Rich’s – Farnham Herald

The Pretty Things

Still going strong


 The Pretty Things’ current lineup represents a mix of the old guard, with Phil May (center), Dick Taylor (second from right), and Frank Holland (second from left), and next-generation talent with George Perez (right) and Jack Greenwood (left). Publicity photo

I last saw The Pretty Things in the mid 60s at the Corporation Hotel R&B Club in Derby.   That was the fiercely frenzied first incarnation of a band that over the decades has split, reformed and reinvented its self half a dozen times.   And on Saturday night at the WEST END CENTRE in Aldershot they were still at it.

The current line up has Phil May as vocalist, Dick Taylor on lead guitar, guitarist Frank Holland, bassist George Perez and Jack Greenwood on drums.

Dick Taylor left the Rolling Stones in 1962 (succeeded by Bill Wyman) and met up with Phil May at the London Central School of Art.   They formed The Pretty Things together in 1963.   Frank Holland joined them in the 90s and the ‘youngsters’ have been with the band for several years.

Saturday’s gig included favourites such as S.F. SORROW and DON’T BRING ME DOWN; we were treated to a mind-blowing homage to Robert Johnson featuring Taylor’s consummate guitar playing, Phil May covering the vocals and Frank Holland on blues harp; and this was soon followed by a medley of Bo Diddley numbers.   For my money The Pretties are at their best playing the R&B and blues I remember from way back, but I am biased.   Their LITTLE RED ROOSTER took me straight to the days of Mod suits and Mary Quant Op-Art dresses.

A frenetic drum solo from Greenwood, mid MONA, gave the old guard a bit of a break and as the set drew towards its close we got L.S.D. and a rousing MIDNIGHT SIX.   Their encore of ROSALYN climaxed the evening.

For those of us old enough to remember The Pretty Things in their early years it was time to go home and reminisce over a well deserved Hobnob and mug of Horlicks.

– Rich Shenton,

7 February 2014.

Sir Peter Blake at the Watts

On Friday 26th of July Sir Peter Blake gave a talk at the Watts Gallery in Compton, a must for admirers of his work.   The talk took the form of a conversation between Sir Peter and Gillian Duke of CCA Galleries.   As we were treated to images of his work, from early lithographic prints made at the Gravesend School of Art in 1948, through his time at the Royal College of Art and the Pop Art years to the epic collection of illustrations for Under Milk Wood currently on show in St Davids, he gave us a fascinating insight into his motivations and influences.   Sir Peter told us of his long-standing enthusiasm for Professional wrestling while we viewed his mixed media portrait of the fictional wrestler Kamikaze, and – cut to slide of First Real Target 1961 – how his Pop Art had been influenced by Jasper Johns, but never Andy Warhol.  Whilst he recounted anecdotes from the time he created the Segeant Pepper album cover we heard that Mae West had expressed misgivings about being associated with a lonely-hearts club.

The talk complemented Pop Victoriana, an exhibition of Peter Blake’s prints in the Old Pottery Gallery.   This is a collaboration with CCA Galleries which runs until 31st August.   It includes delicate images from his Alice series and some of his thrilling collages.   Despite earlier storms the weather turned fine for the Watts at Dusk evening with live music and refreshments on the lawn, quoits, croquet and a competition to design a collage record cover, judged by Sir Peter.

The Watts Gallery, along with the nearby Arts and Crafts Chapel created by G.F. Watts’ wife Mary, are gems set in a beautiful corner of Surrey.   There is a lively programme of events and exhibitions throughout the year.   The current Ellen Terry exhibition runs until 9th November and is followed by A Russian Fairytale: the Art and Craft of Elena Polenova from18th November until 8th February 2015.   This exciting exhibition will be the first major retrospective outside Russia to explore the career of the 19th-century painter and designer.

 Rich Shenton,

8 August 2014.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Mill At Elstead

 On the evening of Thursday 14th August Shakespeare was performed in the time-honoured venue of a tavern yard, well, to be accurate the beer garden of The Mill At Elstead, a fine traditional pub rebuilt in 1648.

For those who do not know the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Hermia, played by Josie Catherine, and Lysander, Jack Harding, are in love, but Hermia’s father has ordered her to marry Demetrius, Jonathan McHardy.   Helena, Lucy Aarden Southall, is infatuated with Demetrius, but he has gone off her and fancies Hermia.   Titania, the fairy queen with fairy lights in her hair, played by Bryony Meredith, and Oberon, David Chittenden the Spock-eared fairy king, are at loggerheads over ownership of a changeling boy.   The marvellously caprine Puck, Cameron Harle, does something irresponsible with an aphrodisiac plant extract which results in Hermia getting dumped, Lysander and Demetrius becoming besotted with Helena who thinks they are both mocking her, and Titania falling in love with the amateur thespian Bottom, Richard Fish, who temporarily has the head of an ass (don’t ask).   Comic relief is provided by a play within the play that is to be performed at the Wedding of the Duke Thesius to Hippolyta Queen of the Amazons, David Chittenden and Bryony Meredith again.   Nick Bottom plays the heroic lead in this diversion and the performance includes a scary lion, Lucy Aarden Southall , and a convincingly realistic wall played by Josie Catherine.   I will not give away the end of either play in case the reader is intending to attend one of the performances at The Red Lion, Chalton, 29th or The Links Tavern Liphook 30-31st of this month.

The intimate layout of tables and benches around a narrow performance area in the Mill’s garden encouraged interaction between the predominantly young and enthusiastic actors and their audience. Cameron Harle gave an outstandingly puckish performance as Robin Goodfellow and Richard Fish introducing his character of Bottom with snippets of well known soliloquy’s from some of Shakespeare’s other plays was a nice touch.

For a small additional consideration an excellent Elizabethan supper basket was available in the first interval as well as Fullers’ fine ales.   No sooner had act two commenced than the skies opened and a steady downpour accompanied the rest of the evening’s entertainment.   It dampened neither the spirits of the actors nor of the audience and in a moist way added to the fun of the venture.   Wet grass and the occasional watery misadventure offered an increase in opportunities for adlibbing and interaction with the audience.

All in all the evening was a roaring success.   Permanently Bard is the country’s only Shakespeare company dedicated to performing in pub gardens. They believe Shakespeare is for the masses and with their raucous, interactive and fast paced adaptations aim to be as accessible as possible.   The actors and the landlady of The Mill, Georgia Watts, can be proud of the results of their efforts.

 Rich Shenton,

22 August 2014.

Chilling Tale of the Cat and the Carpenter

Endurance_Final_SinkingMcNish rises from under the tarpaulin of a small boat with a roar, the opening to an eighty-minute monologue, pretty much a drunken rant, which bit by bit reveals the story of Ernest Shackleton’s incredible exploits in Antarctica in 1914, from the point of view of the ship’s carpenter.

It is Saturday evening at The Mill, Guildford. With a starkly minimal set, the play, Shackleton’s Carpenter, puts us on a wharf in Wellington New Zealand early in 1930. McNish, played by Malcolm Rennie, is sleeping rough, destitute and soon to die.

“Shackleton killed my cat!”

Sixteen years earlier and not far from their destination in Antarctica Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, had become trapped in the ice, was crushed and sank, marooning explorers and crew on the frozen sea. Before setting off to drag the ship’s boats to open water Shackleton, had the sledge dogs and ship’s cat shot. It was a practical decision, but McNish, the ship’s carpenter, never forgave him. His much loved cat was known as Mrs Chippy and McNish’s resentment at the killing probably contributed to his opposing Shackleton’s decision to haul the boats across the ice. No one challenged ‘The Boss’ lightly. Despite the carpenter’s skill in making one of the life-boats sea worthy enough to survive the storm-wracked Southern Ocean, and his accompanying Shackleton on the six hundred mile voyage to South Georgia to fetch help, he was one of the few to be denied the Polar Medal.

Malcolm Rennie’s performance is a tour de force and the play by Gail Louw brings home the chilling horror and deprivation suffered by the explorers on this ill-fated expedition.

Rich Shenton.

13th February 2015



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