The Importance of Being Earnest – Tabard Theatre

I had the pleasure of attending the Tabard Theatre’s production of the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance of Being Earnest last Thursday night and I have to say I was not disappointed. The production chose to stay relatively true to the original play, staging the performance in a similar style to that of the 1895 Oscar Wilde performance, with the costumes and dialogue emulating the late Victorian style, a choice which I personally enjoyed and respected – after all why tamper with a classic?!

It must be hard to make your mark on a play which everybody knows: a farcical comedy following the story of Jack, who falls head-over-heels in love with his friend Algernon’s cousin, Gwendolen. However, in order to marry Gwendolen Jack must convince her mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell, that he is an appropriate suitor. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, given that Jack was abandoned as a baby and left in a handbag at Victoria Station!

The best known line in the play, which the whole audience is waiting for, comes when Jack reveals to Lady Bracknell how he started life. “A handbag!?” she exclaims in horror – now one of the most iconic lines in theatre history. However, in this production Lady Bracknell responds quietly, with her facial expressions conveying her disgust. This was a clever move, confounding expectations.

The play really took off in the second half for me. Despite the second act being almost twice as long as the first, time appeared to fly by, partly due to the introduction of Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble to the story. Jo Ashe and Dean Harris stole the show with their portrayal of these two characters, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention post-interval. Harris in particular brought in laughs even when he wasn’t speaking, from his reaction to other characters’  dialogue. His shivering and utterance of “brrrr” when the other characters were discussing cold chills was a particular highlight for me.

The cast kept the audience fully engaged throughout, not only with their line-delivery but with the breaking of the fourth wall to give bemusing looks tinged with dramatic irony. Samuel Oakes’ portrayal of Algeron added a further level of excitement to the play with his charming yet cheeky interpretation of the character, his exaggerated facial expressions and movement.

I would highly recommend seeing The Importance of Being Earnest, which is running until Sunday 23 June. The Tabard put on a fantastic true-to-script production of an Oscar Wilde classic, complete with tongue-in-cheek humour and excellent staging, making for an enjoyable and truly immersive viewing experience.

Chiswick Proms

Next weekend is the Chiswick Proms weekend, with comedians Jason Manford and Shappi Khorsandi on Friday night (suitable for ages 16 and up).

Ruthie Henshall heads the line up of Musical Theatre artists on Saturday night  and Lesley Garrett stars in the Last Night of the Chiswick Proms on Sunday night.

See my interview with Lesley here.

Tickets available at a discount for holders of the Chiswick Calendar Club Card, for all performances except the family production of Peter and the Wolf on Saturday afternoon. Simply enter our special discount code: CAL10 at the check-out here and take your card with you to the event.

The Bedford Park Festival

The Bedford Park Festival kicks off this weekend with the Mother of all church fetes, Green Days, on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June on the common opposite Turnham Green tube station.

There will be live music, a beer tent, the Pimms will be flowing, all sorts of food including the best cake stall, fun fair, craft stalls, live music, five a side football. All that you would expect from a Church fete on a village green, but in London proportions.

This year the festival will be opened by actor Andy Nyman, currently starring as Tevye in the acclaimed West End production of Fiddler on the Roof. He will declare Green Days open at 11.00am on Saturday. The children’s fancy dress theme this year is Musicals.

The Chiswick Calendar will be there with a stall both days. Come and say hello and enter our raffle for some great prizes from Club Card businesses.

Painting by Jason Bowyer, PPNEAC PS RP

Photography and art exhibitions

Come and have a glass of wine at the Exhibitions Preview Party at 6.45pm on Friday. Paintings in St Michael & All Angels Church, photographs in the Parish Hall upstairs.

This year’s Summer Exhibition honours Jason Bowyer, PPNEAC PS RP (1957-2019), who died suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year. Many people in Chiswick benefitted from his teaching, his warmth and generosity and passion for painting and drawing.

Portrait of Eha

The Chiswick Calendar is organising the Photography Competition and Exhibition. The entries are now all in, including this fabulous portrait of Eha.

The photographers remain anonymous until after the competition has been judged but you will be able to see all the entries on the website from Friday afternoon, 7 June, the same time they go on show in St Michael & All Angels Parish Hall.

See them online but go and vote for your favourite picture in each category at the Parish Hall during the exhibition weekend.

June 2019 Books

What’s new and good to read this month? Annakarin Klerfalk has a look at what’s on offer and chooses three good reads for June.

Big Sky

Kate Atkinson is back with a new Jackson Brodie novel called Big Sky. Jackson has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire, in the company of his teenage son and an ageing Labrador. It’s a picturesque setting but something dark lurks behind the scenes. A woman hires Jackson to find out who is following her. The story is dark and old secrets and new lies intersect with its main theme; human trafficking.

Kate Atkinson won the Whitbread Book of the Year prize in 1995 for Behind the scenes at the Museum and the Costa Book Awards in 2013 for Life after life and again in 2015 for A God in Ruins. The first four Jackson Brodie novels have been adapted for the BBC under the series called Case Histories, starring Jason Isaacs as Brodie. Big Sky is out on 18 June.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a debut novel written by the poet Ocean Vuong, who won both the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the T S Eliot Prize for Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Vuong’s literary masterpiece is a shattering portrait of a family in Vietnam and it’s told in the form of a letter from a son to his illiterate mother. The story is heartbreakingly beautiful and brings up the question of how to survive.

Michael Cunningham said “One is not often given the chance to apply words like “brilliant” and “remarkable” to any novels, certainly not first novels. Thank you, Ocean Vuong, for this brilliant and remarkable first novel.” Vuong is coming to the UK for the publication date on the 20 June.

Stalingrad

Stalingrad is the prequel to Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman, the book which by some critics was held to be the greatest Russian novel of the 20th century. Stalingrad isn’t only about war but all of human life. The characters are mothers and daughters, husbands and brothers, generals and tractor girls.

It is tender and epic; Grossman brings us another testament to the power of the human spirit. There will be a four-hour dramatisation on BBC Radio 4 in the autumn. Stalingrad is published on the 6 June and this is its first publication in English.

Annakarin Klerfalk

Anna is a literary agent based in Chiswick who is keen to hear from authors trying to get their books published. Contact her on anna@intersaga.co.uk. She used to run the Waterstones bookshop in Chiswick. You can read more about her and Intersaga here

intersaga.co.uk

See more of Anna’s book choices here

Read about the annual Chiswick Book Festival here

Thumbs up for Kew’s new play space

The new children’s play area opened in Kew Gardens last week has been given a resounding endorsement by local children and their parents. So popular is the new attraction that during half term week there were queues stretching across Kew Gardens and some families found they couldn’t get in. We went to see what the fuss is about with 11 year olds Dora Hallac, Holly Kallarackal, Lucas O’Callaghan, his 7 year old brother Max and their parents.

Photographs above: Dora Hallac (left); Dora and Holly; Holly Kallaarackal (right) 

‘Fantastic’

Visitors to Kew Gardens have been peeping through the hoardings for weeks trying to see the children’s play area which was taking shape. Now they have and it’s “fantastic” says Laker, mother of seven year old Max and eleven year old Lucas. “It’s gorgeous” says Susie, mother of 11 year old Dora; “clever that they’ve opened it when all the flowers are in bloom” says Krissy, mother of eleven year old Holly.

The beauty of the setting is not lost on the children either. The girls especially noted the attractiveness of the surroundings. For city dwellers used to the concrete and grass of the municipal playground, with a few swings and a roundabout if you’re lucky, the design of the play area, in a natural setting the size of 40 tennis courts, with lots of curves and windy paths leading around spectacular displays of flowers and more than 100 mature trees, is a huge improvement on your average play area and the bright colours of the plastic play equipment only add to its attractiveness.

Photographs above: Max; Holly, Max & Lucas; Lucas & Max

Of course you have to pay to enter Kew Gardens to use it (but you don’t pay extra to use the Children’s Garden). Five hundred people are allowed in at any one time; you’re given a wrist band and told you have 90 minutes. To me, when we went at 4.30 on a school day, it felt quite crowded, but not it seems to city kids. That didn’t trouble them at all, in fact they liked the busy buzz of it all. The sand pit and slides were “fun” said Dora, “it’s much bigger than the one which was here before. It’s more interactive; a good concept”. The concept is that there are four distinct areas – the Earth garden, the Air garden, the Sun garden and the Water garden, encouraging children to think about what plants need to survive. “The water part was really interactive” said Holly and the beehive was “cool … “it’s a nice place to hang out”.

Photographs above: Parents Laker, Krissy & Susie; Holly in the climbing frame; Holly with Lucas 

The Children’s Garden is designed for two to twelve year olds and both Max at seven and Lucas at 11 both found something to challenge them. Max enjoyed the space to explore and the balls to jump on; Lucas liked getting to grips with the obstacle course and the tree house and noted the safety design, that if you fell off things there was always something soft to land on. The girls were a bit disappointed the trampolines were so small, but were prepared to concede at at about two foot in diameter, the circles cut into the mock grass were perfect for little children.

There are rocks to climb on, water to splash in and channel and dam, ropes to climb up, a treetop walk around a mature oak tree, tunnels, hammocks and periscopes. The girls were a bit surprised when the hammock flipped over and dumped them in the wood chippings. Laker said she loved that the Royal Botannical Gardens doesn’t seem worried that children will damage all the beautiful plants. She also liked the little paths leading off in different directions and the areas of shade, with plenty of places to sit comfortably.

We did think it would be quite easy to lose a child in the play garden, but the whole area is securely fenced off, with two gates, each with a member of staff not letting any child in or out on their own, even to nip to the toilet. Anyone lost is taken to the staff on the gate to be reunited with their accompanying adult. Laker thought the degree of independence it afforded her seven year old was perfect. In all the Children’s Garden got a big thumbs up from Dora, Holly, Lucas, Max, Laker, Krissy and Susie.

 

The Bridge

Something about this picture is familiar. It took a while but then it clicked. The Bridge, the Scandi Noir drama series which starts with the body of a woman being found, neatly cut in half, with one half on the Swedish side and the other on the Danish side of the bridge which connects the two countries.

Hammersmith bridge, which we now learn will be closed to traffic for up to three years, belongs to Hammersmith & Fulham Council. The bridge crosses in to the borough on the north side of the Thames, while the southern approach from Barnes is in the Borough of Richmond. As with The Bridge and its French remake The Tunnel, the bridge’s serious structural problems require diverse officials to work together, in a situation in which none has clear authority over the others.

Leader of Richmond Council Cllr Gareth Roberts met counterpart the Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council, Cllr Stephen Cowan at the end of last week with a bunch of engineers to take stock of the cracks in the structure. Which is Saga Norén, the logical (autistic?) by-the-book genius detective from Sweden, who nobody wants to work with, and which is Martin Rohde, the sloppy emotional mess from Denmark, who is affable and charming, I couldn’t possibly say. But they put on a great show of unity, in a deliberate attempt, one would imagine, to put behind them the rather shaky start to their collaboration over the closure.

Images above: Leaders of Richmond and Hammersmith & Fulham Councils meeting on Hammersmith bridge

Images above: Hammersmith Bridge and close up of micro cracks in the structure

 

Images above: Hammersmith Bridge and close up of micro cracks in the structure, courtesy of LB Hammersmith & Fulham 

Chapter One: The Letter

Relations over the future of the bridge started rather frostily, with the Cabinet Member for Transport, Streetscene and Air Quality on Richmond Council, Cllr Alexander Ehmann, writing a rather tetchy note to his counterpart at Hammersmith and Fulham Council complaining that the bridge was closed in April with no notice. It was ‘disappointing’ he said that Hammersmith and Fulham Council had not considered ‘those residents in Richmond upon Thames who use the Hammersmith Bridge on a daily basis when communicating decisions around closures to the bridge’. No time, fired back Hammersmith & Fulham. Weekly checks had revealed micro-fractures in the cast iron pedestals securing the suspension bridge, so the bridge had to be closed immediately, for the sake of everyone’s safety.

The Cabinet Member for Richmond demanded they ‘urgently clarify what plans they have to mitigate the large-scale disruption’. Signs went up, bus routes were diverted. Cyclists and pedestrians started to get used to enjoying an exhaust-free journey across the Victorian bridge. Celebrity cyclist Jeremy Vine took gleefully to Twitter to wind everybody up by willfully misunderstanding the generally accepted meaning of ‘road closure’: ‘Yep … Hammersmith Bridge is open. Look: Took a ride over London’s latest traffic-free bridge on Friday. What a pleasure’.

Chapter Two: The Meeting

Last Thursday the Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council Cllr Stephen Cowan and Richmond Council’s Leader Gareth Roberts took a tour of Hammersmith Bridge last Thursday to see the structural damage for themselves. ‘A team of 18 world-class, specialist engineers are carrying out a full diagnosis of all the potential problems and their causes. Once that analysis is complete, the works to fully restore the Hammersmith Bridge will begin. The whole process could take up to three years before the works are finished and the bridge is re-opened to cars and buses’ say LB Hammersmith & Fulham’.

Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, said:

“I’d like to thank Cllr Gareth Roberts for his constructive approach and for focusing on the needs of residents.

“People on both sides of the river want to see our beautiful Victorian bridge fully restored and operational for generations to come. That is exactly what is going to happen. But the works are complex as this 19th Century suspension bridge is unique. It’s made of cast iron which is brittle and uses wooden panelling. It was designed for nothing much heavier than horse-drawn carts and carriages but until recently was being used by 20,000 vehicles and 1,800 buses a day. That’s why in 2015, we curtailed the numbers of buses, initiated weekly monitoring and the most comprehensive review of the bridge’s structural integrity ever undertaken – which is how the micro-factures in the cast iron pedestals were discovered.

“We’re pushing to make sure Hammersmith Bridge will be re-opened as quickly as possible. And when it is, people will know that it’s benefited from the most thorough refurbishment programme in its history which will keep it safe for decades.”

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“We know that Hammersmith Bridge has needed significant restoration work for decades. And, in an ideal world, we would have had a lot more time to plan and work with the community on a scheduled closure. However, the damage was a lot more severe than we once thought. And, the number one more important thing is that the bridge must be safe to all who use it.

“We will continue working with Hammersmith & Fulham Council and TfL on their plans for the future of the bridge and are committed to making sure that residents on our side are informed and importantly engaged, in any opportunity to help shape it’s future.”

Chapter Three: The Money

Meanwhile Transport for London has responsibility for project managing the bridge’s restoration, and it’s all gone a bit quiet on the money front. Both Hammersmith and Fulham and TfL immediately declared they didn’t have enough money to pay for the repairs, which have turned out to be more expensive than anticipated. Since then there’s been no word.

To Be Continued …

For the child in your life 

I can’t think of a conceivable reason for me to buy a set of toy lifeboat vessels, having no one of an appropriate age to give them to, but I spotted this new Corgi RNLI gift set and really, really want them! The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations and the Chiswick lifeboat station is the second busiest in the whole of the UK and Ireland. I think buying these would be a nice imaginative way of supporting them.

Corgi, who have been manufacturing metal toys in the UK in various iterations of the company more or less since 1933, have created the Shannon Lifeboat, Severn Lifeboat and Flood Rescue Team, price £29.99 (which includes a donation to the RNLI). ‘Our’ lifeboat is an E Class, the fastest in the RNLI’s fleet, specifically designed for work on the Thames, but what the hell, one lifeboat looks much like another to the untrained eye!

You will find the online link to buy them here.

Do not jump into the river!

No matter how hot it is, how drunk you are, or how relieved you are to have finished A level exams / the week’s work / writing your first novel, the RNLI says jumping into the river is a really bad idea. Last year Chiswick RNLI crews recovered a man who was critically injured when he jumped into the river in Putney, not realising that the water was only a couple of feet deep. RNLI Helmsman Mark Turrell describes what happened when he saw a group of lads obviously contempating the same thing at Chiswick Pier. Mark was on shift on the evening of Saturday 25 May when he saw a group of teenagers gathering around the iron steps on the embankment.

‘As I watched, a lad in just sports shorts emerged up the steps soaking wet and had obviously jumped into the river from the top of the steps. He was gesticulating to his mates that he was going to jump in again so I donned my life-jacket and took my crash helmet, in case we got a service call, and went down to the group. I spoke to the whole group explaining the dangers of what they were undertaking and the amount of young people I have dealt with over my time on the Thames lifeboats that had not been lucky enough to resurface after such high jinx. To my surprise, the whole group were very engaging and apologetic and after a few minutes of listening to me the one that appeared to be the leader shook my hand and the whole group thanked me for my time and went on their way.’

RNLI Community Safety Officer John Soones says ‘The summer period with the end of exams coming up is often a time when teenagers let off steam and are tempted to go in the river, not knowing the dangers. This example shows what authority RNLI lifeboat crew members can have in what one might expect to be an awkward encounter.’

Chiswick RNLI lifeboat station is the second busiest in the UK and Ireland. Since The RNLI search and rescue service on the Thames started in 2002, Chiswick Lifeboat has attended over 3,500 incidents and rescued over 1,750 people, and dozens of dogs. The RNLI is entirely funded by public donations.