11 April 2020

Isolation Interviews: Chris Poppe

Our next interview is with Chris Poppe. Chris is based in Northampton and reviews for theatres in the Midlands and the wider country. You can visit his site https://therealchrisparkle.com/.

Q - What was the first show that you remember seeing?
A - Because I keep all my programmes and have a spreadsheet of everything I’ve seen, I can answer that! It was called Showtime at the Pavilion Theatre Bournemouth in July 1967 (I was 7). It starred Des O’Connor, Jack Douglas and Kenneth McKellar. I was with my parents on our summer holiday. I loved it!

Q - What inspired you to get into blogging about theatre?
A - One of my early ambitions was to be a theatre reviewer. When I was a teenager, I kept an exercise book and wrote up my thoughts about every show I saw, mainly as a diary/memoir for myself. When I was at university, I reviewed some student plays for a student newspaper called Tributary. One of the first plays I reviewed was a production by OUDS of Measure for Measure and I spotted and gave a rave review to someone I thought was particularly outstanding albeit in a minor role – and that was a very young Tim McInnerny! So when I decided I wanted to blog, reviewing theatre was just the most obvious choice.

Q - Whose performances/productions have had the biggest impact on you?
A - I think individual performances from my younger days were the most influential. I saw Judi Dench a couple of times in the 70s, as Lady Macbeth and as Adriana in The Comedy of Errors – both absolutely outstanding. Other performers whose terrific work has stayed strongly in my mind are Michael Crawford (Barnum, Flowers for Algernon), and Robert Lindsay (Me and My Girl). The first time I went to a London theatre to see a play by myself was Otherwise Engaged by Simon Gray starring Alan Bates at the Queen’s Theatre (now the Sondheim – I really detest the renaming of theatres!!!) – I was 15, and I decided that I really liked this London theatre lark! The show that most influenced me, however – and see later for favourite productions – was A Chorus Line, which, as an anxious and lonely teenager, helped me to make sense of my life.

Q - What is your favourite musical movie?
A - Musical movie…. I’m nothing like as great a fan of cinema as I am of theatre, so my favourite musical movies are probably also great stage shows. But, I’d probably go for My Fair Lady, which is a stunner. The movie of A Chorus Line is an atrocity.

Q - What are your favourite show tunes? (You can pick up to 5 songs)
A - Man of La Mancha (from Man of La Mancha, haha); Oklahoma (from Oklahoma!); Dance Ten Looks Three from A Chorus Line; Thank God I’m Old from Barnum; Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof.


Q - What have been your favourite productions across the years?
A - A Chorus Line, without question. I saw it 8 times between 1976 and 1979 including the final night. I’ve also seen it in Oxford, Sheffield, on Broadway and four times at the Palladium revival in 2014, again including the last night, which was probably The One Most Moving Theatrical Experience I’ve ever had. Then the 1977 RSC production of Comedy of Errors, available on DVD to this day, just the most brilliant, joyous adaptation. The RSC’s immense adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, which still gets revived, is utter perfection. In the modern-day, I think Hamilton is an incredible creation – making a witty and emotional musical using rap.

Q - What are your favourite theatres to visit?
A - I’m lucky to have the Royal and Derngate on my doorstep, but, in the provinces, I also love the Sheffield Theatre complex (Crucible, Lyceum and Studio) and Chichester (the Festival Theatre and Minerva). In London, I love the Menier for its versatility, the Young Vic for the teenager memories, the National Theatre for its imposing modernism, and, possibly the most stunning theatre in the world, the London Palladium.

Q - Away from the theatre what are your other favourite hobbies?
A - My other hobbies are travel (India is my favourite country and I have been there I think 9 times), and Eurovision, which divides some people but I’ve met some of the best friends one can have through its social side. I contribute to a regular radio show about Eurovision called Radio International, Google it!

Q - Can you tell us something we wouldn't know about you?
A - This question is really hard, but only one thing comes to mind: in May 1978, the Italian police found the dead body of Aldo Moro, the ex-Prime Minister, dumped in the back of car on a side street in Rome - he had been captured and killed by the terrorist group the Red Brigade. I was standing directly next to the car when it was discovered! Fortunately, I was never a suspect!

I'd like to thank Chris for his time in taking part and for his great answers. A reminder that you can visit his website here https://therealchrisparkle.com/ and follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/chrispoppe

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