Still lots to see as arts festival comes to close

Rob Winston
Rob Winston

AS the 41st annual Rye Arts Festival draws to a close after a packed and fun-filled fortnight, there are still tickets available for a variety of events to suit all tastes this final weekend, including theatre, opera, blues and gospel music.

Tonight (Friday) sees the first event at The Fletcher Centre – the old Library building in Lion Street, which has recently been purchased by a group with ambitious plans to turn the heritage buildings into a state-of-the-art digital cinema and entertainment hub for Rye in the heart of the Citadel. The Signalmen and other Ghost Stories features professional actors, including Roger May who plays Jamie Bellamy in Radio 4’s The Archers, telling ghost stories.

The Signalmen was written by Charles Dickens after he survived a train crash which killed five people and injured many more, and, spookily, he died five years to the day after the incident. The buildings in Lion Street have been empty for nearly two years and will add to the spine-chilling atmosphere. The show kicks off and lights will go out at 7.30pm, although the good news is that the heating will be on and stiff drinks will be available at the interval.

Saturday provides a real treat – a fully-staged production of Cosi Fan Tutte – the classic Mozart opera. The professional singers and full orchestra of Euphonia Works wowed Rye last year with Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride, but this time are staging one of the most popular and accessible operas in the World. The director, conductor, singers and musicians liked Rye so much last year they asked to come back and the Festival was delighted to book them. Tickets, at just £18, are a real snip, considering the quality of the production. The opera is at Rye College and starts at 6.00pm.

Preceding the opera is a talk at 3pm at St Mary’s Church by Professor Lord Winston – the fertility specialist who is also president of Euphonia Works. His talk is called Are Women Really Like That? which is a rough translation of the opera title and he will be considering whether the opera’s theme of men’s view that women are naturally disposed to infidelity has any basis in reality. Clearly women aren’t, but are men inherently wrong in their views.

The Festival closes on Sunday with a choice of events. At 3pm The Blue Devils are playing at Ypres Castle Inn. The band consists of four highly accomplished professional session musicians, who get together now and then to do gigs. This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill combo turning out usual blues standards; The Blue Devils are the cream of their craft. And the good news is that the show is completely free!

Meanwhile, also at 3pm, the London Adventist Chorale will be singing at St Mary’s Church. This London-based group is one of the finest gospel choirs around and have played Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall and now Rye! Singing largely acapella, The London Adventist Chorale, perform spirituals, psalms and contemporary gospel. A truly rousing and uplifting finale to the Festival is guaranteed and if you’ve never seen a gospel choir, here’s your chance to see one of the very, very best!

More information is available by telephoning the Box Office on 01797 224442 or checking out www.ryeartsfestival.co.uk. The Box Office is open for personal bookings at Phillips & Stubbs in Cinque Ports St, Rye, from 9.30am to 1.30pm Monday to Saturday. However, tickets will be available on the door for all the events this weekend, except The Blue Devils, which is free.