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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Monday, 24 September 2012

A Night at the Theatre (Peter Clarke) - review

Have been musing on last night at The Grove. Lots of folks asked me if I was going to blog it. I want to I said, shamelessly inhaling the oblique and implied flattery, but not as a critique. Such local theatrical moments, especially such an amazing goodbye to such a wonderful man, deserve a permanent comment. Even if only mine on this obscure site. But not a critique. That means singling out the best and admonishing the worst, giving an objective opinion on a theatrical presentation. Can’t do that here. There was so much goodwill, about a hundred on stage and up to three or four hundred in the audience, you could have bottled it and made a pretty penny. The best were brilliant and the rest a mixture of competent charm and earnest endeavour. But all were there to celebrate and give tribute to a man who touched so many theatrical hearts. Peter Clarke was amazing for his industry, his talent, his generosity of spirit, and his absolute niceness. All who were there, onstage and off, wanted to say thank you to him for being part of their lives and, in such circumstances, tear sodden critics (I was, especially at a brilliant montage) are superfluous. But, as I said, it has got me musing.
The media is full of celebrities and disasters. Anonymous people who touch lives for their fame or their demise or, in the case of Princess Diana, both. Millions pour out their grief or anger and the tweeters and facebook posters hum with indignation or solace. It is all very touching, sometimes, but it is all so unreal. The papers and TV may be plastered with these folks but we don’t know them. Our emotions are both media driven and second-hand. They may be famous but they are also remote. At the same time, all over the country, there are folks in small towns and communities giving a final farewell to someone who truly touched their lives. I regularly see posters, recently in Bourne (Lincs), Rugby, Aldeburgh, Hinckley (Leics) and Welwyn, where an anonymous life is truly to be celebrated. These folks never made the national papers, never got on TV or on the radio, never got those fifteen minutes of fame so beloved of Andy Warhol. But they were real people and they touched real lives in a way that media celebrities never can. For the Peter Clarke’s of this world the tears are real and the emotions raw. Only the few may know who we are saying goodbye to but, all over the country, we are saying the same. This person really did touch our lives. I did say I was musing.
And that brings me back to Alan Clarke’s Night at the Theatre. I reckon I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t a clue who Peter Clarke was. Alan Clarke (Peter’s son) packaged it well and Malcolm Farrar did a superb job as our compere for the evening. Sincere and engaging. The critic in me is seeping out here. The photographic montage of Peter Clarke’s theatrical life was emotionally awesome in its creation and execution, beautiful music and clever images, and the Luton Youth Jazz Section in Act Two absolutely wonderful. I reckon folks will forgive me if I say that this second half opening, including the amazing Amanda Seal and the consummate Graham Crisp, oozed considerable class. We opened with a splendid ‘Wilkommen’ from Cabaret and ended with an invigorating ‘Master of the House’ from Les Miserables. Peter Clarke would have loved the rendition of two of his favourites and everything in between. In fact I reckon he did. He was sitting there in the audience with us, as was his lovely wife Myrna. I said to her, after the show, that she must feel very proud. She was. And so was Peter’s spirit. A magnificent celebration of a life full lived. It happens all over the country with anonymous people in anonymous towns not celebrated by the media. I am glad to say I was there on the night it happened for Peter Clarke. Wonderful man, wonderful evening. Enormous thanks to Alan Clarke and Malcolm Farrar and all the others who made it happen. Three hundred, four hundred. Who cares. We all wept. Roy Hall.

For your interest:-

Jacqui Dankworth
With LYJO (Luton Youth Jazz orchestra)
Grove Theatre, Dunstable.
Sat October 6th 2012.
7.30 pm.
Tickets £20
01582 602080


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A Night at the Theatre - in memory of Peter Clarke

When you are getting on a bit you always seem to be saying goodbye to somebody. Some are just distant and ageing aunts you hardly knew and some were so close, family or friends, you think you can still touch them. The majority are folks you got to know on life's fascinating journey. School, work, play, the local pub or, in my case, betting shop. The best of them enrich your life and make the constant struggle worthwhile. Peter Clarke was one of those. Our paths frequently crossed in local theatre for nearly forty years and in all that time I cannot think of anyone who had a bad word to say about him. Helpful, friendly, and generous in spirit. And at his best a pretty talented actor and director. I can still remember his Norman Conquests for The Wheatsheaf Players and that was a very long time ago. When he died there were so many at his funeral that they couldn't close the doors at the crematorium. And all were there to say goodbye to a very special person. It is said that no man who has friends is an island. Peter Clarke was one of those who made sure that there were very few islands in the theatrical world of Luton and the surrounding areas. He gets another goodbye on Sunday. If ever a man deserved it, he does. Roy Hall
A Night at the Theatre (in memory of Peter Clarke)
The Grove Theatre - Dunstable
Sunday 23rd September 2012
Tickets £12.50
Proceeds to Alzheimers Society, Parkinson's UK, and local community projects.