proceeded to sprain her ankle, arriving for the Pugson event avec walking aid. Bastard. Or should I say "batard", since the Pugson also regaled us with the tale of two continental colleagues of his who, recently tying the vine, then gave birth within ten days, causing the Pugson to muse upon the lengthy complexities of French marital law, which, however, "were clearly no obstacle to conception" - almost as tasteless as wine number 5, which, paradoxically, turned out to be the Pugson's personal favourite of the 8 on offer.

I overheard many and varied adjectives for the wines Peter had brought with him: furious...Wagnerian...strumpet...mustard...Ribena...sluttish...disappointing...up against the garden wall...rewarding...fish..."£129 a case!!!!?"...but the star of the show was not the wines at all, but the engaging, almost irresistible nature of the Pugson himself. Matured over many years, probably in a small parochial vineyard somewhere in the East Midlands, hard against the churchyard wall, rarely seeing the sun but with the influence of true spring water to refine his bouquet, he is as peculiarly and attractively Buxton as the Fringe and Festival themselves, and we savoured his aroma, lapped him up, and spat him out. (Actually, I made that bit up - there was, disappointingly for this reviewer, who'd come quite prepared to be disrespectful, no spittoon - unless you count the Paxton Suite itself.)

Well done, Peter, and thank you. A very generous and enjoyable event. I hope you sold some. (PS...I could do an hour-and-a-half on 8 different lagers next year if you want. Oh come on - you didn't expect me to be anything but irreverent, did you?)

Andrew Aughton

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Raga Jyoti

Venue 21, July 13

Raga Jyoti are now Fringe regulars and have built a secure reputation and following. It was evident from talking to the audience that, for many, this was their first Fringe event and that they were keen to hear something "a bit different".

Raga Jyoti describe their music as 'classical and semi-classical Indian and World music' which seems fair enough. The trio use a mixture of traditional instruments - principally tabla and harmonium - supplemented by electronic keyboards which fill-in for a variety of stringed and wind instruments. The purists might complain that this is cheating but Raga Jyoti take their music making seriously, respecting their sources - as a result the audience is soon totally involved in what it hears.

What did the audience hear, then? Much of the programme consisted of played and sung Rag, happily one that is traditionally used to call on the rains has been ignored as yet! On this occasion technical limitations required that little amplification was used. This added to the intimacy of the music-making and it was noticeable how quiet, attentive and the appreciative the audience was.

New to the programme were pieces based on Serbian and Afghan sources. The Afghan musician and composer Mohammed Omar died 20 years ago and left little in the way of a permanent record of his work. He was the master of a lute-like instrument and four short themes of his were used as the basis for an extended instrumental composition. The piece explored the connections between regional musics and will, with further, performances fit naturally into Raga Jyoti's repertoire.

Raga Jyoti are locally-based. It is a serious pleasure to hear them - their timeless music does have a calming and meditative quality. I could do with more regular doses and Venue 21 was close to full - suggesting that others would agree.

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REC Theatre Drama School - Double Bill

This Double bill by REC's youngest young stars is based entirely on their own work. In the case of "The Battle of the Seasons" performed by the youngest group the script has been written up from their project work by one of REC's more established ( at the ripe old age of 15!) stars - Michael Grady. "Pandora's Really Dangerous Adventure" is directly the work of the older group.

To do things this way is admirable and it is a sign of REC's maturity that the company felt able to take the associated risks. Perhaps they have learnt to have confidence in their young stars ability to pull it off; for stars they most assuredly all are.

"The Battle of the Seasons" is introduced by a small blonde star and compèred by a brunette star in a very spangled dress. Another, taller blonde star assists. Two families, the Summers and the Winters (stars all of them) battle it out with great pace and wit. The stars clearly enjoyed the show almost as much as the audience.

"Pandora's Really Dangerous Adventure", being directly the work of the youngsters, is more extensive in numbers of performers and material. Again stars from small blonde to tall dark abound. They come to the fore in turn in a series of sketches which deal with the troubles from Pandora's box. Irritation, Jealousy and Mistrust, Humiliation and Sickness and Plague are successfully vanquished despite the attentions of two subterranean mischief-makers. I'm sure I have seen one of them before in different teeth. I think we may have a young star already specialising in dark comedy rôles.

The REC Theatre Drama School does what such schools should do. It allows young people to own their own work and present it themselves. That it can do this so successfully is due to the fact that all of its students are clearly stars - especially the small blonde ones. (That's enough small blonde stars. Ed)

This is young people's theatre as it really is and always should be. Support their remaining performances on the 14th, 20th, & 21st at 3:00pm in the Old Clubhouse.

John Wilson

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The Georgian interior of St. John's Church was transformed into a Victorian salon for Sheffield City Opera's Victorian Soiree. Wearing Victorian costume and with a picture of Queen Victoria herself glowering from the piano at the salacious enthusiasm of the Prince of Wales for the ladies and his consumption of a seemingly endless succession of glasses of wine, the period flavour of the evening was cleverly established and sustained.

The presenters, Sue Anderson and Michael Tipler introduced the songs rather as if inviting guests to entertain the assembled company after dinner, which is how we imagine the Victorians managed to fill the long hours without the telly. It made a very jolly evening. Clearly the singers were enjoying themselves enormously and that was quickly shared by the audience.

This company is fortunate in having some exceptionally fine voices particularly Elizabeth Watts who gave a lovely performance of Handel's Tornami a Vagheggiar from Alcina and Angela Drake s giving a moving The Last Rose of Summer. H.R.H (Stephen Godward) volunteered himself to sing with a strong baritone Love could I only Tell Thee, which no doubt would not have amused his mother. Fortunate also to have their musical direction under the control of talented David Barnard who took a spell from conducting to present a fiery account of Saint-Saens' Allegro Appassionato.

This was the first (and only) visit of Sheffield City Opera to Buxton this year. But they have promised to return so look out for them on the Fringe next year.


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Living Room Theatre

Skirmishes by Catherine Hayes

The Pauper's Pit 11th July 2002-07-12

Catherine Hayes' Skirmishes deals with a difficult and real-life situation. Two sisters are re-united by the death bed of their mother. Jean has been living with and caring for her mother for many years and has been suffering the burden of her increasing senility and ill-health. Rita has been preoccupied with bringing up her three children and has made only a few rushed visits to see her mother.

The skirmishes are many-layered. Jean acts out her pent-up anger, frustration and resentment over her sister's failure to give her the support she has needed. Rita castigates Jean for hard-heartedness towards their mother, and criticises the care Jean is giving though she can hardly bare to look at her mother herself. Other past and present combative engagements are revealed: the falling out over Rita's marriage to a divorcé, the deteriorating state of Jean's marriage, the battle that has raged between Jean and her mother.

Ella Burton played Jean as a bitter dutiful woman trapped in a situation where she neither loves nor is loved. Kathryn Way, as Rita, was by contrast loving, but made ineffective and inept by anxious guilt. Margaret Williams' presence as the mother was a brooding counterpoint to the skirmish between her daughters. Her anger towards Ella was palpable. The script was not an easy one being sometimes over-elaborate. Much could have been conveyed simply through the actors' pauses and the body language. It's the visual tension of the play that stays with me more than the words spoken.

This is not an easy piece, but it will touch a familiar painful chord with many of the audience.

Barbara Wilson

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Summer Ceramics

Mosaic Gallery, 10 Hall Bank

The Mosaic Gallery showcases talent of the highest standard and their "Summer Ceramics" exhibition is certainly well worth the climb up Hall Bank to see! Centring on the creativity of local ceramic artists Mark Dally, Dan Wright, Mark Smith, Vivienne Ross, Caroline Chouler and Paul Smith, the mastery of their medium is demonstrated and celebrated in very different ways.

Mark Dally's work has a strikingly monochromatic exuberance: his abstract black and whit designs with metallic accents being employed on generous teapots, mugs and plates. Daniel Wright's pottery is eminently usable: exhibiting warm colours, the mugs and bowls just beg to be taken home. Mark Smith's series of blue/green funky lidded pots and vessels are beautifully crafted "pots with attitude", the patterning and design reminiscent of suits of armour. The bowls, dishes and vases of Vivienne Ross are playfully adult; adorned with happy nudes on backgrounds of soft shades of green, lemon and blue, they are radiantly cheerful. Caroline Chouler's carnival horses cavorr around her elephant bookends whilst her delicate houses spiral incredibly upwards. Decorative, framed ceramic plaques adorn the walls demonstrating superb craftsmanship. Paul Smith's beautiful simplified animals are wonderfully tactile: his "Feathered Friends" in particular cries out to be stroked.

To complement this visual pottery feast, the walls of the exhibition space are hung with the evocatively bold and beautiful figurative paintings and drawings of the internationally exhibited artist, Mark Demsteader.

A visit to the Mosaic Gallery also affords the opportunity of seeing, in a relaxed and very welcoming atmosphere, the work of many other talented artists - in glass, sculpture, pottery, textiles and jewellery demonstrating a rich vein of artistry. Special mention must go to Ben Simons whose walls clocks have to be seen to be believed.

7th July - 1st September, open 10am - 6pm Tuesday to Sunday, every day in July.

Lindsay Frost

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The Dracula Spectacula

REC Young People's Theatre Co. - Venue 21- July 5th

This show is great fun- think Rowan and Martin's Laugh In with Restoration Comedy surnames. The concept, which is to make fun of American, Hollywood, Musical culture in a spoof horror vehicle, offers many possibilities. It has the limitations of those things which are written specifically for performance by children but all of the advantages also. There is plenty of opportunity for the energy and invention that the REC young people bring to this as they characteristically do to all their shows.

Sally Beaman as schoolteacher Nadia Naïve is the picture of All-American wholesome, loveliness of the Monica Lewinsky type accompanied by three perfect American child stereotypes on an ill-advised educational visit to Transylvania. They are welcomed to the home of Lubbly Glublick by Herr Hans and Frau Gretel - great 'presence' from Will DeNardo and Laura Monaghan - and soon meet the love interest in the form of "positive action man" Professor Nicholas Necrophiliac played, with the most amazing eyebrows ever seen on the fringe, by Gareth Edwards. The evil, but rather diminutive, Count is wonderfully played by Oliver Saville, who may well be truly frightening when he grows taller, and well supported by his cowering but much larger retainer Ghengis, played with just the right amount of ham by Karim Sheild.

Everyone performed really well with lots of 'fizz' as the piece requires. The dancers are dangerously gorgeous, the musicians adept and well led and the audience enjoyed every minute. Well done Martin and the REC Young People once again.

John Wilson

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An unusual story. An English ballroom dancing teacher is brought to Berlin in 1914 to check the competence in the waltz of German army officers invited to the court ball. And so there slowly develops a relationship between an elderly lieutenant taking dancing lessons and the teacher. At first the free thinking Englishwoman and the well ordered Prussian ruled by Germanic notions of duty can scarcely understand one other. As they gradually begin to grow closer so their lives are subsumed in the cataclysm of war. And all the while the unseen yet omnipresent figure of the Kaiser who, with his terrifying Death's Head Hussar uniform,