Swan Lake: Total awe

I was in total awe as I sat, immersed, watching the beautiful performance of Swan Lake presented by The International Classic Ballet Theatre at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre. Swan Lake is a tragic tale of love that triumphs over evil. Prince Siegfried, given a bow and arrows, heads off hunting into the forest where he meets and falls in love with Odette, Queen of the Swans, merely to be tricked into betraying her with devastating consequences. 

The beautiful performance brought back a flood of wonderful memories of my time as a ex-dancer and ex-professional ice-skater performing to the famous composer Tchaikovsky. Here, his music was exquisitely played by a full live orchestra. A score that will always be remembered. Every time I hear the tune, it gives me goosebumps- transporting me to another world. 

The company of international dancers touring now, from the United States, take to the stage with delightful pirouettes, grande jetes and battements, and incredible arabesques with such elegance and ease. The jester (a very good dancer) kept the audience entertained with his leaps across the floor and quirky mischievous actions.

International ballerinas were selected by the Artistic Director, Marina Medvetskaya, a former prima ballerina of Tbilisi State Academic Opera and Ballet. Each dancer is evidently chosen for their gracefulness, skill and flexibility, all essential for the classical style of ballet presented.

One of the audience, who had never been to a ballet performance before, told me that he found the performance interesting, but was slightly lost about the storyline until he read the brochure at the interval.  When asked if he would see it again and any other balletic performances, he replied, ‘Yes, as this has opened my eyes to something new and different to what I would normally see. It has given me a different perspective of the meaning of ballet. A great evening out!’

The International Classic Ballet Theatre perform Swan Lake at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley from Wednesday 11th to Thursday 12th January. They then move straight onto the Nutcracker, from Friday 13th to Saturday 14th January. Tickets here.

Zeenat Noorani, 12 January 2023

Hamper competition with Laura’s Larder

The Bromley Buzz podcast team have teamed up with Laura’s Larder in Petts Wood to offer a New Year’s competition. The prize is a hamper with a range of food and drink to get 2023 off to a lovely start for one winner. It’s crammed with a selection of Laura’s Larder’s best-selling fine food and wine in one of their beautiful signature grey wicker hampers, total value £100.

How to enter? Answer the following questions in an email to hello@bromleybuzz.co.uk, titled ‘Bromley Buzz competition 1’

1.   Name the local Bromley Members of Parliament who have been interviewed by the Bromley Buzz podcast

2.   Name the brand of garlic butter stocked by Laura’s Larder. Bromley Buzz co-presenter Darren loves it, especially the smoked garlic variety, and he has talked about it on the podcast. He will be again in January. Do go and try some for yourself from Laura’s Larder!

Entries should be sent by email by midnight on Friday 17th February 2023 to hello@bromleybuzz.co.uk titled “Bromley Buzz competition 1”. The single winner will be chosen, at random, from those who answer the two questions correctly, as judged by Bromley Buzz co-presenters Darren Weale and Zeenat Noorani. It would be helpful if you could supply a telephone number, which would only be used to notify you if you win.

This will be a collection-only prize, so anyone who cannot go to the shop in normal, published  opening hours to collect the hamper on or before 17th March 2023 will be disqualified and another winner chosen from correct entries submitted.

If the second (back up) winner drawn on the same basis from remaining entries and notified were not to collect the prize on or by 17th April 2023, the hamper will be donated to Bromley Foodbank.

The image is used for promotional purposes and is indicative. The final hamper and contents will vary from the selection in the image.

The only prize on offer is the hamper, and its contents are at the discretion of Laura’s Larder. There is no monetary or other alternative. Including the value of the hamper itself, the contents will be no less than to the value of £100 at retail prices.

Laura’s Larder is a specialist food store and delicatessen, bringing carefully curated, quality groceries, provisions and eco-friendly refills to Petts Wood and surrounding areas. You can hear Laura, a supplier, and a customer in episode 34 of the Bromley Buzz podcast .

Overview: The business landscape in Bromley

Bromley’s Mayor, and former Small Business Champion, Cllr Hannah Gray (pictured) says, “Bromley is simply a great place to start and do business.”

It is good to remember that opinion as 2023 begins amid many stories of economic gloom and doom. You can listen to our most recent interview with Hannah below.

In June 2022, I wrote an article for the blog of Startups magazine entitled ‘The London borough of Bromley – a buzzing role model for business?’. The answer I gave was a positive one, and I see no reason to change it, despite genuine concern and harm caused by rising fuel and other costs and other factors.

Since that article was written, the Bromley Buzz website was created and then this blog. So, as the new year begins, I will revisit and expand on that earlier writing, using this blog, our new Bromley channel.

One thing has hardly changed. Our affection for the Start Up Bromley service – one based in three of Bromley’s libraries that provides working space, workshops and education opportunities for local businesspeople and people considering starting a business. In the Startups magazine article, it was a pleasure to quote David Smith, Economics Editor of The Sunday Times, saying that “Start Up Bromley is fantastic… a role model”.

Did you know that the first episode of the Bromley Buzz podcast was recorded in the Start Up Bromley business lounge in Bromley central library? If not, you do now. Take a listen.

Here, too, is an interview we conducted with staff from Start Up Bromley.

Is there an economic over view of Bromley? Well, yes, there is. You might like to read Bromley Council’s Economic Strategy 2021-2031 document here.

It sets out 7 ambitions:

1. Our residents have access to the right opportunities for skills and education that will ensure healthy employment

2. Our businesses have access to the right employment spaces in the right places with local business clusters which encourage enterprise and facilitate sustained growth

3. Our borough is an exciting, attractive, healthy, sustainable and welcoming place where businesses thrive, people aspire to live and visit, and new enterprises seek to invest

4. Our High Streets are places where people want to work, visit and live

5. Our residents and business community are well connected through diverse physical and digital infrastructure networks which underpins mobility across the whole borough

6. Our cultural and tourism industries continue to grow and diversify, and our unique historical features are promoted for the world to see

7. Our green economy will help to sustain and advance economic, environmental and social wellbeing

That was published in 2021, while the pandemic was unfolding, Brexit was having its impact, and before the invasion of Ukraine. Those strategic aims are still there to be delivered. We will be inviting Councillors and Council staff to share progress with us here and in our podcast. One item of news is that Bromley has funding as a Night Time Enterprise Zone – details here. Another is the opportunity (until mid-February) to bid for funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – see this post on the Bromley Business Hub website.

Do you know about Bromley’s BID’s? BID stands for Business Improvement District. These are locations that have organisations working for town centre high street businesses to encourage footfall and a better experience for people using those streets. In Bromley we have them in:

  • Bromley town centre – ‘Your Bromley’ – here. We interviewed two of Your Bromley’s team here.
  • Beckenham town centre – ‘Beckenham Together’ – here.
  • Orpington – ‘Orpington 1st‘ – here.
  • Penge BID – ‘Penge SE20’ – here.

They are behind numerous events, high street improvements, and communications that lift the places they are in. You can hear our interviews from Orpington 1st’s ‘Santa Dash’ in 2021 in our podcast here. Yes, we dashed in the Dash.

One of the other highlights of Bromley’s business scene is the Beckenham Business Association and the events it runs. We interviewed the Association Chair, Jane Rogers, here.

Businesspeople love to get together to network, to do business, learn, and, in some cases, be less lonely. This is another strength in Bromley, with opportunities including:

  • Local chapters of Business Networking International (BNI), such as BNI Lightning in Orpington, where you will find me half awake at 6.30am every Thursday.
  • Ladies Who Latte – here.
  • Federation of Small Business (FSB) events – here.
  • Business Over Breakfast (BOB) – here.
  • Rotary Clubs – Bromley club here.

Tip: local businessman (office supplies/branded workwear) Chandra Sharma is a local font of knowledge on networking and has himself founded or contributed to many groups, and won awards for doing so. Questions? Ask Chandra of Elmcroft Business Services.

Location, location, location… where do business people work from in Bromley?

Above: Sophie, Jaya and Aimee at Newman Flexible Workspace

Business people can work from their bedrooms or living rooms or garden offices (especially while at the ‘side hustle’ or start up stage), hot desk in shared locations, rent offices, or whole buildings. Some of the local opportunities for flexible working include:

Bromley has some special attractions beyond being a large, green borough with the assets I have already described. It has heritage and current stars. For example, David Bowie, Charles Darwin, HG Wells, Emma Raducanu and Dina Asher-Smith. It is a borough on the outskirts of London with a well-educated workforce (some of it supplied by London Colleges South East), many outstanding schools, and excellent transport links with railway stations and the M25 close by. There are several regular markets for makers and artisans across the borough from ones held at the Biggin Hill Memorial Museum to those at the Signature Care Home in Beckenham. Bromley has a lively arts scene, and is, simply, a lovely place to live, and to do business in.

If you’re reading this from outside Bromley, come and see for yourself. Take in the Churchill and other theatres here, award-winning restaurants such as the Copper Ceylon (we interviewed owner Haran here). And listen to more of our podcast episodes as we talk with more people in our business community.

Even as I write, new businesses are opening up in Bromley. There is a new bubble tea establishment where I live in Orpington to investigate, and in central Bromley my Bromley Buzz co-presenter Zeenat Noorani and I were some of the first people through the newly-opened doors of the Dorothy & Marshall restaurant in December, and we’ll be talking about that in the Bromley Buzz podcast.

Darren Weale, 4 January 2023

What do we need? FAB-U-LOUS panto

“I needed that”, said Bromley Buzz co-presenter Zeenat Noorani as she exited the Churchill Theatre on 6th December, after seeing the pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk. It was clear from behind-the-scenes remarks by theatre staff and on-stage ones by the cast that they too welcomed this, an old school, old style, faces to faces experience in which all concerned conspire to have a great time.

Pantomime is a special art form, on the one hand an innocent, laugh a minute spectacle for kids, on the other a succession of gags that it will often take them a decade or more of added lifetime to understand. In a good pantomime, the kids love most of the jokes even as some of the content goes over their heads. Meanwhile, while their accompanying adults get that, they often fail to resist the juvenile humour, and are soon to be seen boo’ing and ‘Oh, no she won’t-ing’ with the best of their young companions. Even so, the real test of the quality of a panto is in the reaction of children, and those present, among them pupils from at least two local primary schools and a nearby Brownies troop, were noisily engrossed from the very start.

Jack and the Beanstalk achieved this delicate balance of pleasure for all brilliantly. The unspoken Master of Ceremonies for the night and co-writer of the script was the well-named ‘Comedy Wordsmith’ Lloyd Hollet, aka Silly Simon (pictured, credit Danny Kaan). The script was a joy, and as Zeenat observed, the tuning of the script to reflect and to poke gentle fun at Bromley (and include the 75 Glades shopping centre businesses Lloyd promised us when interviewed for the Bromley Buzz podcast!), made it extra special. He didn’t tell us, incidentally, that Dame Trot (Darren Machin) would be marvellous, and he was. Nor did he refer to the second half spell of music-based repartee that would have graced any comedy stage.

From the start, the panto was loud (boosted by live musicians in the orchestra pit led by Ian Townsend), big, bold, rousing, and colourful. Did we say big? Big set, big, bright costumes (extra credit to Bethany Page and Celine Castillon for those), big sound, big comedy, big songs. Just big. The deep, roomy stage was well-used for dance numbers that showcased Strictly dancer and judge Anton Du Beke (interview here), at times at home under a glitter ball, and led into some quite demanding wordplay by the Comedy Wordsmith.

To the plot, or at least, a hint of it. Boy (Jack, played by Anton Du Beke) has met girl (Princess Jill, played by Rhiane Drummond, interview here), and is aided by his brother, Silly Simon, in attempting to rescue Daisy the cow from the clutches of Mrs Blunderbore (Rachel Izen) and the hungry Giant, generated in 3D as we donned 3D glasses in the second half, bringing some scary creature moments right into the eyeballs of the audience. Zeenat especially appreciated the immediacy and thrill factor of the 3D, observing that it “added another dimension”.

It isn’t a complex plot, but it works, it has a shape, and it provides the backdrop to the glorious jokes and glitz.

If we were going to channel our inner Craig Revel-Horwood’s, we might say the night ended a little soon, a little abruptly, or warn the parents of very young children that the loudness might put some off, and that one or two characters might have been more to the fore, but why go down that route? We can settle for Craig’s famed summary. This show pulled out all the stops to entertain and to be memorable, and it is FAB-U-LOUS. And big.

The show runs at the Churchill Theatre until 31st December. Tickets here.

Darren Weale and Zeenat Noorani, 6th December 2022

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Absorbing Christie mystery shines at the Churchill Theatre

By the time we saw The Mirror Crack’d at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley – which runs until 26th November – we had already had insights from actor Oliver Boot, Chief Inspector Craddock in the play in our recent podcast interview, here.

Oliver loves performing in the show, and we loved watching it. Coincidentally, his was one of the outstanding performances, as the smart, but often outwitted, foil to Miss Marple, played with excellent comic timing by Susie Blake. Did we say comic timing? In a murder mystery by the Queen of Crime? Well, yes, because the plot, which got darker and darker as the night proceeded, was relieved by humour, especially in the first half. Rachel Wagstaff’s adaptation, directed by Philip Franks, imported that very successfully, as well as one or two modern themes and hints at Miss Marple’s past that were absent from the source material. The production was also aided by a rather ingenious mirrored stage centrepiece, which did enough to transform the backdrop to different settings, from glittering, to tense and spooky. The cast were dressed in some very impressive costumes (thank you, Katie Higgins), adding a treat to the eye as well as the brain.

The plot? That we can only hint at. Much-desired, but reluctantly ageing and rich actress Marina Gregg (Sophie Ward) meets an incapacitated Miss Marple conveniently in time for a murder to be unravelled. Is it her loving husband (Joe McFadden), one of the staff of her establishment, or one of her friends? If she has any friends…. What lay behind it? What clues were there from the views of each person present when it happened? Would more follow, and why? Were Lola Brewster (Chrystine Symone) and Cherry Baker (Mara Allen) who they appeared to be? Was Guiseppe Renzo (another notable performance, by Lorenzo Martelli) a quiet servant or more than met the eye?

The real triumph of the production, though, was in retaining audience attention from the first minute to the last, as a stream of large and small revelations offered new insights into the past of the characters and their motives for, of course, murder.

To find out the answer to these questions, you’ll have to see the play. Tickets here.

Darren and Jacqui Weale, 23rd November 2022

Mayor of Bromley and inspiring lung cancer support group present a special night in Bromley on 3rd December

Everybreath’s special night

Proud to have been chosen by Cllr Hannah Gray, Mayor of Bromley, to be one of the two organisations supported during her year in office, Bromley’s Everybreath, a group providing support to people affected by lung cancer, has added a special night to Bromley’s Yuletide. On 3rd December the Mayor and Everybreath together present ‘A Night Of Classic Movie Themes At The Palace’. The Palace is the Courtyard of Bromley’s ‘Old Palace’ and the music is to be played live by the 50-strong ensemble of the Lewisham Concert Band, supplemented by special guest artists and celebrity supporters of the group, led by the Mayor herself. The Mayor says of Everybreath, “They’re a special cause who are making such a difference locally. Lung cancer isn’t well enough understood, and those affected by it have unique needs that Everybreath are meeting. I applaud them, and I’ll be applauding them and the movie themes even more on 3rd December! I can’t wait!”  

In addition, in the just-held Nursing Times Awards 2022, the organisation was a finalist in the Cancer Nursing category, listed as: ‘King’s College Hospital with the Everybreath lung cancer support group.’

Everybreath – holding the hands of those affected by lung cancer 

Everybreath comprises a group of patients, survivors, bereaved, partners, family, friends, and carers who have experienced the trauma of lung cancer. The primary aim of the group is to provide a safe, relaxed, non-clinical and friendly environment for the provision of both emotional and practical support and guidance to anyone affected by lung cancer. The group meets on the last Thursday of every month in Farnborough.

As well as a forum for meeting others, sharing experiences and developing coping strategies, Everybreath provides access to additional specialist medical and support services. They also organise social events for families and invite experts to speak on a range of related topics.

Everybreath is committed to raising awareness of lung cancer and challenging preconceptions about lung cancer and smoking that can hamper early diagnosis. They work with local GPs, clinical staff at local hospital trusts, as well as other established groups, organisations and charities to improve early diagnosis and lend their support for the campaign for a National Screening program.

Everybreath would like to thank their sponsors for this event: Priory Live Festival; Irwin Mitchell  solicitors; EuroABS; and Hugh James law.

 Links

Tickets: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/mayor-of-bromleys-a-night-of-classic-movie-themes-at-the-great-hall-tickets-387430624427

More on Everybreath

Emma Barclay, the co-founder of Everybreath, was 44 years old, a wife and a mother with young children when she went to her doctors with a lump in her neck. A referral to an ENT specialist and a biopsy revealed it was advanced lung cancer. Emma was assigned Nicky De Lobel as her specialist cancer nurse during her care, and she went on to co-found Everybreath with Nicky. Experimental treatment followed, the cancer went into remission and after 5 years Emma was discharged. 

Nicky says of Emma, “She is special. She refused to give up and carried on. She wants to share her story of hope and that what happened to her can happen to other people.”

The organisation largely comprises volunteers, including former NHS staff, such as Ruth Marshall, and her friend Tessa, who for years has made the tea and coffee, a simple but essential service at Everybreath’s meetings.

Everybreath is working on initiatives with other organisations in the field, but there are very few other organisations offering related services.

Lung cancer

Lung cancer is the biggest single cause of death by cancer worldwide. It kills more people than bowel and breast cancer combined. It carries with it a stigma that most cancers don’t, as it is invariably associated with smoking and attracts judgement and blame for sufferers, even the many who have never smoked, by being perceived as self-inflicted, an avoidable risk. Whereas in reality young women in particular can get it having never smoked in their lives.

That helps to explain why often well-known, high profile individuals who suffer from lung cancer and who live well do not readily share their status. That in turn makes the cancer a taboo and hides the message that it can, sometimes, be controlled and lived with and is not always a death sentence. As with many cancers, early detection is important, and that it is so seldom discussed is unhelpful to early detection. A national programme of screening has been newly announced, but even so people should have any symptoms checked and not await the screening programme.

Death Drops into Bromley

‘Death Drop – Back In The Habit’ glitzed its way to Bromley on the 27th October, and remains in The Churchill Theatre until the 30th, with Legendary drag queens and stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Willam (A Star Is Born, Nip/Tuck), and Cheryl Hole (Celebrity Juice, The Only Way is Essex) leading an all-drag cast including River Medway, Victoria Scone and Drag King superstar LoUis CYfer (Winner – Drag Idol, Death Drop) in this murder mystery comedy. 

Writer Rob Evans and Director Jesse Jones have created a performance that gave the audience a treat of comedy, puns, and an integrated twist of movie references that puts a whole new spin on murder, religion and, of course, Drag.

A member of the audience I spoke with said, “It was funny and entertaining, whilst courageous and ground-breaking with some societal norms. Really liked how movies were referenced and integrated into the play’s story. Passive interaction with audience was nice.’’

Fabulously dressed to kill, the killer drag nuns at St Babs are trapped in their convent with a serial slayer slashing its way through the sisters after a visit from Father Romero, who is somewhat trapped with the sassy fierce nuns Sister Marple, Sister Mary Berry, Sister Maria Julie Andrews and Sis Titis. All of whom leaving you with your mouths and eyes wide open as clues are unearthed by Sis Marple.

It is a playful and cheeky new take on a murder mystery that brings mainstream global drag to the stage. Whilst it is a unique production filled with laughs, it doesn’t quite pay off in the execution of its storyline.

Tickets: https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/tickets-death-drop-back-in-the-habit-bromley-2022

By Zeenat Noorani, 30th October 2022

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel lives up to its name

Bangalore came to Bromley on 19th October, and remains there until 22nd October 2022, with the stage production of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Despite our having heard Rula Lenska – playing Madge – tell us when interviewed for the Bromley Buzz podcast – listen here – that she loves the whole experience, we wondered, would we? Just how do you excite an audience by presenting a group of British retirees going to put their feet up in an Indian retirement hotel?

The fact that this is based on a book and two successful films is evidence that excitement could be forthcoming, and it was.

First, it turns out, you start to excite the audience by having delightful comic prelude by a couple of the actors. Then, shortly after, you make their jaws drop by revealing a stage set that can only be described as gorgeous and that really can make you think you’re in a dilapidated hotel in Bangalore.

Feed in a series of varied and evocative Indian tunes that deepen the experience further, and the Indian scene is set. Then you introduce the largely ageing cast, but one whose age is an asset as well as being essential to the plot. There are hundreds of years of acting experience on the stage, and that shows! Their ability to time and deliver killer lines and draw sympathy and love from the audience is a credit to that experience.

Add character development and some marvellous characters – man-mad Madge, perky Muriel (Marlene Sidaway), naughty Norman (Andy De La Tour), troubled couple Douglas (Paul Nicholas) and Jean (Eileen Battye), widow Evelyn (Hayley Mills), the whimsical Dorothy (Richendra Carey), and you’re in business. Yet that is only half the story.

Let’s return to the earlier question: just how do you excite an audience by presenting a group of British retirees going to put their feet up in an Indian retirement hotel?

One way is by making the hotel staff and other Indian parts as important, engaging and loveable as the British guests, and the production does that. You end up wrapped up in the fate of every character and of the hotel itself. It also makes you think about age and life and values, as we found listening to conversations around the audience.

The Indian hotel (and call centre, a story in itself) staff really shine, with the very Indian mother Mrs Kapoor (Rekha John-Cheriyan), her son Sonny (Nishad More), the vivacious Sahani (Shila Iqbal), Mr Gupta (Tiran Aakel), Kamila (Kerena Jagpal), and Harmage Singh Kalirai – who has three wonderful roles. We don’t like to turn a review into a full cast list, but this cast gave us no other option. Anant Varman was making his professional UK stage debut as Mohan/Tikal, and in some respects he was playing a role as an outcast, but he played it with a charm and wit that suited the show beautifully.   

Talking of shining, that is exactly what this show does more and more, adding even more lush stage scenery and costumes (just see what Douglas, Sahani and Kamila have to wear at the end) as it goes along. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel concludes by adding a dimension that I won’t even spell out – it should be kept a surprise.

We loved it. So did the cheering, heavily clapping audience at the end.   

Tickets: https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/tickets-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-bromley-2021

Also, do check out the charity that Hayley Mills is an Ambassador for: https://campsite.bio/visionfoundation

Darren and Jacqui Weale

Did The Commitments feel good? Oh, yes

Photo credit Ellie Kurttz

Watching and listening to The Commitments live on stage is a joy. You witness the creation of a strange musical alchemy that combines people from a run-down, working class, area of 1980’s Dublin with a magical music, Soul, born many miles away in the United States, to create something truly fabulous. A ragged assembly of musical talents (a butcher on bass, really?) and miscreants form a spectacular show band that energises any audience put before it. Years on from its first writing and becoming a famous movie, this fictional taster of the musical rhythm of the Dublin people remains a credit to author Roddy Doyle.  

The first sight of the set reflects the grey downtown, downbeat backdrop to the story that follows, and that is never quite left behind. Yet that greasy spoon of a musical crucible had the seeds of greatness within it, as becomes clear.

The cast, most of who are first seen as a bunch of people just having a good time at a pub, start to  shine as they put the band – The Commitments – together. In between, they squabble, fall out, have romances and infatuations, and their only real unity comes in their love of the music. Their discord is all part of the charm, along with lines like, “Would you shut up, ye bollix?” Characters such as the spectacular skinhead, James (Stephen O’Riain) and seldom-stirring slob, Jimmy’s Da (Nigel Pivaro) weave in and out of the plot as the main musicians come and grow together. Charismatic vocalist Deco (Ian McIntosh) sounds remarkably like the singer in the Spotify show soundtrack, and that is certainly a compliment. So too was the way some of the audience leaned forward on those occasions when he was somewhat disrobed.

From leaning forward, to standing ovations? That was where the audience was led, thanks to a procession of sampled or fully played tracks, rough and edgy as the band tried them out, slick and spectacular by the close of the show.  The songs of this musical medley included – and this is just a sample to locate your musical radar – Tina Turner’s Proud Mary, Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It On The Grapevine, Eddie Floyd’s Knock On Wood, Aretha Franklin’s Think, and The Temptations Papa Was A Rolling Stone. Plus what is probably regarded as The Commitments signature tune, Mustang Sally.

The vocal talents, dancing and harmonies of the women of the show stood out even amid what is a cast of actor-musicians without weakness. The ladies who became the backing and occasional front singers of the band, Imelda (Ciara Mackey), Natalie (Eve Kitchingman), and Sarah Gardiner (Bernie) almost stole the show by themselves, which is why I chose their image for this post. One Bromley Buzz tip – the show (on our night) ended at around 10.20pm. Whatever you do, don’t miss the encore. Bernie’s song in that finish, which we won’t name (spoiler!) was worth going to listen to by itself. But both the brothers and sisters of the stage, including those I’ve not named, all played their part on a fine night. My Bromley Buzz co-presenter Zeenat Noorani commented on the sheer dynamism of the show, and the energy and vibe of a cast who looked like they were loving their work. This is clearly a feelgood show for all concerned.  

If you walk to the car after a show discussing what is the best thing you’ve seen at a venue and listen to the songs the next morning on Spotify, you know you’ve had a particularly good time. We did. Why don’t you?

The show runs until Saturday 1st October, tickets here – https://churchilltheatre.co.uk/Online/tickets-the-commitments-bromley-2020.

Darren Weale, 28th September 2022

Rev Richard Coles – stand out storyteller

Vicars. They’re dull, right? They dress in grey and often deliver sermons to match. So much for clichés (well-deserved or not). The Reverend Richard Coles is an utter exception. Sure enough, when we saw him on his ‘first night in Bromley’, he dressed in grey and had on his white clerical collar, but he proved that he can talk in technicolour!

That proof came when the Churchill Theatre in Bromley hosted ‘An Audience with the Rev Richard Coles’ on 24th August. He is pictured above (centre) near the stage door, flanked by Bromley Buzz podcast co-presenters Zeenat Noorani and Darren Weale. Our one regret on the night was that Richard has retired as a vicar, so there is no chance to attend a service he leads and to listen to one of his sermons.

You have to be living quite a life to hold an audience spellbound talking on stage by yourself with no more than a glass of water on a small table for company. The Reverend Richard Coles is living such a life. Coming from a family of shoe manufacturers, whose UK business faded alongside so many others decades ago, a choirboy, musician in The Communards when they hit the charts, broadcaster, University Chancellor, crime writer, Strictly Come Dancing contestant, and retired vicar, Richard has led and is leading a uniquely varied and full life.

Richard clearly could have talked for many hours, if not days, and drawn further on his past and present. Reading up on him now, there is so much more that he could have said. Yet from talking about Roland Rat to his initial disinclination to go anywhere near joining the priesthood, to belated romance and the madness of grief – a very personal story – and winning the ‘golden whisk’ in a Christmas MasterChef competition, he showed himself to be a captivating, charming and funny storyteller, and an artist of the spoken word.

A man with a rare ability to talk about so much without his story wandering into a lengthy discourse on faith, music or any other tempting topic, Richard was a delight. He was also a patient delight, still answering questions from the audience when one or two ignored his ‘last question’ request as he eyed his journey to home and the south coast.

We hope Richard enjoyed his first visit (!) to Bromley as much as we did. He will appear at the Rye Literary Festival on 22nd September – details here. If you’re going from Bromley, he is worth the journey.