Ending soon…

In the last few days, Shaun the Sheep has disappeared from the streets, the Bristol Whales have drifted away from Millennium Square and the Hogarth exhibition at Bristol Museum has closed. All three have been a credit to the city over the past few months.

Some other cultural events are ending soon, and I wanted to give a quick mention to some of them.

Mrs Henderson Presents finishes a three week run at the Theatre Royal in Bath on 5 September. Although it is based on the film of the same name starring Dame Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, it is a very different production – not only is the stage show a musical (there are around 18 songs), it makes a significant (and, in my view, necessary) change to the ending.

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Photo from Theatre Royal Bath website

Telling the true story of the Windmill Theatre – famous for its still, nude performers and for never closing during the war – it is lots of fun. It has great music (there’s a live orchestra) and choreography, terrific costumes and sets, and a fantastic cast who seem to be having a ball. Tracie Bennett (Mrs Henderson), Ian Bartholomew (Vivian Van Damm) and Graham Hoadly (the Lord Chamberlain) are all particularly good, and a special mention must go to Emma Williams who plays Maureen, the accident prone assistant who becomes the Windmill’s star attraction. She’s gives a spirited, brave performance and her vocals – especially during the song If Mountains Were Easy to Climb – are very impressive. She’s a star.

The numbers – lyrics by Don Black, music by George Fenton and Simon Chamberlain – are of a very high standard. Possibly there’s one or two too many, but there’s a good mix of toe-tapping, upbeat, song-and-dance routines, and quieter, more emotional pieces. The opening of Everybody Loves the Windmill and Mrs Henderson Presents gets the show off to a flying start.

Photo from Theatre Royal Bath website

Photo from Theatre Royal Bath website

It is also very funny – numbers such as the Lord Chamberlain’s Song and Anything But Young raise lots of laughs, Mark Hadfield’s comedian Arthur raises lots of groans. There is darkness here, too – the shadow of war dims the Windmill’s footlights a little – which adds some necessary depth. But the show-must-go-on, stiff-upper-lip spirit wins through. This show, with this cast, deserves a long run – in the West End or on tour – and I hope it gets it.

At the Royal West of England Academy (RWA), there is a stunning collection of Kate McGwire‘s work on show until 10 September. I knew nothing about Kate’s work before going. When you walk into the room, the first thing you see is a large, twisting, alien-like sculpture emerging from the back wall. Then you notice it is covered in feathers, as are almost all the other artworks in the exhibition (although there’s also a great piece that uses wishbones). There’s a strange beauty here that I really liked, and I couldn’t help but have admiration not just for the skill and vision, but also for the patience in the creation of this work.

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Also at the RWA, but ending on 6 September, is James Ravilious: Rural Life. The beautiful, atmospheric black and white photographs (such as this one) in this collection were taken in the 1970s and 80s in Devon. One of the most remarkable things about them is that they feel as if they could have been taken in the 1930s or 40s.

Photo from RWA website © Beaford Arts

Photo from RWA website © Beaford Arts

Finally, Withdrawn – the fishing boats that Luke Jerram placed in Leigh Woods five months ago for a Bristol Green Capital art installation, funded by Arts Council England – will be removed on 6 September. It’s a lovely walk through a beautiful part of Bristol to find them, and the visual image of these boats stranded here is striking.

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(Disclaimer: I saw Mrs Henderson Presents for free, having won tickets.)

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