A few days ago we returned to the town of my birth – the careworn but wonderfully characterful channel port of Folkestone. Strolling along the cliff-top I spied the familiar sight of a truck loading equipment and scenery at the local theatre.
The load-in we witnessed was it transpired for a touring production of Aida being staged my old friend the opera producer Ellen Kent. The crew, who were having a cup of tea and a sarnie in the back of the truck, seemed decidedly bashful when we took a snap of an exotic prop being “rested” before making the journey into the theatre. I couldn’t help thinking that their reticent behaviour was completely unlike their flamboyant boss. A larger than life character, Ellen used to regularly contact me during my days as an Arts and Entertainments editor to regale me with astonishing tales of her latest venture.
In those balmy pre credit-crunch days her touring shows invariably displayed a headline-catching gimmick or three. She seemed to have a positive menagerie of live animals and birds taking part in her productions and there were also naked women, dancing fountains, walls of flame and various death-defying stunts.
Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings: Lighthouse, Poole. Friday 29th November, 2013
This should have been a fantastic show. In fact I’m sure it was. Unfortunately, despite superb musicianship, an eclectic mix of blues and R&B and a whole bunch of other gems, it sounded awful. Struggling from the outset with a decidedly soupy sound, Bill and the band battled gamely on.
There was a great turnout for the opening night of the new exhibition of paintings by my good friend, drummer-turned-portrait-artist Gilson Lavis, at the weekend. Self-taught painter Gilson specialises in black and white acrylic studies of many of the famous musicians he plays with in the Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Painted backstage, in hotel rooms and at his home studio, the works on show feature some great performers – Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, Paul Weller, Doctor John, The Rolling Stones, the list goes on.