The DCH Blog
Kiss me, Figaro! - a review - Friday 7th March 2014
The Merry Opera Company have performed in Diss several times, and on each occasion they manage to ring the changes – always presenting something new and frequently inspired, their shows always have an infectious joy and warm-hearted appreciation for the opera they seek to promote.
Kiss Me Figaro is perhaps their most ambitious production yet, both in its themes and its production. It’s a convoluted meta-show, using pieces from opera (most notably Puccini’s La Boheme and Donizetti's The Elixir of Love, to drive forward the story of romance within a touring opera company.
Though all acquitted themselves well, the major honours must go to Joe Morgan and Kristine Finnigan, both captivating every time they sung. Finnigan proved she could act as well as sing, as did Matthew Quirk as her estranged husband. Quirk, whose comic timing was a revelation, was the lynchpin for the sometimes wayward narrative. And a special mention for Tom Lowe – I am always puzzled that he isn’t given more to do in productions. When given his moment in the sun, he always blasts it out and is surely one of their most gifted performers.
At times, the 20th century music sat uneasily with the operatic numbers, but a mash up of styles is what the company is about, and as juke box musicals go, John Ramster has done well to integrate so many popular numbers into his storyline. This is an accessible, clever and relentlessly inventive show that can be enjoyed by newcomers to opera and buffs alike.
By David Vass
Le Week-End (15) - A pre-screening review - Sunday 2nd March 2014
It’s ironic that a film set in France, home to the auteur theory, should be so much more the writer’s film, than the director’s. Roger Michell handles his duties well enough, but this is Hanif Kureishi’s distinctively acerbic take on life. At times, the observations of the film, and characters he has created, are so casually cruel and wickedly truthful, those of a similar generation will surely have to look away.
This is a film about real people, in all their spiky, funny, nasty, petulant, messy glory and (like the life it mirrors), no easy answers are offered. It centres on a complex and contrary couple that need the acting skills of Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan to be bearable. Even so, they are difficult people to share time with, and it’s just at the right time that Jeff Goldblum enters the mix, surprisingly and effectively underplaying his role. A lesser film might have used a chance encounter to set up a tiresome resolution, but Kureishi is too smart for that, and too keen to keep his story grounded.
This is a brainy film for third agers, and the very antithesis of the glut of cosy mush coming out for the 50+ generation at the moment. That said, it ends on a moment so blissfully evocative that only a face made of stone could avoid smiling in rueful recognition.
By David Vass
Courtney Pine - House of Legends Tour - Saturday 1st March 2014
In the last 20 years, no one has done more to transform the British jazz scene than Courtney Pine, broadening its appeal to a wider audience. He broadened it as far as Diss on Saturday, in a transformative set of astonishing virtuosity.
Playing music from his latest album, House of Legends, Courtney divided his time between the soprano sax and the bizarre EWI. This oxymoronic electric wind instrument showcased Pine’s dexterity and creativity in equal measure. He seemed to delight in playing a live mix of different sounds on top of each other, and then undercut any suggestion of pretension by switched the instrument to emit the sound of bagpipes or play “Pop goes the Weasel”. It was typical of Pine’s good humour – here is a man comfortable with his own excellence, yet grounded in an honest love of his music. Cameron Pierre on guitar was perhaps first among equals, but in truth the whole band was uniformly excellent, allowing Pine the freedom to roam musically, and then towards the end of the set, physically.
Nonchalantly wandering off stage, he proceeded to take his sax for a walk around the Corn Hall, shaking hands and dancing with folk, and all the while playing. It was a typically warm and inclusive gesture. When he asked the crowd to stand for the final few numbers, there was a palpable sense of release. The audience eagerly jumped up, and was soon swaying and clapping and cheering with unmitigated approval for this world class performer.
Review by David Vass, photograph by Lucy Kayne