Thursday, 8 November 2007

More Entertainment!

My previous column on Entertainment....

....attracted several comments so a sequel seems like a logical idea.

I had the pleasure of attending three shows recently, and here are some random thoughts…

Ken Dodd at the Darlington Civic Theatre (11th October)

I’d wanted to see the comedy legend from Knotty Ash for some time but somehow never got around to it until now. As one of the very last links of the golden years of Music Hall, and as man of rather advanced years, I was pleased to take the opportunity of experiencing his famous show on his return to the North East.

Needless to say, the jokes came thick and fast from the second he appeared on the stage. After a very long time he took a small break to allow Sybie Jones to come on and sing some songs. The he came back for what I assumed would be his second and final half. However, as he left the stage again around 10.15 p.m., he announced he would be back shortly for… the second half!

The audience were finally able to take an un-numbing bum break. Shortly afterwards the second half was opened by Andy Eastwood (‘a one man musical festival!’) who excelled on the ukulele and gave a short but extremely energetic performance.

Then Ken Dodd appeared again and somehow managed to keep the jokes coming until the astonishingly late hour of 12.35! I always knew he had a reputation for running somewhat over time, with his desire to tickle the funny bones of the nation and deliver serious value for money, but for a show to last for over five hours (he first took to the stage at 7.30) is quite extraordinary.

Unfortunately, such an approach does rather break one of the Golden Rules: ‘always leave the audience wanting more’. After such a lengthy session, members of the audience were rather tired and shuffling in their seats. The first half had been well paced and genuinely very funny but the audience could have done with a break at the normal time; 10.15 was really too late.

Nevertheless, if you haven’t ever seen Ken Dodd you really should make the effort next time he’s around. Just be warned: the talk of his ability to overrun is severely under- rather than over-stated.

T-Rextasy at the Billingham Forum (4th November)

It’s now 30 years since Marc Bolan died in the infamous car accident; he would have been 60 now and no doubt still strutting his stuff. How he’d have loved playing in the massive stadiums and how easily he would have projected himself to thousands at a time!

I was intrigued by the prospect of seeing T-Rextasy in action. Billed as the best there is - the brochure features admiring quotes from all and sundry - just how much like the real thing could they be? Or was it all just hype?

Well, from the second the lights went up and Marc Bolan look-alike and sound-alike Danielz introduced the show I doubt there was a single person in the audience who couldn’t suspend their disbelief just slightly and feel themselves being transported to the height of the 1970s. Surely this really was Marc before our very eyes!

Danielz really does have to be seen to be believed. Through an evening of pomp, swagger, strut and stomp he gave perfect renditions of the finest T-Rex ever had to offer, augmented by a selection of rarer tracks. We were treated to the lot, from electric versions of ‘Debora’ and ‘One Inch Rock’ all the way through the ‘Jeepster’, ‘Metal Guru’ et al to the ‘Hot Love’ finale.

In addition to Danielz, T-Rextasy featured Nigel Silk on drums, Neil Cross on guitar and Paul Marks on bass. They are clearly all very talented musicians in their own right.

You don’t even need to be a fan of Glam Rock to enjoy this show. It’s lively, loud and a whole lot of fun.

Keep an eye on their website for updates of tours and other news.

Dad’s Army: The Lost Episodes at the Darlington Civic Theatre (5th November)

What an excellent idea! To recreate two of the three episodes missing from the BBC archive on stage with a full and impressive cast…who wouldn’t be interested in seeing such a show?

For the first time since the episodes themselves vanished without trace, it is now possible to see ‘A Stripe for Frazer’ (in which the abrasive Scot is temporarily promoted to lance corporal) and ‘Loneliness of the Long-Distance Walker’, (Private Walker finally gets called up to the regular army…is this the end of his spiv days?) together with two classic episodes, ‘Room at the Bottom’ (Captain Mainwaring is stripped of his pips and becomes a Private) and ‘The Deadly Attachment’ (the best remembered one of all, with the U-Boat Captain and with ‘Don‘t tell him Pike!’ one of the classic lines).

With Peter Martin and Leslie Grantham heading the cast as Captain Mainwaring and Private Walker respectively, the show was a great success. It took only a little while to grow accustomed to the slightly different portrayals of the characters we’ve known for so long.

David Warwick captured the voice and body language of Sergeant Wilson perfectly and Kern Falconer, as Private (‘We’re doomed!’) Frazer, was an almost perfect facsimile of his TV counterpart but nobody let the side down.

The retro-style official brochure was a nice touch too, with plenty of replicated wartime memorabilia in addition to full details of the cast.

If the show is a success wherever it goes (which I’m sure it will be) then there is clearly much scope for more tours and the adaptation of further classic episodes.

More shows soon - more reviews too!

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