Whisky with Ice

A warm welcome met those of us who braved the icy January evening for this year’s New Year Revels. The first half of the evening was arranged and compered by Nick Warburton (who told some dreadful cracker jokes) and included readings illustrating the theme, beginning with Pepys’s diary account of the Great Fire of London, which contrasted with Scott’s diary account of sunrise in the Antarctic. We were then treated by the most junior performers of the evening (Tom, Hannah, Noah and Charlotte) who read three poems, my favourite of which was ‘Christmas Thank yous’ by Mick Gower – how to thank your grandparents, aunts, friends or siblings for presents you really didn’t like or want. What talent, too! The future of performance in St Mark’s is in good hands.

Jane Bower’s two Ruth Draper monologues had us rolling in the aisles. First she was in a very posh American restaurant, entertaining three friends who were on different diets (cold boiled turnip, raw carrot with the green tops left on, and eleven squeezed lemons at each meal) – while she herself ate three large chocolate eclairs. The second, ‘A Class in Greek Poise’, gave us visions of green bloomer-clad ladies exercising by walking over imaginary green fields, holding a lily in the air with one hand while dragging a lamb behind with the other. Can we please have a class in Greek Poise led by Jane as one of the Community Centre classes next year?!

A superbly dramatic portrayal of The Firebird story set to Stravinsky’s music then followed, in which ‘The Horse of Power’ was played by a certain bearded, be-spectacled member of the choir, whose loud harrumphing neighs would certainly have terrified the reception class at Newnham Croft if it had been part of ‘Open the Book’! Further poems, including a very funny tongue-twister on the making of mittens for Hiawatha, were interspersed with a bawdy traditional Irish folk song from Sam, and two musical treats by the choir. The first of these was a set of Health and Safety Regulations in the event of a fire in church  – sung in the style of a psalm, with audience response, “On discovering a fire, raise the alarm by shouting FIRE!” They followed this up with ‘Smoke gets in your eyes’.

After hot mulled wine and tasty nibbles, we settled down to Grantchester, a murder mystery written by Debbie Pullinger. The new whisky-drinking, female vicar was severely tested on the second day of her incumbency at Grantchester when she discovered the body of Neil the verger in the church. Was it the revenge of jilted lover – or was it because he had “strayed to the dark side” by becoming the handsome male lead in the dreaded St Mark’s production down the road? Needless to say, the vicar was aptly aided in her sleuthing by a rain-coated detective, before riding her bike (actual bike riding on stage!) to St Mark’s. She solved the mystery – only to discover that it was all a ploy to test her crime-solving ability, and that Neil was in fact alive and kicking. After the denouement and a toast to the new vicar, a spluttering Archdeacon fell to the ground – the vicar’s next murder to solve? A vastly clever and highly entertaining end to the evening.

“Dear, oh dear. An unfortunate start, some might say.”
“Oliver Whitworth, Churchwarden and erstwhile actor, always at your service.
“Right. Newnham, here we come!”
Was it Mrs McGraw’s sloe gin?

Valerie Keeble