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Opera hits a high note
There was not a spare seat in sight at Steam on Saturday night. In fact, more chairs had to be brought in, as approximately 400 people packed in to be transported through Swindon’s history at a sold-out performance.
More than 200 cast and production team members did the town proud as they translated history into song, with plenty of humour to keep the audience entertained.
Narrator Diana Dors, played by 20-year-old Polly Leech, shone as she hit all the right notes and impersonated the star with perfection.
And banter with a panel of eight cynics on stage, who were Swindon’s answer to the X Factor judges, kept the mood light and entertaining and had the audience laughing out loud while they questioned why an opera about Swindon was being staged.
The story, which started in 1952 when the Queen came to the throne, was based around a fictional family called the Eveleys.
The audience watched as family members went to work at the railway works, took part in the Swindon Music Festival, cheered as Swindon Town won the league cup and experienced the Magic Roundabout for the first time.
Other highlights included the opening of the M4, which was accompanied by appropriate cynical comments from the panel, which raised even more laughs from the audience.
Darker times including the closure of the Railway Works and the death of Diana Dors were also part of the show.
The performance struck a balance between poking fun at the town and celebrating its culture, and in the end even the panel of cynics were singing Swindon’s praises.
Dozens of young performers lit up the stage in colourful costumes as they danced and sang, showing they had the talent to match the adults.
Adult and children’s choirs accompanying the performance ensured the music, which was composed by Betty Roe MBE, felt lively.
The casting showed Swindon has talent to rival any other town or city in the country and that Swindon really can do culture.
More than 1,500 people attended the four performances over the weekend. Among them on Saturday night was South Swindon MP, Robert Buckland.
He said: “The standard of singing and the musicality was superb. The fact we had so many young people singing to such a high standard shows the Janice Thompson Performance trust really goes from strength to strength.
“To have the critics on the stage to deal with the mutterings was great. We all know Swindon has a soul and that message came across loud and clear tonight.”
Also among the crowds were Brenda and Les Hakin, of Rushey Platt, who said they were impressed.
Les said: “It portrays the reality in Swindon. It portrays a sense of humour and a sense of rising to the occasion, and we have risen to that in this performance.”
Brenda said: “We came to live in Swindon 15 years ago. It was a very good performance, it portrays how people feel about Swindon.”