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I have been back in the UK now for a week after my long stay in Cyprus, February until Late July, it has been a bit of a shock climate wise as the temperature is virtually half it was in Cyprus when I left and it feels like Autumn if not quite Winter. At 39 degrees centigrade in Cyprus when I left it was uncomfortable for me but now back in the UK I feel like getting my boots and scarf out and turning the heating on at 17 degrees…in July? and it’s raining!

There has been a fairly long gap between posts here as I did not have the time to write the last few weeks before I left and since I have been back my priority was catching up. I now have a bit of a backlog of topics to blog about but that is good as it will keep me from focusing on the weather hopefully.

Before I left I was invited to the theatre, I am a theatre fan and in the UK live near the Chichester Festival Theatre, in fact when I returned I was invited to accompany some friends to see Mack and Mabel there which made a very nice homecoming. The theatre excursion in Cyprus was very different as firstly it was outside and secondly the play was performed in an ancient amphitheater The Odeon at Paphos, and no it’s nothing like the one on the High Street. The only similarity to Chichester Festival Theatre is the seating design as  it too has an apron stage with seating rising on five sides. Arriving in Paphos, the backdrop was pretty spectacular as the sky was alight with a glorious sunset of purples and pinks with the silhouette of the lighthouse in front. We crossed the open  stage covered in loo paper and with a toilet placed centrally on the stage, to reach our seats which were the stone steps,I had duly taken a cushion.

Every year for the past eighteen years in July the Festival of Ancient Greek Drama takes place and performances are given at three venues Curium, The Odeon and a new amphitheatre in Lefkosia, The Skali, We went to see a play called Peace by Aristophanes and performed by the  Cypriot company Yiolanta Christodoulou Theatre Group. Presented in contemporary dress with subtitles displayed on a screen above the stage, this play is a comedy that had much that was visually funny even if you couldn’t follow the fast dialogue. In true theatrical tradition some male parts were played by women and the female parts by men .Lea Maleni ,who played the lead role of Trygaeus was superb, conveying with her body language the portrait of a man even though she was a small framed woman. She very much resembled Charlie Chaplin with a small moustache attached to her upper lip. Many years ago I remember seeing Macbeth performed by an English company at Curium, a fantastic experience as the setting is so atmospheric. If you get the chance do try and see at least one production as even today these ancient plays resonate with present day situations.

In a different setting but with the same gorgeous sunset as backdrop, I visited The Anassa hotel at Latchi on my last evening in Cyprus. There was much controversy when the hotel was first built as the owners managed to get permission to build on the precious Akamas, the wilderness that is supposed to be protected from development. I went with a friend to enjoy the music of a young Greek pianist  Vaya Nassi who accompanies a Greek singer Anthi. The setting was truly spectacular as the sun set lazily behind the hills in Polis bay, the sky turning from the soft mauve and peach to a fiery red as it sank into the sea, We also had the privilege of watching a sliver of moon aligned with Venus and Jupiter as that too sank behind the hills. We lounged on the sofas and chairs on the terrace enjoying our cocktails and the great musical accompaniment to the show that nature provided.

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I’m lucky enough to live near  The Chichester Festival Theatre. Built in 1962 it was  born from the inspiration of a local councillor after seeing a television programme about a community theatre being built in Stratford Ontario. Obviously a man of vision, he was an opthalmic optician after all,  and a lover of the theatre, he possessed the energy and drive needed to make such a vision reality. He even managed to achieve his ambitious goal of getting Sir Lawrence Olivier as its first artistic director. I moved down to this area in 1974 and throughout that time I have visited the theatre many times to see some memorable productions, many go on to run in London or the provinces and some even to Broadway. I have watched it grow and flourish, another smaller fringe theatre was opened in 1989 then there were the lean years when it dwindled  there was a danger almost unthinkable after such achievement, that it would close in the early years of 2000. But after Jonathan Church’s appointment in 2005 it has gone from strength to strength with a  wide, varied and interesting selection of productions ranging from musicals to Chekov to contemporary. You can read more about the CFT here

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Theatre has always held a fascination for me, a job in the scenery or costume department would have suited me down to the ground. In my day job as a restorer of decorated furniture I have had to make things look what they are not and many of these skills would have been required in painting scenery. Wheneve I attend a production I am looking as keenly at the costumes and scenery as I am at the actors performance.

I have on occasion travelled to London of course to see the odd production and the joy of that is the theatres in London were built much earlier and therefore are much grander and more ornate inside giving me an extra frisson.  The theatre is to me a magical place, so much more than any television production or film it delivers atmosphere. The CFT has no curtain as it has an apron stage, before the performance even starts often there is incidental action taking place on stage setting the scene giving the audience an opportunity to observe the surroundings and get acquainted with the mood. Once the lights go down and the stage is lit the play takes over. Often I have been completely riveted by the performances almost forgetting to breathe.

Having the theatre literally up the road from me has allowed me to see some superlative productions without any effort. I saw Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber a while ago and found the whole thing satisfyingly macabre and dark, this week I went to see ‘The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui‘ by Berthold Brecht another dark and sinister story with a grave warning at the end. The images conjured up by the main character played by Henry Goodman due to the lighting costumes and performance were so dramatically effective I wanted to snap them so I could study them later at my leisure. In amongst the darkness there was a lot of laughter and humour; the best way in my experience to drive the story home.

I have seen lighter productions at the CFT, there was the completely outrageous Circus Oz many years ago and a few musicals. I also was lucky enough to see ‘Tango Passion’ there on tour, quite breathtaking as well as Paco Pena with his flamenco dance troupe, a different style but equally as passionate.Over the years I have come to realise that the things that appeal most and  I remember longest are the the productions that make me think and look into those deep, murky, dingy  corners of the soul both visually and musically. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to see more than I otherwise would have.