The Woolstore Country Theatre has staged many successful productions over the years but a visit from Opera Holloway must rank among the best.

David Belchamber

Derek Miles has a history of picking the right play for a festival, this was witty, fast paced and perfectly cast and the audience loved it!’

Romy Wyeth - Salisbury Journal

‘Don’t Dress For Dinner was  hilarious...loved every minute!’

Alexis Grummett - Facebook

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‘Don’t Dress For Dinner’

‘Was immaculately cast,  farce is notoriously difficult to pull off, the witty, fast and repetitive dialogue needs actors who are at the top of their game.  Alan Biggs was totally believable as Bernard, stumbling from one crisis to another and digging himself ever deeper into the mire with each new twist of circumstances. In the role of Robert Angus Bramwell  displayed a gamut of emotions  ranging from frantic panic  to desperate innovation in an attempt to extricate himself from a fluctuating situation not of his making.

Ysanne Cleiffe obviously relished the part of the model mistress Susanne confidently sashaying across the stage with seductive allure.  Lucy Fryer’s  Susette managed to convey the initial confusion regarding the reason she was being propositioned before throwing herself whole heartedly into the sexual fray with abandon.  The strip scene where Ronald and Bernard transform her serviceable uniform into a slinky outfit was very cleverly done and extremely funny.   This was a true departure from Lucy’s first time on the Codford  stage as the female vicar in ‘Entertaining Angels’ also directed by Karen Johnstone.

Ruth Phillips took control of her character Jacqueline the moment she came on stage, this was the straightest part in the play with everyone around her in various stages frenetic activity.  Throughout the evening she convincingly portrayed that she the one person unaware of the machinations being played out for her benefit.  This was her debut at the Woolstore  but she has performed in various amateur groups in the Antipodes as well as appearing on national TV in Australia and been a presenter  in lifestyle/ reality TV series.

Robin Scard took the small but crucial part as Susette’s husband George, bringing his immaculate comic timing to the denouement scene where at last the truth will out.

Karen Johnstone had designed  a visually entrancing set for her French Barn , built by  the stage manager for the production Simon Rhind-Tutt, with help from Michael Found and John Wyeth, painted by Caroline Crossman and her team Catherine Hayne, Stephanie Coston and Bridget Lorrimer.  Behind the scenes the soundman was David Birtwistle , Antony Lister  was responsible for lighting, Sheila Williamson is Wardrobe Mistress, Benjamin Archer Assistant Stage Manager , Louise Nash Prompt, Bridget Lorimer photographer and AVB printed the programme .

This was a brilliant production, very much appreciated by sell out audiences. It was one of the most enjoyable plays, not just at the Woolstore but also at Salisbury Playhouse, I have seen in a long time.  Romy Wyeth - Salisbury Journal

‘ I thought ‘Don’t Dress For Dinner’ was by far the best thing I have seen at the Woolstore. I forgot I was at the Woolstore, and that friends were in the cast I just sat and enjoyed sublime performances on a terrific set. The timing was amazing and we all laughed and laughed, and gasped with amazement at the complexity of the dialogue. The comments and plaudits we are receiving on the nights are just amazing. I know how much hard work went into it but it was so worth it. Well done!’ Christine Powell


The Woolstore Country Theatre has staged many successful productions over the years but a visit from Opera Holloway must rank among the best. Performed on the same night and at the same time as England were playing rugby against Fiji in the World Cup, a near capacity audience was kept spellbound by a mixed programme of opera and all time favourites from the shows.

Opera Holloway was created to give young professional musicians the opportunity to perform in front of an audience and to give audiences the opportunity to hear opera sung by very talented singers, all in their twenties, possibly for the first time. Under the direction of Lewis Gaston, who until recently was the Director of Larkhill Choral Society (a number of whose members were in the audience), Alex Otterburn (tenor) and Callie Swarbrick (soprano) with Laurie O’Brien as accompanist performed a selection of arias, starting with the rousing Toreador Song from Carmen and encompassing others by Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Lehar.

Despite their youth, all have already had considerable experience of singing professionally. Alex Otterburn, who sang in five languages, recently sang Eugene Onegin - in Russian - and played the Don in Don Giovanni. He also achieved a First Class degree in Economics at Manchester! Although it was a concert performance, Alex demonstrated a considerable stage presence and one was left wanting to see him in a full length costume performance, probably of La Bohème, given his singing of the aria Or vi diro from that opera.

Callie Swarbrick also achieved a First but in Music and Drama and, like Alex, has already a number of opera credits in her CV. The second half was mainly devoted to well know hits from shows, such as ‘Summertime’, ‘Moon River’, ‘You make me feel so young’ and ‘Anything you can do’.

Co-founder of Opera Holloway and its repetiteur, Laurie O’Brien showed in her playing the brilliance of a pianist who first performed at an Eisteddfod at the age of five and who has accompanied vocal masterclasses given by Dame Rosalind Plowright and Dame Felicity Lott. A delightful evening was rounded off by a most original sign-off by the whole team, who then stayed and chatted to members of the audience after the show.

David Belchamber

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