I hate January. The days are short and dull, and the cold nights crank up the gas bills. The media is obsessed by looking back to the past or, even worse, studying the navel of the many things to come. And 2012 gives them a plethora of opportunities. On top of the usual prediction circus we now get endless hypes for our Olympic or Diamond Jubilee year. I can just about cope with Mo Farrah or Miss Adlington but any more in depth studies on our cyclists and rowers and I shall throw a few whisky glasses at the radio. As for Liz, I shall enjoy her celebrations but I am getting fed up with them being rammed down my throat. Worst of all, Christmas being wrapped and stored for another year, my beloved horseracing stars put their equine feet up.
It’s all the fault of Cheltenham. That four days in March in the Cotswolds is our annual Olympics and any jumping gee gee with half a chance on the sacred turf of Prestbury Park is swathed in cotton wool and pampered better then any pop star. You can’t blame the connections. Most of the twenty odd races would headline a normal Saturday afternoon. And the best, Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Arkle, Queen Mother, World Hurdle, are the stuff of dreams. You can keep the Derby and the Arc. Cheltenham in March is what it is all about. So for the likes of Kauto Star, Big Bucks, Masterminded, Long Run, Hurricane Fly and others it is endless days at Champneys or wherever they keep them. We get a brief flurry on Trials Day at the end of the month but for most of January racing is the bread and butter affair of the Market Rasens and Huntingdons. Snobs that they are most nags rated 150 or better wouldn’t be seen dead at such racecourses.
I am therefore relying on local theatrical stars to give the next few weeks a bit of a lift. I don’t do Gang Shows so will give Harpenden’s sixty third a swerve and if I am missing a treat I apologise. Welwyn’s Barn Theatre and St Alban’s Company of Ten rarely figure on my radar so I have no idea what they are doing. I should get out more as on my occasional sorties in their direction I have usually been impressed. Looking forward to Wheathampstead’s ‘Time of My Life’, an Ayckbourn I have never seen, but that is in the remote mists of Mid February so hardly qualifies as an antidote to January blues. Nevertheless I hope it is good because at their best they seriously entertain. And they are overdue a good crit from me. Might even get me on their web page.
But to get the juices going I am having to rely on my old friends at Dunstable Rep. Their third production this season is Tennessee Williams ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’. Once you have attuned your ear to the southern drawl, and I don’t mean Watford, his plays can be compelling. Chris Lavin directs and I hope he does it justice. Following that Luton Light guest at the same theatre for Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’. As my favourite theatre evening of all time was the National’s version of this with Judi Dench, Sian Phillips, and Patrica Hodge they are under no pressure. Unlike Kauto, Big Bucks, and Long Run. Last seen fanning themselves on some exotic and distant beach.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Dunstable Little Theatre Fri 20th to Saturday 28th January. No performance Wed 25th. 7.45pm Tickets £12 and £10
A Little Night Music – Dunstable Little Theatre Tues 31st January to Saturday 4th February. 7.45pm. (Sat matinee – 3.00pm) Tickets £12
Time of My Life – Wheathampstead Memorial Hall 16th to 18th February 8.00pm Tickets £8.
Cheltenham NH Festival – Tues 13th to Friday 16th March (Channel Four) Tickets priceless.