2004 Reviews

Michael Beecher's Buxton Babylon

25 Years of the Buxton Festival Fringe

Exhibition in the Old Clubhouse

Small, but perfectly formed, this mini exhibition charts the growth of the Fringe during its 25 years. And what a fascinating story it is. We see the progress from the first programme - a typewritten sheet of A4 listing a handful of events- through various different designs up to the latest giant programme with over 360 events.

Put together by Stephanie Billen from the Fringe archive and mounted in space generously made available to the Fringe by Nick and Barabara of the Old Club House this is one that definitely should not be missed. Entrance is free and you can enhance your enjoyment by accompanying your visit with a pint of Fringe bitter thus incidentally contributing 10p to the Fringe.

Every day until 25 July, 11.00am to midnight.


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A Murder of Crows by Steven Jansen

Chance Factory

'All new black hearted comedy, diamonds, 'offal', suitcases and criminals all cemented together for everyone who has ever laughed when they shouldn't have'.

A cleverly written, technically ambitious, comedy crime drama, which cracks on a pace.

Starring Lindsay Bennett as the very sexy Amy Ravendark, and Cathy Collins as the extremely sarcastic Lillian Aviary. Also Robert McCaffrey, and Stephen Jansen as a pair of daft blokes. Charlie Cage and Frankie Yale rob a bank (with hilarious results of course) because two strong women make them do it. (This is rather pleasing for the feminists in the audience).

McCaffrey portrays the ineptitude of Charlie Cage effectively from the first scene where he is shouting and panicking during the execution of an ultimately bungled safe break. Bennett's character, Ravendark, proves herself to be an evil Emma Peel who conjures up sick and appalling methods for disposing of people who are in her way. Aviary (Collins) is equally nasty and appealing; both revealing a little more of what makes people tick when they think their time might be up. Cage (driller killer) too proves himself to have hidden depths.

And what happened to Frankie? Go and see it if you want to find out but lets just say that Yale is played very amiably in the second scene by 2 lbs of liver and a string of sausages.

Stephen Jansen has produced a well-constructed short piece with a nice balance of characters and well executed changes in mood, (No pun intended). Excellent use of projected black and white images (with a good soundtrack), effectively adds interest and moves the story forward.

Witty use of language, note the name dropping and look out for amusing similes and homophones involving Jimmy Hendrix and margaritas.

This is a good night out, a real laugh if you are not easily offended by offal, sadistic killing and occasional use of the F word.

Nicola Martin

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Moving Talent

Commercial Breaks

Commercial Breaks gives us a small slice of the office life of three women at Bede, Evill and Crook Advertising, and is part of the opening salvo of performances for the 25th Anniversary of the Buxton festival fringe. It's a home-grown play, written by locals Patrick Gordon and Astrid Ayers, with local performers. The authors would presumably say that any resemblance to any firm and its staff is purely coincidental, but the characteristics and interactions probably ring a few bells for anyone who's worked with a small group of women anywhere.

As the synopsis says, Joy expects to get what she wants. Abby may not want it enough. Does anyone care what Lissa wants? Does Lissa? And who ends up with the chance to have it all? We meet them actually working - and it is comically clear that they are not going to take the advertising world by storm. All the more energy then for personal talk and manoeuvring, which is soon under way. The plot takes in professional ambition, interpersonal powerplay, tall tales and wishful thinking, and eventually truth-telling and resolution - and a return to work.

The three characters are well drawn and acted, and speak like real human beings, which must be a credit to both authors and actors. The production and scale of the play and performance fit the Old Club House Tap Room well. This should please anyone with a taste for quiet humour and observation, and small scale drama.


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Bridgehead Exhibition

Bridgehead Arts

Bridgehead Arts is a small company of people with differing arts skills who have come together to investigate what might result from working together. No particular project is planned as yet. They are waiting until something emerges from the artistic cross fertilization.

The exhibition gives a flavour of the arts areas in which Bridgehead are working and what they have achieved so far. The record comprises attractive panels focussed on specific arts activities while a monitor displays more data on Bridgehead's work to date.

For anyone who is looking for encouragement in their own field or who might benefit from the stimulus of contact with a different field of the arts this exhibition explains what is possible. And it is to be followed by a series of workshops in which you can actually experience the Bridgehead collaborative approach to the arts.

Workshops on 18 July from 10.00am in the Old Hall Hotel


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Face 2 Face

Tangere Arts and University of Derby

This show is just perfect for younger children. A young boy, reluctant to go to school is finally urged on by his mum. On arrival at the school he has a series of adventures with school teachers, with schoolgirls and with bullies. All this is presented in mime, with catchy musical accompaniment, by only two actors with masks, Gary playing the boy and Ava everyone else.

The result is immensely amusing and attractive to both children and adults. The actors' deliberately exaggerated gestures make it easy to follow the storyline. Indeed many in the audience would find the incidents portrayed reminded them of similar events in their childhood. At three quarters of an hour it is just the right length to hold attention without being boring. The presentation is followed by an optional workshop.

A splendid way of amusing children, particularly during this terrible Summer weather!

One more performance on 18 July at 2.00 pm in the Pauper's Pit


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Many members of the HPO are well known locally as instrument teachers and players in other orchestras and ensembles around the NorthWest and Midlands - and the 2nd Saturday of the Fringe is now a regular spot for this large orchestra.

This year, we were treated to a programme of French music - Chabrier, Poulenc and Berlioz.

The first of the two Chabrier pieces (March Joyeuse) was a great opening rouser - a big sound and a showpiece for the large brass section. The second Chabrier piece featured the HPO's own Patrick Gundry-White on French horn and his evocative and expressive playing echoed around the church.

The highlight of the night was the Poulenc Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani. What a treat - under the expert control of Stockport organist Andrew Cummings, the sound of the 4-manual Hill organ of St. John's filled the air and its clarity and range of tone was glorious. The piece itself is rather odd - a mixture of sacred and secular with marked contrasts - but it works in this well-balanced orchestration. I was reminded at times of Messiaen's meditations and at other times by Petrouchka's showground. A complicated piece, with many time changes - only once catching out the capable baton of Andrew Hodkinson. Fabulous- and let's not forget the expert stick-work of the HPO's timpanist Rachel Culbert.

The last piece was Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. I detected a little under-rehearsal in the early sections, and a lack of intonation in the violins. The woodwind had some special moments - a duet for clarinets, a duet for oboe and cor anglais and later a rather mellow clarinet solo. The 'buzzing' violas and 2nd violins 'In the Country' was most effective. In the 4th section - the famous March to the Scaffold, I spotted four timpanists on stage for the 'execution' - quite a site, and sound! I'm sure I felt the whole church shake in the final part of the 5th section, and Hell had taken another soul!

The HPO is a very large group (I counted 38 strings alone), and it's members delight in 'letting rip' when allowed - as in the Berlioz tonight. Perhaps they are now too big for St. Johns, but what other building in Buxton could contain their immense sound?

Martin Bisknell

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The Lady's Not for Burning

The garden Suburb Theatre

It is nearly sixty years since Christopher Fry established his reputation for comedy with serious undertones with The Lady's Not for Burning. Since then his popularity has gradually dwindled as theatrical fashion has moved towards realism and Fry's plays are not so often performed. It is therefore a great bonus for the Fringe that The Garden Suburb Theatre from Hampstead has brought its production of the play to Buxton and bravely defied the notoriously fickle Peak District weather by performing in the open air.

The Square forms a good performance space with its weathered stone arcade readily conjuring up the fifteenth century backdrop where the drama is set. Fry does not call upon his actors for much in the way of action. Instead extensive speeches are delivered which, while they demonstrate Fry's acknowledged verbal cleverness, result in ,many of the actors having to remain on stage for long periods doing nothing except remaining in character. That the company handled this so well is a tribute to directors, Colin Gregory and John Colmans.

The starring role, that of the old soldier, Thomas Mendip is a peach of a part . Andy Farrer grasped it with both hands and gave a scintillating performance persuading us that asking to be executed for a crime he did not commit is the most natural thing in the world. He was ably supported by the talented cast who can be congratulated for holding the audience to the end in spite of arctic temperatures and clouds of midges!

One more performance at 2.00 pm on 18 July.


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Jam on Sunday

The George, Sunday 18th July

What can I say, absolutely brilliant! I spent a very entertaining evening in the George where Jam on Sunday engaged and invigorated a happy crowd. Jam on Sunday are a six-piece band whose music is a refreshing mix of funk and good ol' rock and roll. All songs are original and played with energy. They were well received by the audience, who became so enthusiastic and lively that there was dancing in the between the tables...and eventually so much dancing began that the tables got moved aside!

The band is led with style by Naran who sings all the songs backed up by singers Sarah and Monica, he also plays guitar, the drummer (Adam) and bassist (Frank) give the band their funky feel. The band has an outstanding lead guitarist, Simon, who is not a bad didgeridoo player either!!

A definite must see! They are playing again Saturday 24th July in The Old Clubhouse 10pm....don't miss them!


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Thanks for the Memory -

University of Derby Theatre Arts Community Workshop

The Orchestra Pit, Wednesday, 21 July at 8.45 pm

Music hall was the dominant popular entertainment of the Victorian age, but one that was, as the performers of the University of Derby Theatre Arts Community Workshop pointed out in their affectionate homage to that era, Thanks for the Memory, killed with the advent of cinema.

The performers recreated the songs of the time, from the sentimental to the saucy, with mixed vocal ability, but unstoppable enthusiasm and energy. The intimate location of the Old Hall's Orchestra Pit was the ideal location for this entertainment. Its informal atmosphere and ancient, vaulted ceilings thrust the friendly, appreciative audience together, more than willing to indulge in the singalong participation so essential to the music hall atmosphere. By the time the medley of old favourites came around, culminating in 'My Old Man Said Follow the Van', the audience (myself included) were warmed up and joining in, as befitted the music hall itself.

I would have liked to have seen a more lively narrative than that presented at the beginning and end of the evening, perhaps more in the style of Leonard Sachs in his Good Old Days persona, but this was a minor point which did not detract from fun of what surrounded it.

Robbie Carnegie

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The Golden Age of Hollywood

21st&22nd July, Old Hall Hotel

Sally-Ann Shepherdson and Trevor Alexander, ably accompanied by Alex Collinson, treat us to nostalgia festival of songs, some of which are surprisingly familiar still, over half a century later, and clearly stand the test of time.

From the glorious age of early film through the era of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy and the black and white movies, into the start of Technicolor, renditions from Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel are punctuated by interesting vignettes recalling the movie names of the time.

Both professional and experienced singers, performances are polished.

The drawing room ambiance of the Shrewsbury room is an appropriate setting and fine evening dress adds to the mood of an old fashioned-pre television evening.

Sally-Ann's voice production is astounding & she would not be out of place across the road in the far larger venue of the Opera House. Extensive operatic experience sometimes translated less than comfortably to a much smaller space on the first evening and a reduction of the volume is recommended for the second performance

Trevor is an abe baritone and his voice has a pleasing mellow quality, which was occasionally drowned out a bit by Sally -Anne on the first night.

The first night audience were appreciative, and many were surprised about their own ability to recall all the words from some of those old old songs.

Nicola Martin

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Arkangel - 'Histoire Du Tango'

Orchestra Pit, Old Hall Hotel

15-17 July, 10-11.30 pm

Now I hadn't spent a hot, sweaty day out on the pampas and so hadn't earned the tango experience. I turned-up anyway reckoning an hour of my life could be recklessly wasted on some musical education.

Now Arkangel are a violin and guitar duo, from Southwell evidently. They are enthusiasts as well as being skilled musicians - they want you to enjoy their music, give up a little something to it. And you will.

The first half of the programme was the 'histoire' bit. Half a dozen or so pieces with a Spanish/Latin feel - a music that is both passionate and reflective, capable of touching head and heart. No doubt had I been working harder - a little starved physically and emotionally then this musical nourishment would have been even more welcome. At least I guess that was part of the lesson meant to be learned.

The second half was more varied - a few show tunes, a bit of jazz, some baroque. All was delivered with serious good-humour - the art and craft of composers and arrangers was respected but the intent was pleasure.

The Orchestra Pit could be a great venue for this sort of intimate music. The brick cellar envelopes musicians and audience. A pity the noise from the adjacent bar filters through - and whilst this isn't a concert venue the non-stop chat of some members of the audience was annoying.

Keith Savage

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Orchestra Pit, The Old Hall Hotel

Had a stressful day? Relax, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the music of this saxophone and piano duo from Edinburgh. Playing a mixture of standards and their own compositions, Ian Millar and Dominic Spencer show themselves to be talented musicians with a flair for melodic jazz that will ease your cares away.

Ian and Dominic give classic standards a contemporary feel without losing the essence of the originals. I particularly liked Gershwin's Embraceable You where Ian's breathy sexy saxophone evokes a vibrant longing response from Dominic's keyboard. And their interpretation of Stella by Starlight was moody, argumentative, a woman with attitude.

The range of moods of their own pieces (composed by Ian) was striking. The Road to Melrose (aka the A68) was inspired by the journey to a regular gig. Judging by the smooth, mellow sound it must have been a carefree scenic route with the prospect of a laid-back session. A piece in honour of Dominic's five-year-old daughter Gemma was nostalgic, emotional, full of love. By contrast, Playing in the Sun, was a sunny piece with calypso rhythms and tones. And Midnight (which appropriately closed the last set) was upbeat, playful and sent me away feeling the evening had just begun.

The candlelit Orchestra Pit at the Old Hall is the perfect venue for Ian and Dominic's music. The duo are playing there every evening till the 15th July. Don't miss them.

Barbara Wilson and Sarah Henry

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'Our Day Out' by Willy Russell

Young REC Theatre Company

This was my first opportunity to be a reviewer and I was therefore quite scared. However having seen other Willy Russell plays I had certain expectations, not that this play met them, it did in fact exceed them. The set was minimalist and sparse, but far from being a negative, this actually allowed the young actors to demonstrate their ability to create scenes in the audience's imagination. The props were simple but very effective. Looked at critically the play itself revolved around themes one could call depressing such as deprivation, poverty and delinquency. However these ingredients in Willy Russell's kitchen only made for a sweeter cake. The subject matter was not watered down by saccharine ideals, nor was any apology offered; all Willy Russell does is treat life's downfalls and problems with humorous wit and satire.

The story and its characters are instantly recognisable to all ages, and the actors bring life and energy to all the parts, whether large or small. The play 'Our Day Out' is just that, a trip out for the 'progress' class. The term 'progress' is used in the ironic sense because as the class leader aptly states the children are 'rejects' whose lives within and beyond school will not amount to anything great, and they do not show signs of progress toward a better future. But each child seems alive and enthusiastic despite the knowledge that they will not reach the dizzy heights of success, which is perhaps the only piece of well informed knowledge they possess. This sounds terribly depressing but through the witticism of the dialogue and the punctuating musical interlude, (did I mention it was in part a musical), and the quality acting abilities of the group, the play brings you amusement, compassion and floods the mind with memories of your own school past.

The characters are almost people from our own school memories, the grumpy teacher balanced perfectly by the more realistic and therefore more caring teacher, the bullies and the sulky girls, the childhood crushes and the child who doesn't get away with anything. All the characters are played with such tenacity that they instantly become alive in the performance and even the supporting smaller parts are by no means just stage fillers, but in fact just as important. The singing was spine tinglingly good so as to take you aback as soon as it begins, and the selection of songs include songs of happiness, pain, humour and the anecdotal songs that every child sings on buses to annoy the teacher. The play was overall excellent even on its first night and for anyone who remembers the secondary modern schools of the 1970's, or any school for that matter, for any one who likes depictions of life intertwined with ironic humour and fancies a nice trip out, this is for you.

By Charlotte Chesters

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Smimming Pool activity room

This is a rather strange one man concoction from North of the Border reveling in mud and imaginary mudslinging. John Steven, wrapped in a mud coloured shroud and headdress, worked hard at threatening the audience with his enlarged 'mudfinger' and a plate of mud while a succession of weird noises made by John and by electronic gadgets as well resulted in his frequently falling over.

The show, part comedy and part slapstick, is designed for children and it was a shame that John had not realised that English schools had still not broken up; unlike Scotland where the children are already on holiday, indicating perhaps that the Scots need less education than the English. The impromptu nature of the performance suggested also that it was heavily dependent on audience reaction. Alas with the Buxton children being in school; and with a very small and somewhat unresponsive audience John did not have much of a chance to really show what he could do. A larger audience might well have resulted in a quite different performance.

A brave attempt in the unforgiving space of the Swimming Pool activity room.

Performances on 10 and 11 July at 1.20pm at the Swimming Pool.


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St John's Church

14 July 2004

A concert of 'early music' invites the question 'What does 'early music' have to say to a contemporary audience?' Much of this programme's music was 400 years old or more - how can it make sense to us?

Having asked the question I find a direct answer hard to arrive at. It is a fact that 'early music' (let's say pre-Bach for convenience - though Bach and Handel were aired here) is now marketable, it has a niche. So there must be an appeal.

There is a simplicity and directness about much of what is played by ensemble such as Partita. There is more to it than that though. The first half of the programme, especially, had a plaintive, melancholy quality. A group of pieces, for example, was designed to cure illnesses brought-on by spiders. That curative aspect seemed to define much of what was played and heard.

Now that may say as much about the editorial choices of Partita as 'early music' in general, but I can't help but feel that the lives of 14th-16th century Western Europeans must have demanded a reflective aesthetic. Life, for most, was hard and short and overshadowed by tragedy. Songs and tunes anticipating the passing of youth/beauty/summer/life seem inevitable.

This may explain, in part, why this music does appeal to a predominantly middle-aged audience - for whom youth is now a memory. It is also a fact that Partita play and sing with great skill and tenderness. They have become something of a fixture at the Fringe - and very welcome they are.

Next Wednesday - July 21st - three members of Partita can be heard in a programme of lute songs, again at St John's. That programme too will no doubt have a melancholy air. Don't feel that you have to be middle-aged to appreciate what is on offer!

Keith Savage

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Steve Nallon's Adventures in Wonderland

The Pauper's Pit, Friday, 9 July at 8.00 pm

What does an impressionist do when his most famous impersonation is no longer on the scene? Mike Yarwood never quite got past the loss of Harold Wilson as Prime Minister. And what of Steve Nallon, the definitive voice of Margaret Thatcher, from Spitting Image? Well, in his show, Adventures in Wonderland, he proved that there is much more to his talents than the Iron Lady.

As the title suggests, Steve Nallon constructs his show around Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (with bits of Through the Looking Glass thrown in for good measure), re-casting his array of grotesque and charming characters with a continuous stream of impressions. Thus the White Rabbit becomes a manic Robin Williams, the Caterpillar a stoned Homer Simpson, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are the Chuckle Brothers, and who else could be the ever-smiling Cheshire Cat but Tony Blair?

Inevitably, not every impersonation hits the spot. Nallon has a light voice which doesn't necessarily lend itself to every personality he attempts. However, for a performer who's best known as a vocal impressionist, Nallon has an uncanny knack at getting the physical mannerisms of his subjects just right. Thus, while, for example, the aforementioned Blair is perhaps not the best vocally, physically it is spot-on.

And when he finds a voice which suits his skills, the whole thing takes off: his legendary Thatcher, of course; a poised Penelope Keith; a touching John Gielgud; a gimlet-eyed Anne Robinson; a stammering Woody Allen; a hilarious Patricia Routledge and a perfect Alan Bennett were amongst the highlights.

In an age when the art of the impressionist (on television at least) is sometime obscured by the work of an army of make-up artists and costume designers, Adventures in Wonderland is a great opportunity to see one of the legends of impersonation at close quarters. Steve Nallon is a friendly and engaging stage presence and still, despite the disappearance of Baroness Thatcher from the public scene, at the top of his game.

Oh, and were Spitting Image to return tomorrow, his uncanny Anne Widdecombe, all clichés and platitudes, could easily take the place of his most famous creation.

Robbie Carnegie

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The Incredible Evad Snave,

The George 16th July 2004

A rather disjointed show of make up and music, Evad Snave is the Lilly Savage of Buxton. The evening got of to a slow start in which we were treated to some improvisation on the piano and a transformation from a man, whom I assume was Dave Evans, into the Incredible Evad Snave dressed in a red and pink tight fitting outfit complete with extremely high heals. The evening picked up with the request from an audience member for some Elvis numbers...before this could start the zebra print top had to be adorned. The Elvis session started off with a slightly altered rendition of Blue Suede Shoes: 'don't you step on my red stiletto shoes!' and continued with other Elvis favourites

The evening never really came together but you had the feeling that this man could be seriously entertaining, there were witty quips 'How can I be cross dressed like this?', insights into his dual persona 'sometimes he performs, sometime she performs, I just see where the evening takes me...' and there was music...overall a melodramatic mix of male/female gender interdispersed with Elvis, Beethoven and Simon and Garfunkel.


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Guided Walk - Vera Brittain's Buxton

Jennie Ainsworth

Vera Brittain is one of Buxton's most famous daughters. And although she disliked Buxton despising the residents for their limited intellectual capacity, Buxtonians have ultimately recognised her place as a champion of women's rights. At last a blue plaque has been put on the gatepost of the house where she lived.

Jennie Ainsworth leads a gentle stroll from the Pavilion Gardens through parts of the town, most of which are unchanged and would have been familiar to Vera, gradually unfolding the story of Vera's life in Buxton culminating in the deaths of her fiancé and her brother in the first world war. Jennie also has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of photographs and other memorabilia which she produces from time to time and which give an insight to life in Edwardian Buxton as it was for the Brittain family. She has the great gift of deep knowledge lightly worn. Groups are encouraged to discuss what Jennie tells them so that by the end of the tour we are all friends.

A splendid way to spend a Summer afternoon.

More walks on 16, 18 21, 23 and 24 July all starting at 2.00pm.


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With a Smile and Song

The following event was listed as both comedy and drama - often a trick used by companies to gain extra coverage (sorry, the cynic coming out) - but in this case highly appropriate. There was a good deal of bawdy humour (I am reminded of the 'nudge nudge and people saying 'bum'' quote from the Fringe magazine!) but this was both excellently executed and mixed with an equal helping of much subtler comedy and poignant drama.

The characters divide into two clear groups. Two men, one gay, one straight; one old and reminiscent the other young and energetic. This double act who are owner of the failing Miranda Guest House and its only employee respectively. They are interrupted by six ladies on a girl's night out - all tits, ass and alcohol mixed in a frightening cocktail. The combination of the two groups creates initial conflict which becomes a drunken evening where tongues (and other body parts) wag.

A glance at the leaflet the group produced will give you a good idea of the outfits of the woman which embodied the word tart beautifully, caused much hilarity among the audience and, shall we say, left very little to the imagination. However, imagination was in great supply in this lovely piece of new writing which cleverly avoided a number of pitfalls: namely over-reliance on the toilet humour and failing to add depth to the stereotypes played upon. For the most part this was good fringe fun, not an intellectual feast, but still had the ability to touch us with occasional moments of charming dialogue clearly signalled as 'serious' by a soft blue light. Credit must also go to the writer (Tony Nyland) - who also directed the piece - for the tight execution of the piece.

The characters were all well played with occasional moments of brilliance although Rachel Priest (winner of last years 'Best Actress' award) stands out with her cameo as the dizzy member of the group. A few awkward moments in plot development and ensemble performance were overridden by the many skilful and perfectly executed sections such as the preparations of the girls for the night out and the hotel owner's (sorry - no name!) toupee antics.

I cannot argue with the great reaction of the audience and this is certainly a perfect show to start any evening of fringing fun. Catch it at two further performances Sunday 18th and Tuesday 20th, Old Clubhouse.

Tom Crawshaw

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Summer Serenade

Manchester Chamber Choir

A concert of unaccompanied choir and solo cello might suggest hard work and sparse listening for a summer afternoon - happily not the case here at all. It was immediately clear that this was a group whose reach matched its aim, and we could relax and enjoy ourselves.

The choir is small and fairly new, but the singers experienced, performing under a variety of conductors in different venues, and steadily gathering a reputation in the Manchester area. Their sound is rich and sure, they can make the rafters ring, and their quiet passages command an attentive quietness from the audience.

Their programme began with Elizabethan madrigals - to be understood as partsongs rather than necessarily pages of fa-la-la. As the conductor said, there seemed to be a lot about death, but it was death considered with exquisite delicacy and even sentimentality, voices winding round each other to create a garland of sound appropriate to subject and style. There followed 18th and 19th century pieces in medieval mode (Debussy finally providing the fa-la-la), and a group of 19th and 20th century songs. Some of these might once have been hackneyed by overuse, but are now more rarely heard and thus freshly appreciated; Stanford's Blue Bird, for instance, floating ecstatically. They finished with Benjamin Britten, and a jolly encore in barbershop mode by way of total contrast.

The filling in this sandwich of choral music was provided by Hannah Roberts playing Bach's Suite No.1 for cello. In taking on one of the major challenges in the repertoire, the performer stands to be measured against Casals and all the great cellists who have followed him. It would take another professional to make a true measure of her skills, but the audience was held in pindrop silence by the beauty of the sound. It was a privilege to eavesdrop on such music making.

You are too late to hear this choir at this year's Fringe, but if you like choral music, this group is one to catch when the chance comes your way again. We shall also doubtless be hearing more of Hannah Roberts.


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Life and Love

Angela Rowley - Soprano and Anna Le Hair - Piano

Angela Rowley has recently turned professional and brought to the Fringe a short recital of two song cycles and some English songs ably accompanied by Anna Le Hair.

The main work in the programme, Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben ,was performed with great sensitivity. Angela has a lovely voice really suited to this work. She had introduced it with an explanation of the emotions it conveys and armed also with the German text and an English translation we could understand fully the excitement of a young lady's romance, marriage and motherhood and then the tragedy of bereavement.. Particularly effective was Angela's singing of Du Ring an meinem Finger; the thrill of the forthcoming marriage and commitment to her future husband was beautifully communicated.

Michael Head's Over the Rim of the Moon formed the second song cycle. His songs, described as deft and delicate, are not so much heard now and it was good to be reminded by Angela what lovely music he wrote Four songs by Roger Quilter, at once light and distinguished completed a charming programme.


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A Woman's Life and Love


Carol Bowns returns to the Fringe this year with something rather different. A mother receives a letter from her daughter's announcing her forthcoming marriage which causes her to reflect on the stresses and joys of her own marriage, the marriage of her sister, her parents and grandparents and what it is that can make a marriage succeed. Into this narrative is woven a number of songs chosen to point up significant moments in the story.

Most of the songs are twentieth century compositions, many by women, the exception being Schumann's song cycle Frauenliebe und Leben which provides the title for the event and was, indeed, its centrepiece. The great quality found in the works of Schumann is human sympathy and this was brilliantly caught in a thrilling performance by Carol and accompanist Heide Rolfe. The second song in the cycle, Er, der Herrlichste von allen is, of course, very well known but Carol's singing brought an excitement to it which made our hair stand on end. Lieder at its very best

Carol was also supported by Caroline Small who wrote the story and delivered it with great sensitivity and then surprised us all by revealing a lovely singing voice in a duet with Carol.

Another performance on 17 July at 7.30 in St.Peter's Church Hall, Fairfield.


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Bess of Hardwick -

University of Derby Theatre Arts

Pauper's Pit, Thursday, 22 July at 2.00 pm

You can tell you're watching a historical biography that intends to tear up the rule book and approach its subject with wit and irreverence when she emerges from her tomb at the beginning to the strains of the theme from Doctor Who.

In this way, University of Derby Theatre Arts serve notice of their intention to present the life of Bess of Hardwick, from penniless Derbyshire lass to the richest woman in England, in a hugely entertaining manner. And the audience is not disappointed.

Wendy Hayes, in the title role, presented Bess as a raucous and determined woman. With her earthy Derbyshire accent, she gave an assured and comical performance. A striking figure in green gown and pale make-up (aided and abetted by her toothless servant, Digby), she took the audience through her four marriages, the political background to her rise, and the world in which she lived - a world where, despite the omnipotence of Elizabeth I, for a woman rise to the position into which Bess found herself was remarkable. Despite the humorous way in which this life was presented, this achievement is never forgotten.

And, in the same irreverent style as it began, Bess returns to her tomb at the end of the show, to the strains of Edith Piaf's 'Je Ne Regrette Rien'. An appropriate theme for such a colourful character.

Robbie Carnegie

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Blue Remembered Hills by Dennis Potter

Maverick Productions

Dennis Potter's best work is autobiographical, or is said to be autobiographical; how would we know? Certainly his roots were in the Forest of Dean, the setting for this piece. And in the opening scene Peter (Potter?) hiding in the trees echoes the 'Singing Detective' watching his mother's tryst in the same forest from the same vantage point.

The play, in common with Golding's 'Lord of the Flies', examines adult relationships through the experimental society of children. The death of the persecuted Donald parallels that of Piggy. But Potter's children are not public school boys, they are not stranded on an island, they belong in this forest and their cruelties are natural, not forced by isolation and catastrophe. This is a working class drama. Potter's morals are less moralistic than Golding's.

It was Potter's intention that the children should be played by adults, not an easy thing to carry off, but here by Maverick Productions from The University of Derby faultlessly accomplished. Here were no performances which strayed, even momentarily, from the completely convincing and engaging. The 'stronger' characters - Peter (Phil Irving), John (Claire Roberts) and Angela (Deborah Sheffield) were quite wonderful but your reviewer must also express delight in the 'weaker' characters of Donald (Luke Rotherham), Audrey (Janet Young), Willie (Gemma Fowler) and Raymond (Anne-Marie Furniss). It is always invidious, in such a successful ensemble, to select but Luke Rotherham and Janet Young (also the director) were physically and emotionally extraordinary in their evocation of youthful vulnerability. Perhaps they have fortunate physiognomies or perhaps they are consummate method actors? You must decide for yourself by seeing this wonderful performance.

John Wilson

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Triplash Theatre Company

St Anne's Community Centre

Ever wondered how Shakespeare's Katherine became a shrew or why Ophelia was driven to suicide? Pam Ryder's imaginative work Confetti and Confusion explores possible childhood experiences of both these women.

We come to understand how constant comparison with her sister Bianca makes Katherine someone who doesn't want to be someone she isn't, who refuses to play the game. We see Ophelia struggle with the disappearance of her mother and the unwanted attentions of her father wondering, as her marriage approaches, 'Am I a lady or a whore?'

Pam, who has not only written and directed the piece but also plays the roles of the two women, gives wonderfully contrasting performances. Her Katherine is a perfect disgruntled graceless creature, falling in love despite herself and not knowing how to respond to someone's attentions. Her Ophelia is a vulnerable fragile child-woman deeply disturbed by her early experiences.

There are still several opportunities to see Confetti and Confusions on the 23rd and 24th July. It is well worth the short walk to St Anne's community Centre.

Barbara Wilson

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Spirit of Etruria Players

The Etruscans remain a mystery, their language is still not deciphered, but their influence on early Rome is undeniable. Romulus and Remus may have founded Rome but the first kings were Etruscans- the Tarquins.

This play, through the medium of a magical mirror that looks into the future and the past, tells the story of the early development of Rome and the rise of the Tarquins. It invites comparison of the sophisticated liberal traditions of the Etruscans with the militaristic and autocratic tendencies of the less cultivated but more practical Romans. (It was the Romans who eventually expelled the Tarquins and founded the Republic wasn't it? But the play does not address this.) Belief in the Gods, fate, self determination, the place of women, are also under discussion. In the final scene this reflected back onto our world to supply the moral of the story.

All this is fine and the acting delivers the story well BUT..... there is a difference between a story and a drama. A story can take its time, be discursive, does not necessarily need dramatic tension. This work is to go on to Hanley and Edinburgh. There is time to shorten it and change it from a good story to a better drama.

John Wilson

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JohnJo by Tom O'Brien

Outreech Productions

'This play concerns the fate of JoJohn McGrath, and is the poignant and heartbreaking study of a man from cradle to grave. Forced to go on the run from his Irish hillfarm home at an early age, he washes up in Lincolnshire in wartime England. Working on farms and finding himself treated worse than the prisoners of war, he goes on the run again. And so begins the lifelong association with 'the lump'-the dark side of the construction industry'.

In this highly enjoyable and moving solo performance, one man succeeds in peopling the stage with a range of believable characters as he tells the story of his life over more than three decades.

Through the eyes of a young and fundamentally decent, but unfortunate, Irishman and his interactions with others (including people prepared to exploit him, as well as those more like him) we are treated to an unpalatable slice of social history.

The set is sparse and Tony O'Brien is able to evoke subtle changes in mood and pace without the aid of elaborate props. Two bottles of booze and a rock, for example, bring the character of JoJohn's hapless 'father' vividly to life. The same rock symbolises McGrath's work as an anonymous 'navvy,' answering along with everyone else to the name of 'Paddy'.

An able singer, he uses snippets of song, as well as the spoken word, to depict the people in his story, and Irish music serves to take him back home. A place he goes to often, in his head, though never in reality.

Tom O'Brien's carefully crafted writing shifts the audience through a range of emotions through words which evoke strong visual images -cows on trains, Guinness like diesel, the threat of the poorhouse, tea dances, stealing from the big house, sexual experimentation and a young man 'as blonde as a Viking'.

Funny, shocking, lyrical, poetic, and ultimately tragic, this piece is powerful and delightful.

Sadly, the first night attracted a tiny audience but all four of us were glad to have been there. Don't miss out on the two remaining performances.

Nicola Martin

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Buxton Art Gallery

Time and place Illustrated Talk

Landscape Painting - Not a Pretty Picture

Artist David Ainley presented a riveting tour d'horizon of the work of landscape painting and the conditions that produce it. Focusing mainly on Derbyshire painters we began by considering the landscapes of Wright of Derby. David explained the nature of the 'sublime' and how Gilpin, a contemporary of Wright, had laid down the basis for looking at the countryside in order to appreciate its picturesque qualities Wright dealt with this in a number of paintings, notably 'A Cottage on Fire', and 'Rydal Waterfall'.

It is now clear that Wright was not just recording the growth of the Industrial Revolution with pretty pictures: his paintings invited comment on the changes that were being imposed on the English countryside by Arkwright and other mill owners. And this tradition of landscape, not only as a representation of the countryside , but as a comment on what has been, or is being, done to the countryside , not least in Derbyshire by lead miners and quarrying, continues to this day by many leading artists including David Ainley himself. In spite of what many people think landscape painting is by no means dead. Indeed it is flourishing

This was the first of a series of talks on different arts subjects the next being on 18 and 24 July at 4.00 pm in the Orchestra Pit, Old hall Hotel.


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Buxton Babylon & She Smiles Like an Alligator

Two exhibitions both displayed at the Beacher House (otherwise known as venue 20!) from the artistically gifted Beacher family. However, two entirely separate and unique exhibits that warrant individual reviews - the only connection I made being the capacity of both to widen spheres of reference (I will explain later)...

Buxton Babylon is in fact a continually growing exhibit which has seen, over the last few years, a single ceramic tower grow to a mini city. The Babylon hotel was clearly visible in a far corner - the faces of its Buxton Inhabitants staring out eagerly at the newest addition (and one that all cities should be judged by) the Buxton Babylon library. This latest tower of Babel takes the 'audience participation' aspect of the exhibition's concept to a new level with the contents being created and donated by Mike's various contacts, supporters and friends of friends. However, the ceramic library turns the biblical Babel story on its head as, although it contains the scribbling of a thousand different tongues there was no confusion and a connection was easily found with those I shared Babylon city streets with.

I say there was no confusion... in truth there was a little trouble as people forgot which slot their book came from and tried to fit them back into other vacant niches which, incidentally, get smaller the higher you go. But to prove my point about connection I need only point to the tears and laughs I saw the various books illicit during my time in the city. This helped to create a very exciting and powerful atmosphere as scrambled over each other to get at the most popular reads or went hunting among the lower echelons of the tower in search of the newest hidden gem. But even when the library visitors headed out of the city I found myself left alone in an equally fascinating environment - created by the multiple audio tracks of crowd noise Mike picks and plays and the deceptively random video footage he pipes in. Alone with the words I grabbed the ladder (handily provided) and went in exploration of the higher shelves.

Although wary not to overstate the risqué quality of the collection I am obliged to mention the importance of the lack of censorship with Mike wielding no editorial power but simply creating the perfect opportunity and setting to bring these works together as part of an ongoing and essentially organic city - encompassing almost every aspect of the visual arts.

A few favourites to note - a rather incredible edition of the Bible inspired by Round the Horn, Tom Levitt's 'storyet', chronically (among other things) the bowel movements of a certain ex-president of Russia, Mike Clement's 'Accidental Photography' (read the poster for a philosophical justification) and a special book you complete yourself by filling in the gaps. I started this by naming the main character 'Mrs Mumford' and returned not 30 minutes later to find her battling with an iced bun that came 'crashing from the darkness'!. Great fun.

Taking a trip along the corridor and down a dark flight of stairs the lead to the cellar we come to a redecorated coal hole - and the setting of Anna's contribution to the joint Fringe entry.

One thing Anna has learnt from her father is certainly a sense of atmosphere. None of your quiet, neutral galleries - both Beachers take pains to create the perfect atmosphere and context for their works - for Anna this extends to a carefully chosen soundtrack which I particularly appreciated. But then after spending a few minutes in this space one realises the atmosphere and context are effectively the exhibition, the piece of art itself.

I will not attempt to explain the contents of this tiny room dryly here as this would not be to do justice to the effect created. Suffice to say they are, on the whole, a collection of ordinary and seemingly unconnected items - some general, some personal. However, one slowly starts to make connections and guess at the relevance of these artefacts and the way they are here represented. I picked up love, sex, betrayal, hate, anger, identity and passion - all pretty predicable one might feel from a 15 year old girl but there is a depth - a personal yet universal truth - here that, despite being very much a reflection of the artist's age, displays an unexpected maturity.

This is helped by Anna's constant awareness of the potential pitfalls of essentially conceptual art. The writing is on the wall... or rather on the floor, where thoughts during creation spill over the cold stone in the form of a chalk stream of consciousness. Here we discover ideas that hint at the meanings of the items, the music and the creations around us but also of the desire for us not to judge the artist as shallow or pretentious. This could be seen partly as paranoia but, more than this, it asks us, as a philosophical comment of the nature of art, to find our own meanings in this work. For myself I found the true art was attempting to guess as possible relevancies and the knowledge that what I was looking at was probably filled with meaning and personal importance that I could never know. Like the artist, I disagree with the plaques one finds next to artwork in galleries explaining the art to the 'uneducated'. This exhibition is an experience that needs no explanation but can offer you an exciting journey of thoughts.

Perhaps Anna has somewhere to go before she consolidates her somewhat scattered ideas into a firm and truly respectable form that suits her talents best. Nevertheless there is a huge amount of potential here and the exhibition is indeed a powerful and thought provoking piece. This it shares with its brother (or should that be father) exhibition upstairs and both demand that we widen our spheres of reference to take in art in alternative and various forms.

In case these two accounts don't make it clear - you can have a fascinating and eye-opening hour or two or even a day (they'd probably let you!) in the Beacher house.

Tom Crawshaw

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'Haunted' by Martin Beard

REC Theatre Company

Venue 21 - The Old Clubhouse

In most relationships there will be lies, secrets. In most cases these deceptions may seem to be harmless. We may try to excuse 'white lies' because they may allow space for privacy.

For Gordon and Christine - the couple whose relatively brief relationship is examined in 'Haunted' - the lies and deceptions were undoubtedly serious and gravely (pun intended) consequential. Christine is dead, but her spirit cannot rest until she understands better how she came to die.

'Haunted' - and its dramatic conceit - is really a vehicle for Gordon (accurately identified early on as a violent alcoholic) to confront his life and mistakes. Whether it is intended as a more general account of the ways in which men fail themselves and their partners is up for discussion.

Gordon seems transparently unlovable - we never get to see his caring side which Christine must once have known. Maybe he sees no good in himself either.

With 'Haunted' Martin Beard has delivered a bleak account of masculinity. In Rachel Priest (Christine) and Glen Naden (Gordon) he has two fine accomplices who give the narrative credibility and leave us to wonder how the hope of love can so carelessly be lost.

Keith Savage

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NO WAY OUT (HUIS CLOS) by Jean-Paul Sartre

Fragile Theatre

Buxton Community School

11th July 2004 7.30pm

A waiter introduces three strangers to the room where they are condemned to spend eternity. There are no racks, no boiling oil, but their torture is nevertheless about to begin. There are no mirrors; they must learn to know themselves as they are reflected in the others' eyes. To do this they have to reveal their dark secrets to their companions in hell and face their judgement before they can hope for any absolution.

Fragile Theatre's production of Huis Clos under the direction of Martin Brooke-Taylor grips the audience as Sartre intended it to. The characterisation is wonderfully drawn. Langley Brown is perfect as the waiter playing this small but crucial role with knowing, just slightly exasperated, dignity. Mike Woodhead, playing Garcin, captures fully the desperation of a man who would be a hero but who knows he has failed. Helen Grady gives a brilliant portrayal of Inez as a hard unforgiving woman needing to love but too destructive to achieve it. And Sorrel Thomas shows acutely the misery of Estelle's shallow coquettishness as she strives to be loved.

By the end of the play, the condemned reach a kind of common ground. They realise that this is it, we're in this together, we have to make the best of it. And this is the message for the audience too. This is life Sartre's portrays not death.

Barbara Wilson

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Salsa Viva!


Sunday July 11

Wow! Dance is well and truly back at the Buxton Fringe with Latin American group Latinisimo! turning the back room of The George into a pulsating mass of bodies all moving to the infectious Venezuelan sounds of the evening's exciting live band: Ricardo, Daniel, James and Dimitri.

There was really no excuse not to give it a go as the evening included taster lessons for both complete beginners and improvers. Buxton has a healthy salsa scene itself so this Cheadle-based group will, I think, have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of dancing on the floor.

All the same, the floor quickly cleared when Latinisimo! experts Melisa and Carlito began showing us how it is really done. Limbs entwined, they added an almost acrobatic dimension to already fast and sexy salsa moves. Melisa, scantily dressed in black and with her dark hair flying, reminded us amateurs how crucial it is to love your body when you are dancing to this kind of passionate music. Carlito, meanwhile, was almost casual in his approach, yet a complete genius! Off duty, he could be seen dancing with a chair, twirling it round with the tip of his finger (I kid you not!). With Melisa, he showed the same lightness of touch yet also great strength as he tossed her body about with ease. It was fascinating to see him doing a solo dance at one point, the salsa transmuting into something more akin to urban break-dancing.

Latinisimo! cleverly paced the evening so that the periods when we were all dancing were broken up by displays and at one point a participation exercise in which couples or singles were invited to have a go at the 'Cintura', a twist-like dance culminating in a feverishly sexy vibration of the hips. The music was also pleasantly varied offering the chance to dance cha cha and merengue as well as salsa.

Some parts of the evening, could not have planned. A group of Spanish teenagers really made the evening with their uninhibited dancing and added to the surreal impression that we were not in fact in rainy Buxton but on holiday in some fantasy of a Latin nightclub. The doors were open and there was an overwhelming desire to break out and dance in the streets. Unfortunately this would have involved dancing on the top of cars... Truth be told, we could have done with a bigger venue. Then again, perhaps it was no bad thing for repressed Brits to be forced to move a little closer.

For further information about Latinisimo! workshops check out www.laacademia.co.uk, or for those who like their salsa closer to home, Sensational Salsa are holding a party at the Railway Hotel on July 24 at 8pm.

Stephanie Billen

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Jude Zigguener

Everyone knows about the appalling figures of the Jewish dead in the Holocaust. Less well known are the rare accounts of survival. Jude Ziggeuner is one of those. Written and performed by Linda Mae the story is based on the recollections of a Bulgarian who as a child miraculously escaped execution in the death camps and was finally rescued by the allies.

Linda , as Jude the survivor, unfolds the story while setting the table for the passover feast for her family.- a most effective theatrical device. As the tale progresses we can sense the bewilderment of a very young child caught up in world gone mad not knowing who if anyone could be trusted. And eventually with the table finally laid for her family's passover we realise that none of the empty seats will be filled .

A is a poignant and moving experience.

More performances on 13, 14, 22, 23and 24 July.


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Exhibition in the Pump Room

Writing this review for the Fringe always gives me the excuse to slow down and appreciate fully the wonderful variety of work exhibited here. Every year I find four or five pieces really grab my attention.

This year I was drawn straightaway to the work of quilter Vivienne Johnson, especially to her striking wall-hanging 'Red, White and Black'. It is, as its title suggests, a piece of contrasts, worked in narrow strips to create concentric squares but giving an overall impression of bold diagonals.

Contrasting in medium and mood, were the fine art prints of Cliona Coyle inspired by the atmospheric beauty of the Peak District. I particularly liked 'Mist Rising': moor and sky united in a suffusion of purples, pinks and heathers.

I always find unusual earrings enticing and so was attracted by the work of Adele Kime. The aluminium and silver earrings over-printed in colourful designs are lovely, but the delicate origami creations charmed me most. They'd be like butterflies fluttering round your face. (Note to my husband: it's our anniversary on Thursday!)

I already have one of Ian Johnson's cup and saucers. I use it for my morning coffee, and I can't think of a brighter way to start the day. The vibrant colours of his hand-painted ceramics - fired several times to achieve a remarkable depth - are for me irresistible.

As usual, I can give only a very small and very personal impression of this exhibition. Go along and find your own favourites.

Barbara Wilson

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Philip, his Poetry - and Piano

At the Old Hall Hotel

Philip Holland is a man of many parts - dairy farmer, accomplished musician and now a poet. .Relying on these talents he presented a delightful programme of poems interspersed with piano pieces.

This is a very personal presentation. The poems reflect moments in Philips life lived mainly as a farmer on the Derbyshire Staffordshire border. Read aloud they evoke the poet's love of the countryside where he worked through the seasons patiently tending his sheep and cattle and the land that supported them all. Other poems reveal Philip's interest in history, sculpture and wild life.

And to complement the poems he played music which he had chosen to suit the mood of the verse. Sometimes the music was used to introduce the poem, sometimes as a conclusion and occasionally to point up a particular incident or sentiment. The overall result was most compelling. A capacity audience in the Piano Lounge of the Old Hall Hotel was enchanted

One more performance on 20 July at the Old Hall Hotel.


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Gielgud - A Knight in the Theatre

Those of us who remember the great actor John Gielgud will immediately recognise the character brought to life by George Telfer. Gielgud was an inveterate gossip and Telfer, together with co-author Brian Pugh has put together a marvelous farrago of theatrical tittle-tattle which charts the actor's career from struggling young hopeful through acclaim in the great classical roles to the insecurity of old age.

All this would be nothing, of course, without the masterly performance of Telfer himself as Gielgud.; the style, mannerisms and facial expressions all caught to perfection. Like all actors, Gielgud spent most of the time talking about himself but he did occasionally comment on other contemporary actors thus giving Telfer an opportunity to introduce the authentic voices of Noel Coward, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson and Richard Burton.

Very funny indeed yet ultimately sad as Gielgud struggles to find a place in the modern theatre and sadder still as he reaches a grand old age only to find his friends have died. Telfer conveys all this with great skill and sensitivity.

This is one that all theatre lovers should see.

Performances on 14, 17 and 18 July at the Pauper's Pit


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It sometimes seems there is no more frequent pastime in modern theatre than re-workings and re-interpretations of Shakespeare, and, at the Buxton Fringe at least, apparently no doubt that the star-crossed lovers are the fairest and commonest game. Thus, it should have come as little surprise that we had this complex and lengthy new look at the original outcome of Romeo & Juliet to see what might have been if the randy and headstrong young pair had gone about things in a slightly more conservative and (and herein lies the rub) less Shakespearean way.

I say 'rub' because it could be argued that the conclusion of this new play by Frank Bramwell doesn't really convince, and perhaps only ends up by re-affirming the perfection of Shakespeare's own plot and the illogicality of any other possible courses of action.

But we had a lot of fun along the way! The plot opens with the lovers committing suicide - action & text lifted verbatim from Shakespeare. But the arrival of Friar Laurence then sends us and them off on a fascinating tangent...have another hour of life and see if you can learn a different way of doing things, or manage to 'right the wrongs' of the passage of events which brought you to your murky suicidal ends, rusty blades and poisonous vials et al.

There then follows an hour (actually a further 85 minutes), in which various speeches are re-worked and re-delivered, with new interpretations brought about solely by inflection, body language and superb acting from Polly Lister and Matt Robinson. Some of these contained hilarious moments, especially where repetition resulted in faux exasperation, and where young love seemed (unsurprisingly) more tiresome after the fifth 'Wherefore art thou?' or 'But soft, what light...' than after the first.

The last extra hour granted to the lovers ends up being five or six episodes, each punctuated by them re-living a former violent encounter with either Paris or Tybalt - (the lesson, not learnt until the very end, presumably being that things would have been very different without these deaths) - and resulting in another 'death' for the lovers, from which the Friar kept awakening them to try again, until they got it right and (rather worryingly) wandered off towards the white light and peaceful eternity.

At every turn though, we were captivated by the convincing passion and sheer physicality of Lister and Robinson. I don't think I've ever seen such raw energy and physical commitment in a Fringe performance - and certainly not in the small confines of The Paupers Pit. The audience loved them - and showed it enthusiastically at the close.

This was a complex and very clever, if slightly over-long (105 minutes in all, without a break) new look at the play. Take your sharpest wits with you, and listen carefully, but also be prepared to be carried along by the pace, skill and style of the presentation.

At The Paupers Pit till Sunday 18th at 9.30pm.


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Pirates, Poetry and Parrots

Stone and Water

July 20, 10am-midday and 2-4pm

So you want to be a pirate

And sail upon the sea,

If you want to be a pirate

Come sailin' with me!'

Who could resist such an invitation, especially on a day as surprisingly hot and sunny as Tuesday turned out to be? Some 57 children turned up to become Pavilion Gardens' pirates at Stone and Water's morning session and when my daughter and I arrived at the afternoon event, it too turned out to be busy, with some children looking pretty much like pirates already with bandanas and eye patches.

Stone and Water are adept at handling large or small numbers of children. Had it been just a couple of diehards in the drizzle, I suspect some more quiet poetry making might have gone on. As it was, the children were soon on their feet joining in some lively pirate play involving climbing rigging and, a particular favourite, pretending to be seasick.

Thereafter the real business began as the participants settled down to making cardboard parrots to wear on their shoulders. Stone and Water wisely realised that this wasn't school, so making a parrot was not obligatory. Yes, of course another type of animal would be just fine. Or a monster? Er, why not? Some very enticing sparkly paper, feathers and bits and pieces proved just the job to decorate the children's handiwork with the result that even the youngest girls and boys became biddable and absorbed in what they were doing.

Such is the frenetic pace of the Fringe, that I was due at another children's event at 3.30pm but with some clever child swapping with a friend, I was able to leave my 9-year-old daughter and Fringe press assistant, Annie, to complete the workshop and report on it. She informs me that tassled pirate hats and gorgeous pirate ships (that's what those two-litre pop bottles were for...) were also created in what can only be described as one of the most productive children's sessions ever.

'Will you come and be a pirate?

We'll make the most of you!

Get your hat and parrot ready

And come and join our crew!'

The invitation is worth repeating to any bored young landlubbers out there because the pirates will be gathering again this Thursday July 22 for a rather different Stone and Water session involving maps and treasures - see Fringe Programme for details. Oh, and in case you need any further encouragement, it is all absolutely free!

Stephanie Billen

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Café Coward

Sorry - this one got away

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Annual Exhibition

Burbage Art Group

July 24, 11am-1pm

The hallmark of this exhibition is variety - in both subject matter and materials used by the artists. Group members have produced works in portraiture, landscape, urban landscape, still life and animal studies in materials ranging from pencil to oils and including collage and collagraph.

Rachel Slaney, who leads the group, aims to advise rather than teach. 'The whole point of the group is that people develop their own skills and interests and above all, have fun. I offer advice and suggestions'.

Artists were on hand to talk about their work and the free refreshments were a welcome accompaniment to a lively and interesting viewing. Anyone wishing to join the group - and new members are always welcome - should contact Rachel Slaney on 01538 266220 or simply turn up for the new term of pay-as-you-go classes on Wednesday September 8th, 7.15-9.15pm.

Hilary McLynn

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'Office Suite' by Alan Bennett

Buxton Drama League

Having only experienced Alan Bennett through the televised 'Talking Heads', I expected a monologue on a sparsely occupied stage. However the Buxton Drama League had decided to perform the play using a richly decorated and authentic set. The production was presented in the round to assist the acoustics, which were not ideal. However this did not distract from the performance itself. 'Office Suite' was a pair of plays loosely connected through the theme of the workplace, particularly departments within the companies that were undergoing modernisation. The firsts play 'Green Forms' revolved around the everyday chatter of two ladies in a office with little to do but argue, although the set is 1970's with typewriters and paper dockets, the characters are as alive and recognisable as colleagues in the modern day offices. Alan Bennett picks up on the nuances of everyday people. The equipment and distraction may have changed but the idol chatter and trouble that it leads to are still very much alive. This suggests why Alan Bennett is as popular today as always, because his plays are timeless and his characterisation impeccable. The two main characters beautifully portray two extreme personalities, ones innocence is juxtaposed against the others cynicism, as they feed on each other's neuroses until the climax. Both women portray there characters as the gritty, ordinary, everyday people that are unwitting hilariously funny with ease, which makes for an entertaining watch.

The second play 'A Visit from Miss Prothero' is equally funny, with the two actors playing their parts with exceptional ability. The characters are rich in depth and feeling and are just like the individuals you are likely to meet standing at the bus stop, one a retired business manager, and the other the busy body employee who knows everyone's whereabouts and loves to share the information. However although this play is funny, it has a dark and slightly disturbing end that will have you pondering on your journey home. However they say the best plays are the ones that make you think, so if you find the everyday absurdities of life and rigmarole of inter-office politics tickle your funny bone then this is for you.

Charlotte Chesters

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Fanny Hill by Peter McGarry

Library Theatre Touring Co

The writing is crisp and witty. The playing robust, bawdy and comic. Despite the distractions of piped music from the bar, drunken shouting, visitors to the toilet stage right and staff collecting glasses from the audience the actors' focus never faltered. And, which is the more telling, neither did the audience's. Indeed the irruption of Friday night life in The George wove themselves into the fabric of this tale of ' the most famous whore in Christendom'.

The action starts with John Cleland in Fleet debtor's prison. He and his fellow inmates enact the life of Fanny - Jane Collins under the direction of her maid Phoebe - Anne Larkin. Michael Brooksbank and Roger cook play every active gentleman in this very active story from the gardener with the enormous marrow to King George who didn't appear to be much of a gardener. The sex scenes, and there are many, are rightly 'famous on the circuit' for their vigour and hilarity.

The whole romp is a delight, perfectly honed to reflect the bawdy rumbustious story with fine actors doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances. Even at the end able, amid the din and distractions, to reflect the pathos of Fanny's downfall.

Do go and see this tonight (Saturday) at 7:30. Don't be distracted by the surroundings, sit near the front and enjoy some real theatre in real surroundings with some real ale at your elbow. Well done Library Theatre! We hope to see more of you in Buxton.

John Wilson

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King Ethelbert and the Happy Scamp

Waggish Radish Puppet Theatre

All the way from Sofia, Bulgaria the Waggish Radish Puppet Theatre have brought to the Fringe their own energetic production of a charming tale about King Ethelbert. The poor king was said to be stupid and so could not command authority.; until, that is, the arrival the Happy Scamp. As the story unfolds we meet a host of characters who appear in and around a versatile castle which is regularly turned around, folded out and in again creating a succession of backgrounds for the puppets.

The company specifically design their work for very young children. And as we all know very young children have a very short attention span. This group can hold the attention of children even as young as two for the entire length of the show. which indicates a deep knowledge of what small children like. The adults liked it too!

Alas there are no more performances on the Fringe but you can catch them again at the Puppet Festival next week.

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Mark Gwynne Jones and Psychicbread

Dutch's Bar, The Eagle - 15 July

Maaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrc Gwynnne Jones' Psychicbread played to a packed Dutch's bar, people from all over Derbyshire flocked to Buxton to be dazzled by this incredible performer and his 6 piece band with smoking rhythmssss. This mesmeric evening of exotic rhythm and surreal verse got off to a sexy start with the truly naughty Paula Bowman who led us down dark alleyways of love, lust and desire, inviting us to taste the sweet fruits of her passion (unfortunately Andy the postman couldn't escape to join in warming the crowd). Then came Mark and the band, and the heat was turned up even higher! Marc Gwynne Jones was sooooooo funny, scintillating and inspirational. With the combination of the finest music and wordsmithing we needed space to dance and laugh louder. More than enjoyable from start to finish - entertainment as it should be worth every penny!

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Lift and Separate by Tim Elgood

University of Derby Theatre Arts

Tim Elgood first came to the Fringe ten years ago with a cracking play he had written for children which won a Fringe award. Now he is back again with a very funny account of a diverse selection of people stuck in a lift. Roger, played by Roger, takes it upon himself to find out about everyone incarcerated with him and in so doing prompts a variety of exposés, rows and reconciliations all the subject of coarse comment by the janitor and self appointed lift operator, Ron.

Tim is a great observer of his fellow man which enables him to write parts for his characters which sound completely authentic. But more than that he can find humour in serious human conditions like unfaithfulness and dubious engagement. In the great tradition of comic theatre we laugh at those whose lives are clouded in misfortune.

The cast obviously enjoyed themselves enormously and that enjoyment was instantly communicated to a large audience. An immobile group of people crammed in a lift was ideal for the limited space of the Orchestra Pit .A perfect production for the Fringe.

More performances on 21, 22, 23 qand 24 July at 7.30 in the Orchestra Pit Old hall Hotel.


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University of Derby Theatre Arts

Pauper's Pit 20th July 8pm

Three gods set out to find an entirely good person. Their task seems impossible at first but they are eventually led to the door of Shen Te, a kind and generous woman driven to prostitution by her poverty. She is astounded when, despite her profession, the gods declare her the good person they are seeking and give her enough money to buy a small business. Shen Te is immediately beset by an unscrupulous trader and her landlady who demand payment, and by desperate people who call for charity. She is driven to disguise herself to summon the strength to survive.

The Good Person of Szechwan is essentially a parable. It shows that we cannot depend on divine intervention to create a just society. Nor can we expect well-meaning individuals on their own to take responsibility for others' welfare. We have to face the difficulties of establishing a fair system together.

This production of Brecht's play is another example of the excellent work brought to us by University of Derby Theatre Arts. All of the characters wear half-masks (designed and made by the cast) save Shen Te and the water seller, the one who truly appreciates the goodness of the prostitute. This is as Brecht intended - he wanted to alienate the audience, to make them think about the ideas examined rather than become emotionally involved in the characters. The masks serve to highlight the salient traits of the various personae; they show how one-dimensional people can become in an unjust, aggressive society. The cast's performance wonderfully heightens this effect by the set of their mouths, their manner of speaking and their body language. Emma Levers gave an affecting portrayal of Shen Te (showing how impossible it is not to be caught up emotionally) and a mesmerising characterisation of her masked alter ego Shui Ta.

There are three more opportunities to see this challenging and very entertaining production. It's a Fringe 'must see'.

Barbara Wilson

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Just a Little Too Late

REC Drama School

After their award winning production of Midsummer Night's Dream at Poole's Cavern last year The REC Senior Drama School had a lot to live up to this year. This year's challenge was to produce an entirely improvised work about themes that concerned them as teenagers, and they rose to it superbly.

This is a hard hitting piece about teenage pregnancy and self harm - topics that would not normally be broached by this age group - and it is delivered with skill and pace by these young actors. The storyline was built up during their workshops and deliberately never scripted so each performance is unique, though following a developed storyline.

Music plays through most of the action underpinning the story with relevant tunes that they have associated with the themes in the play. The basic story is of a teenage girl who becomes pregnant or at least claims to be and the cost of her subsequent actions but it is peppered with sub plots of nearly Shakespearian proportions.

The skill of these young actors drags you deep into the almost inevitable consequences of this tragedy without excuse or apology, being a well observed slice of life seen through the eyes of teenagers.

Philippa Martin

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REC Drama School Shows

July 12-15, 5.30pm

This year the REC Drama School has conducted the bold experiment of allowing the young students themselves to come up with their own sketches based on improvisations.

The move has succeeded admirably. With no words to learn, there is no fluffing of lines. Instead the children relish their roles and really communicate the fun they have been having in their Saturday morning drama classes.

The promising theme of the show is Supermodern Fairytales with groups of students updating a fairytale of their choice. Thus The Three Bears become a pop group hassled by first a hilariously demented fan and then by Miss Locks herself, a paparazzi photographer who surmises that the Weetabix and warm milk must belong to Baby Bear while the Slimfast Milkshake is surely Mummy's. A group of lads brought the house down with their version of Jack and the Beanstalk featuring a Monty Python-style off-screen nag of a mother and a small boy who is given the task of selling her washing machine for 'cash only', but in fact swaps it for a dodgy computer with 'three money-making microchips'.

The fun continues with the Three Little Pigs, in fact innocent house owners being conned out of their properties by the three Big Bad Businesswomen cleverly played with a mixture of guile and aggression. The performers' timing here is superb with the house owners at one point perfecting a simultaneous Superman-style lunge at the very mention of the impenetrable material of their third house - steel.

The second half of the show features fairytale updates performed by slightly older students and here the themes became more interesting still with Little Red Riding Hood becoming Little Red Cleaner Girl pursued by a superbly hammed-up weirdo who does his best to impersonate her posh client but cannot quite get his clothes on in time. The Ugly Duckling was a chance to inject a darker note to the proceedings as a schoolgirl tries to take her own life after being remorselessly bullied by convincingly cliquey girls at her school.

The show concluded with what will, once a few microphone problems are sorted out, be a tour de force from pop group The Pigs whose three gigs at Strawhouse Productions, Stickhouse Productions and Brickhouse Productions become progressively more successful leaving the band in the delightful position of being able to fire their horrible manager, Mr Wolf. I've written this before and I will write it again; watch out for singer Lucy who performs and co-wrote the songs here.

Despite the fact that there are no formal scripts here, the writing and ideas behind these sketches is remarkable from students so young, and of course, Martin Beard of the REC is so right to realise that nobody can update the past more wittily and more effectively than our youngest generation. There are minor things to iron out here with the older children, not so much the younger ones, needing to project themselves a little better, but on the whole what naturalistic acting and what great ideas! Congratulations to all concerned.

Stephanie Billen

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Later Showers by Tom Crawshaw

What is it that drives someone to suicide? Most of us cannot comprehend such an act. And yet suicides occur with sickening frequency. Tom Crawshaw's remarkably taut drama investigates the effect that tragic events and unrequited love can have on an unstable individual. Like Hamlet, Danny has lost his father and no-one seems to care about it except him. Life in the future is so unbearable that self slaughter looks like a good solution.

An astonishingly virtuoso performance from Michael Grady as Danny absolutely gripped the audience. Here is a young man with exceptional talent who had clothed himself totally and believably in the character. His pacing of the action charting the slow decline of Danny to the point where suicide becomes an option is amongst the best acting to be seen on the Fringe this year.

The extraordinary professionalism of Three's Company , Tom the author , Michael the actor and Yaz director makes it easy to forget that these young men have created this work while still at school and coping with A-levels and all the other distractions which education imposes. What a bright future lies before them!

More performance on 13, 21, 22 and 24 July at the Pauper's Pit.


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Platformation by Tom Crawshaw

Performed by Three's Company

12th, 13th, 19th, 24th July 2004 at the Buxton Fringe and

25th - 30th July at Manchester 24:7 Theatre Festival

Last Year's award winning comedy returns to the fringe - and this time it's even better!

Taking into account all grievances from their debut production last year, Three's Company have smoothened what was a fun farce into a feat of slick timing, superb technical effects and high comedy. A quarter of the time shaved off, all the best jokes still there with some noticeable new additions, and the benefit of an extra year's experience make the show truly and desperately hilarious and prove that this company really do deserve to be noticed.

Even if you saw this last year, it's well worth a return visit - if you didn't, why? Get down there whilst you still can! Although this is just a pointless farce - albeit a slick, smooth and satisfying silly farce - there is no mistaking we are watching a company with breathtaking power in the making...

Nicki Martin

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Let's Sing Again

Heartbeat Chorus

Heartbeat Chorus is a ladies Barber's Shop group from New Mills with an infectious enthusiasm for singing the specialist close harmony unaccompanied music which most people think originated in the United States. But it actually started life in the barber's shops of the sixteenth century where customers waiting to have their teeth pulled or other minor surgery would strum on simple instruments provided by the barbers. And the barbers themselves would sing the odd song while waiting for customers.

The rough and ready close harmonisation of simple tunes by small groups of men in New York hairdressing saloons is what we now think of as Barbershop music and this is the genre that Heartbeat concentrate on.

Heartbeat is a most accomplished chorus, very well rehearsed and with a good ensemble. The Chorus has done well in competitions both in the UK and overseas and from the programme brought to Buxton, performed in The Paxton Suite, we could see why. .A mixture of well known and less familiar songs sung with verve and enjoyment which communicated itself to a responsive audience.

Short breaks for recitations gave the concert a delightfully Northern flavour!


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Three's Company

Income Taxi

'Neville, you were ordering imaginary fairies about for two weeks after your last play.'

Ok, that's not the most helpful of introductions, but it was the best line in the play, and it got your attention, didn't it? Although Income Taxi is picking up where Platformation left off (and continues the 'Transport Trilogy'), it is a superior work that displayed a far greater range of skills, more maturity in terms of acting, directing, producing and writing. The characters were convincing, and this ensured that the story was subtle, engaging and broadly well-paced.

The basic humour of the play was structured around the individuals: Gerry's sarcasm and his hectic work, Travis's smugness and Rob's overwhelming desire to sleep, and this was generally handled effectively. If there is a small quibble here, it is that the character's interactions with each other could have been more closely examined, with fewer scenes revolving around either one or all of them; some of the best drama was provided when a pair of them got down to the nitty-gritty while the others were absent. The plot also weakened somewhat towards the end, and it would not have been detrimental to shorten the work, or maintain the chaotic events of the opening scenes. That said, it could easily have descended into farce and slapstick and it did not, which is a credit to the writer and the director.

Those imaginary fairies that Neville was ordering around could be said to be quite indicative of what Three's Company have achieved here. The weaknesses in their previous productions have clearly been noted, and put right, which shows a great amount of reflection on what they did last time. This attention to self-evaluation and constant striving for improvement is particularly impressive given their spitefully tender years (the envy of many of the greying beards and balding heads in the audience) and promises even better the next time they take to the stage.

What else can be said without resorting to outrageously bad puns on the theme of taxis? Besides, they're better than 'fare'...they're very good. Very good indeed.


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THE B FILE by Deborah Levy

University of Derby Theatre Arts

The Pauper's Pit

Friday 16th July 2004 8pm

The B File is 'an erotic interrogation' of female personas. In this production, four women all called Beatrice are questioned about who they are and what they do, what they feel and what they desire. Beatrice 1 (Laura Ford) wants to be somewhere else - in the American South where she imagines she and her husband can act out a steamy affair. Beatrice 2 (Angharad Jones) wants to meet someone else, someone she can love. Beatrice 3 (Caroline Bliemel) is German but wants to be Spanish with a Latin lover. Beatrice 4 (Amanda Beetham-Wallace) reflects on what is happening, on how there is imagined potential in Beatrice in all her personas. Beatrice thinks she can rearrange her narrative and move on. She thinks she can always cross the road like she has nine lives. But she can't; she hasn't.

The staging is simple and effective. The characters speak into microphones as if to strengthen their identities. They carry baggage, at times light and full of their longings and possibilities, at times heavy and weighing them down. The actors are a powerful and very together cast. Though the focus shifts from one persona to another, the audience is drawn to watch them all to catch the universal restlessness, the longing for their lives (their life) to be different if only they knew how to make it happen.

This is challenging contemporary drama - just the kind we have come to expect from The University of Derby.

Barbara Wilson

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Project Adorno

A-Z of the London Underground

This was a fantastic concept. Two guys spent a weekend travelling London via the tube, then presented their findings to the audience with a blend of comedy, songs and visual displays. Through their eyes, we get to see the macabre discoveries of Samuel Pepys, Mark Twain's favourite residence, and the bagel stand outside Karl Marx's grave. However, as anyone who frequently uses the London Underground will know, a good idea isn't always one that works perfectly.

There were one or two amusing moments, generally as a new picture was displayed and we realised how grotty and unkempt most of the Tube stations are - 'petrol station architecture', as it was described. Accusing them of inconsistency would be unfair though: the humour in the material was far from ubiquitous, and its forced nature tended to obscure the odd piece of relatively sharp social commentary.

The performance was also a rather muddled and confusing affair. The two actors had an unfortunate habit of trying to talk over each other, spent too long on each station (ultimately leading them to overrun considerably, in a fashion more akin to the London to Manchester voyage than Moorgate to Euston) and lacked confidence on the musical elements of the show.

There is the potential here for a genuinely witty and fast-paced show, but it really needs some honest editing, and focused direction. Many of the songs could be cut completely, or absorbed into a couple of longer numbers, and it would probably help to do the same with a few of the stations which, as the actors themselves admitted, start to all look a bit similar after a while.

I can honestly say that this show truly opened my eyes to the quality of productions that we have come to expect on the Fringe.


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Day of Traditional Dance

Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men and Others

The remarkable thing about Morris Dancing is that it is immensely popular. The moment that a group of dancers with bells on their legs and flower bedecked hats start leaping and whirling their handkerchiefs large groups of spectators appear as if by magic. And there was plenty to draw the spectators on Saturday with fourteen sides around the town from ten in the morning until five in the evening including one brave group who were still dancing at 8.30 pm. in the rain to entertain the audience from the Opera House during the opera interval.

While there is a recognised style of dress for Morris Dancers each group adopts their own distinctive colours so that the overall effect of a large number of sides is a kaleidoscope of colour- very eye catching. The sun shone, the Dancers enjoyed themselves, the spectators enjoyed the dancing and the town looked very pretty. What more could you ask.

Morris Dancing looks, and probably is, very energetic. The Fringe committee were gratified to note that energy was restored to many of the dancers by the consumption of large quantities of Fringe Ale thus helping to boost the slender Fringe finances.


Derbyshire Literature Festival Exhibition

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

This is actually a touring exhibition of photographs taken by Chris Webb during the Derbyshire Literature Festival which has been going on around the county at a host of venues throughout June. The works are most compelling having caught key moments in the many and varied events. Some involved children in unlikely places such as Arbor Low in a snowstorm while others show authors reading their work and books lodged in unusual places such as Joe Simpson's 'Touching the Void' stuck rather appropriately in a cleft in the Black Rocks

It is not at all easy to capture literature by means of photographs. What this exhibition seeks to do however is convey the interest that literature can generate, particularly in young readers. And it succeeds very convincingly.

The photographs are supported by a display of literature from the museum's own collection. This includes a very wide selection of written material including parking tickets, Buxton mineral water labels and a policeman's badge all of which suggests that we should perhaps be prepared to redefine our normal ideas of what constitutes literature.

Exhibition continues until 28 August


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Punters and Pupils by Olivia Smedley

Lyceum Adult Theatre Group

For one night only, four short pieces (three monologues and an ensemble) entertained an almost packed house.

Michaela Warrilow clearly stood out as the most experience actor and treated us to three contrasting single handers on the theme of the sink school.

The first concentrated on why you wouldn't really want to work there, using the vehicle of the disgruntled middle-aged teacher addressing a careers convention. Some really funny dialogue, ably delivered in this miniature gem.

In the second, a hapless aging hippy put herself across, amusingly, as less than adequate for the teaching post for which she was applying.

In a subtle twist in the third it appeared that Madame Hopeless had in fact secured the job of music teacher, at said bottom of the league table establishment. This matter was likely to appal the snooty chair of governors, portrayed to hilarious effect in the third by a pink hat wearing harridan, clearly rather disgusted by the lower classes.

The ensemble used the cheese factory works outing to Chester races in order to paint a picture of very different characters and their relationships with each other.

These included the yob, the confirmed batchelor, the posh girl, the neurotic, the nasty one, the bulimic junior, and the American.

Will the yobbo, more talented at burping and swearing than gambling, get the bosses daughter into bed? What of the sexual orientation of the 44 year old still living at home with his mum? Why is the nervous one so afraid to use the toilet?

The cast worked well together in this production, which raised a few laughs. The ending perhaps needed a bit of tidying up but it was, all in all, a bit of fun.

Nicola Martin

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Patricia Hartshorne

The Old Clubhouse

Patricia Hartshorne is a perennial Fringe favourite and this year she returns with a completely new show. Marlene Dietrich has always featured among the personalities that Patricia has brought to her act, but now she has taken her love for and fascination with this 20th Century icon to a different creative level.

There's an opportunity to hear all those wonderful songs - Falling in Love Again, The Boys in the Back Room, Lily Marlene - but this time set in the context of Marlene's remarkable life. The script (co-written with Michael Elphick) is clever and the acting sparkling. Patricia captures beautifully the look, the walk, the voice, and the wit. There are many moments of humour, but for me what lingers is the pathos of the story: the determination to maintain her independence which lost her the love of her life, the desperation to keep up her image which made her a recluse in later years.

This is a polished, stylish, and ultimately poignant production.

Barbara Wilson

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Odd Job Man

Sorry - this one got away

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