To the William Loveless Hall! [where else?] …on Friday evening for the esteemed production of the Mayor’s Variety Show, 2012. One week you’re watching a highly professional company tread the boards of the Loveless Hall, and the next you’re rolling around with the amateurs. Private Resistance wasn’t bad for an amateur production…
“What if we are the oldest here?”
…asked @AnnaJCowen, not unknown herself to slap on the stage make-up and perform something of a song and dance – and that’s just for a quiet evening in.
“What if we are the youngest?”
…came the reply.
In reality and we met somewhere halfway in the middle. This was a truly inclusive Wivenhoe show, with the audience age range reflecting the many diverse theatrical talents that the town is able to boast. Proud grandparents shared seats with equally proud kids. This was the Generation Game with greasepaint.
Didn’t Mr Mayor do well?
Ah yes, what of our host for the evening, Mayor Needham and his amazing Union Flag shirt? It’s the way he tells them, y’know, something that I have long since said after sitting through a Wivenhoe Town Council Finance Committee report.
Comedy is all about timing and posturing. Which must explain the presence of bunting in the Loveless Hall, with the Wivenhoe finger being figuratively raised towards Essex County Council and the H & S brigade. A ban on bunting? Whatever next? Respected local civic figures putting on the pinnies and performing a mop head routine?
The Mop Heads included two WTC councillors and the good Town Clerk, skipping around the stage with their dusters like Morris Men on a domestic day out. Those William Loveless Hall damage deposits don’t stretch like they use to.
Keeping it equally tight was Funky Voices, a local singing troupe that added a bit of the X Factor to the Loveless Hall. They may be oldies (sort of) but they were certainly goodies. Foot tapping and even a spontaneous Whoop! could be heard from the floor of the Loveless Hall. I trust smiling Cllr Ford enjoyed his show.
A fight scene followed. Nope – it wasn’t chucking out time at an unnamed local boozer, but a couple of highly agile local theatrical types, turning the Loveless Hall into a Hollywood movie stunt set. Which takes quite some doing, I’m sure you can appreciate. Here’s hoping that the Essex County Council H & S types weren’t invited along for the evening.
Making a grand theatrical entrance, um, from out of a pirate chest, and looky looky here – it’s only Shane Diggens and his incredible baritone voice booming around the old building. In a show that has been dubbed (by some) as Wivenhoe’s Got Talent, this was perhaps the part of the performance where no one needed convincing. Shane could hold his own on most stages, from the good ‘ol Loveless Hall to perhaps something slightly more upmarket along Shaftsbury Avenue. Star quality.
As is Dennis Free with an incredibly moving solo spiritual performance. There was slight confusion from @AnnaJCowen, who mistook the crooning Dennis for Dennis Stratton, ex-Iron Maiden guitarist who is booked in to the Loveless Hall for next month. Talent spotting was never high on the girl’s agenda.
And then one moment you are appreciating a beautiful Harry Seacombe style performance, and then the next you are gazing at a young madam’s navel and some belly dancing.
Blimey. How did that happen?
The Loveless Hall has witnessed many Woh! moments over the years, but the Didi Belly Dance routine hit the spot for me. I shouted out MORE! for an encore, only to be given a stern stare from Mr Mayor.
The calming (and comedy) moment then came from firm Wivenhoe favourite, Joan Gifford. Is there anyone in Wivenhoe who hasn’t seen Joan perform? Is there anyone who isn’t left with a huge grin and genuine appreciation for such a charming lady who continues to impress? The whole audience joined in the MORE! chants this time, but time is tight for a talent show that boasts many skills to showcase. You can usually catch Joan at the Wivenhoe Folk Club floor nights.
The Celebrity Babies were a charming bunch of young chaps, hand-picked by Mr Mayor from the theatrical breeding ground that is Millfields School. Thrust upon the stage and thrust into stardom, it looks like Wivenhoe might have found its own boy band. No miming, either.
Which is also something that could be said of Vince Rayner (no miming, and definitely no the boy band ambitions, either) Fresh off the bench of the Colchester Magistrates Court, Vince went down to eyeball his audience. Betcha that is something he gained from back in the day job.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or sit back rigid at his jokes, fearful that a night in the cells may be my fate if I found something funny in all the wrong places. A Wivenhoe Funny Farm spot awaits. Natural comic timing, and some punch lines that the charming young chaps of the Celebrity Babies probably didn’t quite understand.
The magnificent Colne Bank School of Dancing bought the first Act to a close, once again venturing out into the audience with a dance and a smile. This is a polished dance troupe, and all based and trained in Wivenhoe as well. With dance exams taking place early the next morning, the Mayor’s Variety Show was the last minute prepping ahead of being assessed.
I think that the girl’s will be all right on the night. Or even in the morning.
A brief break to catch up with what had just passed, and then Act II of Wivenhoe’s Got Talent was back with us. A second turn from most of the previous performers followed. Funky Voices converted me from my aversion to Queen and all things Freddie with a well-sequenced medley. Joan delighted yet again, and magician Peter Reilly managed to magic money out of thin air – something that is also known as a meeting of the WTC Finance Committee.
Mr Mayor proved that it’s not all about gold chains and civic formalities. His Jake the Peg routine is something that you are unlikely to see Boris Johnson strutting around at City Hall performing, which is the very reason why Wivenhoe’s Got Talent and London needs a kick up the backside. Preferably with Mr Mayor’s extra third leg as well.
Fireworks (of sorts) finished the Mayor’s Variety Show – stick that up yer H & S protocol documents, Essex County Council.
HUGE CLICHE KLAXON: Yep, Wivenhoe’s Got Talent, but all acts and performers were the winners on the evening. It takes some bottle to step up on a stage with an audience of family and friends there to see you shine / come slightly unstuck. Plenty of the former, none of the latter, and a large amount of money raised for the Mayor’s Charity Fund.
“Wivenhoe’s got talent,”
…I declared to @AnnaJCowen as we walked back up the High Street. A slap round the face and a polite reminder not to take too many photos of the belly dancing.
Full flickr feed over here.