The Vic Wells Association Newletter Autumn 2006:

The OLD VIC,  Waterloo Road, SE1 8NB
SADLER'S WELLS, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN
(also at the PEACOCK THEATRE,
Portugal Street, Kingsway, London WC2A 2HT)

Founded 1923

By LILIAN BAYLIS, C.H., M.A.(Oxon) Hon.., LL.D.(Birm.)Hon,.
The Old Vic Association, The Old Vic Circle, The Old Vic Club,
 Sadler's Wells Society, Sadler's Wells Circle

President....................Dr. Wendy Toye, CBE, Hon.D.Litt.
Vice President.............................. Mr Nickolas Grace
Chairman.......................................Mr James Ranger

No. 454                                                              Autumn 2006


Our long serving Vice President and most ardent Vic-Wells supporter, as you are all aware, James sadly died on 15th June last. A private funeral was held at Charterhouse in July for family and close friends only. Many of you have enquired if there is to be a Memorial Service. James's nephew Martin wishes to have a Celebration of James's extraordinary life, rather than a actual religious Service. He has asked me to help in organising this, and, as things stand at the moment, I am awaiting Martin Penstone's call to commence arrangements. These have been held up by illness in Mr. Penstone's family. As yet, no date has been fixed, but as soon as this is made definite, I will inform all those who have intimated to me they wish to attend.

James is very sadly missed, not only by his friends, which he had in numerous numbers from every aspect of life, but by the Vic-Wells Association which he had served for so many years.

James was born on 16th April, 1916 in Ipswich in Suffolk. He always loved the theatre, and made his only professional appearance in "Lady Precious Stream" at the John Adam Theatre in 1935. Although he always wanted to take up the stage, at that time it was not felt appropriate, and instead he went into banking working at Barclays Bank in South Africa. He served in the Second World War and became a Lieutenant in the Defense Corps in the South African Army, and was awarded the African Star, Defense Medal and War medal.

James returned to this country in 1946, and worked at Barclays Bank in London until he retired. He lived for some years at a flat in the Barbican, until he went to Charterhouse over ten years ago, where he was extremely happy and contented and met a lot of new friends amongst the 'Brothers'. He was very popular at Charterhouse, and until ill health overtook him a few years ago, was prominent in helping to arrange all kinds of social activities for the Brothers at Charterhouse.

His love of the theatre never left him - his main hobby was going to every single show in the West End of London, and indeed, on many occasions, traveling all over the country to catch a show he particularly wanted to see. James's love of show business covered all forms of entertainment —  opera, ballet, musicals, music hall, pantomime, you name it — he wanted to see them all.
I first met him almost twenty years ago, and we became good friends almost at once. We had our mutual love of the theatre in common, and I gradually found myself going to numerous shows in the West End and indeed, being driven by James all over the country to see something he specially wanted to see. He was very informative about the theatre, and made many friends in the profession, amongst them Sir Donald Sinden and Timothy West, to name only two. Even several years ago, when James had to stop driving, because of failing eyesight, we still got around to many shows, and he loved nothing more than for me to take him backstage, if there happened to be someone in the cast who was known to me.

James had many other interests — his knowledge of the country was amazing — if you wanted to go somewhere you had never been to before in England, all you had to do was ask James and he could tell you exactly. He loved churches and cathedrals — in fact, his interests were too numerous to catalogue here — and, of course, because of his innate kindness and loving and gentle nature, he made countless friends wherever he went. He got me involved in the Vic-Wells Association soon after I first met him, and he wasted no time on asking me to join the Committee and set me to work.

He was an extremely considerate man and treasured his friendships and never forgot his friends. Since his death, I have had many messages and calls from people whose life James had touched in some way, expressing their sadness at his passing. When he fell and broke his hip at Charterhouse, only the day after a wonderful party there to celebrate his 90th birthday, with so many friends present, those of us close to him were concerned about his condition; I spoke to him frequently on the telephone from hospital during this time, and he was always cheerful, but just wanted to get home to Charterhouse. Eventually, he did, but it had all been too much, and he died very peacefully in the place he loved so much and where he had been cared for with such tenderness, the day after his return from hospital. I will never forget him — and  I am sure I am not alone. Rest in peace, James.


I recently visited our President, Wendy Toye, who is now resident at the theatrical home, Denville Hall in Middlesex. Although very disabled, Wendy was in very cheerful form, and she wanted to know how things were going at the Vic-Wells and I got her up to date on our events. She was anxious that, despite some difficulties, the Association would survive, and she hoped that it might be possible for her to drive up and be at one of our parties in the near future. She loves having her numerous friends in the theatre visit her, and thrives on their company for a few hours. She is being very well looked after and has the utmost care at Denville Hall, and sent her love to everyone.


This year Annual General Meeting will take place on the evening of Monday, November 6th in the Khan Lecture Room at Sadler's Wells Theatre at 7 pm. Coffee and biscuits will be served beforehand. It is hoped as many members as possible will be able to attend.

They will be in for a special treat this year, as, after the business part of the meeting has been concluded, our Vice President, Nickolas Grace will be speaking to us about his long and illustrious career in show business.

Nickolas was trained at Central School, and became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1972-78. He played Hamlet and Richard II and was actor in residence at six American universities. His West End appearances include "Amadeus", the title role in "Cole Porter" and "The Guardsman". Film and TV credits include appearances in "Brideshead Re-visited", "Heat and Dust", "Robin of Sherwood", "Lorca", "House of Cards" and "The Commander" — plus "Midsomer Murders"!! He first appeared at the Old Vie in 1970 and was a member of the Old Vie Company in 1979 playing the lead in Leonard Bernstein's "Candide". He appeared at Sadler's Wells in 1983 in "The Mikado", followed by "HMS Pinafore", and in 1999 as "Grimaldi" in "Dick Whittington" Nickolas career on the stage has spanned 37 years —  and still running!



Further to the advance notice in the last Broadsheet, the date for our annual visit to the Bristol Old Vic has had to be changed from January 20th to SATURDAY, 13th JANUARY. Because of his close ties with the theatre in Bristol over many years, it has been suggested that this outing should take place in memory of James, who always loved going to this beautiful old theatre, where we have many old friends. The Bristol Old Vic Association, who always give us a wonderful tea party after the performance, have paid tribute to James in their latest newsletter, and are looking forward to welcoming us once again in January, when we hope as many of you as possible will come for this special occasion.

The production will be a musical version of Alexandra Dumas' classic "The Three Musketeers", and has been adapted by Ken Ludwig for a Christmas production at the Bristol Old Vic. Ken has had unprecedented success with numerous hits including the musical "Crazy For You" and "Lend Me A Tenor". It should be a lot of fun — as indeed was last year's spectacular production of "The Magic Lamp”.

Tickets, to include return journey from London to Bristol, seat in the stalls for the 2 pm matinee and gratuity to driver will be £30 per person. Cheques, made payable to the Vic-Wells Association, and enclosing a stamped, addressed envelope, should be sent to Mary-Jane Burcher, Flat 6, Oak House, 6, Carlton Drive, Putney, London, SWl5 2BZ. Tel: 020 8789 9227. The coach will leave Embankment station promptly at 9.15 am.


The Twelfth Night Party next January will be held at the Old Vic Theatre, by kind permission of the management . This time it is actually being held on Twelfth Night itself, and as a further coincidence, Edward Hall, son of Sir Peter, is directing "Twelfth Night" at the Old Vic on the evening of that day!

The party will commence at 5 pm until 7 pm. "Twelfth Night" will only have commenced previewing the evening before, and there is no matinee on Saturday, January 6th, but it is our intention to invite the company of "Twelfth Night" to be our guests before they embark on the evening performance of the play and Mr Hall has agreed to cut the cake and say a few words.

Tickets are £6.00 for members and £7.50 for non members, and will be available from Ruth Jeayes, 185 Honor Oak Road, Forest Hill, London, SE23 3RP. Telephone: 8699 2376. Please make your cheques payable to the Vic-Wells Association, and send it to Miss Jeayes, together with a stamped, addressed envelope for the return of tickets.

The actual venue for the Party at the Old Vic has yet to be confirmed, but there will be stewards at the theatre to guide you on the day.


For those of you who like a traditional pantomime, the most famous one of all — "Cinderella" — starring our old friend, Chris Harris, who is taking a rest from his usual "Dame" role, to play "Buttons" in this classic production at the beautiful Theatre Royal in Bath.

We have booked tickets for the 2 pm matinee performance on Thursday, 11th January, 2007. There are many high speed trains from Paddington to Bath Spa, and Chris usually is host at tea after the show. Tickets are in the stalls, price £13, and applications for these should be made to Mary-Jane Burcher, Flat 6, Oak House, 6, Carlton Drive, London, SW15 2BZ. Cheques should be made payable to "MARY-JANE BURCHER" (NOT the Vic-Wells Association) as I have already booked and paid for the tickets myself. Please send a stamped, addressed envelope for me to send your ticket. Chris is always delighted to see his friends from the Vic-Wells, after all the many years he starred in the pantomimes at the Bristol Old Vic, and it should be a very happy occasion in the real tradition of British pantomime.



Fifteen members visited the Museum on the 9th August and guided by Chloe looked round their historical galleries which track the 400 year development of British Theatre since 1570. Despite our members' considerable knowledge of the subject we learned a lot. For example we saw the wooden device used by Regency Fops to ensure  excellent turned out calves, the origin of the phrase “well turned out” still in use today although not referring to calves. We heard about Marie Lloyd’s Music hall songs …. “she goes into the garden with the cabbages and peas” which was considered too risqué for her Royal command performance so she changed the lyric to ….”into the garden with the cabbages and leeks”!

We next visited the make-up studio and our intrepid volunteer, Daphne Coutts, was made up in the style of make-up used by actresses in the Charles second period complete with beauty spots (patches) to cover pockmarks, with their own language, and a cupids mouth and Dresden doll cheeks. With a full wig she looked a splendid sight. Chloe then demonstrated various historical stage costumes. Daphne modelled a very heavy and full Lady Capulet dress and was shown how to walk in it. I struggled into a heavy Romeo doublet and learned how to bow and wave my hat in a figure of eight to freshen the air. We greatly enjoyed the visit and heartily recommend a visit before its potential closure, with more information on its future awaited later this year.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  As we go to press, it has officially been announced that the Theatre Museum is to close in January. This is very sad news, and doubtless there will be a huge outcry in the theatrical profession.


Members have recently attended rehearsals for Bangarra Dance theatre, “Sacred Monsters” with Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan, and the Ballet Boyz “Encore”. The next series of rehearsals are:

Thursday 26th October, from 2.00pm to 5.30 pm, Birmingham Royal Ballet

We have been invited by the Friends of the BRB to a rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet. Please apply by 17th October to Sheila Hitchcock, BRB Friends Coordinator, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Thorp Street, Birmingham, B5 4AU, enclosing your cheque for £6 made payable to BRB Friends and a stamped addressed envelope.

Wednesday 8th November, from 1.15 to 3.30pm, Dutch National Ballet. Please come at least 15 minutes before the start of the rehearsal and make yourself known to the Committee Member who will take the £5 entrance fee.

Tusday 14th November, time to be confirmed, Rambert Dance Company

We have been asked to limit our attendance to Members and a guest and you are asked not to invite Members of other Associations to attend other than as your personal guest. Please telephone Richard nearer the date to confirm timings.

A Cuban Carnival – Carlos Acosta; and Nacional Ballet de Cuba

By Richard Reavill

Sadler’s Wells Theatre presented an eclectic series of dance programs in the early part of the 2006/7 season, and two featured dancers from Cuba. In early September the Ballet Nacional de Cuba presented its production of Don Quixote, but began and ended its short season with performances of Magia de la Danza, a collection of excerpts almost all from the major classics, a ‘taster menu’ of the company’s repertory.

Before that, in late August, the world’s most famous Cuban dancer, Carlos Acosta, (who is probably also the world’s most famous male dancer), appeared in a ‘gala’ program with some chums from the Royal Ballet. Eschewing a Nureyev inspired Carlos Acosta and Friends, the evening was entitled Carlos Acosta with Guest Artists from The Royal Ballet.

The ‘Guest Artists’ were no modest backing group, but very much an up and coming, or already arrived, sample of the best Royal Ballet dancers. Five principals and two soloists were among the nine strong group.Nor did Carlos hog the show, appearing in only four of the twelve items. The rest of the little company had many opportunities to shine, and took them enthusiastically. Sarah Lamb, newly promoted principal with the RB and partnered by Rupert Pennefather, contributed the Act 2 pas-de-deux from La Sylphide, a part of their Covent Garden repertory, and managed to create a magical atmosphere without the help of scenery or prior choreography. Also from the RB back-catalogue came the Farewell pas-de-deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Winter Dreams, withMara Galeazzi and Thiago Soares. This piece was well able to stand alone, as it started as an independent pas-de-deux. Soares, also newly promoted to principal, equalled Galeazzi’s passionate interpretation, and later demonstrated his versatility in a louche piece by Gustavo Mollajoli, A Buenos Aires, with Marianella Nunez. Zenaida Yanowsky danced Fokine’s The Dying Swan with strength and artistry, particularly in the arm movements, but the close proximity of performances by the ‘Trocks’ has killed this piece for me, and I will need to avoid it for at least the next two years.

Yanowsky also appeared with Acosta in Balanchine’s Agon pas-de-deux, to start the first part of the program,and was majestic. Carlos pulled out all the stops to compete with her. Her strength in this piece, in Balanchine works generally, and in Forsythe pieces, make me hope that the RB will give her more opportunities in this area of the repertory. Of course, Carlos was taking a risk in appearing in only four items, and would not have been able to do this without a very strong company. It also required him to make a big impact in the pieces in which he did appear. No problem! The first half finished with Agrippina Vaganova’s Diana and Actaeon pas-de-deux. This, perhaps the ultimate of ‘smash and grab’ pas-de-deux, was the highlight of the show. Delivered in the Acosta enhanced version, it included the audience-gasp-provoking rotating jumps which are one of his specialities. This was all delivered with great style and an even greater sense of fun. His partner, Marianella Nunez, also contributed her own technical sparkle, with evident pleasure. In this, I think she is the most appropriate partner for Carlos. Indeed, I can think of only one other dancer (Tamara Rojo), who would be in the running.

Acosta appeared in a solo by Ben van Cauwenbergh, Les Bourgeois, in the second part of the program, which was devoted to new (or newish) choreography. Not much of it was greatly impressive, but new work is needed, and it is commendable that some should appear in this show. The final item, Majismo by Georges Garcia, was an attractive ensemble piece for eight dancers to close the show.

The program was well accompanied by the Royal Ballet Symphonia, conducted by Paul Murphy, and contributed three orchestral interludes. Another unusual feature was that the dancers could be seen warming up and winding down at the back of the stage between items, and even ‘packing up to go home’ at the end of the performance. I hoped that Carlos might extend this little glimpse of the reality of dancing by leaving the applauding audience to its own devices while he stood the dancers a well deserved drink in the adjacent Shakespeare pub. However, they returned to take many curtain calls from the enthusiastic audience.

The Ballet Nacional de Cuba’s mixed program of short items was much more conventional. Indeed all the items except one were part of the major classical repertory. ‘All the usual suspects’? of the traditional ballet gala were there: Giselle; Sleeping Beauty; Nutcracker; Coppelia;  Don Quixote; and SwanLake. The versions performed were usually by the company’s veteran director, Alicia Alonso, ‘after’ the original choreographer. Her tinkerings with the traditional choreography were not greatly to my taste. However, I did like the arrangement of the items. Each popular pas-de-deux was set with a dance from the same work, for soloists and the corps-de-ballet. For example, the Act 1 Mazurka from Coppelia was danced with the Act 3 pas-de-deux; the Polonaise from Sleeping Beauty with the Act 3 pas-de-deux, etc. This provided each pas-de-deux with a setting, and made the program less like a series of music hall turns.

The final item was the only modern piece, a creation by Alicia Alonso called Gottschalk Symphony – Creole Party. This light and local ethnic flavoured work provided a good opportunity for the whole company to appear in support of the eight principal dancers who had appeared in the various earlier items. It is surprising that the tuneful music of Louis Moreau Gottshalk is not used for dance pieces more often. I can only recall one, the American Ballet Theater’s production of Great Galloping Gottschalk, choreographed by Lynn Taylor-Corbett.

All the program was well danced, and in some cases superbly danced, so Madame Alonso can certainly produce fine dancers. It is interesting that Cuba, a small and poor country, can produce so many dancers of such quality.

The full length production of Don Quixote I rather liked. It might not have had the impact of the recent Bolshoi production, nor its décor. Indeed the Cuban set and costumes suggested a rather limited budget, even down to the rather naff glossy tights worn by some of the men. Even so, the production was crisp, the story clearly told, and the mimed role of the Don coherent rather than ridiculous as it can be with some productions. The general dancing of the company was excellent, and I cannot remember how long it has been since I last saw eight male dancers drawn up in two rows with those on the left pirouetting in unison to the left, and those on the right pirouetting to the right. The style and cohesion of the women was impressive.

Due to attending both the opening nights, the cast for the leads in Don Q were the same for both the mixed programme pas-de-deux and the full length ballet. Kitri was danced by Viengsay Valdes, petite, extrovert, and mischievous, her technique was strong, and her balances phenomenal. She was already balancing for Cuba, and could balance for the entire American continent. These feats were performed with a delight which was infectious. I would love to see her in Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique. Her partner was Joel Carreno, another excellent and stylish classical dancer with a strong technique. At one point, having satisfied himself that his partner was happily balanced, he moved away and left her to it. Was he off for a tea-break? No, he returned and the pas-de-deux continued to a triumphant conclusion. Earlier Carreno, neatly built but by no means Mr. Muscles, executed two one-handed full-stretch lifts so long sustained that the music had to pause. The conductor got bored and moved on after the first lift. Carreno extended his first effort by carrying his partner across the stage during the second lift. All very worrying for purists, but Don Q is not a ballet that purists should attend. The stunts were done with such exuberance, and with such style, that even Clement Crisp might be willing to tolerate them.

So a happy audience enjoyed Don Q, and gave the cast and their veteran director a great ovation. She certainly knows how to train dancers. Where does she find all the talent? Perhaps droves of recruits appear in the hope that success will allow them to escape Castro’s communist paradise.


Artists who received honours in the Queens Birthday Honours List are as follows:
Darcy Bussell, CBE.
Debrah Warner theatre director CBE;
Actor Charles Dance, QBE;
Anthony Frend, formerly general director Welsh National Opera & English National Opera, QBE;
Ashley Page, Artistic Director Scottish Ballet, QBE;
David Drew, formerly of the Royal Ballet, MBE.

SADLER’S WELLS                                    Tel:  0870 737 7737

11-14 October                 The Forsythe Company, Three Atmospheric Studies
16-20 October                 Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Rosas
24-28 October                 Birmingham Royal Ballet, Stravinsky Triple Bill/     Romeo & Juliet
3-4 November                 The Cholmondeleys & The Featherstonehaughs, Yipeee!!! (2006)
7-25 November               Momix, Lunar Sea
8-11 November               Dutch National Ballet
14-18 November             Rambert Dance Company, with new works
21-25 November             Opera North, Rigoletto / La Voix Humaine /  Peter Grimes
28 Nov-2December         Darcy Bussell & Igor  Zelensky
5-9 December                 Glyndebourne on Tour, Cosi / Die Federmaus / Turn of the Screw 13 Dec-21 January  Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake


4-29 October          Shaolin Monks
8 Dec-7 January     The Snowman


7,9 &11November        Independent Opera at Sadler’?s Wells, Handel’s Orlando
23 Nov-6 January         Nina Bawden’s Carries War

THE OLD VIC       Tel: 0870 060 6628

From September     Kevin Spacey in “A Moon for the Misbegotten”?


6 November                Annual General Meeting
6 January 2007       Twelfth Night Party
11 January 2007            “Cinderella” at Bath Theatre Royal  
13January 2007             Visit to Bristol Old Vic


As members will be aware, subscriptions were due at the end of June this year, and many were received, together with the necessary cheques and sae's. Unfortunately, we were unaware when the last Broadsheet was printed, that the Registrar, Professor Elizabeth Schafer was departing on an extended trip to Australia, and was not there to deal with the subscriptions. Hopefully by now you will have received your membership card.

Subscriptions run from 1st July in each year, rates are Annual £7.50 (OAP’s and Members of The London Ballet Circle £6) Please send new and outstanding Subscriptions to the Hon. Registrar, Professor Liz Schafer, 373 Stroude Road, Virginia Water, Surrey, GU25 4D