Cadogan Hall, Chelsea
There may not be much point in reviewing a one-off event which no-one can attend/miss based on your recommendation, but this was a new type of night out for me and I might as well set my thoughts down.
In honour of the 400th year since Shakespeare’s death, and in aid of an actors’ benevolent fund, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed a range of Shakespeare-related music from composers such as Walton, Purcell and Vaughan Williams and Sir Patrick Stewart and Gemma Arterton read extracts from the bard and related writings. Actually, there were far more related writings than I had expected. The Shakespeare extracts were selected largely on the basis of their mentioning music and at least half of the readings were from collections of amusing reviews, actors’ reminiscences and so on. Both actors played the evening for maximum laughs, there not being much point in building a character when you will move on to another (it might be John Geilgud – both attempted impersonations at some point) literally minutes later. Patrick Stewart demonstrated an array of amusing accents, while Gemma Arterton specialised in being spell-bindingly gorgeous. No point in not playing to your strengths.
As for the music, I had never heard a full orchestra before, certainly not from a spot like ours in the cheap seats directly overlooking the stage, and there is no denying that it makes a glorious noise. I mentioned some of the composers in the programme above but although Radio 3 is my default station I am no expert and couldn’t have told you which piece was by which composer. I will say that although Michael Dore was the only individually credited vocalist I was much more impressed by the unnamed soprano in the choir, and that Gemma Arterton surprised me by having a lovely mezzo soprano voice when she sang the Willow Song from Othello. Also, I confirmed the suspicion garnered from previous performances I have seen at Cadogan Hall, that their Steinway grand is the most beautiful sounding instrument that I have ever had the privilege to hear.
The readings or the music by themselves would have made the night worth while, but the combination made for a very special evening. If you were there then I’m sorry I missed the chance to say hello; if you weren’t then it’s too late now. Sorry about that.
Some well-heeled (this is Chelsea after all), some less so, quite a few Japanese tourists. Impeccably behaved – laughed at the right points, no other noise during the performance, and no-one, including me, took any pictures until the curtain call (not that there is a curtain at Cadogan Hall).
It made me think..
Put me in a seat literally right above the RPO playing, while Patrick Stewart reads Caliban’s speech (‘The Isle is full of noises …’) and it still isn’t quite enough to fully distract me from the vital task of memorising every contour of Gemma Arterton’s fabulous neck and shoulders.