We were deeply saddened to learn of the recent death from cancer, aged 82, of LTC’s honorary patron, Dame Diana Rigg, and wish to pass on our sincere condolences to her family and friends.
Diana had been LTC patron since 1997 following the death of Beryl Reid, LTC’s first honorary patron.
Above is a photograph of Diana playing Hedda Gabler alongside Philip Bond, former student of the Burton School of Speech and Drama.
Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born in Doncaster in 1938, the younger of two children of Louis Rigg, a railway worker and his wife, Beryl. She was two months old when her father’s work took the family to Bikaner, in northwest India, and she grew up speaking Hindi as a second language.
At seven she was sent to a boarding school in Buckinghamshire, which she hated, and later attended Fulneck School in Pudsey, West Yorkshire. “Yorkshire really formed my character,” she said. “I get straight to the point and say what I feel. I can’t help it, it’s genetic.” The school discouraged any thoughts of a stage career: “I might as well have said I wanted to go on the game when I told the headmistress I wanted to be an actress,” she recalled. However, she was encouraged by her elocution teacher and, at 16, auditioned successfully for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. "It was a good time to be there", she said. “Sian Phillips was in our year, the year above us were Albert Finney and Peter O’Toole, Susannah York came the year after.”
Her first stage appearance was in a RADA production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the Theatre Royal, York, in 1957. Two years later, after spells modelling clothes and in repertory, she joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, soon to become the Royal Shakespeare Company under Peter Hall. “I was, literally, a spear-carrier,” she said. “I had a walk-on part and watched the likes of Dame Edith Evans and Laurence Olivier who were in the company. What a training.” The 1962 Stratford season was particularly busy. She was Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, Lady Macduff in Macbeth, Adriana in The Comedy of Error and, most notably, Cordelia in Peter Brook’s production of King Lear, with Paul Scofield as the king.
Rigg became a sex symbol overnight, playing Emma Peel, a secret agent in the sixties television series The Avengers. As a dominatrix who sent the villains crashing to the ground with karate-chops and lethal kicks, she proved a perfect foil to the bowler-hatted John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee. That said, her shiny black leather catsuit was “a total nightmare”, taking 45 minutes to get unzipped and was “like struggling in and out of a wetsuit”.
Although Rigg played an eclectic range of screen roles, including Tracy, the only character to marry James Bond (George Lazenby), in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), her heart lay in the theatre, where she got better and better as age gave her performances increasing depth and maturity.
She regarded her Medea, first tackled in 1992, when she was in her mid-fifties, as her supreme achievement. The performance was forged in the modest environment of the Almeida Theatre in Islington, North London, and the cast, who rehearsed in a draughty church hall, were paid the Equity minimum wage. Even after a chorus of critical acclaim, the production struggled to find a West End theatre, but it eventually did and from there went on to New York, with more plaudits for Rigg and a Tony award.
Yet Rigg was never one to take herself or her profession too seriously. Although she served both with intense dedication and great skill, she happily camped it up with Morecambe and Wise, playing Nell Gwyn to Ernie Wise’s Samuel Pepys and Eric Morecambe’s King Charles II on their 1975 Christmas show.
In her seventies she was still driving a Mercedes sports car, smoking 20 a day and partial to Bloody Marys and bottles of Merlot. She turned 80 while playing Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady on Broadway. Her later work included Victoria, in which she played the Duchess of Buccleuch, the role of Lady Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones, a television adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, for which she won an Emmy award as Mrs Danvers, and the BBC mini-series Mother Love, which brought her a Bafta award for best actress.
Rigg married twice, and is survived by her daughter, Rachael Stirling, an actress who starred in Tipping the Velvet and with whom Rigg appeared in a 2013 episode of Doctor Who.
LTC PLAYATHON 2020
It's not just the opportunity of putting on our shows together that has been such a problem for us all in 2020 - it's the inability to simply get together with all our LTC friends. We have been racking our brains, during this strange and stressful time, to think of some way in which we can meet again safely and offer some small opportunity to entertain whilst still adhering to the rules.
So, we have come up with the idea of reviving the LTC Playathon which ran successfully for a number of years 10 to 15 years ago. The concept (for those who cannot remember) is to have a non-stop reading (or singing) of plays, sketches, monologues and songs over a period of 12 hours in the Brewhouse bar area. It’s a bit of a fundraiser too but mainly a chance to meet up again after all these months apart before we start rehearsals for our 2021 shows.
We have booked Saturday 21st November for this event which we still hope will go ahead but, of course, it will only happen if the guidelines allow. So, pop that date in your diaries and we will let you know as soon as possible if it becomes a definite – keep your fingers crossed for us, please.
THEATRE REVIEW - A VIEW FROM THE STALLS CLIFFS!
This was going to be a big year for holidays and trips – a once-in-a-lifetime year with, among other things planned, a cruise around Greece and Italy, a trip to New York (with Broadway tickets in place), tickets to Wimbledon (a first for John), a long weekend in Rome plus the obligatory Spanish break. We were so excited and full of anticipation and then it happened, of course, and one by one all these exciting prospects were cancelled like watching dominoes tumbling in rapid succession.
Never mind, we thought, having been locked away for virtually five months and having worked harder in the day job than ever before in our lives, let's head for Cornwall (or Coronawall as we renamed it) as we always promised to do one day. So, we booked, it didn’t get cancelled this time, and off we went.
We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw that the Minack Theatre had recommenced performances during our stay (thanks Boris) and so, without hesitation, we booked for the play that was showing at the time which was “Stones in his Pockets” by Marie Jones.
Apart from the (what seemed like) 3 feet wide lane that lead to the Minack car park, getting into this spectacular setting was relatively easy (we were both past masters at the old hand sanitiser routine by now and no masks were required. It was all very well organised by the largely volunteer staff and we were soon seated behind a slightly irritating family who were more interested in the vast selection of food and drink they had brought to the proceedings but, never mind, it was theatre after all – something we had been starved of for so many months.
This is the concept of the play; it’s a two-hander set in a small village in rural Ireland which is turned upside down when a major Hollywood film studio descends on it to make a historical blockbuster on location. The story is told through the eyes of two local men who were employed, along with many other locals, to play extras. Our two actors (Stephen Cavanagh and Ben Kernow) play all the roles between them as we watch the romanticised Tinseltown view of Ireland slowly turning into chaos and ultimately tragedy.
The play takes a while to get going but, throughout, both Stephen and Ben gave superb performances switching characters at will sometimes by simply a change of voice, other times accompanied by the addition of a hat or random costume piece. It’s also very funny – no mean feat in a performing space like the Minack where concentration on the acting area is always challenging due to the simply beautiful backdrop. You could also hear every word (don’t get me started on that subject!).
We enjoyed a matinee performance with gorgeous weather and would recommend a visit to any of you in the area. If we had one niggle with the play it would be that we felt the director could have used a bit more imagination in helping the audience understand just exactly where we were supposed to be at certain points (location, location, location is important too!) – no reflection on the actors who always made it very clear which character they were playing – but we felt that, given the stunning setting (which does draw the eye), it was even more important to concentrate the audience on the action, something which didn’t always happen.
We love theatre and would probably watch the telephone directory being read (although Long Day’s Journey Into Night a few years back proved challenging) but we did notice some sectors of the audience becoming slightly distracted as the play progressed. It was very good though and Cornwall was a very pleasant break from the current situation – we still want to go to Spain though ………..
It's everyone's favourite Head of Costumes this time:
the lovely Jackie Pearson.
Tell me about your job as Head of Costumes? What do you enjoy? What do you hate?
Being Head of Costumes involves taking measurements for costumes and wigs prior to any show. I get such a buzz when the costumes arrive and I love opening the bags to see what has been sent for everyone. I do sometimes wonder if they actually look at the measurements I’ve spent hours trying to get as the clothes don’t always fit - particularly the men’s trousers!! I don’t enjoy trying to find everything at the end of the week and packing them all away, but there are always a lot of people around to help me.
What’s been your favourite LTC production and why?
This is a very difficult question to answer because I have loved all LTC productions. LTC brings such variety to the theatre in Burton with plays, musicals and the youth productions. The first Les Mis was incredibly special because it was the start of many amazing things to follow for the Youth Group. Beauty and the Beast was magical and for some reason makes me want to cry when I think about it. I loved Piaf and Little Voice but I think it has to be The King and I because that was the first show we were all in together as a family.
Do you have a special LTC moment? And what was it?
When my son Sam stood in for Tom Kounnas after he dislocated his shoulder just before the final performance of Joseph. Proud Mum!
Is there a particular show you’d like the LTC to do in the future – assuming absolutely everything was available?
West Side Story or Billy Elliot. (Sorry Katie but anything is possible with LTC!)
What’s it like working on LTC shows with Mark, Sam and Wil?
For many years, the Brewhouse has been our second home. It’s been very special all of us sharing the same love of theatre and being able to make such lovely memories. I must admit I’m so pleased Sam and Wil went down the theatre route. I much prefer The Brewhouse to being stood on a muddy pitch in the freezing cold watching them play football!
What’s been your favourite production you’ve seen in the theatre?
Seeing my son Wil play the title character in The Go Between at Derby Theatre back in 2011 (pictured above) was very special. I have seen so many shows and have also been very lucky to have seen many West End productions with the original cast. I really cannot pick a favourite. I did somehow manage to get invited to the dress rehearsal of Hey Mr Producer back in 1998 which was a concert featuring many hit musicals with an all-star cast, presented by Julie Andrews. It was incredible and I had to keep pinching myself to check that I was actually there. I don’t think I sat back in my seat throughout the whole performance!
And your favourite film/movie?
The Sound of Music.
Favourite shows on TV?
I love Friends, Fraser, Gavin and Stacey, Mum - anything that makes me laugh out loud, smile and cry all at the same time. I have watched these back to back so many times.
Johnny Depp in Chocolat or Hugh Grant or Bradley Cooper
From the world of film and theatre, now and in the past, who are the six people you’d invite round for dinner?
Well because of the ‘Rule of Six’ and as there are four of us already living here, I could only invite two people. That would have to be Barbra Streisand and George Clooney.
Many congratulations to Ewan Bourne (pictured here in LTC Youth's South Pacific back in 2018) who has been awarded a place in The National Youth Theatre over lockdown after auditioning at the beginning of March. He’s just completed his first Drama Course with them.
JOSH ANDREWS UPDATE
Like so many of our former LTC Youth members who have turned professional, Josh Andrews is stuggling for work in these terrible times. However, he has got involved with the Classic Play Reading CompanyOnWednesday 23rd September at 7pm you can catch Josh and an incredible cast reading Terence Rattigan’s CAUSE CÉLÈBRE for free. Simply register here bit.ly/2DROGnJ
Josh is reading the part of Montague in the play, the first in hopefully a long line of online play readings. He worked with the director last year on Me and My Girl when he played the lead character Bill Snibson and they have kept in contact. When asked to be part of this he leapt at the chance: the entire industry has been stunned by coronavirus and so all actors are taking every opportunity to do anything slightly creative. His character is the assistant lawyer and is very intelligent and driven: it's he who first uncovers the truth of the story and Josh is very excited to get started on the piece.
AN UPDATE ON ED
With theatres and opera houses closed, Baritone Ed Robinson has been doing some performances with SoundUp Arts - a Community Interest Company which brings participatory music and creative activities to people living with dementia. As a non-profit organisation, it ensures that all funding raised goes directly into its work bringing music to people living with dementia. Being involved in regular participatory music and singing brings a host of benefits to people living with dementia; as music is proven to increase communication, social connection, confidence, expression, identity and selfhood, all of which have a valuable impact on wellbeing.
Ed has been pursuing photography for the last few years, mainly taking shots of colleagues in shows as well as singer and actor headshots. It’s a great creative outlet for him and something completely different to singing. During the last few months he's been sorting through all the photographs he's taken to add some favourites to his website. He's delighted to now be back giving socially distanced shoots and looking forward to the headshot bookings he has coming up. If you’d like to have some photos taken or just want to have a look at what he's up to, search @ETRPortraits on instagram or go to www.edwardrobinsonbaritone.com/photography
You can see a few recent headshots below, and might even recognise one of them!
THEATRE REVIEWS - A VIEW FROM THE SOFA
2020 has, of course, been a dreadful year for all those of us with a passion for theatre, but the brilliant project that is NT Live has enabled many of us to view superb stage productions in our own living rooms. Here Dan Tunks reviews three of the productions he's enjoyed so far this year:
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Young Vic, London. 2016. Dir: Benedict Andrews
An American classic written by Tennessee Williams receives a radical change in set and style as Gillian Anderson, Vanessa Kirby and Ben Foster deliver masterful performances in Benedict Andrews' modern take on simmering tensions all within the confined space of a New Orleans apartment.
I was incredibly impressed by the initial tone of the piece as sleazy, smoky jazz with Patsy Cline silently churning out of the jukebox slowly plays out over the entrance of Anderson’s Blanche DuBois. A woman desperate to escape her ‘southern belle’ roots by staying with her sister, Stella (Vanessa Kirby) and her volatile fiancé, Stanley Kowalski (Ben Foster).
The very image of an apartment that is nothing more than open framed box that is constantly rotating to give the idea of a constant state of confusion blended brilliantly with the design of having a theatre in the round, worked superbly. This concept certainly increases the claustrophobic undertones as the audience are practically within touching distance of the cast.
Gillian Anderson undoubtedly delivers one of the best female lead performances I have seen on a professional stage for some time. Her delivery and erratic behaviour perfectly encapsulate the role of a woman escaping one toxic life and entering immediately into another.
Foster and Kirby are also brilliantly cast as the ‘can’t live with…can’t live without’ couple that are stretched even further by the presence of Stella’s sister, who is now under their feet. Although Anderson steals the show with her performance of an unhinged and fragile woman, desperate to find her place in the world but battling the demons of an abusive past, the cast as a whole delivered a well-crafted performance and replicated the nuance that Williams originally intended when writing a social observation on post-war tensions within domestic relationships consisting of incomplete people trying to co-exist with each other.
Roundhouse Theatre, London 2018. Dir: Bijan Sheibani.
“One day. Six cities. A thousand stories.”
Written by Inua Williams after spending roughly six weeks in Nigeria, a country in which he was born and raised until his formative years when he moved to England. His observations are compiled into a piece of playwriting that issues a social commentary based on the daily lives of varying African men.
A barbershop in Peckham all the way to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra all over the course of one day, takes the audience on a journey of varying daily accounts of African men. The barber’s chair is a fine replacement for a confessional booth in the local church as these men open up about their past, present and future. There are political as well as personal accounts; discussions of Mandela and Mugabe, fallen leaders and absent fathers.
Bijan Sheibani perfectly captures the mood and the cultural ambience in an intimate theatrical setting. The energy of the cast also reflects the warm and tense atmosphere of a barbershop that acts as a refuge from the outside world. Music also plays a large part in encapsulating an important part of African culture and Aline David brilliantly brings the movement and sound of the scenes to the forefront of the barbershop floor.
A deliciously fast and rapid paced dialogue is the star of the show. Young actors Fisayo Akinade and Hammed Animashaun excel in the role of young barbers along with experienced actors Maynard Eziashi and David Webber as the vocal clients. All of the ensemble combines fantastically as the lines flow like a perfect tennis rally in amongst the backdrop of scissors snipping and the clippers buzzing.
I always find the best theatre experiences are the ones that catch you off-guard. They give you an experience you were not expecting. They also provide you with moments that are personal. If you did not get the chance to catch this during the Lockdown period, I would implore you to go to the next NTLive screening. The most important thing to take away from this experience, is the understanding that this writing is universal to all of us. This isn’t just about black culture… It’s about everyone’s culture.
Olivier Theatre, London. 2017, Dir: Michael Longhurst.
“Mediocrities everywhere – now and to come – I absolve you all. Amen!”
If there was ever an ending line to a play that perfectly sums up an admission of defeat from the main protagonist, then Peter Shaffer’s classic ‘Amadeus’ certainly ranks as one of the finest.
After the National Theatre announced it would bring its live streaming to an end this summer, the 2017 production of Shaffer’s masterpiece would be the production to bring the curtain down.
Set in late 18th century Vienna, Amadeus recounts the friendship/rivalry of court composer Antonio Salieri and prodigious wunderkind Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although good friends in real life, Shaffer creates a different take on history as the Italian Kapellmeister, superbly played by Lucien Msamati, vows vengeance against God for his betrayal in bestowing such a remarkable talent in such a crude, crass, immature and petulant virtuoso that is Mozart, energetically portrayed by Adam Gillen.
Salieri is disgusted and riddled with an overwhelming rage that his God broke the deal they both made in giving him a love and passion for music in return for using it to rejoice and celebrate his Lord’s beauty from the heavens, only to mock him by instilling a greater ability in someone he feels is less deserving. Things are only made worse by the revelation that Salieri may be the only person in Vienna to understand how remarkable the music his young rival creates truly is. The Act 1 ending soliloquy, where Salieri renounces God and vows for the rest of his life to use Mozart as the ‘middle ground’ in his war against his creator is one of the greatest displays of raw emotion and vengeance you’re ever likely to see on a stage and the dialogue from Shaffer is so powerful, it wouldn’t look out of place alongside any Shakespearean monologue.
Michael Longhurst’s revival is nothing short of sublime and has been one of the finest National Theatre productions over the last 20 years. The design of traditional Viennese dress, mixed with a smattering of 90’s grunge, offers a modernised vision that works extremely well on the stage. A relatively young cast, sporting suede jackets and bright pink Dr Martens, adds to the pomp of the theatrical nature of the 18th Century era. Even the orchestra lying dormant upstage in the darkness suddenly burst into the forefront of the ensemble at the height of ‘Serenade No.10 Gran partita’ (a moment in theatre that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.)
For those that may have missed this, I would urge you to catch the next cinematic showing and experience this superb theatrical tour de force. Stage plays don’t come much better than this.
(Like Dan, I'm a massive fan of NT Live. If you get the chance, please also check out Hansard, A View from the Bridge, Present Laughter, All My Sons and The Lehmann Trilogy, all of which are sensational! I think you'll have to catch them at cinemas rather than online.)
OUR PLANNED 2021 PROGRAMME
At the time of writing we cannot be sure what we will be able to produce in 2021, but this is a reminder of our plans:
o March 9th to 13th 2021 – The 39 Steps
o April 6th to 10th 2021 – RENT
o June 22nd to 26th 2021 – Private Peaceful
o November 23rd to 27th 2021 – The Wind in the Willows
Please stay safe and well. We will meet again!
LTC member Heather Gallagher has had an incredibly busy lockdown and summer with her drama school StageScreen and StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates. All classes moved online and they have still released some incredible output online – with all of it recorded remotely!
Have you seen David Tennant and Michael Sheen’s Staged on TV? Well StageScreen have also been busy making their own serial drama which has now been released on their YouTube Channel. ‘Castleford Close’ is a 3 part mini series written and directed by Jack Broughton and the students themselves. It was all recorded on their own devices at home and then expertly put together by Film and TV teacher Tilley Bancroft. It concerns the children living in a cul-de-sac and the drama that unfolds during lockdown. You can view the 3 episodes on YouTube here https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLPbrGht-osNA9kA8NcnGd9jm4A8X4U91r
StageScreen is now offering an incredible TWO WEEKS FREE for all of their trial students. Because they are alternating between venue and Zoom for different age groups, they are letting all new students trial for 2 weeks to get the real feel of training at StageScreen. Request a free trial at http://stagescreen.co.uk/free-trial/
StageScreen Musical Theatre Associates
StageScreen MTA is an audition only offshoot company of StageScreen (Saturday school) They meet weekly and train in dance, vocal and acting. With Coronavirus and lockdown it meant, like every other theatre production, they missed out on their end of season Showcase, due to be performed at The Brewhouse in July. Instead, Principal Heather secured the performing, recording and streaming rights to the world's first musical that was written specifically for children to rehearse and record remotely. Called ‘The Show Must Go Online!’ the musical is about a bunch of drama students who decide that their show must continue and decide to record it remotely – each on their own devices at home. Which is exactly what MTA did! Along with some editing by Heather you can see the finale number on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=630646084554314&extid=dCGz70UnplwC7oZm and you can also watch the full 40 minute musical on YouTube here https://youtu.be/lb70OzWApGI The Centre Stage Performing Arts Competition
With theatres closed and all dance and performing competitions on hold, Heather decided to run an online performing arts competition over the summer holiday – and what a great success it was! With 4 professional adjudicators, over 30 sections across Vocal, Dance and Speech & Drama, the online competition attracted over 300 entries. The competition received entries from as far afield as Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and even Cyprus. The competition culminated in a live Bursary Final on Zoom where 12 entrants performed again for the Judges and prizes of £100 (Senior) and £50 (Junior) were awarded.
Amongst the medalists were LTC Youth members Brandon Lawson (pictured) who won 1st place in the David Walliams Prose competition and 2nd place in Unaccompanied Vocal, and Emily Haywood and Anna Milne who won gold in their musical theatre duet section with 90 marks! You can watch their performance here https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=691666971419060&extid=G7h600Rdu3FeiuA6
The competition was so successful that another one in currently being planned for November as a collaboration with another local dance festival, and will be called Centre Stage Door Winter Performing Arts Competition. There are adult sections too so there is no age limit on entry.
Burton has been BUZZING recently with the fabulous Burton Swans Art Trail, project managed by our own Tilley Bancroft. All around the town you can see a total of 25 swans, all created by amazing artists. You can download a map here: https://www.burtonswans.co.uk/images/burton-swans-map.pdfso you can find all 25 and tick them off your list.
It's East Staffordshire’s first interactive, outdoor art trail, and brings a big splash of colour to Burton’s open spaces as well as raising funds for the YMCA.
Project manager Tilley, from the award-winning Red Door Studios, says: “the swans are in position on the streets, and in the open spaces and public areas of Burton. A mobile app helps people to plot a route around the trail, discover the story behind each swan, its artist and its sponsor or sponsors. The app also allows visitors and locals to unlock rewards offered by project sponsors.
At the end of the 10 weeks, there will be a farewell ‘swan song’ event before the swans are auctioned off in October to raise money for Burton and District YMCA."
We've reported before about former LTC Youth Member Adam Bates and his volunteering in the refugee camps on the Greek Island of Lesvos, where there's currently a massive humanitarian emergency. He's pictured above during two months spent volunteering there in lieu of annual leave and at his own expense, supporting refugees fleeing conflicts and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
In early September, a deadly fire burned the Moria refugee camp down leaving around 13,000 survivors - 40% of them children - who are now sleeping in the gutter with almost no medical assistance, food, water, shelter, toilets, sinks or showers. Mothers are giving their children sewage water to drink and wash in. Many are going for days without eating, and Covid is spreading among already desperately vulnerable and traumatised people. If you have the means to contributee, please help save lives by making a small donation to the grassroots NGO Adam worked with, Movement on the Ground. Thank you. www.movementontheground.com