District 4N reviews The King’s Lynn Players The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe The Wisbech Players Confusions The King’s Lynn Operatic and Dramatic Society Oliver! March and District Amateur Operatic Society Copacabana The Swaffham Players When The Lights Go On Again RATz Youth Section Children of Eden Downham Amateur Dramatic Society Snake in the Grass Princess Theatre Club Comic Potential RATz Teechers Watlington Players The F A H E T G O S Production of The Mikado The King’s Lynn Players: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Director: Carol Beveridge Performed at The Arts Centre Guildhall Theatre, King’s Lynn on 19th March 2009 (Pending review from Regional Representative colleague). The Wisbech Players: Confusions Director: Chris Smith Performed at The Angles Theatre, Wisbech on 24th March 2009 Take five one act plays from the pen of Ayckbourn, 21 characters, 14 talented performers one dog and an excellent technical team and you have on your hands a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s theatre. Each play was well crafted in terms of movement, pace and projection and all performers gave good account of themselves. “Mother Figure” set the ball rolling and soon had the audience in stitches of laughter. Following this the comedy kept rolling with “Drinking Companion”, as two young ladies dealt with a lounge lizard. I really enjoyed Emma Richmond’s performance in this as she slowly became inebriated. “Between Mouthfulls” must have been difficult for the performers as the action switches to and fro from one table to another, relying on slick lighting cues and an almost obsequious waiter superbly played by Ian Jones. “A Talk in the Park” presented us with five characters, each delivering a wonderful monologue and becoming the nightmare park-bench stranger to the next character. The evening was rounded off with a piece set in a marquee, and a word here for the stage team – just brilliant, the ingenious set would not have looked out of place on the West End stage. “Gosforth’s Fete” provided not only a hilarious play with the delightful running gag (literally) of a jammed tea urn, there were also five wonderful characterisations. Leading the way, Carol Harmston was outstanding as the tea lady with another peach of a part from Ian Jones as the Vicar. Congratulations to all involved with this production and I look forward to seeing this last piece again. The King’s Lynn Operatic and Dramatic Society – Oliver! Director: Liz Dickerson Musical Director: Sam Ashby Choreographers: Laura Farr, Laura Howard, Andrea Newstead, and Amanda Playford Performed at The Corn Exchange, King’s Lynn on 8th April 2009 KLODS are clearly on a roll at present and picked another winner with this perennial favourite. It must be difficult for performers to stamp their own interpretations on any role as they are all so well established in the Public’s eye which makes some of the performances even more creditable. Sarah Krill (Nancy) was magnificent, calling upon all her experience as she battled on with a throat problem. Chris Fox (Fagin) was equal to the task giving a measured, mature performance. One of the pleasures of being a NODA rep is seeing people develop and Adam Howard certainly raised his performance a notch or two with a fine performance as the sinister Bill Sykes. Worthy of note in this category too were the performances of Mike Pembery and Susan Power as the Sowerberrys. The workhouse chorus of children set the standard with an opening number that won the hearts of the audience. Played out on an impressive split level set, the whole production moved well with slick scene changes though I was puzzled by some of the lighting plot. Diction left a little to be desired from some performers and projection was, at times, a little weak, particularly when underscored by the large and therefore loud orchestra. No such problems for Sam Miller though as he tackled the part of Oliver, his singing and diction were excellent and his emotional rendition of “Where is Love” moved many to tears. Without doubt, this was the best performance by an Oliver that I have seen. Macintosh’s loss is King’s Lynn’s gain though I won’t be surprised if Sam moves on to the professional stage. In addition to another good production, the quality of the programme should be recorded also. March and District Amateur Operatic Society: Copacabana Director and Choreographer: Michele Larkin Musical Director: Ivan Garford Performed at The Neale-Wade Community College, March on 14th April 2009 Despite the best endeavours and hard work of a very talented production team things don’t always go as planned and for once MADAOS found themselves in the unusual circumstances of presenting a show not to their normal high standards. Programme notes and post performance enquiries confirmed a catalogue of trials and tribulations leading right up to opening night. Just moments before curtain up a lighting unit had to be replaced and throughout the performance the technical team encountered problems with the computer controlled lighting rig. One expects great things from a Larkin production and whilst the choreography matched the vibrancy and pace of the show its execution was not as tight and synchronised as normal. Seldom have I seen so many arms and legs going in all directions. That said one redeeming feature was the three young men dancing the Bolero D’Amor. Problems didn’t stop with the dancing though as some of the soloist had problems with their singing, sounding flat or missing words completely. James Ward looked relaxed and confident on stage and acted the part of Tony well, suiting the part nicely. As Samantha, Annie Larkin acted and danced the part very well but struggled with the musical score which seemed to be beyond her vocal range. Good support was provided by the rest of the company, particularly Claire Lilley (Gladys) and Jenny Slingsby (Conchita). Comedy timing and use of the stage was good with the ten strong orchestra creating the right mood and tempo. Colourful costumes added a spark of elegance to proceedings. The Swaffham Players: When The Lights Go On Again Director: Brian Hubbard Choreographers: Clare Knock and Amy Daniels Musical Director: Jill Dobbs Performed at Hamonds High School, Swaffham on 15th April 2009 I’m not sure if this is a play with music or a musical with songs from the 1940’s, but either way there is no mistaking the pleasure it brought to a packed house, and what a delight to see “Sold Out” posted on the door. Swaffham Players certainly picked a winner with this one and full marks for the staging and technical team behind this production. The clever insertion of contemporary newsreels or radio sound bites added a chilling touch to proceedings and really brought home the pain, horrors and comradeship of those perilous days. This was the best I have seen from Swaffham Players as they tackled not only the nostalgic songs but also the drama. The fine performances from all principals ensured both the comedy and the heartache came across. As a camp gay Gordon, Roger Billverstone had the audience in tears almost, as did Vicky Billman and Sue Baxter with their excellent performances as a couple of cheeky charladies. The real poignancy of this piece was the reading of letters home or to the front, especially the one from the Mother to her son. I couldn’t help thinking that, 65 years on; Mothers no doubt echo the same sentiments to British Troops serving abroad trying to up hold in other quarters a freedom won in Europe in 1945 at such a terrible price. The quality of acting and delivery from Maureen Silver, David Mycock, Nikita Ward, Rachel Johnson, James Hewett and Christine Haines was excellent. The movement and choreography of this piece, along with the singing and costumes were all to an equally high standard. This is a gem of a show but with limited shelf life I suspect, as the main target audience is now over 70 years of age. RATz Youth Section: Children of Eden Director and Choreographer: Emlyn Moment Band Leader: Gabriel Fitzsimmons Additional Choreographer: Cynthia Maxey Vocal Coaching: Gemma Harvey Performed at The Angles Theatre, Wisbech on 17th April 2009 There was so much to enjoy about this production both from the artistic presentation on the night and the actual content of the show which was new to me. Based on the book of Genesis; the story moves from the creation of the Garden of Eden to the story of Noah and the Flood. Regardless of personal beliefs, this production was quite sensational and RATz Youth section once again rose to the challenge with another production to add to its impressive track record. With the Tree of Knowledge set up stage right and a sweeping quarter circle ramp from up stage centre to down stage right this company never ceases to impress with its artistic use of the performing space. On the technical front sound and lighting design and execution were to a high standard. The opening sequence “Let there be light” and the onset of the deluge were particularly effective. Costumes set the right tone and collectively looked well co-ordinated and I just loved the animal masks, they were excellent. A near faultless production sparkled with numerous cameo roles and some fabulous songs, I particularly liked “Stranger to the Rain” and “The hardest part of love”, both of which moved me to tears. Musically this production was supported by an eight piece orchestra which sounded terrific and balanced well with the cast on stage. Direction and choreography were very tight and it was a real joy to watch so many youngsters move and sing as one. Individual performances were all good and much rested on the shoulders of Jess Bates (Father) her stage presence and singing set the bench mark for the rest of the cast. With so many notable performances from the cast it would be unfair to name any others individually. Suffice to say, for any group with a set of talented youngsters, this is a show well worth considering and I congratulate RATz on their choice and first class presentation. Downham Amateur Dramatic Society: Snake in the Grass Director: Elaine Johnson Performed at The Town Hall, Downham Market on 30th April 2009 Let me start by congratulating the set design and construction team and the Director for such excellent use of the stage. An entrance to a tennis court set up stage right, a raised veranda complete with summer house (incorporating a deep well) up stage left and a stage covered with “grass” and stepping stones. Effective and sometimes sinister lighting plot completed the ambiance for this spine tingling drama. With three female characters (and one male voice) this drama unfolds before us in an intriguing manner, and whilst I guessed the first sting in the tail I was taken completely by surprise by the other four that followed. The varying pace and mood was excellent with some of the pauses almost unbearable (Alfred Hitchcock could not have done better and I’m sure the Prompt must have been on tender hooks for fear of inadvertently breaking the tension). A play of this nature requires three top class actresses and DADS came up trumps with the trio of Caz Taylor (Annabel Chester), Kerry Eburah (Miriam Chester) and Cath Duhig (Alice Moody). Each developed their character in a believable manner and delivered their lines extremely well, sending a cold shiver down my spine on more than one occasion. There was no disguising the pain and burden each character carried and each in turn gained the empathy or sympathy of the audience as a past wrong or cruelty was revealed. Cath Duhig was on fine form playing the role of a blackmailer while DADS’ newcomer, Caz Taylor, turned in a commanding performance as the older sister. With one of the best individual performances I have seen this year, Kerry Eburah’s portrayal of the schizophrenic younger sister was excellent. The same can be said of the direction also as DADS put the D back into drama. Princess Theatre Club: Comic Potential Director: Mary Mackie Performed at The Princess Theatre, Hunstanton on 14th May 2009 This play has at its core the concept of robotic ‘actoids’ replacing actors in daytime TV soaps with the sub plot of a human falling in love with one of them. It opens in a TV studio with ‘actoids’ filming the next instalment of a popular hospital soap drama. Problems start when one ‘actoid’ miss quotes its lines. To the disconcertment of the director another ‘actoid’ starts to laugh. The humorous, yet sinister realisation is that artificial intelligence has moved on to a new level. Couple this development with the amorous attentions of a young writer and you have the comic potential leading to numerous comical situations. It was interesting to observe the audience’s reaction to these various developments; situations that one could relate to were very well received but more “sinister” situations left you with an uncomfortable feeling. This was another bold choice by the Society and on the whole very well presented with 13 performers covering 22 different roles. First night nerves did require the prompt to intervene on occasions but this didn’t detract from the pace of the production. One problem I did have was with characters dressed in black or dark clothes performing in front of black tabs. That aside, this production made good use of the stage and was well cast with each performer making a full contribution to proceedings. As the love struck young writer Tobias Nicholls made a first class job of his role, the interactions between him and other members of the cast worked very well. Sophie Hampton was excellent in the role of Jacie Triplethree as the rogue ‘actoid’ her comic timing and delivery of the innocent lines was a joy to behold. The scenes in the dress shop and restaurant were hilarious. With strong support from all the cast this production was a good night out at the theatre. This is a play worthy of consideration by any Society looking for a production with numerous cameo opportunities. RATz: Teechers Director : Kevin Shippey Performed at The Angles Theatre, Wisbech on 15th May 2009 This last term at RATz has seen the group produce some of its finest work and with this latest project one must first congratulate the arts and craft faculty on the innovative and rather novel programme. The design and technology faculty should also be commended for the design and execution of lighting and sound, not forgetting the important aspects of set construction, stage dressing and uniforms, all to “A” grade standard. The Head Master should be proud of his charges as he directed them through the final stages of life as students prior to them becoming students of life. And what of the students them selves? Clearly the three young performers probably already know more about the craft of acting than I and the only lesson one could teach is to know the difference between speed and pace. The structure of this production required each performer to provide in their roles the narrative and to portray various different characters. To their credit they did this to perfection and not once did I lose who was who and what the story line was, (nor for that matter did they lose the underlying political comment of the play). Not only that, they also had to remember which of the four desks to be at, what prop or minor costume accessory to wear. According to the programme notes both Richard Thompson (Salty) and Laura-Jayne Shippey (Hobby) played seven characters and Annie Larkin (Gail) played nine characters. Each had the ability to change character at the flick of a switch in a seamless move. I was very impressed by Richard’s voice technique and Laura-Jayne’s mannerisms with these changes but the subtlest change came from Annie as she switched from teenage school girl with a crush on Sir to an adult character. The trilogy performed under spotlights was brilliant and the entire production passed with honours with all three performers being a credit to their school uniform. Watlington Players: The F A H E T G O S Production of The Mikado Director and Choreographer: Kate Ayres Musical Director: Kate Mould Performed at The Village Hall, Watlington on 28th May 2009 Until recently I had never seen a “Farndale” then like the proverbial number nine bus two come along one after the other! Watlington pulled out all the stops with this production in order to present the epitome of ineptitude, miss casting and wooden acting. As with all “Farndales” there is so much going on, it was almost impossible to spot genuine errors, fluffed lines or missed entrances. Suffice to say they occurred at regular intervals throughout, much to the delight of the audience. If this had been a true G&S production I’m sure the sub title would be “The Orchestra’s Revenge”, as musicians sat there organising a party and paying no heed to the needs of performers on stage. On one occasion I spotted “Three Blind Mice” being played and I’m sure there were probably several other musical jokes I missed. It was easy to spot those in the audience who knew their G&S and those who must have wondered at times what all the laughter was about. This merciless comedic attack on amateur theatre, women’s institutions and G&S was very funny and delivered in fine style by the cast. A clever, two-way programme, coupled with greetings when entering the hall from the Chairwoman Phoebe Reece and the Vicar Reg Bishop, set the scene nicely. There were many fine performances in this production, with some delightful idiosyncrasies from a host of performers, but I must resist the urge to have a little list! Suffice to say Julie Bjerregaard (Mrs Reece) was outstanding in her role as an archetypal, shires lady use to taking charge and totally unfazed by the mayhem surrounding her. Her excellent characterisation was very much in the vein of Joyce Grenfell. In my opinion, Margaret Mould (Hermione Elkin) was the one performer who had the audience in fits of laughter every time. A veritable female Corporal Jones complete with Zimmer frame. A most enjoyable production and the ultimate most ingenious paradox is it not; that amateurs present a self deprecating piece of work such as this production? (LOL as Mrs Reece would say). Congratulations to all involved.