Our March meeting encapsulated both a visit to the ballet AND the opera, with some comedy thrown in – so it was an all-round experience! This was thanks to an extraordinary performance by Iestyn (pronounced Yes-tin) Edwards, a stage and TV writer/performer, and also a published poet and journalist. He has found fame as the character Madame Galina, Prima Ballerina, and he has even entertained troops in Iraq and Afghanistan!
Quite a career – and an evening with a difference for Capel Ladies! Adorned in a white tutu, tights and pink satin ballet shoes, Iestyn made his entrance with a graceful ballet display ending in a pirouette and graceful curtsy, to the sound of enthusiastic applause!
He astonished us further by singing two or three songs, a couple to some recorded piano accompaniment and then one totally unaccompanied – in an operatic style. We were amazed by the power and depth of his singing voice, but of course he is Guildhall trained and he knows his stuff!
He says he enjoys entertaining others although he gets very nervous before performing, even though he has been doing it for nearly 50 years! His father was a country and western singer who used to take Iestyn on stage with him when Iestyn was only four. Later, Iestyn was a member of Southwark Cathedral choir and eventually attended the Guildhall School of Music.
Prior to this he worked for a year as front of house at London’s Covent Garden Opera House, and it was there where he saw his first ballet, Swan Lake. He befriended the lady who ran the bookstall in the foyer of the Opera House, who happened to be an ex-ballerina herself, and she would teach him some of the moves and routines from Swan Lake in the foyer during performances! Thus he added the ballet moves to his repertoire, and the tutu followed!
He loves to tell anecdotes about his colourful career… he has entertained the Queen on board HMS Victory at a special dinner for the Battle of Trafalgar, and this got him noticed by the armed forces. He imagined that he would be giving shows to the Combined Services Entertainment gigs for the officers’ mess at the Hilton, Park Lane, but was shocked to find that he had agreed to go out to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain the troops there!
His act became very popular and he has since written a book about his experiences, some of which we heard about at our meeting. Sufficient to say he gave us a very entertaining evening with lots of laughter and amusement as well as admiration for his singing and graceful pirouetting!
Iestyn’s grand finale was ably assisted by his glamorous assistant Mary Butters!