Stories and announcements

17Aug. 2016.

Britten in Brooklyn: Cast Announced

The countdown to Britten in Brooklyn has begun, rehearsals are in full swing and the chaise longue has arrived!

Joining the previously announced Sadie Frost will be Ruby Bentall (cousin Verity in Poldark) as writer Carson McCullers, David Burnett (Henry Foster in Brave New World) as the mysterious John Dunne, John Hollingworth (Design for Living at the Old Vic, Capt Henshawe in Poldark) as poet WH Auden and Ryan Sampson (Grumio in TV comedy Plebs, Charles ‘Boz’ Dickens in TV’s The Frankenstein Chronicles) as composer Britten. 

Directed by Oli Rose, Britten in Brooklyn will play for a strictly limited season of 21 performances from 31 August - 17 September.

Find out more and book tickets here: wiltons.org.uk/whatson
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12Aug. 2016.

Jobs: Assistant Technical Manager

The Assistant Technical Manager (ATM) is a key role within Wilton’s and assists the effective technical operation of all the spaces within the venue. The ATM will share responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Hall and other spaces when required under the supervision of the Technical Manager. 

Applications may be made in any format you feel most comfortable with (e.g. large print, tape, Braille or British Sign language on DVD or video). When using an alternative format, please use the same headings. You may apply by enclosing a CV but please ensure it includes the information requested below.

Applications can be sent by email or post but must arrive by 12.00 on Friday 2nd September 2016

Please send applications 
via email to Becky Ruffell: b.ruffell@wiltons.org.uk
via post to Becky Ruffell, Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London, E1 8JB.

Job Description and Application Form (docx) 
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4Aug. 2016.

An Audience with Miss Hope Springs

The crackle of sequins, the rustle of chiffon and the heady aroma of eyelash adhesive - yes, we're cock-a-hoop to  welcome the legendary Miss Hope Springs onto our premises. Ahead of her glittering three-night reign over our historic auditorium next week, we were honoured to be granted a bijou chat-ette with this one-in-a-million glamour puss. 

What has been the high spot of your career to date?
I have just gotten back from an exhausting 132 date coast-to-coast tour of the USA with my husband Irving (and his close friend Carlos who travels with us and helps with my hair and makeup). We were in the winnebago going through downtown Hicksville, we pulled in to get some Mexican food, the waiter recognised me (from my 1969 cable TV special Latin ala Springs) and...I got a free taco!

And an experience to make you shudder at the memory?
When my friend the Swedish 'art house'' actress Alaena Traffik and I went to the, hugely fashionable at the time (it was the Summer of Love), naked disco in Oslo. We walked in, took all our clothes off. When the dry ice cleared we were in the wrong club.

Who has influenced you more than anyone?
My mother Rusty (Rusty Springs). She’s my rock. Well…actually more like a piece of pumice these days. Rusty started out as an exotic dancer in Nebraska in the 1940s. Tragically I lost her only last week….Well, Victoria Coach Station at rush hour is a nightmare. She was halfway to Newcastle before I realised.

You sing a wonderful song about making the most of your good points - what do you feel is your greatest asset?
I think it’s my tenacity. As an actress I’ve been turned down by every producer and director in Hollywood (and not for just acting roles). My recording career went nowhere when I was dropped by Capitola Records in late 1979 because my disco LP Blood, Sweat and Sequins sold only 12 copies. And yet here I am still trying to ignite the flame of success in your beautiful country. I always say, who knows what’s just around the corner? Actually I do...it’s a bus-stop and a Cafe Nero but that’s not what I mean.

Vintage Hope: her natural beauty shining through

Do you have any beauty or fashion tips for the ladies?
Well I’m just a natural gal…I towel dry my hair, pinch my cheeks and I’m done. Although I guess I am lucky to be blessed with extremely thick naturally blonde hair…it’s my Irish, Lithuanian, Inuit genes. And my eyelashes are famous for being super thick and luxurious... like Elizabeth Taylor’s, did you know she had three rows of lashes? I have 7. Liz was famous for her eyes supposedly being violet (she was a bosom pal of mine and trust me, in reality the eyes were actually just a weird puce colour, poor girl, she wore those gaudy Kaftan’s and big diamonds to distract people’s attention away from them).

And for the gentlemen?
Very tight white pants, and a white shirt open to the navel. Preferably with a very hairy chest and a medallion. Unlike a lot of people I love a man with back-hair…so don’t wax is my advice. Or alternatively the Liberace look... I’ve always been a sucker for understated masculine elegance.

If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you most like to have washed up on your shore?
It’s already happened, darling. And it was Tab Hunter! A beautiful man and a talented actor (well, a beautiful man anyway). We were in a movie called Strangers in Paradise. Sadly I ended up on the cutting room floor and they re-shot all my scenes with Lassie. Go figure. To be honest I fell for Tab in a big way. But, he just saw me as an object... Not a sex object…just an object.

If you're quick off the mark, you might still catch tickets for Hope's exclusive cabaret - Tuesday 9th to Thursday 11th August - where you can gather more of her pearls of wisdom. Don't say we don't spoil you.

Photographs of Hope by Zoe Hunn
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28Jul. 2016.

Introducing Aimi Macdonald

Although, for many, she needs no introduction and will always be known as 'The Lovely Aimi Macdonald'. After being spotted by David Frost, Aimi joined the team on the iconic television sketch show, At Last, the 1948 Show, where she starred alongside John Cleese, Marty Feldman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graham Chapman. She was always introduced as 'The Lovely Aimi Macdonald' and the moniker stuck.

Photograph of Aimi by Peter Robertson

Having begun her career as a dancer in Paris and Las Vegas, Aimi found herself catapulted to fame in 1967 by At Last, the 1948 Show and she quickly became a household name on television. Roles on the big screen and West End stage followed and, over the years, Aimi worked with most of the best known stars of the era, both in the UK and on overseas tours. The list is long and distinguished - Oliver Reed, Richard O'Sullivan, Roger Moore, Shirley Maclaine, Jack Jones - to name only a few.

Aimi's film and stage credits read like a catalogue of the greatest hits of the 1960s, '70s and beyond: Ray Cooney's Run For Your Wife, Coward's Present Laughter, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Sez Les with Les Dawson, Celebrity Squares with Bob Monkhouse and, more recently, the stage production of Summer Holiday with Christopher Biggins.  She also performed with Lionel Blair in Lady Be Good at the then beautiful art deco Saville Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. She will never forget the opening night: "After the show, I had Jane Russell and Jack Benny in my dressing room! I was so young, I was barely more than a child and totally in awe. My big ambition had always been to star in a musical so I felt a bit as though I lost a little of my ambition after that high spot."

Aimi with the cast of At Last, The 1948 Show

A few decades later, Aimi has come full circle, having returned to cabaret, where she started out. In her youth, she played very much the soubrette whereas, now, she regales audiences with a lifetime of wonderful, engrossing anecdotes, illustrated with classic songs. She is thoroughly enjoying writing and directing her own shows and, after years of screen work, performing with her pianist, Trevor Defferd, in much more cosy, intimate settings. Thanks to an abundance of her early work now being available on the internet, she is also finding it very amusing and rewarding to be recognised in public by much younger audiences and delighted that they are enjoying the shows that made her name.

Aimi is, indeed, very lovely and we guarantee she'll entertain you to within an inch of your life with I Did It This Way so come and catch up with all her gossip - you know you want to.

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20Jul. 2016.

Magnificent Music Hall Characters!

Last week, we unveiled a fantastic new display as part of our Heritage Lottery Fund schools project. If you've been to see a show or popped into the bar since the end of last week, you will have spotted the fun, lively and colourful characters dotted around the building. If you scroll through this post, you can see all 30 of these works of art, which were created by neighbouring Shapla and St Paul's schools with artist Daniel Lehan.

Each represents a real or fictional character from music hall history, including performers, typical audience members and people associated with the Mahogany Bar, shops and houses. The exhibition will be on display for around six months, which gives you plenty of time to come along and inspect at your leisure, over a drink or two, whilst taking in a show. Meanwhile, here's a little gallery to give you a taste...

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13Jul. 2016.

I Am History - a guest post by Ben Duke of Lost Dog

I am also God – for a few months more at least.  And while I’m God I am going to make as many grandiose statements as possible… like the title of this blog. 

I am God because I cast myself as God in a one man version of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  It was as easy as that.  I didn’t even have to audition.  And I haven’t been struck down by lightning yet which I am taking as a passive sign of divine approval.  Either that or the real God is biding his time and saving his wrath for a moment in which it can have maximum effect – which is why I would recommend buying a ticket for this show as there is a slim chance you will witness, live on-stage, an Old Testament smiting.  At which point I am history.  

But that is not what I meant by the title.  I am history because I am about to perform this work at the wonderful Wilton’s Music Hall.  As performance spaces go it is older than most of the theatres I spend time in.  It was created as a performance space in 1859 before anyone had even considered the idea of combining comedy, tragedy, music and dance in a single evening of entertainment.  That is of course completely untrue.  It was built with exactly that idea in mind and, for all my claims of post modernity, I am following in a tradition that is directly linked to the music hall; a performer on stage using body, voice and brain to entertain.  That’s pretty much it.  And walking into this magnificent space, which has been a music hall, a Methodist church, a ruin and now a performance space again (restored in such a way as to remind us that it was recently a ruin) is a reminder of the simplicity of what theatre is. 

At one end there is a stage, albeit it a very small one which makes me think that people in 1859 were at least half the size we are now, and the rest of the space is for an audience of about 300 – so 600 in 1859 terms.  It is a room designed both in terms of sight lines and acoustics for watching a performer.  And its original splendour shows just how valued that activity was in 1859.  Its lovingly conserved faded splendour shows that, despite the advent of much other stuff, the activity is still valued.  Old theatres have an essential role to play in keeping our faith in performance alive. Their walls are literally filled with stories and we need them to hang around until those soulless new theatres similarly fill their walls with stories and become old.

Photograph by James Mackenzie;  lighting byTony Simpson (White Light Ltd)

Wilton’s has also been an important part of my personal history.  In 2001 I had the privilege to see Mark Dornford-May and Charles Hazelwood’s version of The Mystery Plays with an incredible South African cast of 34.  It was a remarkable experience.  In making Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) I thought about this production of The Mystery Plays as, of course, they both share the same bestselling book as their source material; but it was only when I stepped into Wilton's again recently that I remembered quite how much I have borrowed/stolen from that amazing piece of theatre. I freely admit that I was inspired by and may have unwittingly plagiarised from that show  (and, if Mark Dornford-May or Charles Hazelwood are reading this, I can assure you I have made exactly no money from this enterprise so far).  Or to put a more positive spin on it I am continuing the story of their production.

The Mystery Plays 2000/1

Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) is made out of my history.  It combines my personal story with Milton’s poem and is of course influenced by work that has inspired and shaped me.  So far, in terms of critical and audience response, it is the most successful piece of work I have made.  So for now, for me, it has an important place in my history, and will continue to have - at least until I can get off this sofa and make something better.  Now the caffeine has worn off claiming to be part of History feels way too pompous but I’m not starting again now so I’ll finish with a flourish as if this was all planned.  

It is easy for me to pretend that my history is nothing to do with me, usually because it is so badly written, but at moments like this there is a temporary coherence.  I am performing this particular piece on this particular stage in no small part because of that incredible production I saw here in 2001.  That is a story.  It has a beginning, a middle bit (in which I forgot some of the beginning) and an ending… possibly a more dramatic ending than necessary if God blows me up as I take my curtain call.  But even if that doesn’t happen it kind of makes sense.  So Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) is another story to stuff into these crumbling walls, to help shore them up and to make a very small contribution to the ongoing vibrant history of theatre.

Photograph by Zoe Manders

Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) runs 19th - 23rd July.
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4Jul. 2016.

Warm words from Simon Callow

Next week, we welcome the London English Song Festival for Songs of The Somme, a moving yet uplifting evening of song, poetry and film to mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme.

We are particularly delighted that pianist William Vann, and his singers will be joined for readings by none other than Simon Callow CBE. Simon is no stranger to Wilton's and we can't wait to see him back with us again. In the meantime, he has passed on these warm words for everyone...

"I'm so very pleased to be taking part in this commemoration and celebration of the men who fought, were wounded - physically and psychologically - and died in the terrible battle of the Somme. The poetry and music that these events inspired have to some extent ensured that we will never forget them. Wilton’s will be the perfect place in which to do it - intimate and uniquely atmospheric. I’ve done a number of shows there - I started my Dickens and Shakespeare shows at Wilton’s, and performed Shakespeare’s Sonnets - twice in each case, once for people paying a lot of money, and the second time for local people who paid nothing. They were among the most enjoyable shows I’ve ever done. Everybody who loves the theatre, whether actors or audience, feels a deep thrill as they enter the place. It positively demands that you make beautiful theatre in it. A magical, blessed space".
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1Jul. 2016.

A Load of Balls

There's nothing quite like a night of rip-roaring comedy to make you forget the lousy weather, a crushing sporting defeat, an (inter)national crisis or all three. If laughing yourself stupid can spread a little health and happiness further afield, all the better and we present just such an opportunity next Tuesday with Alive and Laughing in aid of African football charity, Alive and Kicking.

Alive and kicking is a shining example of how the simplest of ideas and enterprises can generate a chain of far-reaching benefits to change the lives of many. It all starts with hand-stitched footballs. The genius of it is that making them keeps 140 people in Nairobi, Lusaka and Accra, many of whom have never had a real job before, in full-time work. Those people support an average of six people with their wage, meaning the charity directly supports a community of over 800.

It doesn't stop there. The footballs are printed with messages that help to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and to promote a range of causes, from peace and reconciliation to wildlife conservation. Which also keeps skilled screen printers in business and earning a fair wage, supporting their families and communities and so the goodness spreads.

Then there are the opportunities for play brought to schools and community projects who have been given balls and who would otherwise have been unable to afford them.

So why not come along on Tuesday 5th July and do your bit to make the good stuff happen by having a riot of a time watching some of the funniest acts you'll ever see?
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1Jul. 2016.

Calling all budding poets

Ida Barr's Drop the Mic Poetry Night

On Monday 12th September, we are presenting a historically inaccurate poetry night compered by none other than faded Music Hall Star, Ida Barr. Poetry and rhyme was an integral part of Victorian Music Hall entertainment. Often performers would use poetry to inform their audiences of current events and political issues of the day.

We are looking for four emerging poets to perform a short ten-minute set at this event, including at least one poem about current events.
  If you would like to apply, please fill in our Application Form and email it to d.graham@wiltons.org.uk.

Deadline extended to Friday 2nd September at midday.
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30Jun. 2016.

New Season Now on Sale

We are thrilled to present an outstanding autumn season. Highlights include: the world premiere of Britten in Brooklyn, Zoe Lewis’s portrait of Britten’s time in New York with Gypsy Rose Lee, starring Sadie Frost and directed by Oli Rose; a brand new version of Floyd Collins directed by the amazing Jonathan Butterell; Camille O’Sullivan for her first time ever at Wilton’s; Seabright Productions’ Black is the Color of My Voice, written and performed by Apphia Campbell, telling the story of Nina Simone; the unmissable Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists; and, for a grand finale, the season culminates with Wilton’s very own pantomime - Mother Goose, from the same creative team that attracted star-laden reviews with last year’s panto, Dick Whittington.

Read the full programme by clicking on the image below.

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