The austerity factor

Therapy, just like anything else in life, works for some and not for others. To quote a close friend “we all muddle through”, life that is. For some it is easier than others and those with fewer resources, financial and otherwise, it becomes more an existence than living. An opportunity to share those difficulties can sometimes be halfway to finding a solution. Alexander Zeldin’s poignant and topical play, Faith, Hope and Charity (National Theatre) is the closest I have come to experiencing a goldfish bowl therapy session on stage.
The setting is a pretty dilapidated day centre which caters for the needs of its local neighbourhood, all of whom have a range of difficulties to overcome. The primary purpose for their visit is a welcome hot home-cooked meal and for some an opportunity to sing in the local community choir, the latter of which is a safe and uplifting form of pseudo-therapy. Ask anybody who sings in a choir. Cecelia Noble is Hazel, the mollifying matriarch in charge who must grapple with all their foibles and idiosyncrasies, as well as their turbulent lives. She exudes understanding and kindness, mindful of “there but for the grace of god go I”. There are several periods of silence, sometimes interrupted by emotional outbursts that occasionally have a threat of violence. Yet underneath all the surface heart ache and pain is a tenderness that pervades many such communities. It is a truism that in difficulty people find their humanity and togetherness and this group definitely are “all in it together”.
Zeldin also directs, or more appropriately choreographs, as the movements of each of the characters, singularly and as an ensemble, are regimented. It is painful to watch and the harsh, unforgiving neon lighting by Marc Williams, something akin to those blazing lamps used in operating theatres, accentuate the feeling of a community in the spotlight and under extreme duress. Any politician wanting to gain an understanding of what austerity means, and its multi-faceted impact, could do worse than see this profoundly moving play. A goldfish bowl insight well worthy of your time.
Meanwhile Diana Aganthou joins in the retro fun…
Young Josh (Jamie O’Connor) can’t wait to grow up, soon after which he will get together with his true love, Cynthia (Christie-Lee Crossan) and escape from a domineering mom (Wendi Peters). Then real adult life and fun will begin! If only it were that easy. Welcome to Big, The Musical (Dominion Theatre), David Shire and Richard Maltby Jr’s musical adaptation of the 1988 movie starring Tom Hanks.
There was such a nice vibe in the theatre with Girls Allowed and Wanted fans ‘bigging up’ the leads. They all have good Americans accents and the songs and dance routines are smart, well performed, helping to move the story along. The stage transitions are perfect, and the piano scene is incredibly realised, even if the dance steps weren’t completely in sync with the keys lighting up. A shame bit it didn’t deter from the enjoyability. The scene with the Sultan is spooky and the transition from big Josh to little Josh is really well done. Overall, I think this complimented the film, being fun, scary and magical and well worth a visit…big time!
Finally, Marcos Christou continues his Prom odyssey…
Having attended one Prom I couldn’t wait for the next. Prom 58 (Albert Hall) had the Scottish Symphony Orchestra central stage, conducted by Ilan Volkov. It began with Nuages, a world premiere by Canadian composer Linda Catlin Smith. Long expansive chords, seemingly atonal; an atmospheric soundscape. Not an easy piece to hear or play but the orchestra were brilliant. Then we had Janáček’s The Fiddlers Child, a complete contrast to the opening, a beautiful piece based on Hungarian folk I believe which tells a story (very well) and the solo violinist was a picture of joy and virtuosic playing. Then I became distracted by a fracas in the arena, so moving on…
Szymanowski’s The Love Songs of Hafiz was a gem with Georgia Jarman, the soprano, singing superbly and the audience responded enthusiastically. Finally, Tchaikovsky’s magnificent Symphony No.2, nicknamed ‘The little Russian’ because Tchaikovsky took three Ukrainian folk songs and used them in this symphony. The finale was especially wonderful. Volkov really allowed the orchestra to shine, no histrionics, a craftsman who happily played second fiddle to the musicians. An eclectic concert splendidly executed.

Faith, Hope and Charity – 020 7452 3000
Big – 0345 200 7982

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