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Northampton Pride 2022 in full swing with huge turnout in town centre

A sunny, fun-filled day for all showed Northampton at its best #NorthamptonPride22

Northampton did itself proud this weekend with a massive turnout to support the Pride march event.

With a march starting at 11am and a huge range of stalls and performers, Pride was well-organised and attended, with the sun coming out just in time for the Market Square music performances.

Sponsored by Northampton-based Travis Perkins, the event is organised by Northampton’s LGBTQ and Allies Forum and aims to highlight the LGBTQ+ community, businesses and support organisations. 

Lots of families were at Pride, including Chanice Taylor, Kerry Marriot, Dominic Ross Whithey with Imogen and Harlie
Pic by Hilary Scott

Musicians including Ffsytho featuring Mark Ski, Joe Payne, drag acts, a brilliant Lady Gaga tribute called Radio Gaga and stilt walkers entertained crowds on the Market Square.

All over the Market Square stalls were busy and there were some fabulous outfits as the town came together to support Pride and the LGBTQ+ community. Staff from Northants Fire and Rescue, East Midlands Ambulance Service, the Police, WNC and Northampton Guardians had vehicles emblazoned with the Pride Rainbow while there was a roaring trade in flags. See our photo gallery below and video walkthrough.

A walk through Northampton Pride 2022 on the Market Square

Standing ovation as Hairspray the Musical rocks Royal and Derngate

Review: Hairspray. Royal and Derngate, Northampton (opening night January 31)

I had never seen Hairspray before. Yes, I know, I know. It’s one of the most popular musicals in the world, an award-winning tour de force combining fantastic music and storytelling and genuine social commentary that, although set in 1962 Baltimore, certainly still resonates today.

But musicals…? You either love ‘em or hate ‘em, right?

“Just admit that you loved it Mum and write ‘It was great’ over and over until you hit the word count,” suggested my 13-year-old, musical-theatre fan daughter.

“And don’t call me a fan, I’m not a fanatic.” (This is what you get bringing up four kids with two journalist parents). “And don’t call me a kid…”

photography by Mark Senior

OK, so it was great. Really great. You don’t need to go to the West End when the West End comes to Northampton. I was blown away by the skill of the huge cast – more than 20 on stage for complex yet seamless dance sequences, belting out song after song from the best known You Can’t stop the Beat finale to the intricate Mama I’m a Big Girl Now and I Know Where I’ve Been.

The show opens in ‘60s Baltimore, Maryland, with ‘gently plump’ schoolgirl Tracy Turnblad (Katie Brace) belting out Good Morning Baltimore with her trademark black flick beehive, observing the flashers, rats and alcoholics before heading home to agoraphobic mum Edna (a drag role played by Alex Bourne) and joke-shop owner dad Wilbur (Norman Pace, yes, the one from Hale and Pace, all you people of a certain age).

photography by Mark Senior

Tracy and her best pal, Penny (Rebecca Jayne-Davies, aforementioned daughter’s favourite actor of the night), tune in their TV to the Corny Collins Show, a teen dance programme, based a on a real, American Bandstand-esque show of the time. Tracy and Penny yearn to get on the show, but detention, mean girl Amber (Jessica Croll) and her pushy TV producer mother Velma (Rebecca Thornhill), plus a massive dollop of classism, racism and body-shaming, look like killing their dream.

photography by Mark Senior

But Tracy bunks off school, meets heartthrob Link (understudy Joshua Pearson did an excellent job on first night) and makes a big impression on show host Corny (Richard Meek), as well as winning the show lots more fans and a plus size clothing contract. Cue loads of amazing costume changes (bravo Takis).

photography by Mark Senior

But Tracy’s stardom is short-lived. With and with the help of Motormouth Maybelle (the extraordinary Brenda Edwards), her kids Seaweed (Reece Richards) and Little Inez (the very talented Charlotte St Croix) and others segregated by their race (despite it being over 100 years since slavery was abolished in the southern states), they storm the show and a riot sees everyone locked up. (Locked up for protesting? How very now…) Cue a race to escape and get everyone live on air for the TV show finale.  

photography by Mark Senior

Hairspray the Musical came after John Water’s cult film of 1988, which starred Ricki Lake as Tracy, Debbie Harry as Amber and drag icon Divine (in his last role) as Edna.  Waters was to cut through the discrimination of the 60s still evident in the 80s, from racism to gay rights.  

Today’s Hairspray does the same, skewering the biases and bigotry with a riotously funny musical. Bourne and Pace have a hilarious chemistry and comic timing as Edna and Wilbur, while Brenda Edwards’ voice during Maybelle’s protest ballad I Know Where I’ve Been moved many to tears – such is her power (and yes, she’s the one off Loose Women, The X-Factor and Songs of Praise). Newcomer Katie Brace as Tracy is a total star – from her voice to her movement and acting with every inch of her face. You also can’t take your eyes off Charlotte St Croix (Little Inez), who I’m confident will be one to watch.

Brenda Edwards as Maybelle

There’s not enough space here to name them all but it’s an incredible cast at the top of their game – from the skill of the dancers on a relatively small stage to the live band who sometimes appear as part of the show – we’re really very lucky to have the Royal and Derngate for these top-of-their-game touring shows.

It WAS great!

Book now if you can, it’s on until Saturday (February 5) with tickets from Derngate Box Office or on 01604 624811.

Saints v Quins – whatever happens it will be exciting

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Saints have not had a chance to take a breath after a tough day at the office against Leicester and a frustrating last gasp defeat to London Irish in the Premiership Cup on Tuesday night.

On Sunday they face Harlequins in one of the league’s showcase games with two teams renowned for finding space facing off against each other at The Stoop.

Scotland international Rory Hutchinson said: “It is a really exciting game against Quins and obviously good for rugby. This is the type of game we want to see. I couldn’t tell you what is going to happen. I watched their second half at the weekend and it is going to be an exciting game. For us it is about sticking to our game, we don’t need to go off script. We need to get our game on the field for 80 minutes.”

At the same time they won’t be forgetting the lessons from the East Midlands derby which started well but turned sour in the second half.

“It is always disappointing after 50 minutes of good rugby. We know it’s an 80 minute game. We need to make sure that we perform for the full 80 minutes especially against teams like Leicester who are good at putting pressure on teams. We crumbled to that pressure, especially going down to 12 men. There’s a lot we can learn from it but also some positives as well,” said Hutchinson.

“There were multiple little things, pressures, penalties, it was a disappointing day for our scrum. I felt we did well in the first half, we got some launches, some counter attacks but in that second half we were camped in our 22 for the majority of time. You can’t give them those opportunities. For us it is about the complete performance.”

Fraser Dingwall, celebrating an England call up along with six other Saints, agreed that getting the overall performance right is key to Saints getting some return for their efforts.

“We feel that we can beat any side if we perform so our reflection is about our performance rather than the result,” he said, explaining the team’s analysis of the game.

“For the first 50 minutes we were getting out of the game what we wanted. There were a few crucial moments when momentum swung back their way. They have a simple game plan to fall back on and we didn’t really stop it and with the cards it was really hard to stop. Those last ten minutes didn’t really reflect the game but in fairness to them they are a top team, they won the Premiership last year.”

Taking on Quins will be no less physical than Tigers however.

“The bottom line is that every game in this league is going to be decided by the collision aspect but Quins are a different challenge because they will move the ball to space. It is still a massive part of their game to get ‘go forward’ and play off the back of that. They have got a lot of attacking threats all over the pitch and will move the ball to space. It’s negating their go forward, negating their half backs and being alive to every opportunity,” said Dingwall.

One upside of the Tigers game that was felt strongly by the team was the boost from a Franklin’s Gardens full house.

If last season’s objective was a top four finish, the bar has been set higher this year for a good reason.

“We have set our sights on a top two finish this year to get that home advantage in the play-offs,” said Hutchinson.

“It sounded pretty good when we were out there. We’ve got some great fans here. Proper rugby town. It was great to see everyone at the Gardens.”

Video from Northampton Bike Park in its opening week

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A lot has been packed into a small space at Northampton Bike Park which opened this week.

Set on the former nine hole golf course between Hardingstone and Delapre the designers have managed to incorporate black and red level trails with green and blue routes so there is something for everyone to have a go at.

The easiest parking is at Delapre Golf Centre and the track connects to Northampton’s Norbital cycling network.

I had a roll around the track and put together the following video.

Northamptonshire Sport wrote about the site:

Mountain bike enthusiasts of all ages and abilities will be able to enjoy Northampton’s brand-new bike park which opened on Monday (Sept 26).  

The new Bike Park has been created on a former golf course, which was being used as part of Delapré Golf Centre until around six years ago and is connected with other parts of the town by the Norbital cycle route. Costing £750K to build, £250,000 of funding came from Sport England via the ‘Places To Ride fund’ a partnership between Sport England, British Cycling and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The rest of the project costs were funded by West Northamptonshire Council, including £50, 000 funds of from Public Health Northamptonshire. 

The new facility offers:  

  • A multi-user green trail, which is an easy, dual-direction cycle route across the site, connecting Houghton Hill to the underpass for the A45 
  • Blue (moderate), red (difficult) and black (severe) off-road mountain bike trails for different abilities with dual tracks which will allow head-to-head riding 
  • Five gathering spots where riders can meet to discuss the next section of track, and coaching can be provided 
  • Climb sections – which are uphill sections to test endurance
  • A mountain bike skills area 
  • 13 hectares of ecological habitats

Local physical activity, health and wellbeing charity, Northamptonshire Sport has been appointed to manage the day-to-day operations of the new Park. Whilst the Park is a free-to-use open facility, two new members of the Northamptonshire Sport team will be overseeing the development and maintenance of the Bike Park, whilst continuing to collaborate with partners to ensure the site is inclusive, benefitting as many people in the local community as possible, from children to experienced mountain bikers. Maintenance of the park and the habitat surrounding the trails will be funded by income generated from car park revenues and donations. 

Northamptonshire Sport plans to develop the Park’s offering, including programmes for young people, local communities and those with limiting disabilities. There will also be coaches on hand to help people develop their skills, regional events and the option to hire equipment to try the facilities, without having to make a big financial investment.

Cllr Adam Brown, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Housing, Culture and Leisure at West Northamptonshire Council said:   

“We’re very happy to be delivering a facility in partnership with Sport England and British Cycling which will benefit people of any age and ability, and which may one day produce some stars of the sport.  

“It’s incredibly important that we continue to enhance leisure opportunities for people in our area, and we expect a significant number of people to benefit from this wonderful new facility.  

“If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s how precious our physical and mental health are, so we will continue to pursue opportunities to deliver more developments of this type.”  

Gabrielle Deere, Strategic Director – Business Development & Commercial at Northamptonshire Sport said: 

“We’re proud and excited to manage and operate this amazing new facility. As a charity focussed on physical activity, health and wellbeing, the Park aligns with our mission to help make the county a happier, healthier and more active place. With the Bike Park, we’re aiming to provide a free but sustainable facility and develop an inclusive, safe and exciting place, to be enjoyed by everyone, with or without a bike.”   

Nick Barr, West Midlands and Central Regional Manager at British Cycling said:

“British Cycling is delighted to be supporting Northampton’s incredible new bike park. Mountain bike trails like these can be the first step on the journey for the next generation of cycling championships, with the likes of our Great Britain Cycling Team heroes discovering their passion for cycling at their local bike parks.

“At British Cycling, we are constantly trying to make our sport more accessible and inclusive, and these new trails are an amazing example of what can be achieved through the support and investment from our Places to Ride fund – a partnership between British Cycling, Sport England and the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.”

Mountain bike enthusiast and amateur competitor, Tony Skirrow, has been part of the project from the outset. He added: 

“This park is a great opportunity for young people to experience what us older riders do when we travel two to three hours away from Northampton. Being able to ride to a park like this is going to give them the opportunity to get outside, which is great, and to interact with us older riders, learn skills and develop as human beings.” 

The newly formed Mountain Bike Club called Ride Northampton, led by Tony Skirrow, will help maintain the trails and members have had training in how to do this as part of the construction contract.

Cynthia is the end of my cycling summer

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It’s a genuinely vital fund-raising event for Cynthia Spencer Hospice but Cycle 4 Cynthia has also become a seasonal turning point in my cycling calendar.

In its 19th year, the event started from Althorp House on Sunday with parties of riders heading out on 50, 25, 10 and five mile rides through the rolling countryside of West Northamptonshire.

The damp grass underfoot at the start and the fresh nip in the air confirmed my personal view of the ride as a closer to all those lovely long afternoons I’ve been enjoying rolling along in the sun during summer. There may well be autumnal sunshine after Cynthia but it will be a bonus not a right.

Last minute preparations before the start

However the atmosphere is very much about celebrating rather than mourning and the ride which attracts some seriously good cyclists to the long route also features plenty of courageous souls in fancy dress or on novelty machines.

My personal favourite was the Penny Farthing bicycle of Team Baba. Following him on the 25 mile route it was quite something to see him taking on descents that were pushing my speed up to around 30mph.

I took the 25 mile route because at my level of cycling fitness it only used up a couple of hours of the day, leaving plenty of time and energy for guilt-free recovery refreshments afterwards.

Essentially we cycled to Cold Ashby via Ravensthorpe (as featured in the Viking iteration of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise) and Guilsborough, and then back to Althorp via Yelvertoft, West Haddon and Long Buckby.

Riders recover at a pit stop

It might not be the most aerodynamic riding position but if you do this ride keep your head up as you go and remember to drink in all those posh houses and gardens you are cycling past. Sometimes it’s the history. Sometimes it’s the wealth. Sometimes it’s wealth and history.

In between it’s the dips and rises and woods and meadows of Northamptonshire that seem to know the trick of always being a little bit more beautiful than you were expecting. A funny little place, the east of the middle, the west of the east.

There were two pit-stops on the 25 miler providing free drinks and snacks for riders and this level of support, plus the introduction of a ten mile route this year, showed the organisers were committed to looking after cyclists at every level of participation.

At the higher end, the lean mean athletes doing the 50 miler looked like they were enjoying their suffering as they swished past me, going faster uphill than I go on the flat. I feel total respect but no envy. That will never be me.

More Cycle 4 Cynthia pictures here

Covid was a big disruption to this event and in terms of numbers taking part it has been picking itself up since then. However there is a pretty solid hardcore of people who come in memory of someone who was supported by the hospice.

If you do the ride it is a fun and friendly experience traditionally topped off with the reward of a medal for every rider – it sounds silly but it never fails to put a big grin on my sweaty face when I finally cross the finish line.

Here’s how to donate to Cynthia Spencer Hospice

It’s not Karl Dickson’s fault that sport is cruel

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I’ve given myself some cool-off time before putting together this review of the 250th Saints – Tigers derby just to let the emotion dissipate.

Without a doubt the scoreline reflects the yellow cards to Juarno Augustus, Mani Iyogun and Alex Mitchell that fell just after the hour mark.

No doubt referee Karl Dickson’s ears were burning after the game and there was a general sense Saints did not get the rub of the green, but to be fair to Dickson it was the decisions that weren’t given that bothered me more than the ones that were.

We could tell ourselves as Saints fans that it was the cards that killed it for us but we would be overlooking the fact that the handsome first half lead we built up was despite getting pretty badly owned at scrum time.

Furbank and Hutchinson made a try for Mitchell, Mitchell made a try for Furbank and Ludlam and Dingwall made a try for Coles after Leicester hit back with a score of their own.

The Gardens was rocking and Tigers were rocking but they were monstering their way back into it inch by inch. The scores were about even when Augustus’ yellow card came for an offence in a ruck.

Mani and Leicester’s scrummaging legend Dan Cole had both been subbed and there was one scrum with Ethan Waller propping which looked a bit more stubborn, but this was followed by Waller taking a knock to the head from a team mate around the ruck and so Mani was recalled.

It’s a tough ask bringing someone back onto the pitch after they have cooled down, let alone them having to do it in a pressure cooker scrum battle like the East Midlands derby.

The next scrum collapse Dickson yellowed Mani and he trudged off, paying the price for failing to deal with the picture that was being painted for the referee by the expert Tigers front row. New fans coming to rugby must be absolutely baffled by the way scrums play out sometimes and feel the baked-in injustice when a player is dismissed because on balance his pack seemed less on top than the other.

It has to be said, however, it is a sweet feeling when those things go your way and older Saints fans will remember the days when our pack was a penalty generating machine. Myler would ping it into the corner. Woody would crash over. Things were so simple then weren’t they?

With two players gone and Tigers getting a bit rampant Mitchell was judged to have deliberately knocked on and that was the final yellow. The stinger there is that similar flailing hands earlier in the game from a Tigers player were deemed legal but to be honest that is just me bitching. By that stage the problem was that Saints had no plan to come back from being 20 points and three players down with five minutes left on the clock in the East Midlands derby.

Up until the cards it had been tight with Leicester in the ascendant. We would have needed some magic to win from there with all our players on the field but actually, that is what Saints do these days. It certainly would have helped.

It would be a bit knee-jerk to have beef with Dickson over this though. Is there a referee who would have left all Saints’ players on the field all afternoon? Probably not.

I think that this important fixture came a couple of games too soon for us as Saints commence a new era with new faces in the mix and now it takes a place in the history of this derby as one of the ones that hurt.

And when you think about it, that’s a future spoon of sugar in the derby win when it comes.

Pictures by Dave Ikin

What can Northampton Saints take from that heroic Tigers semi-final? We lost…

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Feet are being firmly kept on the ground as Northampton Saints prepare for one of their season defining fixtures with the return of Leicester Tigers to Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

The derby battle helped decide the outcome of the league at the end of last season with Saints surprising many in the wider world of rugby by being a tough semi-final hurdle for Tigers on their way to the Premiership title.

But if you ask coach Sam Vesty how much Saints can take from that bittersweet encounter his answer is pretty no nonsense.

“We lost – that is the most important thing to come out of it,” said Vesty “We did some really good things but there were some things we didn’t quite take advantage of. On a different day it could have been slightly different.

“Our game plan and our game style works when we do it very well against what they are trying to do. We have got to make sure we do our plan aggressively. There are so many little bits that make it tick, but we have been working on those little bits as far as the attacking side of it goes for a good few years so we know what that looks like. Taking opportunities is obviously key and defensively we have got to stop their momentum. You stop their momentum you will get the ball back.”

Having said that the Leicester derby is one of those magical encounters with a result that stands out to fans on its own. It can put the shine on or take the shine off a season and fans will see it as a marker of Saints progress irrespective of other results. The game has almost sold out so a good atmosphere is highly likely.

“It’s a big game and I know the fans absolutely love it but we have got to focus on performance and that’s where our thoughts are,” said Sam.

“We have talked about it. Luds talked very passionately about it in one meeting but it doesn’t help us win one lineout or make one tackle. We have talked about it but we want to focus on performance because if we perform well we will win.”

One piece of good news is that the win against London Irish was achieved without a clutch of internationals such as Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Dan Biggar. Their rest period is now over and they are back in the mix for selection, posing coaches some good problems.

“Getting those really good players back is really good. They are such a great addition to our squad. They are hungry to play. They have not played rugby for a well documented ten weeks and they are hungry. They want to play rugby. It has been tough calls. It is where we want to be. Our squad is competitive across a number of positions and fighting for positions keeps everyone hungry.”

The match kicks off at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday at 3pm.

Get Saints tickets here

Shortlists revealed for One to Watch and Achiever of the Year at Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards

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Never has there been more need for an uplift for food and drink businesses during these tough economic months.

Revealing the finalists in the One to Watch and F&B Achiever of the Year categories of the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food and Drink Awards is a significant reminder of the hard work, perseverance and achievements that local businesses are making across the county and beyond. 

F&B Achiever of the Year, sponsored by Howes Percival, has now been successfully shortlisted for this distinguished category. The F&B Achiever is designed to recognise a person who has made and/or continues to make a significant contribution to the sector. The Award may come early in a career, as recognition of original or creative ideas, or later, when someone has established a consistently outstanding record. 

Matthew Talbot, Partner at Howes Percival, said: “Howes Percival are delighted to be sponsoring the F&B Achiever of the Year category again for 2022/23. I was blown away by the high standard of the finalists this year. It’s wonderful to see such quality from across the county, from a range of businesses, all working hard to put Northamptonshire on the map!”

Finalists for F&B Achiever of the Year are:

Andrew Collins, Whittlebury Bakery

Suzy Keeping, KDR Events Ltd

Aldo Gallone, E. Gallone Ltd

Joe Buckley, Tollemache Arms 

The One to Watch category sponsored by Whitworth Bros Ltd, is aimed at food and drink manufacturers whose businesses are less than 5 years old and is designed to recognise their potential for major growth, their future significant impact on the market and thereby raising the profile of Northamptonshire at a regional or national level. 

Last year Yum Chop Foods were crowned joint Gold winners, and are now part of ‘Thrive with Sainsbury’s’ 2022 cohort programme, assisting them with a financial commitment to support their transition to supermarket shelves.  Abi and Michael, founders of Yum Chop said: “Being a Gold winner in this category has really helped us.  It demonstrated to us that we are on the right track and was a real affirmation of our product and our business ethos.  Congratulations to the finalists in this year’s competition – I hope they will use this to show just how amazing they are!” 

Finalists for One to Watch are:

Nakasero Foods

Nasty Vegan Ltd

Northampton Cheese Company

The Flavour Trailer

Jute Coffee Limited

The finalists now have until Wednesday 12th October to discover their fate when the winners and runners-up in all fifteen categories of this year’s competition will be announced at the WNFDA Dinner taking place at Royal & Derngate in Northampton.

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Dave Ikin photographs Saints first home win of the season as London Irish stumble at Franklin’s Gardens

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If it was any other team but Northampton Saints who had won a game this way you would have called it ‘doing it the hard way’.

When Irish lost three players to yellow cards not only did they manage to stop Saints scoring but also put three points on the board themselves.

Northampton Saints match report

But when it was 15 against 15 Saints managed to conjure up some stellar moments including an insight into the outrageous imagination of Alex Mitchell.

Former Saints second row Api Ratuniyarawa gets a close look at Salakaia-Loto in the lineout

He chipped over the Irish midfield, collected it and then found Juarno Augustus in raging bull mode with a long looping pass to the wing. The eight burst over the line to clinch a stunning try.

Saints lost their fly-half twice. Once before kick-off when Dan Biggar dropped out through illness and then a yellow card to James Grayson for a deliberate knock on, which saw the influential George Furbank take the wheel.

The fact that these unplanned changes did not disrupt Saints’ ability to compete is a quiet vindication of the work that goes into this squad behind the scenes.

It can face no sterner test than the visit of Leicester Tigers to cinch Franklin’s Gardens next week.

Pictures by Dave Ikin

Neat tricks bring a Tati love story to life in latest Northampton touring production

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I arrived at Royal and Derngate for the latest Made In Northampton touring production knowing little about what was in store for me with the first ever theatrical version of Jacques Tati’s Playtime.

The French master of visual comedy’s tale of a man finding his way through a bewildering modern Paris (made in 1967) is rated an all time classic comedy by the BFI.

I haven’t seen it so Dancing Brick, the theatre company which has put this together under the direction of cast member Valentina Ceschi and writer Thomas Eccleshare, had a real job on their hands with me.

Enoch Lwanga

Monsieur Hulot is the central character (played by Enoch Lwanga) and the evening begins with him engaging the audience with a little bit of wordless balloon tomfoolery.

Lwanga has a mystic teddy-bear type of charm and is not really the butt of the joke in the way Mr Bean would be if that was what we were watching. He felt more like a Chaplinesque hero as his touching love story with Yuyu Rau’s wide eyed tourist played out.

After our balloon moment with Hulot, a bustling atomic age Paris hoves into view with a long, dazzling section amid the comings and goings of a busy international airport.

Lwanga and Rau are joined by Ceschi, Martin Bassindale and Abigail Dooley and cleverly populate the stage with nuns, sportsmen, pilots, tourists and musicians who will reappear in the story later.

Yuyu Rau

A combination of lightning quick costume changes and deft physical acting described these characters brilliantly and to be honest, my strongest reaction was awe at the abilities of the cast rather than chuckles at the gentle mocking humour of the portrayals.

Ceschi and Bassindale generated a lot of laughter, occasionally with knowing references to the seemingly impossible task of playing so many roles almost simultaneously.

The brilliance of this is almost the production’s biggest problem. You’re so impressed you forget to laugh and I wonder whether, as the production goes on and inevitably gets tighter, this problem might just go away by itself.

We are used to watching this kind of humour on screens. In theatres we get wry wit, funny lines and cheesy lines and we understand when it is ok to laugh because there are punchlines and pay-offs.

When you have a production that is recreating visual humour from movies and is built from impressive execution of performance skills it is less clear but no less enjoyable.

The opening moment with Hulot would be a good opportunity to let the audience know it is ok to laugh – perhaps almost bully them into it – with whatever Lwanga can come up with using a couple of balloons.

The cast of Playtime

Playtime is packed with the kind of visual trickery that in small doses might be your favourite part of any other show. The pace is relentless and there must be an enormous number of marks that must be hit at the just the right moment. The achievement of putting it together as a live performance with a cast of five probably exceeds the achievement of making it as a piece of cinema.

The set is ingenious and beautifully evocative of 60s modernist chic, a palate of pastels and gleaming white in which Hulot’s raincoated tweediness is an appropriate contrast.

Playtime is a very clever piece of work and something quite different for theatre audiences. For me the humour was not so much about belly-laughs as it was about warm smiles, and my guess is you’ll say two “wows” for every “ha ha ha” that comes out of you when you go and see it.

Pictures by Manuel Harlan

Get tickets for Playtime at Royal & Derngate here

Dave Ikin snaps Northampton Saints’ new faces in action during traditional derby with Bedford Blues

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Way back in history I reported on the Bedford Blues as a proud Bedfordian and to us this fixture meant as much as Saints/Tigers does at Franklin’s Gardens.

Today as a proud Northamptonian I see this fixture somewhat differently although I still have a soft spot for the club where I first saw the top level game being played.

There is now a partnership between the teams that allows players to move between them to gain experience, progression and game time.

However that did not stop this being a lively encounter in which Bedford showed they have scoring options.

Pictures by Dave Ikin

SAINTS: Ramm, Skosan, Proctor, Litchfield, Collins, Arden, James; E Waller, Haywood, Hill, Salakaia-Loto, Coles, Scott-Young, Irvine, Graham
Replacements: Iyogun, A Waller, Smith, Fish, Petch, Heffernan, Atuanya, Moon, Sylvester, Patten, Braley, J Grayson, Matavesi, Kean, Hendy

BLUES: Worley, French, Elliott, E Grayson, Adamson, Le Bourgeois, Day (c); Conway, Hughes, Barrett, Onojaife, Woolford, Frost, Arthur, Uru
Replacements: Royston, Prowse, Williams, Rylands, Garside, Tapley, Apps, Coulson