Sophia goes Backstage! at the Vintage and Handmade Fair on Sunday

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Vintage & Handmade in Lyme Regis

The love of vintage is thriving across the generations and where better to enjoy a taste of this than the Marine Theatre; itself having enjoyed the vibrancy and positivity of that post war era and on through the 1950s and 60s before the psychedelic 70s nudged this richly colourful age temporarily to one side.

When I arrived at the Vintage & Handmade Fair there was already a long queue of people waiting to get in, from grannies who would be only too familiar with the period, mums and dads and children. Whether it was nostalgia, curiosity or looking for something a bit special, there was something for everyone.

Margaret Parker from St Albans, Hertfordshire was visiting Lyme Regis for the week, “I’m always on the look-out for vintage fairs, I love its quirkiness.”

To the gentle sound of harp music being played in the background, visitors were taking their time looking at the different stalls that sold a rich variety of retro merchandise including dress patterns from Lyme Regis based Sew La Di Da Vintage to make the classic swing skirt, or jewellery from Angela Cooper and gorgeous lace and original antique bridal wear from Days of Grace. There were also handcrafted greetings cards by Papercut Oddities and handmade sweets by Cheeki.

An age of striking colours, clean cuts and bold floral patterns were the order of the day and in that The Darling Buds of May spirit there was a definite feel-good factor, made all the more special by a few visitors who took their love of the style one step further.

18 year old Sophie Bye loves the era, “I grew up surrounded by vintage cars and I like to look individual and stand out.”

So it may have had its heyday over half a century ago but there’s no doubt the vintage era is alive and well in Lyme Regis and continues to be enjoyed by all generations.

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Thanks Sophia!


Sophia is Backstage! at Stig of the Dump



Stig of the Dump in Lyme Regis

There were no mexican waves when I first watched ‘Stig of the Dump’ years ago (I don’t think they’d even been invented then), but the London Contemporary Theatre production of this classic story soon had the audience on their feet with their hands in the air.

Even before the play started the performers were determined to make sure everyone felt they were an integral part of the performance, as Grandma chatted away to the audience on one side of the auditorium and on the other side was Barney who struck up a conversation with some children after moaning about how bored he was!

The story unfolds with a few seemingly ad hoc lines thrown in,

“Is that in the script?” Grandad asks.

And with a song or two for good measure, there was plenty to hold the attention of the young audience; of particular curiosity was the brilliant puppetry that was Stig.

The picture colouring during the interval added a whole new dimension as the finished artwork was hung up on the stage for everyone to see, much to the delight of the children who had plenty to say about the performance!

Eight year old Rhona was there with her grandma,

“I like it because it has a small cast so I can keep up with what’s going on and I thought the arguing was funny, it’s just the same as when I argue with my friends.”

Millie who is seven really enjoyed it and especially the puppet Stig who she thought was very funny and her five year old brother Charlie liked the squabbling (I can see a trend developing here!)

For me it was the exceptional stage set, and like Millie, I enjoyed the puppetry. The recommended age group is 6+ but personally I think the ideal age bracket is 4 – 8 years old, but then we all love the magic of live theatre don’t we!

Thanks Sophia, and thanks to the cast and crew of Stig of the Dump. More Backstage! next week…

Sophia is Backstage! with KiteHigh


KiteHigh Theatre enjoy our unrestricted R&D workspace

Little Princess; makes you think of pink frills and taffeta doesn’t it, but if you watched the KiteHigh Theatre production of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story, you would have enjoyed so much more. Because Abigail Pickard Price, Artistic Director and founder of KiteHigh wanted to explore the feasibility of turning this elaborate story and blockbuster film into a stage production that would encapsulate the important elements of the story whilst adding a few of their own ideas.

“I love the story and I’ve wanted to do it for ages but I wondered if I was mad because it’s a really big story; but we’ve not restricted ourselves and everyone reassured me I wasn’t mad!” said Abi.

And that’s what the ‘Marine Theatre R&D’ week is all about; unrestricted thought processes. How to portray the vastness of Miss Minchin’s boarding school for instance; with two large wooden frames on wheels representing the many doors and corridors, from the scullery where Becky the lowly maid worked all the way up to the attic where Sara was made to sleep following the death of her father that left her penniless and the mean headmistress quickly points out her new station in life,

“You are like Becky, you must work for a living. If you make yourself useful I may let you stay here.”

But it is the audience who are going to be the driving force in this production,

“We will use this week to work out who is our future audience; can this appeal to everyone?”

If the reaction from their young audience was anything to go by, then they are definitely on the right track, a group of local scouts, mostly boys, liked the way they had represented the different scenes including the attic room windows and were also keen to learn more about the production process.

Whilst not guaranteed, let’s hope A Little Princess will soon find the support it needs to take it to the next stage…hopefully one near you very soon!

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Thanks Sophia, and we hope to see you again soon, KiteHigh!

Sophia goes Backstage! with Peter and the Wolf (and me)


Peter and the Wolf in Zimbabwe

Peter and the Wolf is one of those school music lesson stalwarts; you know just what you’re getting, unless that is, you watch Nick Young’s production where he has made a few additions and I’m not just talking about the title of Peter and the Wolf (and me) because you will also hear about Zimbabwe, a disused industrial site cum out-of-bounds playground and an alcoholic.

Nick had a turbulent childhood living in South Africa and Zimbabwe, not just because of apartheid and his mixed race heritage, but it seems his young life was littered with beatings, uncertainty and frustration and it is this that manifests itself in his production.

“At times I asked myself if I should even bother to do Peter…it was an exercise in frustration”

Having started work on this play five years ago, whilst the dark sinister side of the original story remains, he tells me his latest production is radically different,

“It’s still about a little boy who wants adventure and isn’t prepared for it but it’s also a leaner more effective piece of story-telling”

Omer Makessa is from Martinique and plays the musical accompaniment creating the contrasts of mood, and when the drunken father bullies his small son, for me it was the way Nick morphed into the towering threat of an angry dad then shrunk back into the small weaker boy that triggered my emotion.

His recreation of his old classroom cleverly portrays the conversation between his teacher and classmates where he tells them his version of the story of Peter and the Wolf and it is this dual story-telling of Nick’s autobiography where the parallels started to emerge.

Peter and the Wolf (and me) has certainly retained that dark and disturbing tale of the original, however I can’t help but wonder if this play was less about Peter and the Wolf and more about the demons from Nick’s past that he is trying to expunge from his otherwise exotic childhood.

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Thanks Sophia! Thanks to the cast and crew of the show!

Backstage! with Kate McStraw of Pop Up Opera!

As someone new to opera, I’ve seen a handful of performances in the past, mostly large-scale tours at Southampton Mayflower, entering this new world has been an incredibly exciting experience. Music is a powerful tool:- never more so than when projected by the lungs of opera singers!

I’m currently sat in rehearsals (the final week of three and our final preparation before opening night at The Vaults, London on Monday 21st March) and the energy in the room is electric!

Pop-up Opera singers have special talents to convey deep emotion through both the music and their acting whilst creating an intimate performance style. Director, James Hurley, interjects the rehearsal with notes about deathly stares and glares of revenge, in an attempt to create real tension on stage. The stage manager is off to purchase more fake blood!

This production has the formula to be particularly atmospheric, and is performed up close to the audience.

The setting has been updated to a 90s style Italian mafia environment; Capellio (Lord Capulet) the head of one gang with Tebaldo and Romeo gang members. During this story,  unlike the infamous Shakespeare Romeo & Juliet, the story opens with Romeo and Guileitta already in love and fighting for their love to survive against the bloody gang warfare taking place around them. The rehearsal room is full of wine crates and discarded champagne bottles, starkly lit by florescent strip lighting; part of Capellio’s basement wine bar from which he runs his ‘business’.

I’m a huge Shakespeare fan, so working on an operatic version of Romeo and Juliet has been a real joy. I’ve also learnt how both Shakespeare and Bellini have been inspired by the same original Italian text, rather than Bellini taking his inspiration from Shakespeare.

This is the first time Pop-up Opera have toured to Dorset.  Marine Theatre, with it’s flexible seating and sea-side location, couldn’t be a more perfect place to introduce the company to this county! We look forward to meeting audiences here on Monday 28th March – take it from an opera novice; this production will leave you hooked to this powerful artform.


By Kate McStraw, Pop-up Opera Producer (originally from Dorset!)

Sophia goes Backstage! at Lyme Youth Theatre’s Musical: Bedbug


Recycled cardboard boxes played a major role in the Lyme Youth Theatre production of Bedbug the Musical, but it was the enthusiasm of the young performers that really triumphed.

Mechanic Ivan Varlet played by Joe Urquhart, set the scene as he discarded his proletariat life of manual labour in favour of the trappings of the bourgeois and sent his girlfriend Zoya, played by Roisin Linnett, packing in favour of the hairdresser Elzevir, played by Eleanor Hills,

“I have dis-invented him…our former love has been liquidated. I have fought for the good life and won”

The story unfolds; the wedding, the fight, the fire eventually extinguished by drunken firemen then 50 years later and the un-freezing of Ivan. Which is when we meet the bedbug that had been living on Ivan; and it is in this creature that Ivan finds solace as he faces the new Russia and a much aged Zoya!

“Here’s a little animal friend I recognise, a bed bug, hello bed bug”

But what was it that made this production so top notch? Was it the brilliant acting, the perfectly delivered dialogue, the fantastic singing or perhaps the clever use of cardboard boxes?

For me it was the very obvious enthusiasm and love of taking part and despite just one rehearsal per week, their professionalism and talent was unmistakable.

But what did the performers think?

Goleg, the life stylist, played by 17 year old Hope Mortimor,

“I didn’t know anybody when I came here but everyone was really welcoming and I loved it and 100% I’d do it again. I’m really going to miss it.”

 Zoya, Ivan’s girlfriend, played by Roisin Linnett,

“I didn’t think it would be as funny as it is, I struggle to do the serious stuff and I enjoyed the singing.”

And the directors from National Theatre Connections were equally impressed,

“You put a smile on my face, you brought it to life and seeing the support you give each other is wonderful.”

Next stop, Theatre Royal Bath!

Thanks Sophia, thanks LYT!

Sophia goes Backstage! at Jazz in the Bar


Philip Clouts was born in South Africa and enjoyed a childhood of surround-sound Cape jazz that has been a big musical influence in his life, whilst Brummie Pete Canter lived in London for 11 years and worked with Soho’s underprivileged children; so it made perfect sense when they told me,

“Jazz is our common language”

And the intimate friendly Marine Bar on a Mothering Sunday afternoon was the perfect place to enjoy the duo’s musical medley.

It was Philip who organised this gig and Pete chose the pieces,

“I went through my big fat book of tunes I’ve played over the years” and it truly is a bulging book of music. Except not the sort of sheet music I am used to with crotchets and quavers riding the staff; with jazz it’s all about improvisation based on a set of chords.

They started with Nostalgia in Time Square that transported me to that busy American city but on a lazy Sunday afternoon when the hustle and bustle have been replaced with a relaxing stroll.

The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers put me on a grassy bank next to a stream, the sunshine glinting on the water; although I suspect my vision is slightly off target given the rather unusual title!

Each piece, including Joyce’s Samba and Bluesette written by harmonica player Toots Thielemans, effortlessly conjured up a different image for me but watching Pete in particular who played the alto, tenor and soprano sax, those soothing melodies required a lot of energy on his part!

Philip and Pete also compose music, combining innovation with originality,

“We write our own pieces, exploring the boundaries of what people consider to be jazz”

And that’s exactly what it did for me, taking me off to places I may never go except through the medium of jazz.

Philip will be performing this weekend at St Peter’s Church Eype raising money for the Tusk Trust charity and Pete can be seen monthly at the Exeter Phoenix.

Thanks Sophia, thanks Philip and Peter! More Backstage! next week…