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Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain at Theatre Royal Bath

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:52 AM PDT

Melissa Blease reviews Simon Reade's Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain, on at Theatre Royal Bath, until 5 May

He’s the world’s best-known private detective, whose primary intellectual detection method is abductive reasoning. His innate sense of sartorial and social elegance turned him into a British cultural/style icon, once hailed by Prince Charles as "the thinking man’s James Bond". We know that he was a hoarder with a penchant for cocaine; we know he was once a boxer; we know (or rather, geeky types who enjoy confounding the opposition at pub quizzes know) that he never actually uttered the phrase "Elementary, my dear Watson" to his long-suffering cohort. And yet, Sherlock Holmes did not actually exist; he’s a work of fiction, as too are his fascinating, complicated back-story, his world-famous 'address' (221b Baker Street) and the Hound of the Baskervilles, crime writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s third Sherlock Holmes novel, which remains the most popular (of four novels in the canon and 56 short stories in collections) to date.

And just when you think we have enough Holmes-related books, films, TV and radio plays, computer games, apps and fan-based activities to keep us going until the character’s bicentennial celebrations in 2087, we have a World Premiere production of brand-new adventure that brings us bang-up-to-date (well, up to 1922, anyway) with where Holmes’ heart is.

Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain, by award-winning dramatist and former literary manager at the RSC Simon Reade, is a subtly gripping, compact affair that pushes plenty of the Main Man’s quirks and peculiarities to the fore of an almost too-brief two-hour drama while also deftly accommodating – as one might expect – multiple plot twists, turns and complications.

When we first encounter Holmes, he’s keeping bees in a cottage on the South Coast, wracked by the limitations of age (rheumatism; isolation) and paranoid that old enemies might seek him out and finish him off. When a body is found on his private beach and Mary Watson – the wife of his former sidekick – drops by unexpectedly to tell him that she has seen the ghost of her dead son James in 221b Baker Street (where the Watsons now live,) Holmes decides to return to the mystery-solving fray in an effort to banish his own personal demons for good.

Robert Powell is the quintessential Holmes: intense, wickedly astute, fiercely terse and distinctively barbed – it’s almost as though this part has been waiting for Powell for as long as Sherlock has been waiting for another airing. While Liza Goddard’s Mary doesn’t really have as much character to assert, she’s a sharp, fresh foil for Holmes, terrifically tenacious and elegantly purposeful. Timothy Kightley is an amiable, now slightly befuddled Dr Watson, maligned by Mary but clearly still regarded with great fondness by Holmes, while the archly witty little details that Anna O’Grady weaves into her role as Holmes’ housekeeper Miss Hudson (daughter of Holmes and Watson’s former landlady Mrs Hudson) lighten the mood when events take a distinctly dark turn in the second act.

Without giving too much away regarding the plot, you don’t have to be a detective to deduce that a play that includes a Magic Consultant (John Bulleid) in the production cast list is set to contain some spooky goings-on, and The Final Curtain doesn’t let us down on that score. Meanwhile, clues to what’s going on behind the scenes of the chicanery that’s confounding key characters are liberally scattered around along the way to the actual final curtain. But in time-honoured, proper murder/mystery/suspense style, we’re not aware that all manner of evidence has been laid out before us at every step of the way until Holmes does his ‘thing’ by bringing all the loose ends together and presenting us with a beautifully-wrapped parcel of facts that solve every puzzle. Why, however, Mary comes back on stage after the whole complicated conundrum appears to have been untangled to deliver a rather bewildering and seemingly unnecessary denouement speech remains a mystery. But that’s a Sherlock Holmes story for you: one expects to encounter the unexpected at the point where the encounter is least expected.

It’s good to have him back.

Visit: theatreroyal.org.uk

Image by Nobby Clark

The post Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Final Curtain at Theatre Royal Bath appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

Jess Gillam undertakes workshops and a masterclass at King Edward’s School

Posted: 02 May 2018 08:22 AM PDT

2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist, saxophonist, Jess Gillam visited King Edward's School last week to undertake a series of workshops and masterclasses with KES musicians and orchestras from local Bath Schools.

During her visit to KES, Jess worked with Bath Philharmonia to co-host workshops with two local school orchestras, from St Keyna and Roundhill Primary Schools, ahead of undertaking a further workshop and masterclass with KES musicians. The workshops with St Keyna and Roundhill Primary Schools were organised by Bath Philharmonia, as part of the orchestra's commitment to making orchestral music accessible to all, with King Edward's supporting the initiative by hosting the day's events.

On the same day as the primary school workshops, the KES Senior Orchestra played alongside Jess and Bath Philharmonia to create their own musical composition inspired by a piece by Gavin Bryars, entitled, The Green Ray. Two days later an additional session saw Jess lead four solo performance masterclasses with KES saxophonists, where she provided both technical and performance advice to the gathered audience of KES musicians. Jess finished her visit by working with the KES Saxophone Ensemble. In between the two school-based events, King Edward’s was also proud to be the lead sponsor for Jess and Bath Philharmonia's concert together in the Assembly Rooms on Thursday evening.

A rising star in the classical music world, Jess has performed at the Proms and played alongside the likes of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Following her success at the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, Jess has recently been nominated for a Classic Brit Award and continues to study at the Royal Northern College of Music with an ABRSM Scholarship.

Jess's masterclass and orchestral workshop with KES musicians forms part of the School's partnership programme with Bath Philharmonia, which is now in its fifth year and features a year-long programme of workshops, performances, mentoring opportunities and masterclasses, with one of the undoubted highlights being the joint Bath Orchestral Gala Concert, where KES Senior musicians and vocalists play alongside Bath Philharmonia's professional musicians amidst the glittering surroundings of the Guildhall or Assembly Rooms.

Commenting on Jess's visit to KES, Director of Music, Mr Rupert Drury said: "We were thrilled to welcome Jess to school and she’s been hugely inspiring to our young musicians. Jess is the third BBC Young Musician finalist to visit the School in recent times and opportunities such as these do much to develop, encourage and inspire a life-long love of music."

Commenting on the workshops undertaken by Jess and Bath Philharmonia with the three local schools, Jason Thornton, Music Director of Bath Philharmonia, said: "Bath Philharmonia is committed to and passionate about making orchestral music accessible to everyone. We are the only professional orchestra in the country providing music projects for Young Carers and we endeavour to bring live music and creative learning to as many local schools as possible. I am delighted that King Edward's School is a really valued partner in this process."

Visit: www.kesbath.com

 

The post Jess Gillam undertakes workshops and a masterclass at King Edward’s School appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

Gardening: Brave New Border

Posted: 02 May 2018 04:54 AM PDT

A planting scheme that's low maintenance but high impact is Jane Moore's latest challenge, but how do you make a selection from such a variety of planting options?

It's not very often that I get to design and plant a complete border from scratch, but this spring I'm doing just that. What a lovely thing to do, you might think, but it is surprisingly difficult as you have such a free choice, aspect and location permitting. It's made me realise just how much even one single plant can inform or suggest a particular thought process or colour scheme and without that it's literally a blank canvas. Here are some ideas to set the scene.

The blank canvas

This border, borders really, are not at The Bath Priory Hotel but at a Cotswold property in the chocolate box village of Lower Slaughter. Nestled against the east-facing mellow Cotswold stone of the Slaughters Country Inn, these two beds had been lined with membrane and backfilled with gravel to reduce maintenance. There were two plants, a Cotoneaster horizontalis and a badly pruned Pyracantha, both past their prime and not worthy of such a pretty location. Out came the gravel, along with the two shrubs, and the dilemma began.

The practical considerations

The two beds are backed by the inn wall and are about 1.5m wide by 8m long, divided by a doorway and with three windows overlooking the beds at a height of around 1.2m. While the beds face east, they are sheltered by an L-shape in the building and are sunny for much of the day in summer. An east-facing aspect is pretty good – the beds will be bright, particularly in the morning, but shouldn't dry out too badly.

So I have a pretty free rein with the planting as long as I don't go for anything too tender and exotic. I won't because my other practical consideration is the location – these beds are right next to a busy bar, terrace and lunch venue for walkers, weddings and what-have-you. On any day in summer there are multitudes of kids, dogs, ramblers and miscellaneous others running around so the planting needs to be robust, low-maintenance (as the gardeners won't be able to get near it, apart from first thing in the morning), and with a long season of interest.

The perfect planting scheme

There are a few essentials for any border. Height is a must and in an ideal world I would have roses or wisteria framing the doorway but I don't want to give the gardeners there the grief of annual pruning and tying in, let alone setting up wires and vine eyes in the beautiful but crumbling stonework. So I've opted for a pair of dainty flowered, multi-stemmed Amelanchier. Admittedly they have a short season for flowering but they have a fetching 'wafty' shape with pretty round green leaves on dark stems and a fabulous autumn colour.

There are a few things that would work just as nicely and top of my list would be Cercis 'Forest Pansy' with large, heart-shaped, purple leaves. The down side is that both the Amelanchier and the Cercis will set you back £50 to £100 for one of a decent size. Having said that, smaller plants do grow swiftly or you could opt for a cheaper 'height' plant such as Cotinus.

Structure and form

I'll need a few key shrubs to 'anchor' the scheme, giving it a structure and form even through the winter months. Obvious choices for this are clipped evergreen balls of some sort, not box, sadly, as the area is prone to box blight, but perhaps Pittosporum, yew or Ilex crenata. I think it's a little formal for the inn, however, so I've chosen the sturdy Euonymus alatus 'Compactus' for its architectural shape and attractive leaves which turn beautiful shades in the autumn. Yes, it's deciduous, but I'm not worried as I don't think many people will be sitting outside on the terrace during the winter months. Besides which it has a great 'naked' shape in winter and, coupled with a few handfuls of grasses I'm planting there, should provide enough winter interest.

The middle storey

It's the mid-sized shrubs and perennials that invariably do the most work in a planting scheme – they're the ones that catch your eye and fill in the bulk of the border. I'm going for a classic country garden scheme of pinks, blues and silvers, which will suit the property and give me a broad range of plants to choose from. Top of this list are roses and I rarely plant anything other than repeat flowering varieties these days. Admittedly deadheading and keeping them clear of black spot and so on can be a bit of a pain, but I've gone for sturdy, disease resistant varieties such as 'The Mayflower' and 'Hyde Hall', both good rose pinks.

You can't beat Penstemon for long flowering and a bit of evergreen interest, plus there are so many to choose from in all shades but yellow that it's a job to know where to start. I love the dainty flowered varieties such as 'Garnet' and 'Blackbird,' but for the border I need something a bit more flouncy and full-on. The Pensham series all fit the bill nicely with their larger, more open flowers. I've grown 'Laura' with pink flowers and 'Czar' with mauve-purple blooms before and can testify to their floweriness – these will fit my colour scheme well.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’

The ground floor

The lower plants of the scheme need to be equally reliable, plus they need a certain bushiness, a mounding habit that will clothe the base of the other plants and spill charmingly onto the paving.

Must-haves include Geranium 'Rozanne,' simply the best hardy geranium known to mankind. I just wish plant breeders would come up with it in white and pink. 'Rozanne' is a beautiful clear blue and it flowers all summer long. Second on my list is Sedum 'Brilliant' – while it only flowers in late summer, it looks wonderful as its succulent grey-green leaves grow out from tight little 'cabbages' in the spring.

I'll finish off with a little splash of sunshine in the form of golden marjoram, a lime green herb with dainty pink flowers which looks adorable at the front of a border and is no trouble at all.

In my mind's eye these borders are already a vision of loveliness, perfect for summer sun and Cotswold country days. But only time will tell if the reality lives up to the dream.

Jane Moore is an award-winning gardening columnist and head gardener at The Bath Priory Hotel. Twitter: @janethegardener
Featured image: This attractive border includes Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (against the back wall) and Sedum ‘Brilliant’ (to the right of image)

The post Gardening: Brave </br> New Border appeared first on The Bath Magazine.

Pub In The Park: Tom Kerridge Interview

Posted: 02 May 2018 01:51 AM PDT

Imagine great chefs preparing signature food; Tom Odell, Razorlight and The Christians performing live; and Royal Victoria Park as the backdrop. Emma Clegg chats to Tom Kerridge about Pub in the Park, which is coming to Bath

The Pub in the Park festival in Marlow last year sold all 18,000 tickets within 24 hours. The brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge and Chris Hughes of Brand Events, it included a stellar line-up of chefs, pubs and chart-topping music.

A year later, and this success has bred a new, bigger concept – Pub in the Park on tour. Tom and his fellow chefs will be visiting four English towns across the country, bringing his Michelin-starred pubs and a selection of other top UK pubs and restaurants to serve their most popular dishes. Each event will celebrate the very best food, combining this with live music, chef demonstrations, shopping and other festival fun. As well as the headline chef and music names, each will celebrate the local community in the form of artisans, pubs, food heroes and musicians. The event starts in Marlow and then tours to Royal Victoria Park in Bath (from 8–10 June), before going to Tunbridge Wells and Knutsford.What was the original idea behind the event? "Chris Hughes and I both just wanted to create a brilliant vibe in Marlow, because we both live there," Tom explains. "We wanted to set something up that was great. We thought that the best way to do that was to invite all our mates to come and have a party in the park. So that's what we did."

"The event gave people the opportunity to taste the food of lots of different chefs. And there was music as well. So all of a sudden it felt like this could be a great afternoon or evening. Everyone loved it so much. That is why we are going to do it again."

Tom explains that Bath, Tunbridge Wells and Knutsford were chosen as locations for the tour as they have a similar character to Marlow and a strong sense of family and community. "We wanted to find the sort of vibe in towns and cities where you walk around and bump into friends. So a warm, lovely atmosphere, like a national festival but where everyone knows each other."As well as Tom Kerridge's two Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers and The Coach, other pubs and eateries confirmed for the Bath event are Josh Eggleton's Pony & Trap and Café Murano with Angela Hartnett, both with Michelin stars. Also taking part are The Star Inn (Andrew Pern), The Kingham Plough (Emily Watkins), and Spanish tapas restaurant Paco Tapas, under the direction of Michelin-starred chef Peter Sanchez-Iglesias. Candice Brown, the Great British Bake Off winner in 2016, will also be doing a chef's demo.

Live music in Bath will include Razorlight, Melanie C, Squeeze, Stereo MCs, Toploader, Tom Odell, Sound of the Sirens, Gabrielle Aplin, Scouting for Girls, The Rifles and The Christians. "These are national artists, but it will feel as if they are playing in your back garden," says Tom.

“You are buying a pot of flavour for a fiver. For each chef, it is your recipe and your personality in the pot”

There will be a festival atmosphere and a strong family appeal. The pubs and the food will be the main attractions, but visitors can wander around to explore the artisan producers showcasing individual products such as cheese and pickles, biscuits and cakes, and gin and beer, as well as gathering around the music area where the different acts will perform.

What are the logistics of serving up food in volume in a park? Tom explains that the chefs start by conferring about their proposed food offerings to avoid duplication and ensure there is plenty of choice. On the day itself, each chef has their own satellite kitchen with fryers and ovens. So the production is done off-site in the restaurant and then it's brought to the park where it is prepared for serving.

"It's very similar to how kitchens work," notes Tom. "You do all the prep work before and then you finish it at the end. So what you have in the park is a finishing kitchen. There's a big walk-through fridge at the back and then you send 5,000 portions of food out – it's very easy!""Meals are served in paper pots," says Tom. "We are showcasing flavours. So each pub will showcase what they do in a way that people buy into. You a buying a pot of the flavour for a fiver. For each chef, it is your recipe and your personality in the pot."

It's clear that having a good time is at the heart of Tom's commitment to the Pub in the Park tour. "The biggest priority for us is for the chefs to have a lovely time. We are all friends, we all know each other and so while the chefs will be busy doling out thousands of portions of food, there is a really good vibe. If we know they are having a lovely time, then that atmosphere will flow out positively into the space."

Pub in the Park, Royal Victoria Park, Bath from 8–10 June; booking: 0844 995 1995; pubintheparkuk.com/bath

The post Pub In The Park: Tom Kerridge Interview appeared first on The Bath Magazine.