Hastings Battleaxe at the theatre, three times in a week!

Have had rather a theatrical week: ‘The Perfect Murder’ at the Devonshire Park in Eastbourne, ‘London Assurance’ at the Stables, Hastings and ‘Carmen’ at the White Rock.
     First, the Eastbourne outing. The play was adapted from the Peter James story by our old friend Shaun McKenna, and he kindly got us free tickets.
     We’d never been to the Devonshire Park before, and what a really beautiful old Victorian theatre it is. In fact, we had an excellent evening – had a meal at a little Italian restaurant nearby, Rosetta’s, which again we’d never been to. Battleaxe would recommend this place -it was friendly and comfortable, the food was good, and reasonably priced.

     So what of the play?  You’d describe it as a comedy thriller. The theatre was full, and the play was very well received by the audience – lots of loud laughing. It is doing very well – this is its second tour this year, with a slightly less sparkling cast than the first round, which featured Les Dennis in the lead role.
     I’ll have to remember that Shaun will be reading this! We had a good, straightforward middle-England evening out, and enjoyed ourselves. It was good, entertaining stuff, and I’d recommend it, but the plot did creak a tiny bit in places – probably due to the difficulties of adapting the original story. I won’t give examples because that might be too spoilerish. However, Philosopher and Battleaxe are notoriously hard to please when it comes to comedy in the theatre – we sat rolling our eyes throughout the blockbuster ‘One Man and Two Guv’nors’ in London, while around us everyone else was rolling in the aisles.
    We should spend evenings in Eastbourne more often. Trouble is, while it is easy to drive back to Hastings later at night, the drive there takes ages through the traffic.  We need to try out a few faded grandeur hotels along the seafront and make a real night of it. I looked up the Grand, but that has far from faded prices.
     Can any readers recommend any other crumbling piles that would suit us? I’ve looked up Tripadviser and several say ‘faded’ and ‘dated’, which is always a good sign to me, but they have to be dated in a good way, not avocado bathrooms complete with mould and dribbling showers. The Hydro? The Lansdowne?  The Chatsworth?
     So, a few days later we popped down the hill to the Stables to see ‘London Assurance’, a reworking of an 1841 Dion Boucicault play by – ‘One Man and Two Guv’nors’ again – Richard Bean.  Oh crikey, if Shaun’s play just had the odd creak, this one was dragging itself along on a zimmer frame.  I had lost the will to live with the plot well before the end.

     It was a pity, because some of the performances were the among the best, and the funniest, I have seen at the Stables. Ian Fairbrass, who played the lead role, is our neighbour’s grand daughter’s drama teacher, and a very capable actor he is too, hamming and camping his part up excellently. Likewise, the comedy lawyer, and Lady Gay Spanker (yes really) a cigar-smoking haw-haw huntswoman.  Those three alone, together with the Stables hard seats, ensured I stayed awake.
     Doing my research for this blog, I saw the reviews for the National Theatre production of this play. The critics all said that the play was weak, but was made a success by the performances of the big-name actors e.g Paul Eddington. It seems to me that for a non-professional theatre group, it is important to choose strong plays that support potentially weaker actors rather than hoping they will have the personal resources to lift a less strong play.
     But whatever, we enjoy our outings to the Stables – it is so handy, and we see people we know in the audience.
     So, to number three – Carmen, performed by Opera South East at the White Rock.  We have been to these before – one, Nabucco, we loved, the other, Madam Butterfly, less so.

Carmen – good programme design

     Fortunately, we loved this one. It was a lively, colourful do. The setting was simple but effective – excellent lighting, and the orchestra was in good form. There were some very strong performers, notably Gemma Morsley as Carmen, although she could have hoisted herself up into a more smouldering cleavage-type outfit,  and Mike Barber as Escamillo. The latter made a confident, bullish toreador.
    Although Opera South-East uses professional singers as principals, the rest are locals, and it was great to see Julia Bovee, daughter of one of our founding WI members, give a really belting performance as Frasquita.
    The theatre was packed, which helps at the White Rock, otherwise it is a bit echoey and barn-like. More people we knew in the audience.
    We ate supper there beforehand, and as I think I’ve said before, the food in the theatre cafe is good, but it is one of the most carb-laden menus I have ever seen – fish finger sandwiches with chips, deep fried scampi and chips, burgers in rolls with chips etc., deep fried onion rings and more chips on the side, treacle sponge for pudding. Does nothing for the Hastings waist-line.
    Anyway, here is Digby interfering in my efforts to photograph the programmes…..

Oh darlings, one is such a theatrical cat

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