Gala Night at the Alexandra Park Theatre - one of Dorset's newest old theatres* - saw celebrities gather for what is widely tipped to be the theatrical event of the year: the new production for the Nottington Theatre Company of Rowena Westlake's beloved A Winter's Carol. Adapted for the stage by Carol Winter and directed by current bad-boy creative sensation Ben Dover, this new take on a much-loved classic was always expected to attract the great and the good; and so it proved. Mrs Threadbone was there [of course] accompanied by amanuensis and newly promoted chief clutch-bag holder Enriqué de los Caicos Perdidos. So too were, Brenda Oats and husband Ray, Ms Cecilia Notso-Pointy [Ms Badminton-Court was indisposed], Mrs Endersley-Kindersley, Doug Graves, Mr Royston Binstocke [with mystery companion Mystique Compè-Anyon], novelist Emma Roid, Maestro Irina Legova, Mrs Whisky-McNightly, Jason Stourpaine, Polly Anthus, Mr Jermyn Street and pop sensation Brittany Ferries. Author Rowena Westlake also attended but remained largely unrecognised by the assembled press and, more critically, by an over-zealous usher who tried to steer her towards the exit shortly before the performance began.
* Once the home of the Dorset Musical Hall and Light Entertainment Company [1882-1914] the theatre [affectionately known as the Ally Parky] fell into disuse diuring the First World War, was briefly revived as a cinema [1921-1934] and became the first permanent home of the Dorset Broadcasting Corporation . The DBC's Alexandra Park transmitter remained functional until 1958 when it was struck by lightening and its antiquated fuse system could not be repaired. The theatre itself was last used for a musical extravaganza - Annie Where's Your Gusset - in 1946. It was refurbished in 2018 with funds from the Dorset Lottery, The Threadbone Corporation Theatre Trust and an anonymous donation from Mrs Whisky-McNightly in memory of her television pioneer ancestor John Logie Twice-Nightly.
Scheduled for a limited run only [24 November 2023 - 18 August 2024]**, this tale for all seasons [set in a Dorset undertakers at Christmas time] is a must-see for all the family. "Children will enjoy the songs, adolescents the ghosts, women-folk the story and menfolk the scantily clad embalmers", says The Mappowder Mirror's Theatre Critic Wan-Too Manni, "though to my taste, they could have gone a bit further. With bad-boy Ben-Dover directing, I had expected a bit more of an erotic charge, especially after his last outing".***
** Must end on this date unless cancelled earlier
*** Dorset Dentist On The Job VI: Revenge of the Autoclave - thrupiecefilm Studios 2022. Following its cinema release it became instantly available on the Threadfix steaming platform.
A Winter's Carol was first published in 1982 and was an immediate hit. The tale of a TV quiz-show presenter who selects numbers from a pile and places them on a rack before inviting contestants to compute complex sums based on her selection, it mixed reality and fantasy in ways hitherto [and subsequently [Ed]] unexplored. In one particularly bizarre but key episode, the presenter is visited in the night by three goats [surely ghosts? [Ed] No goats actually [Literary Ed]] who collectively show her the error of her ways so that when she wakens after her troubled night she is ready to seek redemption through extreme cosmetic surgery. SPOILER ALERT: Carol then leaves the show and becomes a controversial radio presenter and, only slightly later, completely insane.
The novel has been adapted many times, but the Nottington Theatre Company production is said by many to remain most faithful to the original text. Iy received ***** from the Mappowder Mirror, ***** from What's On in Dorset and * from the Goathill Guardian.