Handel Top Secret

IAN COLLINS King of Hearts, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)

IAN COLLINS

King of Hearts, Norwich (Norfolk and Norwich Festival)

Normally I run a mile from historic venues when performers in period costume suggest we've suddenly stepped back in time.

I would have missed this event also, but for a programme blip. I'd booked for the blissful Goldberg Variations, as played by Matthew Halls. But that's a treat for next week. So, somewhat surprised, I was swept into the one-man, 10-character, eight-tune show recalling the astonishing life and times of one George F Handel and aimed at anyone older than six.

If you loved Amadeus, you might adore a movie called Frideric for - as evoked by the multi-talented Geoffrey Thomas - this classical composer's world, latterly coinciding with Hogarthian London, was the stuff of fancily-dressed soap opera.

The cast included an angry dad, posers, composers, duallists, an unlovely dame and a pair of sparring divas. There was a very comic commentary on a family-minded monarch (George I) who “hated his mother, fought with his son and threw his wife in his jail”. Handel wrote fabulous pieces for Queen Anne and George II (whose crowning anthem, Zadok the Priest, has played at every coronation since 1728). Whether George I was justified in making a big self-promoting splash of Water Music is unclear. As I said, I'd expected pieces Bach wrote to soothe an insomniac. When Mr Thomas played Handel on the harpsichord it was the next best thing.

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