Anna-Helena McLean’s Titania

An amazing one-woman show that I saw on the Greenwich Theatre leg of its nationwide tour. McLean not only devised this extraordinary reimagining of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she also composed the score and performed the words, songs and instrumental parts herself. A mix of electronic loops, assured cello-playing, skilful acting and her amazing voice – sweeping from Minnie Riperton-style high notes to contralto grunts  – recreated the magical world of Shakespeare’s fairy queen to a tee. She never lost sight of the Bard’s playful comedy (there was a particularly marvellous sequence based on audience participation) but she also stressed the darkness at the heart of the play. This was live theatre at its very best. Such a shame more people didn’t see it.

PuzzlePiece Opera

This ensemble of Trinity Laban student singers filled the chapel of Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College with joy as they performed what amounted to a rundown of opera’s greatest hits, with extracts from Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Leoncavallo, Britten, Beethoven, Strauss and Bernstein. For me, the highlights were tenor Harry Kersley singing O Colombina from Pagliacci, Helen Rotchell’s electrifying take on Habanera from Carmen and the ensemble’s gorgeous version of Old Joe Has Gone Fishing from Peter Grimes. Bis!

Incanto Flutes

Trinity Laban masters’ students Ami Lodge, Sarah Ovenden, Susie Walsh and Zara Jealous were on top form at St Alfege’s in Greenwich playing a selection ranging from CPE Bach through Mozart to eclectic contemporary composer Cecilia McDowall. The latter’s African-inspired piece Hotfoot provided one of the quartet’s highlights, with Ovenden’s alto flute sounding almost exactly like a marimba. And their final choice – Eugene Bozza’s A Summer Day In The Mountains – captured the joy of walking through sunlit alpine meadows and precipitous dark woods. A marvellous way to spend a Thursday lunchtime…

A Raisin In The Sun

The Albany in Deptford has set the dramatic bar for 2016 at a vertiginous height thanks to  director Dawn Walton’s marvellous revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play. This study of a black family trying to break the cycle of hopelessness in 1950s Chicago is an always brilliant, often bitter but sometimes laugh-out-loud funny analysis of racial tensions, gender politics, family values, civil rights and the legacy of the African slave-trade – and in Walton production it was revealed to be as relevant today as it was when it was first staged nearly 60 years ago. Ashley Zhangazha was magnificent as Walter, the man of the house, whose blustering, boozy machismo and crass money-making schemes shatter his family. But it was the women who were truly the stars of this show. Alisha Bailey as put-upon wife Ruth perfectly captured the heartbreak of being torn between rage and “duty”, Susan Wokoma as Walter’s sister nailed the fury of a naively idealistic teenager who sees her dreams go to hell and – best of all – Angela Wynter brought an exquisite dignity and soul-searing grief to her role as the matriarch whose selfless battle to do the right thing for her wayward son is repaid with betrayal. This was theatre at its very best.

Nora Invites…

This brilliant two-hander at Laban Theatre featured Eleanor Sikorski and Flora Wellesley Wesley interpreting works by choreographers Jonathan Burrows & Matteo Fargion, Simon Tanguy and Liz Aggiss.The Burrows/Fargion creation was like the call-and-response of a gospel song as each dancer took turns to answer, indeed echo, the other’s movements. Tanguy’s piece, inspired by Beckettian absurdism, featured the pair at their athletic and whimsical best and Aggiss’s contribution – Bloody Nora! – was a hypnotic cocktail of crimson costumes, gold-plated vision and red-blooded humour. In fact, the whole evening was a heady mix of fun, laughter, skill, beauty and deeply affecting emotion.

Shapeshifter

Take one great modern composer (Steve Reich), four gorgeous Hebrew psalms (Nos 18, 19, 34, 150), three sopranos (Lucy Bray, Katy Huntley, Farah Ghadiali), one alto (Juliet Telford), one conductor (Gregory Rose) one brilliant ensemble (Shapeshifter) and one lovely venue (St Alfege’s in Greenwich) and you have all the ingredients for a five-star performance of Reich’s extraordinary Tehillim featuring young Trinity Laban musicians playing a percussion-heavy rendition that also included two electric organs. This concert was the perfect answer to anyone who insists that contemporary “classical” music is too challenging and difficult. Mesmerising.