For many years, an annual trip to see, or rather hear, a performance of Handel’s Messiah was a consistent feature of my Christmas period.
‘The Royal Albert Hall, The Festival Hall, St John’s Smith Square and in many other venues, it was my pleasure to see a myriad of production and performance. The Messiah may even have been the piece of music that instilled in me my love of the Baroque, and certainly my fondness for all music Handelian. Or maybe not, as an ancient performance of Giulio Cesare at the ENO got in first, I believe.
Sadly, since becoming ill in 1997, I’ve not attended another performance – less from design than more urgent, usually, illness-related priority. It is quite astounding the number of Christmases that I’ve been unwell and/or hospitalised – so many, that I’m wary of booking anything at all in advance.
However, this past weekend, I went to see All The Angels at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and what a fabulous experience it was. Connecting the dots: a synopsis from the Playhouse PR blurb:
Handel’s Messiah is arguably the world’s most popular choral work. But its story begins in the unlikely setting of a room above a pub in Chester, when the great Composer, detained by bad weather on his way to a season of concerts in Dublin, invites some unlikely local choristers to rehearse excerpts. It is not a success. So begins Handel’s struggle to stage the premiere of his great new work …
The play is by Nick Drake with music from Genesis Sixteen who are:
… recognised as one of the world’s greatest ensembles. They have cultivated a unique reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance and a diversity of 20th- and 21st-century music under conductor and founder, Harry Christophers.
All The Angels is not a full performance of The Messiah – it’s a two hour, twenty minute play. It is a linguistic tapestry of words and imaginings woven through excerpts of Handel’s exquisite score and libretto.
Amusing, entertaining, lovingly crafted and stunningly gorgeous in sound and production with some truly engaging acting all-round.
I cannot recommend it highly enough and ditto for wheelchair access at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse which was remarkably smooth and easy – always a relief when it is a first visit and diabolical London traffic has you running late – grumpy me cannot wish Christmas over fast enough, bah, humbug, jammed up London roads.
On access, there are a couple of blue badge spaces on the closest side roads and two spaces which may be reserved on booking for blue badge holders. Naturally, we rocked up knowing none of this – having not asked, my bad – but got lucky when the truly magnificently helpful staff on that night sorted us out.
I was able to roll out of my car, across level pavements, through wide doors to a lift in which my power wheelchair was comfortable. More level surfaces to side door where I was able to roll directly into a side box for wheelchair users. Piece of cake. D was sitting just below me on a bench – everyone’s on benches, it’s an authenticity thing as are candles and candelabra. See the image below, pretty, huh?
Great views and, frankly, the theatre is so small and intimate, it’s like a – Buckingham Palace size – living room. If an actor had halitosis, you’d know it. Er, no, not a problem on the night. I loved it – did I say that, already?
Anyway, it’s all very wheelchair and access friendly – I’m pretty sure there are even toilets for us!
If you love theatre, do check out the productions at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and The Globe too – read about their history and mission. It’s interesting.
Hopefully, I shall be heading back over there myself soon.
Meantime, All The Angels was a wonderful Handelian Christmas treat.