Part of the
Wells Maltings Project
Registered Charity no. 1139767
Just a few of our Previous Productions
Live theatre, well done, gives the most wonderful ‘pick-me-up’ possible. Even a mannered, small-scale production such as Rocket Theatre’s ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’. An adaptation and arrangement of Oscar Wilde’s slightly sinister short story, provided a glorious evening’s entertainment for the smallish audience on Thursday evening at Wells Granary Theatre.
Who are Rocket Theatre?  I’d never heard of them before, but this superb two-man show introduced me to  pair of extraordinary gifted showmen from Manchester. Martin Harris, adaptor and author of this show, played, mostly, Lord Arthur himself, while Chris Bridgman put on a spectacular show-of-shows, playing all sorts of characters, from sundry duchesses, ladies, shopkeepers, aged matrons, as well as his principal role: Middlewick the butler. With just the finest slight turn of his lips, he instantly became – well, every one else.
A combination of fin-de-siecle melodrama, Wilde’s fine wit, slapstick and a bit of audience involvement which was tender, funny and altogether acceptable made this evening thoroughly pleasurable. A respect for Wilde combined with a pinch of ingenious impunity made this production memorable. Hopefully, the reputation of Rocket Theatre will spread and spread and they shall return.

Carla Phillips
Rocket Theatre

It’s impossible to define good comedy. A sense of freedom, anarchic thought, improvisation usually lies beneath the surface. Comedy can be cruel and cutting, but for me the most memorable laughs have been provided by a divine sense of silliness: Father Ted; Morecombe and Wise; Tommy Cooper, perhaps…
Patrick Monahan is climbing into this league. His improvisational conversations with a tightly packed house at Wells Granary Theatre on Saturday captivated his audience. Never mean-spirited, filled with imaginative riffs on the meagre information that his audience revealed made us all feel as though we had been dropped into a room filled with glorious eccentricity.
Oh Goodness! This does sound serious and pompous. But after seeing Patrick several times, drinking in his benign wit, watching him enchant these growing audiences, I am convinced that he is very special. Everyone left the show smiling. He is now on tour in the region.
I don’t need to say more than this.

                                  Carla Phillips
‘Shooting From the Lip’
An evening with

It was the first time that Mervyn appeared at the Granary but we’re all very much hoping that it won’t be the last.

Non-stop laughter and applause for the whole show, great music and hilarious comedy ideally suited to an audience of “a certain age” but the younger members of the audience were drawn in by his talent and were laughing along with the rest of us.  I certainly had tears of laughter more than once during the evening.

Very funny, very talented and no bad language, a superb evening’s entertainment.

Mervyn was  a pleasure to deal with, a lovely man - he will be welcome back any time.

                                   Lynne Andrews
A young string quartet on stage. Two women, two men: Bertie, Esme, Ed and Midge, playing, singing, dancing – tearing one’s heart out with sheer joy at their exuberance, ability, enthusiasm and sense of fun.
Bowjangle triumphed at Wells Granary Theatre last (Wednesday) night. Their first act , the ‘Bowlympics’ recapped last summer’s national ‘fix’ with their unique musical parody, taking in the torch bearing, fencing, tennis, rowing, gymnastics, boxing, even synchronised swimming. The audacity and imagination which went into these sketches, coupled with their fine musicianship captivated all.
The group had come to Wells for a workshop with students from Alderman Peel High School. Sponsored by Eastern Arts, this evening’s entertainment was a welcome bonus. What a pleasure to see so many new young faces in the audience!
The second act recapped some of the popular numbers they’ve done in the past as well as a preview of part of their new show which they’ll be performing at Cromer Pier as part of this autumn’s Coast    
 Carla Phillips
O'shea and O'gaukroger
Two charming young women, Tess O’Shea and Marina Gaukroger, actors and comediennnes, presented a light and stylish selection of skits, ‘A Comedy of Careers’ at Wells Granary Theatre, Friday evening.

Using the format of modern  ‘reality’ style comedy (Think Ricky Gervais rather than Joyce Grenfell) they showed us a few of the career options open to them: insensitive film directors destroying their actors, a martial arts instructor baffling her pupil. They mimed and sang engagingly.

Both of the performers are clever and the well-paced interaction between them is reminiscent of that between French and Saunders in the early days. They are musical and move well. But I felt that this particular evening was underwhelmingly brief – thin, even – and yet, in the hope of seeing a fruition of their undoubted talent, I would certainly go and see their next show
Carla Phillips
Have you ever got to a certain point of your life (middle-age) when you fancy a change?

Some of our readers will have been there and ‘The Last of the Red Hot Lovers’ by Neil Simon, as performed by Theatrical Niche Company nailed these particular moments fairly and squarely at Wells Granary Theatre on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Long-time married Barney, brilliantly played by Graeme Henderson, longs for an affair. Trapped in his humdrum life as a restaurateur, married to his childhood sweetheart, he’s borrowed his mother’s apartment for a tryst. Only, the gods aren’t with him. His first efforts with frnak and voracious Elaine, his second efforts with ditsy Bobbi, and finally, his last attempt with ‘safe’ old friend Jeanette all end dismally. Gauche and awkward at first, later slightly more streetwise, all Barney’s efforts seem doomed. Why?

This wonderful play, on the surface the epitome of a smooth, successful popular comedy suggests – as all good comedy does- that there are some penetrating questions about why we long for change in our lives. Just whom are we fooling? And this particular theatre company is fantastic. The astonishingly good Graeme Henderson as a funny, pathetic but street smart suitor is first rate, as are his three prospective partners: Venetia Twigg, Rachel Fletcher-Hudson and Alice Knapton. Directed, with panache, by James Williams, this is a company to follow.
Theatrical Niche Co
 Carla Phillips

Let’s get the minor disadvantages and drawbacks out of the way first!
‘The Turn of the Screw’, an opera by Benjamin Britten written in 1954 is usually performed with a full orchestra on a proper stage. Sets are not usually ‘L’ shaped contraptions shifted around every ten minutes or so by very fit cloth-capped ladies of a certain age. And, the cast isn’t usually all women.
But, at Wells Granary Theatre, played to a full house, Thursday night, performed by an all woman cast, accompanied by a piano, this was a notable, fascinating, beautifully sung and staged production.
The spookiness of the plot (originally a Henry James story) was augmented by the emphasis on the moral ambiguities of all the characters. The new governess is overly eager to impress the man who has hired her to care for his orphaned charges, too willing to acquiesce in his desire not to have anything whatever to do with these children. The housekeeper in charge of the hall is morally obtuse, possibly wilfully stupid. The children’s corruption is evident from the start.
Ghostly Quinn, diabolical ex valet is played, in mime, by Marina Tossi as well as ably sung by Susie Self, conducted and co-director of  Seastar Opera. This double act is powerful and effective. The ghostly ex-governess, clothed in vivid red, in contrast to the other muted costumes, is strong and potent.
Singing of all the cast is sensational. Perhaps this space may be too intimate for the sheer power of these beautiful voices – no matter, this was an occasion too enjoyable to quibble about.

Carla Phillips
Seastar Opera
D.O.T. Productions

Other than Shakespeare’s plays, classic dramas which require good diction, clarity of purpose, careful staging, seldom come to small venues such as Wells Granary theatre. Last year DOT Productions brought us their wonderful ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ and on Saturday evening we had their take on ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ played to a very nearly full house,
Oscar Wilde’s first dramatic success, his first comedy was a strong satire of Victorian ‘morality’ (read hypocrisy for this!). Wit, intelligence and a gossamer plat, basically a French farce played for real, done by a sparkling set of accomplished actors, it was ably directed by Greg Whitehead.
The unravelling and re-stitching up of reputations, moral standards, truthfulness within a rigid and decadent society were faithfully portrayed. \Sets, costumes, lighting – all customised to suit any sort of venue, were well done. Lucky Wells, to have such wonderful theatre!
Carla Phillips
The genius of Noel Coward was showcased on Friday night in front of a full house at the Granary Theatre.

One can use Coward’s own words to describe this show; “Charming, Charming” and certainly “A Talent to Amuse” would both be apt for this brilliant production from four very talented performers.

John Knowles dry humour and excellent timing, the singing and comedic talents of Helen McDermott and Adrian Wright, aligned with the superb piano playing of Annette Jude all added up to a most pleasurable evening which ensured that the audience all departed with a smile on their faces.  

Coward wrote the song “Ninety Minutes is Long, Long Time.”  For the audience on Saturday, it was not long enough.

Lynette Andrews
Must Close Productions
Andrew Meller
In Beyond Eternity’s ‘Tales from the Shadows’, once more Andrew Meller has brought his consummate acting skills to retelling two of Edgar Allan Poe’s great stories, totally captivating his audience last Friday night at Wells Granary Theatre.
Ordinary features, set in an egg like dome of a head, conventionally dressed, sitting in an armchair surrounded by books and a few candles, it’s difficult to completely explain his mastery of the art of storytelling, but in his presence these two popular tales, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘The Black Cat’ once more thrill and terrify an ordinary audience.
Some of the best shows I’ve seen, in all the years I’ve been to this theatre in all its incarnations, have been one-man shows. The enchantment of succumbing to the spell of a master storyteller cannot be underestimated.

Carla Phillips
Eyestrings Theatre Company
It’s a big ‘ask’ to imagine oneself in a world where it would be acceptable to murder one’s highborn relation because she has chosen a mate of lower status. But, such was the Jacobean world of John Webster, a world steeped in revenge, jealousy,  superstition, gore.
Written 400 years ago, ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ is a young widow who secretly marries a many of low rank, thus provoking the murderous rage of her two brothers: Duke Ferdinand and the Cardinal. Violent, corrupt, lecherous, these two conspire and bring everything down.
This version of a difficult play, by ‘Eyestrings Theatre Company’ at Wells Granary Theatre on Sunday evening was remarkable. Performed straight through, without an intermission, on a nearly bare stage (chairs flying on occasion) by a stunning cast in modern dress, these were young actors who spoke difficult, sometimes archaic lines clearly and articulately, giving full weight to the poetic diction.
The sinister, lurid emotional weight contained within this drama stole gradually upon the rapt audience. The virtuous and radiantly beautiful young Duchess, the focus of the drama, was wonderfully played by Beatrice Walker. The rest of the cast were equally fine. The nearly full house greatly appreciated this stunning performance.
Carla Phillips
Ellipsis is a punctuation sign (…) which implies continuation. It’s a nice name for a musical group, a trio composed of Robert Manasse, flute; Melanie Ragge, oboe and Susanna Stranders, piano, joined by Susie Self, mezzo soprano, whom we know from ‘Turn of the Screw’ and other musical events.
The concert took place at Wells Granary on Sunday afternoon, was well attended and clearly delighted an audience hungry for classical music performed to a high standard.
Mostly music by Britten, starting with the Six Metamorphoses for unaccompanied oboe, based on Greek myth, with readings from Ovid followed by accomplished solo playing. Britten’s ‘Phaedra’, his last vocal work, originally performed by Dame Janet Baker, was sung powerfully by Susie Self, and there were also trios , one by boroque composer Joachim Grantz as well as a lighthearted  pastiche of Poulenc by Madeleine Dring.
The standard was high indeed, the theatre nearly full, acoustics wonderful and the music thoroughly enjoyed.

Carla Phillips
Dean Taylor
An unusual show, ‘The Actor’s Apology’ by John Cargill Thompson is  based on a real  18th century figure; it is a monologue of actor George Frederick Cooke, summoned byu his audience to explain and apologise for his drunnkeness on stage, during his portrayal of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’. A monologue, a great study of historical theatre,  we are given a glimpse into the insecurities and obsessions which both feed and destroy actors. Dean Taylor, a fine actor, well acquainted with Shakespearean theatre today throughout the country, gave a masterful lesson in portraying this  remote figure from our thespian past, as well as giving us a taste of the old style (slightly fruity) performers of times past. For those old enough – think Donald Wolfit).
This play written some years ago, was bequeathed by its deceased author to Taylor, who has started touring with it.  It’s a fine and engrossing work, well presented and even though Wells Granary was only half full on Friday evening,  it was enthusiastically appreciated.
Carla Phillips
Beyond Eternity
Carla Phillips
Amidst all commemorations of the First World War, spare a thought for Toc H, clubs which were havens for all sorts and ranks of soldiers. Starting up in a small Belgium town, only miles from the front, in a large abandoned residence,  re-Chirstened Talbot House, these centres spread to other parts of the front, then into France, the Netherlands, and eventually, world wide. Subtitled ‘A Home Away From Home’, ‘Talbot House’ was a two man show, telling this tale, performed at Wells Granary Theatre on Saturday night. Written by Peter Gill and performed by him along with Iain Barton, this was a combination of historical reconstruction, complete with singalongs of these homely refuges which included places to kip for the night, enjoy simple teas and meals, recreation rooms, and a small chapel. This effective, affectionate and moving tribute was thoroughly professional  - well worth seeing.

fEast Theatre
First of all, for those who wince and moan about that horrid ‘mummerset’ accent which ‘furrin’ actors assume will do, when asked to speak like us,, local ears are in for a treat. Rob John’s ‘The Canada Boys’, from ‘feast theatre on tour’ features actors who talk ‘proper Norfolk.- They du!’
The play tells us about a little known piece of local history, telling of Colman Mustard’s expansion into Canadian agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century. Norwich factory workers were recruited and trained, then sent overseas to the new world.
Two brothers working in the Norwich factory are the protagonists of the play. Eddie, the older, cares for his widowed, ailing mother. Younger Jack, more rebellious, more questioning, dreams of wider horizons, inspired by Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild’.
When the opportunity for leaving England arises at work, he reaches for it. But this is complicated by his growing attachment for a young woman, a co-worker at the factory. And when steady Eddies responsibilities alter, his desires change as well.
Delicately, yet amusingly, the play explores the fluidity of these relationships and ambitions. Acted beautifully by Owen Evans, Robin McLoughlin, Tabitha Woodgett and Dawn Finnerty, the play was written and directed by Rob John. It was warmly appreciated by a full house at Wells Granary theatre on Sunday evening,
For the rest of this week, it will appear at various Norfolk venues – it’s not to be missed.

Carla Phillips
Patrick Monahan
On Friday evening at Wells Granary Theatre, the couple sitting next to me said it all. “We saw Patrick Monahan in Edinburgh and Peterborough. Noticing that he was appearing in Wells, we chose a weekend break with this in mind.”
There are very few other comedians who possess the daft charm and good humour of Patrick. Nourished by his audience, whom he will have interacting with each other as well as himself, he weaves a magic spell, including riffs on courting, the latest surveys on human happiness, how to dance and cake. A strange mixture but very enticing. Each time I see him there is something new and funny.
As usual the nearly full theatre loved him, as ever. He’ll be back in this region again- not to be missed.
Carla Phillips
Day Star Theatre
Day Star Theatre is made up of two people – the immensely talented Peter and Jane Marshall. They come from the Midlands and have appeared many times at Wells Granary Theatre through the years. Starting out living on a canal longboat, which their plays reflected, they now live on land, and their productions now reflect this experience.
The plays are all written by Peter. The couple compose the entire cast. As there are several roles to play, the scripts (as well as the actors) must exhibit considerable style and ingenuity . ‘A Bad Penny’, their latest, played at Wells Granary Theatre last Saturday. This was a glimpse of the past: 1964, when even the most remote, stuck-in-the-mud hamlet was touched by the arrival of rock music.
From the ultra-reactionary Colonel’s wife, ensconced in the ‘dower house’ to the local GP and his receptionist wife- from the tipsy cleaning lady to the newly arrived, faintly trendy vicar, the locals aqre all shook up when a pop band rents the nearby  crand estate. The band’s manager seems slightly familiar to some of the locals, but one cannot be sure.
The plot is amusing, clever, ingenious. The acting, as ever, is deft. Dark Star is one of the quirkiest, most watchable touring companies around.
Carla Phillips
Aggressive, coarse, vulgar language, tasteless drunken behaviour, meaningless fights – there’s enough here to strike alarm into many theatregoers. But, ‘Love Steals Us From Loneliness’. A play by Gary Owen, performed at Wells Granary Theatre on Saturday night, was a quite thoughtful take on some teenagers’ night out in Yarmouth. Performed by a mixture of drama graduates and students from Norwich City College, their energy and tender sensitivity made this an interesting and original evening.
In the first act, in which the ‘action’ from a crummy night club has spilled over into the neighbouring graveyard,  young and attractive Catrin and Scott alternately moan about each other and their companions. Behind the foul language and gross behaviour we gradually recognise two confused but gentle young people.
The second act, years later, reflects upon the consequences of that evening, widening the cast to include parents, siblings, friends. The acting is fine; the two principals in the first part, Nick Fretwell and Cora O’Connell are worthy of mention – as indeed are the rest of the cast. There were very few long moments in this play, excepting, maybe, some excruciating        
Carla Phillips
Baroque Theatre
Ludicrous! Ludicrous! Ludicrous is really ludicrous! Yes, we’re in the world of ‘Up Pompeii, in the Roman, pre-volcanic household of Ludicrus Sextus. Grand Commentator, head slave Lurcio (the part Frankie Howard once played) is running rings around the rest of the household. As they all engage in romantic, sexual mischief within and without the Sextus family , they were merrily portrayed by the Baroque Theatre Company on Friday and Saturday evenings at Wells Granary Theatre.
It’s part of a countrywide tour which will be appearing at several venues in our area: Norwich, Lowestoft, Bungay and Yarmouth – so I am giving you advance notice. Book now!
Written by Miles Tredinnick, based on Talbot Rothwell and Sid Colin’s scripts from the BBC comedies, complicated liasons are deftly re-enacted by the charming Baroque troupe. Produced by Claire Bibby (one of the principal actresses), directed by Adam Morley, the cast's professionalism and charisma shines forth. The pace is swift and there are even some impromptu and improvisational gags. Sexiness, silliness and farce are wonderful, winning requisites for a good night out.
Carla Phillips
In Voices & Verse
Perhaps the majority of the population may have been sweating it out in sympathy, watching the ‘boys’ in Manaus, Brazil last Saturday. But, Wells Granary Theatre was at least half full, with their own bit of patriotism – ‘Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits.’ Performed by a concert trio, ‘In Voices and Verse’: Lance Pierson, actor; Belinda Yates, singer and Heather Chamberlain, accompanist – all in costume, celebrated the Bard’s birthday in a simple, charming anthology of famous speeches, poems and songs. An uncomplicated but pleasing show, the audience soon warmed to the demonstration of good live theatre and its abilities to warm up hearts.

Now, it was neither gory nor profound nor even difficult to fathom. The filmed projections of the speeches, with little translations of archaic or difficult phrases helped.  Good singing and keyboards, accomplished acting, - a gentle celebration of Englishness.
Carla Phillips
Theatre Company
Freerange Theatre Company is well-known in the Midlands.  On Friday evening, Wells Granary theatre-goers had a welcome opportunity to sample their skill.  Two original short plays written by Jon Brittain were performed by an outstanding pair of actors: Adam Urey and Rebecca Fenwick.

Directed by Hugo Chandor, the first play,
'Philippa and Will are Now in a Relationship', recounted a very modern Facebook romance. Students, Philippa and Will, in a series of Facebook entries, tweets, and phone calls, all complete with emoticons and other trashy symbols narrate their terribly commonplace university romance,  complete with the presence of a large computer screen which gives the time and date of their interchanges.  Their screen and mobile phone affair, freely available to any onlookers, was a deliciously up-to-date episode of satiric cruelty.

The second act,
'The Wake' was a bravura piece of acting as well as writing.  The novelette-ish death of a famous actor (hammy-variety), his mixed up family, adulteries, etc is an exposition of great skill of language and acting.  By the simple device of having the two actors assuming all roles, swiftly and arbitrarily switching from character to character, often mid-sentence, reality is transformed.  This experience was exhilarating enough to make this play a comment upon the true      
Carla Phillips
DOT Productions
DOT Productions has ‘history’ in taking classic plays, often seldom performed, and presenting them in a straightforward format.- no ‘Macbeth’ with a cast clad in bin bags, here! This manner of presentation often does more to point out modern relevences.
‘School For Husbands’  by Moliere was put on Saturday night at Wells Granary Theatre. A four hundred year old comedy, first performed at the court of Louis XIV, it’s about two brothers, guardians to a pair of sisters. The brothers are both in love with their wards. The elder, worldly wise, laissez-faire, is permissive with his ward. Younger brother, Sganarelle, beautifully played by Andrew Lindfield, is an obsessive, domineering control freak.
Which way works is the subject of this ebullient comedy. Acted wonderfully – the women were delightful and the willowy, loopy movements of Adam Elliott, cast both as a suitor and a lady’s maid, never failed to delight the audience. They sang well, moved gracefully and were well directed by Alex Howarth. The nearly full house loved it all.
There’s so much dross on telly these days, that when a fine live company like DOT is in your neighbourhood, why slump on the sofa at home?
Carla Phillips
Seastar Opera
Carla Phillips
Carla Phillips
Must Close
Alighting at venues all round Norfolk and the rest of East Anglia, ‘Flopsical, a celebration of musical flops’ played at the Granary Theatre to an appreciative audience.
Devised, written, directed by Adrian Wright (also the principal male lead), with Helen McDermott and Susie Turner, aided by John Knowles and accompanied by pianist Annette Judd, we were given a soufflé-light selection of songs from failed musical shows. Some of these songs were as silly as the shows probably were; it was a wonder that they ever reached the stage. But many were fine but sank with their shows only to be reprieved and put into something which was more successful on stage. The cast performed beautifully. All together, this was true entertainment – a fine confection indeed!
Carla Phillips
Rejection, then reconciliation are underlying motifs in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’, her last {and finest} novel, adapted for the theatre by Adrian Preater of Hotbuckle Productions. The silly snobbishness of Anne Elliot’s father and his peers has destroyed her prospects of marriage to a man she truly cared for. Years later, he returns to her neighbourhood, a successful sea  captain. Single, put-upon, her fresh charms somewhat faded, all is altered.
This wonderful tale, ably acted by a company of four, enthralled a full house at Wells Granary Theatre on Friday night. From the start, with sedate music, competently played by the actors, to the adaptable but period dress, to the simple set – four long screens, three graceful chairs- all was perfect. Emily Lockwood played Anne, our heroine, and Peter Randall, Clare Harlow and author-impresario Adrian Preater  conveyed the wide variety of personalities within this complex narrative. They all delighted and moved a spellbound audience.
Nothing can beat live theatre when it is as good as this!
Carla Phillips
Nowadays, many wonderful plays are transmitted live by screen to local venues; we can enjoy the National Theatre and the National Youth Theatre this way. However, nothing can match that special thrill of being in a live theatre, watching real people perform. There are still many good professional touring companies, which  fetch up locally, which give us that special pleasure, a live performance.
Take4 Box Tail Soup, a Creative Arts East sponsored company: two performers writing their own scripts, making their props, designing their sets and costumes. On Saturday evening they performed their adaption of M.R.James’ ‘Casting The Runes’ at Wells Granary Theatre. Music, singing, puppetry, eerie lighting effects added to the considerable skills of Noel Byrne, playing a sceptical professor bent on debunking the supernatural, and Antonia Byrne playing everyone else.
The audience was spellbound. What more can be said about this adaptation of a classic scary tale?
Carla Phillips
Carla Phillips
Eastern Angles
Carla Phillips
fEast Theatre
Wartime 1942; the first American B24 heavy bombers arrived in Norfolk. Life in this county changed forever; stories of these times still reverberate – every Norfolk family has its own ‘take’ on this friendly invasion.
‘Parachute’, a wonderful play by Rob John, tells of the impact of Yank Navigator Jimmy Finch, handsome, confident, brash, upon one Norfolk farmer and his family. From chewing gum and doughnuts to Swing Band music, from constant aircraft noise to romance, effects are profound.
There was a full house at Wells Granary Theatre for Thursday evening’s performance of this play. The audience was enthralled by the fine production,ably directed by its author. The cast (from last year’s strong ‘Canada Boys’) were outstanding, Norfolk accents good. Owen Evans (one of the ‘Nimmo Twins’} sensitively conveyed a familiar mixture of taciturn awkwardness and friendly trust as the father. Dawn Finnerty, playing his wife and Tabitha Woodgett, his slightly slow, dreamy daughter were also terrific, as was Robin McLoughlin, the Yank, whose accent did not grate too much upon the ears of this hypercritical American native.
fEast Theatre Company, partly helped by Creative Arts East as well as the county council, must be praised for helping this great local company to bring original, relevant and vibrant theatre to our spread out region. It will be appearing near you! Don’t miss it!
Carla Phillips
Baroque Theatre Co
Carla Phillips
Broad Horizons
Theatre  Company
Carla Phillips
Lewis Schaffer
Carla Phillips
Stuff of Dreams
Theatre  Company
From Victorian times onward, Burnham Market was notorious for its famous poisoners – two village women and the lover of one of them. Each of the women had abetted the other in the deaths of their husbands (a sort of a ‘Strangers on a Train’ scenario), They were all convicted and executed. Their death masks are still visible at Norwich Castle Museum and there have been many dramatic accounts of the wicked ways, followed by their trials and hanging.
‘The Poisoners’ Pact , a new play by Tim Lane and Cordelia Spence, based on these events, was performed Friday evening at Wells Granary Theatre. A modern ‘take’ on these melodramatic crimes, this astonishing mixture of song, dance, black comedy, a recipe or two of domestic advice and ironic commentary, it was a clever brew – and thoroughly brilliant. Acted, sung, danced, by three splendid actresses: Joanna Swan, Kiara Hawker and Jamie Rose Monk, with some guitar accompaniment by co-author, and composer, Tim Lane, once more ‘The Stuff of Dreams’ Company has come up with the goods. The full house roared its approval. I’d happily see this one again!
Carla Phillips
Dean Taylor
A marvellous one-man show, though ill-publicized, ‘Macbeth Speaks’ was an extraordinary monologue by actor and writer Dean Taylor which appeared at Wells Granary Theatre last Saturday evening.
Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’, however brilliant, has little to do with the true story of Macbeth, a 12th century Scots tribal chieftain, whose downfall had little to do with many of the other familiar characters from the play, who  lived centuries later. It probably had more to do with the Tudor politics of his time, and the uneasy relationship between Scotland and England, reflected in contemporary stories and propaganda. (‘Plus ca change’, I can hear you muttering),
Dean Taylor, provocative, powerful storyteller, duly informed us about Macbeth’s rightful history, his religion (different from the Christianity of the 16th century. No matter how startling his first appearance – half blackened eye, strange jacket festooned with tartan ribbons, bare feet – once he fixed his eyes upon the audience, they were well and truly mesmerized. If this show is coming your way, (if there is any decent advance publicity) it’s definitely worth catching.
Carla Phillips
DOT Productions
A sweet, gullible girl, her head filled with frivolous nonsense culled from fantastic, romantic gothic novels, Catherine Morland is the heroine of Jane Austen’s early novel ‘Northanger Abbey’. An adaptation of this novel is the latest production of DOT Productions.
A full house at Wells Granary Theatre fully appreciated the versatile, gorgeous cast of six, playing 10 characters (and a horse!). Anya Hamilton played Catherin well, with a wonderfully expressive face and movement. Lead actor Adam Elliott was enchanted, and enchanting, as were all members of this cast, beautifully costumed, nicely lit, adding charm and warmth to this period romp.
Romance and courtship are constant themes in Jane Austen’s work, tempered by the constraints of late 28th, early 19th century polite society; these are always underpinned by hard financial realities. Just who is going to inherit is always n important question.
Adapted by Bryan Johnston, directed by Craig Gilbert, this production is touring widely. They are always popular and if DOT is coming in your direction, it is worth seeking them out.
Carla Phillips
Seastar Opera Co
When George Gershwin composed his popular musicals, he expected them to be sung by classically trained musicians. Nowadays we associate many of his songs with jazz performances. ‘Hello Mr Gershwin’, a musical ‘travelogue’ performed by Susie Self’s ‘Seastar Opera Company’ restores classical singers’ claims to this music.
Susie Self has form. Masterminding brilliant stagings of Britten’s ‘Turn of the Screw’ two years ago, then last year’s ‘Cosi Fan Tutti’, - why should we expect anything less than the best? This was a sell-out production, with large waiting lists for each of the four performances. Wells Granary theatre was well treated this weekend.
‘Hello’ was a biographical exploration of Gershwin’s life, from humble beginnings as the son of poor Russian-Jewish immigrants in New York to his rapid fame as a composer, followed by his premature death, aged 38, of a brain tumour.
Narrated by Eleanor Hemmens, with acting skills to match her glorious soprano voice, other fine singers included Gregoire Mour,tenor, and soprano Catherine Joule. Singer and conducted Susie Self charmed the audience and dancer-choreographer Molly Frederikse moved beautifully as well as skilfully designing the movements for the entire cast. It is a rare treat to have a very able chorus moving gracefully as they sing.  Musicians accompanying the performance : Michael Finnisy, Richard Watson and Chris Branneck , were accomplished. But, it’s the artistic ability of Susie Self, with her energy, vision and style, which must be saluted. She wrote the play. Cast and conducted it. Sang- including an extraordinary witty melange of Alben Berg and Gershwin, who were good friends.
One of the most interesting musical enterprises in our region, Seastar Opera is worth searching out.
Carla Phillips
The Stuff of Dreams
Theatre Company
Maria Marten, or the Red Barn Murder, was a famous melodrama of the l9th century, based upon a supposedly straightforward murder or a Suffolk village girl by her caddish lover. Now, along comes ‘Love Left Hanging’, an intriguing modern take on this event carefully researched and written by Emma MacLuskey and Cordelia Spence, and the historical details of this crime have altered and upended just what we knew. All the principal characters involved have hinterlands which makes the historic verdict seem – well – not too sound. Maria was not the pure creature we previously thought. Her father was abusive. Her stepmother had been her lover’s ex girlfriend. The travelling fortune telling woman and the louche  pig thief (both key witnesses at the trial) were suspect characters for other reasons…I could go on.
Never mind. On Friday night at Wells Granary Theatre, the Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company showed us various scenarios. The five gifted, capable actors performed different parts each, with distinction and grace, using all means of stagecraft: costumes, music, dance, some puppetry, in an expressive and dynamic way. The audience was bowled over by this performance.
It’s the second time I’ve seen the Stuff of Dreams Company. God willing, it won’t be the last!
Carla Phillips
Sheringham Little Theatre
‘Theatrical Niche’ one week, ‘Seastar Opera’ next week, and in between them, Saturday evening another professional company in a sparkling theatrical production: John Godber’s ‘Teechers’ was performed at Wells Granary Theatre by Sheringham’s summer rep theatre as an ‘awayday’ experiment.

What a lucky audience! They were fully appreciative of the quality of the three marvellous Actors performing their many and varied roles in this wry but funny take on modern education.

Set in what is normally characterised as a ‘bog standard’ comprehensive, it portrays a nearly hermetic society of hormonal adolescence, officious or inadequate adults, mingled with bullies and jobsworths.
This scarily accurate but wildly funny play was ably performed by Ryan Starling, Madeleine Brolly and Sarah Langton. Contemporary education could have no better (though scabrous) commentary.

Brining this production to Wells has been an inspired idea. Here’s hoping it happens again. Meanwhile, try and catch this company at Sheringham’s Little Theatre.
Carla Phillips