Katherine Jenkins


Victoria Park, Haywards Heath, Saturday, July 14

A CORNER of Haywards Heath was taken over by the sounds of the Valleys as Welsh superstar mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins was joined by her compatriot John Owen-Jones and the Welsh Male Voice Choir.

The Proms in the Park event also marked the final of four nights of the It’s Magic Festival, organised by Tim French MBE, which had seen tributes to Queen and Elvis Presley perform at Victoria Park.

There was an atmosphere of relaxed anticipation as the National Symphony Orchestra assembled and warmed up, with the park busy without being overcrowded, and the glorious summer of 2018 framing the stage with another bright, cloudless evening.

The orchestra opened with a sprightly and rousing rendition of The Pirates of Penzance, before Katherine Jenkins entered the stage for Granada without any great fanfare other than her diamante-covered microphone.

While Jenkins is one of the most celebrated and successful opera singers of recent decades, part of her charm is that she is anything but a diva—along with her relatively low-key entrance, the orchestra were given full reign to continue demonstrating their talents during the piece, very much adding a different element to the music rather than simply providing backing for the vocals.

This balance continued with Nella Fantasia, which, as one would expect from an Ennio Morricone work, was lifted by soaring strings.

Between songs, Jenkins chatted to the audience in cheery, understated Welsh tones entirely at odds with her overwhelmingly powerful singing voice.

It was her seventh time performing in Haywards Heath, she explained, adding, “You haven’t aged a bit!” and noting the proliferation of Union Jack flags in the crowd, as has come to be expected at a Prom.

John Owen-Jones offered a different style of singing and, indeed, performing while continuing to amuse the audience with his relentlessly self-deprecating sense of humour.

His successful background in musical theatre came through with both his choice of songs, covering Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman, and his singing, which though less powerful than his compatriot was perhaps more physically expressive.

After a quieter opening number, he warmed up and his closing number in the second half, Bring Him Home, received a standing ovation.

Indeed, the second half was almost a “greatest hits” covering musicals, classic pop, and classical.

Following the interval, during which the audience welcomed an appearance from the Burgess Hill Marching Youth band, the Welsh Male Voice Choir inspired goosebumps with their rendition of American Trilogy, before Jenkins performed a “Welsh medley”, bridging the gap between Bread of Heaven and Tom Jones’ Delilah.

Owen-Jones and Jenkins teamed up for a version of Barcelona, before the grandstand final run from Jenkins, covering Time To Say Goodbye, World In Union, and a slightly abridged You’ll Never Walk Alone.

After conductor Anthony Inglis had had some fun with the audience, overseeing the clapping along to Hornpipe by playing the role of comically unimpressed schoolmaster, Jenkins returned for the traditional Proms flag-waving climax of Rule Britannia, Pomp and Circumstance No 1 and Jerusalem.

A very slick, enjoyable, and particularly Welsh evening.

Daniel Searle

Shakespeare’s Globe


ROCK up to the BOAT this week to see a Shakespeare play and you get a choice of three.

With radical experiment and historic tradition at the heart of the Globe’s work, the rules are simple, “very exciting and also terrifying.”

The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew or Twelfth Night – you choose by cheering for your favourite. If in doubt, a man called Dave has the casting vote. On Thursday afternoon the decibels demanded The Taming of the Shrew. Be careful what you wish for.

To call this Shakespeare’s most problematic comedy is, in the age of #MeToo, something of an understatement.

The subjugation of spirited, opinionated, clever Kate to a swaggering Petruchio when his flip from charmer to bully so perfectly mimics the behaviour of abusive men everywhere, is uncomfortable to say the least.

Kate’s capitulation drew gasps of disapproval and disbelief from younger members of the audience but, alarmingly, a clear “hear hear”, too, from some dinosaur in a cotton sun hat.

But before we lost Kate – Brighton’s own brilliant Rhianna McGreevy – to historically sympathetic gender politics, we enjoyed two glorious hours of knock-about, muscular storytelling, live music, and the hilariously complex disguise and cross-dressing confusion that these plays always demand, all from a magnificently spirited ensemble of break-neck versatility and great comic panache.

All this and Italian-style weather to boot.

And talking of boots, when Petruchio (Colm Gormley) in a toast to lost love, raised his glass in ‘a health to all who have shot and missed,’ a bittersweet cheer of consolation rose from the astroturf arena. Yes, we all need a bit of cheering up and you can’t do better than England’s other two favourite things: Shakespeare and sunshine.

Eleanor Knight