REVIEW: Wilson Robert’s Friends

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DAVID BRADLEY

Sandy Holt reviews Wilson Robert’s Friends, Levi Fox Hall, King Edward VI School, 16th December

A surprise performance by RSC actor David Bradley (who became a household name for his role as Filch the caretaker in the Harry Potter films) was the icing on the Christmas cake for the audience at this year’s charity show by Wilson Robert’s Friends.
The event was started following the death of Stratford’s great impresario Wilson Roberts, so named by the Herald as a recognition of the good work on the local performance scene and numerous productions he staged, all for a good cause, and latterly mostly for Prostate Cancer UK.
Following his defeat against his own battle with cancer his friends decided the show must go on and it is now established as ‘something of a tradition’.
Over the years this festive concert has grown in professionalism, and this year was not exception, the show was definitely worthy of a Royal Shakespeare Company stage!
As the 16th annual event opened, the audience was meet with vision of stunning sparky red gowns and black tie, befitting of the occasion.
Then, with great aplomb the evening launched with an ensemble performance of Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas… with the poignant words of ‘ faithful friends who are near to us, who are dear to us’ resonating around the auditorium, bringing the first tears to many eyes. The standard was exceptional with superb harmonies, a true indication of the quality of performance to follow.
Compered by David Neale, each act was introduced in David’s own humorous and inimitable fashion. From performances of traditional and popular songs, to readings and references to the works of the great poets Shakespeare, Dylan, Hardy and a lesser known work by Ian McMillan, and delicious anecdotes – all interspersed with beautifully cringeworthy Christmas cracker jokes this show had it. All of which, beautifully delivered by well known actors, singers and musicians from the local amateur and professional performing arts scene.
The highlight for most was David Bradley’s Witty adaptation of Nat King Cole’s When I Fall in Love and later in the show the Massochism Tango.
In additional for me it was wonderful to see the sisters Coldicutt, Olivia and Ellie perform a beautifully harmonised Wonderful World, accompanied by musical director Tim Spencer on piano.
These two, with some encouragement from Wilson all those years ago, have achieved great things in the music industry.
Another blossoming beauty is Sarah Salt who is now all grown up and performing to professional standard. On Sunday night she gave a well received version of ABBA’s Mama Mia with Charlie Rushton. But the award for emotion goes to Rose Smith, who celebrating 50 years of marriage to Eric this year, sang to her spouse Nancy’s As Long as he Needs Me, from Oliver! Very touching!
The men gave equally strong performances, including solos of Chestnuts Roasting and Sweet Caroline (Nick Goodwin), stories from the Bethlehem Arms (Phil Hickson) and Michael Buble’s Love You Anymore (Tim Spencer). As is always the case, far too many brilliant performances to mention!
The evening was rounded off with a Christmas medley of carols and as the show came to a close, performers and audience were left with one thought in mind, “count me in for next year”.