Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Magic start to festival despite rain

Magic start to festival despite rain

HEAVY rain disrupted the start of the Wargrave Village Festival but couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the participants and audiences.

Downpours on the opening night on Wednesday last week meant the outdoor production of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It had to be moved from Mill Green into St Mary’s Church.

Festival chairman Graham Howe said it was an “inauspicious” start but that the actors coped well and the show was well received by the 150-strong audience.

This year’s festival has a theme of “That’s Magic” in tribute to the late Paul Daniels, who lived in the village.

Mr Howe, who played four parts in the play, said: “The audience really liked it and accepted that the actors had to work in a confined space.”

The play was staged on the green for the following three nights in front of about 250 people each time.

Mr Howe said: “The shows went really well and there were some songs and dances, such as Hey Nonny No!, which involved some audience participation, and a scene where all the people at the front had handbells to ring.”

Wargrave Youth Theatre gave four performances of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the same stage in Mill Green. About 20 children took part in the production, which involved singing and dancing.

Mr Howe said: “Considering some of them were 10 years old, they were really very good and needed only the tiniest bit of prompting.

“It was nice to see an almost equal number of boys and girls as it can be quite hard to get boys involved.”

New for this year was a Walking Safari Supper, which took place on Saturday, starting with a champagne reception at a house in High Street.

Eleven groups of six people, comprising three couples or pairs, were allocated a course to prepare for the other members of their group and they went round each other’s house to eat it.

After the three courses, the diners returned to the first house for cheese and port.

Mr Howe said: “Some of us had never heard of the concept before but it was brilliant. I have to say that there were some cynics who are now complete converts.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we had 100 people doing it next time.”

On Sunday Wargrave Boating Club held a Fun on the River event, which was free to attend. Activities included river-based games, parent and child races and dongola, punting and canoe events, all followed by a barbecue.

In the afternoon there was a walk hosted by the Wargrave History Society, which began on the green, near the war memorial, and went through the heart of the village.

In the evening there was Brass on the Grass, featuring the Bracknell and Wokingham Community Band, at Wargrave Court Gardens.

The event went ahead despite the death of hostess Verna Houghton last month.

Mr Howe said: “Wargrave Court has been owned by the Houghtons since 1977. David died about four years ago and his wife a couple of weeks ago.

“Their four children, who are all in their Fifties, all said the event had to go ahead and 250 people were there. The musicians played numbers by Ella Fitzgerald, who was one of Paul Daniels’ favourites.”

Another new event, Gin by the River, was held on Monday night at a house by the Thames and attracted 140 people.

On arrival, each guest was presented with their own gin glass, tasting notes and three gin tokens, which were exchanged for one measure of gin plus a tonic or mixer.

On the same night there was a snooker speed doubles tournament at Wargrave Snooker Club in Church Street.

Meanwhile, a return performance by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields at St Mary’s Church, was sold out.

Mr Howe said: “The musicians are among the world’s best and they were stunning. There was a bit of Mendelssohn and Mozart in a wide-ranging programme. It really was world class.”

On Tuesday a Circle of Magic afternoon tea was held at Hennerton Golf Club, the Festival Folk Club took place at St Mary’s Church and the Magic of the Auction — Another Evening with Thomas Plant was held at Woodclyffe Hall.

On Wednesday, Daniels’ widow Debbie McGee, who still lives in Wargrave, presented Paul Daniels’ Magic Life at the festival marquee on Mill Green to an audience of about 240 people.

Other events that day included a bridge afternoon at the St Mary’s Church Centre.

Mr Howe said he was delighted at the size of the audiences so far and he hoped families would support the festival events this weekend, which include the Family Food and Fun Day tomorrow (Saturday) from 11am to 4pm on the green.

He said: “ This is free to attend and there will be cooking demonstrations. In the evening there is Dancing under a Spell.”

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