WILTSHIRE: Salisbury

Alex Hammond and Elaine Glover Cinderella  in Cinderella at Salisbury Playhouse Credit Robert Workman lrjpgSalisbury lr

Alex Hammond (Prince) & Elaine Glover (Cinderella) in Cinderella, Salisbury Playhouse. Photograph by Robert Workman.


By Tim Saunders

Only 16 miles lies between Romsey, Hampshire and Salisbury, Wiltshire, a matter of just 40 minutes or so.

At Romsey Mottisfont, the 13th century priory owned by the National Trust can be found. It became a grand country retreat where writers including James Bond creator Ian Fleming were entertained. Today, it offers a great family day out where young children can roam free in the extensive landscaped gardens and get lost inside the massive country house. It provides a welcome break in our journey to Salisbury where we now head.

My family and I have long enjoyed mooching around Salisbury and savouring its medieval architecture. Its 123m tall cathedral took 100 years to build from 1220 and is an excellent example of Early English architecture.

When it comes to lunch visitors are spoilt for choice and on the outskirts of the city is The Hampton Inn. Encouragingly prospective diners are greeted by a 5 star hygiene rating on the front door. It is a welcoming, clean environment. We place our order and our roast beef dinners arrive swiftly. It is enjoyable and when the chocolate desserts follow there are smiles all round. Harriett (4) and Heidi (2) do enjoy the occasional bambachino (warm milk with a sprinkling of chocolate). “They’re fine to drink,” assures the waiter passing us two scorching cups that would have burnt our daughters’ mouths. Thank goodness we are vigilant and quickly take the cups and wait for them to cool.

It is interesting to compare a large public limited company owned restaurant to a small independent. And we experience this at Leonardo’s Ristorante in Salisbury itself. Here in contrast a small team of about 12 staff are knowledgeable and understand that my pregnant wife needs to watch what she eats. “You cannot eat the cake, Caroline,” says Gill Ristea, the restaurant manager who delivers a very convincing Italian accent. “It is made with soft cheese.” Nevertheless they do look works of art and are all home baked. Gill’s friendly and knowledgeable approach gives us confidence that we are in safe hands. We all enjoy spaghetti carbonara (made with hard cheese for Caroline) and while away a relaxing couple of hours. But even here the children’s portions are still too generous.

There is always a selection of street entertainers to enjoy watching but if a theatrical performance is sought then visitors will certainly not be disappointed by Salisbury Playhouse, the 517-seat theatre built in 1976.

When re-telling Cinderella on the stage, writers and directors certainly have a challenging task when it has been done so many times.

However, when we see this production at Salisbury Playhouse we are left in doubt that it is one of the best thanks to a witty script and strong performances from excellent actors who have been on television, theatre and radio.

Who would have thought that the fairy godmother could be Jamaican? Or that she would have such a penchant for different accents including a very convincing Scottish one? Another fresh approach is when Prince Charming swaps roles with the Italian Dandini. There is plenty of humour to be had from the ugly sisters who between them deliver some lightning innuendos. Harriett and Heidi are mesmerised throughout the entire performance despite it being at night and way past their bedtime. It is a show that leaves us all smiling and giggling throughout. It leaves Harriett and Heidi talking about the ugly sisters for the rest of the night and many weeks to follow. In 2016 Salisbury Playhouse has a packed schedule of shows including Alan Bennett’s Single Spies and Agatha Christie’s The Mouestrap.

During this brief weekend trip we are only able to touch on some of what Salisbury has to offer and so we will have to revisit.

Star rating

The Hampton Inn – 7

Leonard’s Ristorante - 9

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