Friday, 20 December 2013

That Day We Sang - The Telegraph

As you can see from the copyright the beautiful picture above was taken by Jonathan Keenan and shows Faye as Edna, helping out at Choir practice.

Our next review of 'That Day We Sang' comes from 'The Telegraph' and was written by Dominic Cavendish.


Victoria Wood's story of the enduring power of music is moving and delightful 

“Nymphs and shepherds, come away, come away…” trilled the Manchester School Children’s Choir that long-ago day of June 18 1929. Those 250 working-class kids, accompanied by the HallĂ© Orchestra and recorded for posterity at the Free Trade Hall, could hardly guess at the bacchanalian subtext of those bucolic lines – written by the poet Thomas Shadwell and set to music by Henry Purcell in 1692. More than that, though, they could hardly realise what that moment might mean to them in later years, transported far from the Arcadian land of early youth.

Victoria Wood’s play with music – first seen as part of the Manchester International Festival in 2011 and revived by director Sarah Frankcom in a fine new production – should come with an advisory: you may need a stiff drink and a good sob afterwards. 

The structure of the evening is rudimentary but effective. A 1969 TV documentary covering the 40th anniversary reunion of the surviving members of the choir acts as an opportunity for two diffident unfulfilled loners – Tubby and Enid - to hook up, and intrudes the past upon the present. The show offers a spot of romantic fairy-tale uplift while urging the virtues of reconnecting with your younger self. Echoing Dean Andrews’ forlorn insurance salesman, Anna Francolini’s pent-up secretary sings over a restless undulation of piano music: “Did I sing? Where is that bright-eyed child?” 

As you’d expect from Wood, there are chirpy jokes at the expense of passing fads and social pretensions. An early scene features a marital spat about a box of Matchmakers and there’s a whole song devoted to Berni Inn steakhouses. Her turn of phrase remains a delight: “We don’t wear hobnail boots to a party”, advises the choir-mistress Gertrude (Kelly Price), insisting the children (brought to gambolling life by means of three rotated, 25-strong choirs of locals) sing with an RP accent. “It’s not exactly Roman Holiday, is it?” remark the awkward, almost-courting couple as they meet in Piccadilly Gardens. 

The humour reinforces the poignancy, though, rather than diminishing it. The star of the night is a scampish lad called Jimmy, played at the opening performance by the winning William Haresceugh (one of three to take the juvenile-lead role). He dodges his furiously disapproving mother, cheeks the conductor and generally brims over with boyish euphoria. Hold on to that spirit, kid, you think with a sigh. Hold on to it.


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