Jen’s Lens – Roll out the Barrels and get #Courtlaughing!

On Saturday May 11, the Courtyard are putting on a very special treat for you.   To get you in the mood for good beer, great laughs and a lively atmosphere a free promo event will be held at The Barrels Pub in St Owen’s Street.

From 8pm, up-and-coming, local and downright hilarious comedienne Vikki Stone will be taking to the stage with her keyboard to deliver some absolutely incredible songs.  Emerging on to the comedy scene after declaring her love for Philip Schofield on Youtube, this witty, amazing talent is not to be missed!  Here she is below doing a one woman les Miserables!

Join us at The Barrels on Saturday 11 May from 8pm and prepare to be #Courtlaughing!

Whilst at The Barrels, be sure to indulge in Wye Valley Brewery’s latest tasty keg of special #Courtlaughing brew, Dorothy Goodbody’s Barrel of Laughs.

Look on the beer’s pump clips to discover how you could have our crowds laughing out loud.  Think you’re a budding comedian?  Then get a pint pulled and make sure you join in this summer’s festivities.

vikki poster copy

Jen’s Lens – Get ready to be #Courtlaughing!

Beer & jokes - a perfect partnership for #Courtlaughing!

Beer & jokes – a perfect partnership for #Courtlaughing!

Well, you are very lucky this week, as there are now 2 Jen’s Lens posts!  And this one is by no means less exciting, because if you follow us on Facebook, keep an eagle eye on our tweets, or indeed know someone at The Courtyard, then you will know we have been revealing the big names involved in our 2013 #Courtlaughing festival, our comedy event that is being held over the weekend of the 7 – 9 June this summer.

I, however, had to keep the exciting news to myself as we launched the event last

Local comedienne Vikki Stone gets us giggling

Local comedienne Vikki Stone gets us giggling

Thursday at Wye Valley Brewery to invited press, VIP’s and staff.  This was in fact, the very first moment we could share with others in the county who would be making us laugh out loud this June.  The launch event was held at Wye Valley Brewery in Stoke Lacy and we enjoyed curry, fine ale and joke props as the headliners were revealed, and also enjoyed live comedy from last year’s Wye Valley Brewery Open Mic winner Phil Pearcy, and newly local comedienne Vikki Stone.  Vikki had everyone in stitches as she sang break up songs based on Jurassic Park and declared her love for Professor Brian Cox; songs which were also extremely catchy and resulted in strange looks from my folks as I forgot my place and sang them making the tea.  The evening was a triumph, as everyone socialised, ate, drank, and a few were even papped on camera #Courtlaughing!

So, without further adieu, let me introduce you to our comedy class of 2013.

Phill JupitusOpening up for the festival and kicking off the trio of comedy talent is comedy veteran and star of Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Phill Jupitus.  He will be bringing his new show You’re Probably Wondering Why I Asked You Here… fresh from last summer’s Edinburgh circuit to have you all chuckling.

Saturday night’s entertainment comes in the form of dry witted American ironist Rich Hall,

Rich Hall

Rich Hall

who is known for his observational comedy on people both sides of the pond, and is star of such TV shows as QI and his own TV programmes such as How the West Was Lost.

Rounding up the big named comedians and bringing the festival to a close is emerging talent Josh Widdicombe.  Known for appearances on shows such as Mock the Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Josh moves away from supporting the likes of Alan Carr and brings his debut solo stand up to our #Courtlaughing festival.

Tickets for all of these comedians are currently on sale and available to book now – so, what are you waiting for?  Get in fast and be sure to be #Courtlaughing this summer. 01432 340555 or http://www.courtyard.org.uk

Josh Widdicombe

Josh Widdicombe

Other events taking place over the festival period is a Sunday evening screening of Monty Python’s jewel the ‘Life of Brian’.  A film which caused much controversy at its time of release but now is widely accepted and has us all singing ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ when faced with crucifixion.  Children’s comedian James Campbell and ventriloquist for the younger ones, Kieran Powell will bring some pre-watershed laughs, and there will also be two of The Courtyard’s renowned #Courtlaughing comedy clubs if you fancied having a beer and scouting some emerging talent.

Returning after its success last year is the Wye Valley Brewery Open Mic competition, introducing local budding comedy talents to have a go in front of our Courtyard panel in a bid to be crowned the local King (or Queen) of comedy!

Live music will also be taking place over the three nights, and we are currently on the scout for musicians and performers to put themselves forward to play on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights.  If you are a musician and fancy showing us what you are musically made of then send us your facebook pages, soundcloud, myspace or youtube links to competitions@courtyard.org.uk or alternatively drop in your demo’s and CD’s to Box Office or post them to Jennifer Booton, The Courtyard, Edgar Street, Hereford, HR4 9JR by Monday 15th April.

Phew!  I think that’s it.  So, like I said, what are you waiting for?!  See you #Courtlaughing.

Jen’s Len’s- Paranoid delusions of the animal kind

Yesterday myself and two colleagues took the afternoon to travel up and catch the touring production of I Was A Rat!  which is due to come to The Courtyard at the end of May.  The show is an adaptation from the Philip Pullman novel, directed and adapted by Teresa Ludovico in association with Teatro Kismet.   We arrived at the Birmingham Old Repertory Theatre around lunchtime, and had a quick chance to talk with representatives from other venues on the tour circuit, before taking our seats in the auditorium.

Philip Pullman's 'I Was A Rat'.

Philip Pullman’s ‘I Was A Rat’.

At first I was surprised by what lay out on the stage before me.  Sat in an opulent old theatre house with plush red seats and ornate high ceilings, I was looking at a bare black box, with some stark white light flashing intermittently.  The surroundings of the auditorium quite obviously contrasted to the clinical and daring nature of the open stage.  Yet this bare, limited, set-less lay-out was soon of no importance to me, as I soon got captured by the unique production.

The story started with old married couple Bob and Joan, (played by Tyrone Huggins and Lorna Gayle respectively), whose monotonous evening events are interrupted by an unfashionably late and hurried knock on the door.  Enter a small boy, who looks at the couples confused faces and exclaims “I was a rat!”  Unsure of who this boy is, where he has come from, and why he only repeats this phrase, Bob and Joan take him in for the night, and poignantly name him Roger, an action that allows us to encroach on the private and sensitive subjects that have also structured these two characters and the way they live their life.

Roger, played by Fox Jackson-Keen, slowly begins to familiarise himself with living amongst the human race, despite knowing that he really was once a rat.  However, he quite often comes into difficulty, as when he visits the doctor, he has trouble with simple Maths, and when he goes to City Hall and School he finds pencils (and his teacher’s finger) too irresistible to nibble at!  Jackson-Keen played the part of young Roger magnificently, and displayed immensely impressive physicality that really captured a nervous and twitchy disposition that you would imagine a reincarnated rat to have.

Fox Jackson - Keen, as Roger

Fox Jackson – Keen, as Roger

The show’s director, Teresa Ludovico says “Every fairy tale presents a simple narrative and the right amount of light and shade, to enable the child to identify with the hero of the story and allow them to go on the same journey of initiation.”  This journey is one that certainly brings ups and downs, and conflicts moments of pure belonging and bliss for Roger with dark periods of exploitation and uneasiness.  For example, his capture at Mr Tapscrew’s circus, although visually rich and narratively nightmarish, you are able to see how his unfortunate transformation from animal to man is one that has led him to become the object of ridicule.

Jackson-Keen as Roger is also surrounded by an all male cast of 5 brilliant actors and musicians.  The actors doubled up as police dogs, schools mistresses and young tykes brilliantly, using their bodies and only a high chair to encapsulate this fantastical world.  Special mention must go to their efficient adaptability, and use of theatrical components along with their own bodies to change the pace and flow of the piece.  These capable actors’ also portrayed moments of satire and dark humour in the play as they mock the tabloid press as “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, bouncing ridiculous ideas off each other and spinning stories on society’s obsession with cultural figures.  They also drew laughs from displaying the perceived corruption of capitalist politicians, meaning the grown-ups had something to amuse themselves as much as children were wowed by Roger’s acrobatic ability.

The Tapscrew Circus

The Tapscrew Circus

The fairytale element of the story was further explored through the beautiful use of puppetry used to portray Princess Aurelia, or ‘Mary Jane’ as Roger knows her, who is the catalyst for his acceptance into the human realm, and helps free him from cruel captivity and leads him back to his adopted parents Bob and Joan.

The use of live music played by the community cast on stage was brilliant, and had you singing little ditties all the way home!  And special mention must also go to the fantastic costumes that made you really feel like this story had been lifted off the page and put in front of you.  The cast were incredible and the script carefully dealt with themes of acceptance, belonging and love in a way that could be understood by children and adults alike.  I really recommend all families to catch this over their Spring half term.

I will conclude with more words from the show’s director, Teresa Ludovico.   “Great stories, and I include fairy tales in this category, are layered like rocky soil.  To know them in depth, you have to be willing to dig them up, to penetrate them.”

 Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat comes to the Courtyard on Thursday 30 May until Saturday 1 June with performances at 7pm, and a 2pm matinee on the Saturday.

Some reviews to the show can be read here:-
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/9876050/I-Was-a-Rat-Birmingham-Repertory-Theatre-review.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2013/feb/17/i-was-a-rat-review

Jens Lens – The Open Mic Comeback

Last night I had the pleasure of acting as photographer and general aide for the re launch of The Courtyard’s Open Mic night.

The Open Mic night has been an event The Courtyard have persevered with for approximately 4 or 5 years now, and one that has seen many a talented Herefordian showcase some hidden and undiscovered music, verse and comedy.  It has been my pleasure to work with Nicky Jaques of The Music Pool in revamping the Open Mic night and bringing local music in through The Courtyard’s doors.

Nicky plays with her brother Tom in a band called KeyGreen, (check them out on Facebook) and the two did a great job of producing an atmospheric evening which struck the right balance between chilled and lively.  The sound and technical equipment was handled efficiently, and each act was introduced personally.  KeyGreen were the first to break the musical ice, and played us three songs that blended vocal harmonies with melodic guitar and wind/brass instrumentation.

KeyGreen (Nicky & Tom Jaques) hosting Open Mic

KeyGreen (Nicky & Tom Jaques) hosting Open Mic

The night saw a total of 10 performers over the course of 2 hours, who brought a diverse and varied range of performances along with them.  The Cafe Bar was full of attentive listeners who soaked in folk melodies from Sally Stamford, some classics on harmonica from Robin Shaw and some brilliant covers from Chris Rooney.  Johnny got the audience going with his powerful vocal chords and Tom Dillon delighted with his own material.  Bym and his Steel pan band of Ben and Jo bought a slice of Tropicana with them as they beat out covers ranging from Jason Mraz to Louis Armstrong!  Phil Rochard took to the stage and played some amazingly beautiful guitar pieces using harmonics, some seriously skilled finger picking (I don’t know how he does it!!) and percussion.

Bym, Jo & Ben on the Steel Pans

Bym, Jo & Ben on the Steel Pans

It was a great evening that really established Hereford, and The Courtyard as a growing hub for local music and performance.  All this engulfed within the appetising aroma of the kitchen’s meal deal of Bangers ‘n’ Mash, which more than a few couldn’t resist.

Tom Dillon plays to a full bar

Tom Dillon plays to a full bar

Do make sure you come down to the next evening, either as a prospective artist or as a punter.  The next Open Mic LIVE SESSIONS will be held on Tuesday 5 March at 8pm.  The same meal deal of Bangers ‘n’ Mash plus a half pint of draught for £5 applies. (Seriously, who can resist that bargain?!)

To be the first to hear about The Courtyard’s Open Mic news, The Music Pool and Nicky’s LIVEWIRE project,  to ask questions about the night or pre-book a slot please like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CourtyardOpenMic, call 01432 278118 or email openmic@courtyard.org.uk.

I look forward to seeing you next month!

A Historical Journey of Pomp and Circumstance

ImageThis February the Academy of Ancient Music are coming to The Courtyard with Bach’s Orchestral Suites.

The Orchestral Suites are a series of grand and graceful dances, paying homage to the French baroque style as championed by the ballet-obsessed King Louis XIV (pictured). Written during Bach’s years in Leipzig, where he had a wider range of instruments at his disposal than ever before, the Suites revel in new sonorous possibilities and employ varied combinations of wind, brass, stringed instruments and timpani.

Grab a Bargain in our January Sales!

To celebrate the New Year we’re offering you the chance to get two tickets for the price of one on a range of specially selected shows.  

When you buy two tickets for Rock AnthemsLondon Community Gospel ChoirCircus of Horrors or I Was A Rat before Friday 11 January you get the second ticket free!

Celebrating some of the greatest rock tunes of all time, such as; Sultans of SwingAnother Brick in the WallBohemian RhapsodySmoke on the Water and Purple Haze, to name a few, Rock Anthems is sure to have you singing along, stomping your feet and reaching for your air guitar.

Dr Haze of the Circus of Horrors

Dr Haze of the Circus of Horrors

From performing on stage with the likes of Madonna, James Brown, Tom Jones and Sir Elton John to singing on the pitch at the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, London Community Gospel Choir have performed Worldwide with their outstanding and exceptional vocal talents. Don’t miss out on a night of enriching, inspirational, soul edifying gospel music.

Doktor Haze, the founder and ‘undead ringmaster’ of the Circus of Horrors, says, “if Quentin Tarantino directed Cirque du Soleil then this would be it.”

“I Was A Rat!” insists a scruffy page boy who turns up one evening on the doorstep of old married couple Bob and Joan. But what is he now? …. Philip Pullman’s glorious and gripping story is brought to life on the professional stage for the first time in the UK. Combining humour, fantasy, and adventure this moving and darkly comic tale slowly reveals its connection to one of the most famous fairy tales of all time.

So you can’t deny, there’s something to get anyone’s year off to a great start.  Buy yourself a present this new year and bring a friend to The Courtyard for some good old-fashioned escapism!

I was a Rat! Performed by Birmingham Rep, an adaptation of Philip Pullman's novel

I was a Rat! Performed by Birmingham Rep, an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s novel

This offer only applies to two tickets bought for the same show and unfortunately it isn’t available on online sales.  To get your discount either call the Box Office on 01432 340555 or pop in to The Courtyard in person and quote “January Sale”.

Free pint of Butty Bach!

Buy a ticket to see folk favourite Julie Murphy and get a free pint of real ale!

On Thursday 13 September folk singer Julie Murphy will perform songs from her new album at The Courtyard with accompaniment from Canadian musician Ceri Owen Jones.

Well known for her work with Welsh folk innovators, Fernhill, and artists as diverse as Robert Plant and John Cale, Julie has just released a new solo album of piano songs called A Quiet House. The album is her first in ten years.

The Courtyard is offering a free pint of Wye valley Brewery’s Butty Bach ale to every ticket holder.  To claim it print off the voucher at the bottom of this post and present it to the bar staff on the night.

To buy tickets go here.

Julie Murphy Coupon