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Michael Cochrane Q&A.

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Michael treated us to a hugely entertaining and hilarious session with his amusing reminiscences of life in the theatre over his long and successful career. Michael is a born raconteur who can deliver a punch line that both surprises and delights.. He divulged that his acting career had begun inauspiciously as he had inadvertently fallen off stage during a school production of Julius Caesar! He followed this with a description of the actors’ nightmare of arriving on stage having forgotten one’s lines. Friends empathised with as Michael shared his agonised pondering over whether to throw himself down stairs to avoid going on stage!

Michael spoke at length about creating the role of Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. He was quick to give credit to the director, Chris Luscombe,for his tremendous support to actors and paid tribute to the good humour and and help he had received from the whole company. Creating a weak and cowardly character who is nevertheless endearing and retains the audience’s sympathy is no mean feat. Michael gave us an insight into how Aguecheek has been badly treated by ‘fake friends’ by delving into his own past, reminding us of the underlying melancholy aspects of the play. It was clearly a great favourite with this audience ¬†and several had seen the play several times.

Michael told us amusing anecdotes about his parts in Downton Abbey and The Crown and his long term commitment to the Archers. He confessed that Radio was his great love- ‘No make up, no messing about with costume.’

The session put a smile on everyone’s faces, a great antidote to a cold February afternoon.

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Phil Davis Q&A

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Photograph by Manuel Harlan

A warm and enthusiastic welcome, from a near to capacity crowd, greeted Phil Davis at this popular Friends event. Phil came across as a modest and self effacing man despite his remarkable achievement in being an actor for 46 years with many lauded performances to his credit.

Phil’s passion is for new writing in television, film and theatre. He had worked with great avant garde directors such as Joan Littlewood and Mike Leigh. He expounded on some of the techniques employed in method acting and explained how this enabled him to develop greater depth and originality in his work.

Phil acknowledged that he is mostly known for portraying villains which he believes are more interesting than romantic leads. He relishes in the description of on one critic that; ‘no one winces like Phil Davis!’

Phil is currently playing Scrooge in Christmas Carol. He explained that he wanted to get beyond the name, a euphemism for hard hearted miserliness and create something human, more than a caricature. It was interesting to hear how he prepared to go on stage by rehearsing an expression , or a way of standing. He revealed that the National Portrait Gallery often provided inspiration for the creation of a character.

A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting afternoon session.

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A Christmas Carol

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Photograph by Manuel Harlan.

I took my four grandchildren to see Christmas Carol and they loved it. They are; Evie (11), Will (9) Tom (8), and Oliver (8). They said; ‘ it was spooky and had me on the edge of my seat’ (William) The scenery was brilliant, and I liked the old fashioned clothes.’ (Oliver), ‘I liked the changes from dark gloomy scenes to the light joyous scenes, especially the dancing.’ (Evie). ‘ the humourous characters were the best bits, especially Fezziwig and Scrooge’s nephew.'(Tom)

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Imperium Part 2.

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Photograph by Ikin Yum.

A breathtaking production that builds wonderfully on Imperium 1. The action becomes faster, movement more fluid and hypnotic as the dramatic tension builds. It would be invidious to single out individual actors as this is a tour de force to which all contribute. The audience were overwhelmed by this excellent play as the sustained applause bore witness. I would urge you to buy tickets as soon as possible for this excellent production.

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Imperium 1.

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Photograph by Ikin Yum.

Greg Doran’s Cicero play provides a powerful summary of his Roman season. Once again RSC examines the forces that threaten democracy and draws parallels with contemporary politics. Similarities are pointed up by seating part of the audience on stage where they become alternately an ad hoc senate or mob.

Cicero, master of rhetoric tries to save the Republic by exposing corruption and treason but is eventually compromised and called a hypocrite by populist politicians who cynically claim to be defenders of the poor.

Music and staging contribute hugely to this production by evoking the grandeur and pomp of Rome whilst also suggesting menace as the drums roll like peals of thunder. The stage is bathed in a bronze light, a scored and cratered sphere hangs above and the inscrutable eyes of a god or hero survey the unfolding tragedy.

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Twelfth Night

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Photograph by Manuel Harlan.

Twelfth Night is probably the best loved of Shakespeare’s comedies and this production was well received by a delighted audience. The comic scenes are played with gusto and accompanied by meticulously researched music hall ditties that add to a distinctly upbeat and joyful production.

Chris Luscombe’s sumptuous and ingenious set is an engineering marvel and a perfect backdrop to Orsino’s world of aesthetic self absorption. The references to India and the mystical east in the rich costumes cleverly links the Raj and the hedonistic sensibilities of the aesthete.

Much fun is had with the confusion caused by Sebastian’s and Viola’s gender swap. The hesitation over the lovers sexual preferences at the play’s resolution is hilarious and provides a contemporary slant that would surely amuse the bard.

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Kim Hartman

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Photograph by Pete Le May.

Kim has enjoyed a long and successful career as an actor and director in theatre, television and cruise ship cabaret. She is probably best known for playing Private Helga in all 96 episodes of the enormously successful television comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo.

Kim’s season with the RSC came after an initial interview with Greg Doran followed by a 9 month wait while she wondered whether her previous season in pantomime was viewed positively in Stratford. In fact panto had been a perfect preparation for the part of Climax in the hugely popular farcical comedy ‘Vice Versa’.

A very different play was soon in the offing, Christopher Marlowe’s Dido Queen of Carthage. Kim described the part of nurse as ‘Climax after rehab!’ Kim gave us an insight into Marlowe’s awareness of the pain of unrequited love and the technical challenge of building a functioning water curtain on stage.

Kim’s busy schedule includes co ownership of Quinton Arts with her husband, director and actor John Nolan.She has worked in many West End productions as well as cabaret on cruise ships. The seven year full time commitment to ‘Allo ‘Allo is at an end and Kim is looking forward to a family Christmas before she returns to work in the theatre.

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