Review -‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ – The Lincoln Company, Louth Playgoers

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Having read previously that this show was about a group of people taking part in amateur dramatics I was very interested to see exactly how a play could be made with this subject.  I have to admit, when the curtain went back and my husband and I were introduced to the whole company, in ‘cheap low quality’ and ‘amateurish’ looking costumes, performing a ‘very interesting’ song and dance routine, I really did wonder what we’d let ourselves in for, especially as I’d got such high hopes for cast members I’d worked with previously!

It soon became apparent that the cast had become very adept at getting across the ‘amateur’ vibe; I knew exactly what they were capable of and it certainly wasn’t amateurish!

In summary, the story follows a young, seemingly shy and placid, widower, Guy Jones (played by Mark McCredie) as he attempts to join Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society (PALOS). After a very amusing audition, he gradually rises through the company ranks, mainly by his inability to say no to anybody or anything, and through what other people in the cast read into him!  The company then attempt to put on The Beggar’s Opera, and Guy becomes the male lead, while simultaneously conducting various liaisons with several of the female cast. Many of the scenes and songs from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera are kept within the play, usually being sung with their own, new context.

The play was Directed by Rebecca Mann who says in the programme:

“I was particularly interested in working on Ayckbourn’s play because of the absolute recognisability of these characters found in village halls across the country taking part in amateur dramatics.  I think that every theatre enthusiast and amateur thespian will see someone they’ve met – perhaps even a reflection of themselves!”

I totally agree with Rebecca.  Having only been involved in amateur theatre for the past 2 years, I could see a remarkable resemblance to some of the cast and crew that I have worked with in that time…  We laughed incessantly, as did another particular audience member, very loudly, at many stages throughout the show. It was especially amusing while the cast seemingly took weeks to get through the first 2 pages of the script, going over and over the same sections time and time again, and changing direction and lead roles at every rehearsal, with half the cast sitting out until they were needed;  all of which were hilariously brought to life by each and every cast member!

Rebecca also says:

“We had fun finding the quality of the performances inside ‘The Beggar’s Opera’.  Gay’s characters already give plenty of room for exaggeration –  adding on Ayckbourn’s characterisation only allows for more eccentricities!”

The whole cast certainly went to town with their exaggeration and obviously had a blast rehearsing and performing in this show.  Each character had their own unique idiosyncracies which were accentuated to highlight their individual traits and quirks. The energy, enthusiasm and skill with which each character was portrayed made it simple for the audience to completely relate; understanding who they were, and some insight into the background of their particular individual role.

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All the cast did extremely well but I particularly enjoyed the performance by Mark McCredie, playing Guy Jones.  Mark graduated from the University of Lincoln with a First Class BA (Hons) Drama degree.  Mark played ‘Judas‘ in the 2015 production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in Lincoln Cathedral, and his interest is now primarily in physical and musical theatre.  His interpretation of the quiet, subdued young widower Guy, barely opening his mouth, transforming into Crook-Finger’d Jack (hilarious what you did with your digitus secundus!), Matt of the Mint and then finally Macheath, the star of the show…  his voice as well as his characterisation also transformed, as his character grew in confidence, and he delighted the audience as he fluently performed his auditions and ballads – typical of opera’s of their time; (the Beggar’s opera being the only example of the once thriving genre of satirical ballad opera to remain popular today).

Tom Hallmark played Daffyd ap Llewellyn, Director of ‘PALOS’; he’s a first year drama student at Lincoln University and loves comedy, particularly classic sitcoms.  Tom showed several sides to his character, the firm and often harsh director, friend, absent husband and performer (his rendition of the beautiful Welsh song ‘All through the night’ or ‘Ar Hyd y Noswill be one of my most remembered from the show!  Wouldn’t it be hilarious if all auditions could be like this!  I really enjoyed Tom’s portrayal of Daffyd, and the contradictions in how he behaved as a man v director… showing how typically directors hold all the power and control but like all power it can be abused.

We saw corruption, swinging, cheating, politics and sexual tension…  the show had it all, and Hannah Llewellyn, wife of the director, Daffyd, played by Sophie Cole really had it all; her declaration of undying love for Guy, although gloriously portrayed, wasn’t reciprocated.  She captured the attention of the audience several times throughout the show with her beautiful solo soprano melodies! I saw Sophie and several other cast members perform recently in the Lincoln University production of ‘Treasure Island’.

The cast also included Laura Potente playing Bridget Baines, an aggressive, angry character, but one fuelled with tension and a love for creating havoc with a keen eye for the men, usually someone else’s!

Mr Ames, (the fabulous pianist) was played by Ed Wellman, Enid Washbrook by Jess Bark, Rebecca Huntley-Pike by Lauren Simpson, Fay Hubbard (the not so subtle swinger fighting over the pants was very amusing!)!) played by Samantha Miles and Ian Hubbard (the apparent loser in the swinging game!) played by Joe Giggs.  Jarvis Huntley-Pike was played by Simon Panayi, Crispin Usher (and the wonderful knee in the groin moment) played by Elliott Sargent, Linda Washbrook  (and the fabulous ‘girl fight’ with Bridget) played by Hannah Thorpe and finally Ted Washbrook (with his moody exit from rehearsal), played by James Ashfield.

All the performers of this show are either current or previous students from the University of Lincoln – all proving the dedication, professionalism and a passion for performance!

The Musical Director was Mark Wilde (past musical director for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in Lincoln cathedral, 2016, and current musical director for ‘Jekyll and Hyde: the musical’ 2017 also in Lincoln Cathedral).  Assistant Director and Stage Manager was Emily Cartwright.

Other thanks,

For the Lincoln Company:

Production Manager – Martin Rousseau

Stage Manager – Alex Kent

For the Riverhead Theatre:

Stage Manager – Bob Booth

Lighting – Roy Hobson

Sound – Brooke Vickers

Programme Design – Jeremy Smith

—————————NOTE——————————

For those of you who missed out on seeing this marvellous production at Louth Riverhead Theatre, you’ll be pleased to know that The Lincoln Company are going to be performing ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ for 2 nights only, at Lincoln LPAC, tickets are available here.

Fri 24th Feb – Sat 25th Feb

The Lincoln Company 


Tickets: £10 Full // £8 Concessions // £5 LIVE PASS

Running Time: 2 hour 20 mins (inc. interval)

Age: 12+

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Review – Treasure Island – University of Lincoln Drama Students

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What a delight seeing the University of Lincoln’s graduating drama students in Treasure Island on Tuesday night…  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the production, thinking that it might only be suitable for children (considering the number of Cub Scouts in the foyer before the show), but I was very pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

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We’ve all heard of the story, but this show really has got lots of its own twists and turns;  the LPAC website explains the story:

One snowy winter’s night a young girl searches through her uncle’s attic and finds a treasure chest…

With a treasure map in her pocket and the ghost of Captain Flint (James Ashfield) never far behind, young Jem Hawkins (Laura Potente) is drawn into a world of swashbuckling excitement, brimming with buccaneers and buried gold as she sets sail to Treasure Island.

Join us on the good-ship Hispaniola this Christmas for an action-packed retelling of the classic pirate adventure told by University of Lincoln’s graduating drama students.

Yo-ho-ho…!

Walking into the theatre we were transported to the attic room where the big chest was revealed… throughout the performance the set transformed into a pirate ship, the details of which were exceptional, and then to an actual island, and then there was a bit of an ‘Indiana Jones’ theme.  All the sets and staging were so well done I was really impressed by the quality and details and the work that had obviously gone into the production.  I don’t want to give too much away about the finer details, as the element of surprise at each stage added to the overall experience, but all I will say is the show was fast moving, comedic, sometimes beautiful, and definitely great fun.

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The Director, Dominic Symonds, in the programme, writes:

… at times it’s exciting, as the courageous treasure-hunters carry out their quest; at times it’s exhilarating, as the menacing Long John Silver (Jordan Sheil) tries to scupper their plans; and at times it’s downright daft, as we follow the exploits of the bumptious buffoons who fund their voyage into the unknown.  In the end, it’s a story about a youngster’s hopes and dreams, about overcoming challenges and becoming stronger in the process.  That’s something we can all learn from…

There were lots of stand out moments for me; James Ashfield (Captain Flint and the Rock voice) really showed off his ghostly dark side in more ways than one; I definitely jumped a few times at his terrifyingly booming voice and could see the younger children looking a little wary as he made various surprise entrances throughout the show!

Jordan Sheil (Long John Silver) gave an exceptional performance, I’m not sure how his voice is going to last for the whole run, especially with multiple shows daily, but his characterisation of such a nasty character was brilliant.

Laura Potente (Jem Hawkins) and her 3 stage sisters Tabitha Foster (Charlie Hawkins), Holly Marshall (Lotte Hawkins) and Holly Lomas (Fran Hawkins) each had their own characteristics which came across clearly to the audience, I particularly loved the tutu and swan hat!

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Sophie Cole (Mrs Hawkins) showed off her great singing voice with a beautiful solo and Joe Turner (Ben Gunner and Uncle Jim) showed his versatility transforming from the old Uncle, to the Castaway Ben.

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Other cast members all played their parts well and contributed to the whole show, Heidi Green (Hands), Rob Clarke (Morgan), Adam Cockerill (Captain Smollett), Francesca Bolingbroke (Merry), Olivia Calvert (Gray) and Elliot Sargent (O’Brien), who had some of the funniest lines in the show.

But my favourite performances were given by Jason Lodge (Squire Tralawny), supported by his side kick Jordan Leith (Dr Livesey);  their hilarious antics and comedic timing had the audience in fits of laughter on several occasions, and definitely stole the show for me!

 

I can’t review the show without mentioning the brilliant musical score, provided to us by Mark Wilde who is currently the Musical Director for Lincoln Cathedrals 2017 production of Jekyll and Hyde as well as his other commitments which include singing in the Cathedral Choir and many other credits.  We had  a feast of songs and musical numbers which took us from scene to scene and included ‘What’s Within the Chest’, ‘We’ll Follow the Map’, my absolute favourite ‘How I lost me leg’, the most hilarious pirate gospel number you could imagine which had the children and the adults in the audience probably laughing at completely different things!

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‘Ahoy! Ahoy!’, ‘The Proposal’, ‘Lullaby’, ‘X Marks the Spot’, ‘Believe’, ‘Rock’s Riddles’ which the children (and adults) in the audience thoroughly enjoyed as they worked out the riddles as they show progressed. and finally ‘Treasure Island’ which ended the show on a great high (despite the abrupt ending – a little mistake by the sound team I think but all added to the fun!), plus lots of instrumental music for the sword fights which had the children sitting on the edge of their seats with avid interest.

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Those that know me well will understand that I don’t comfortably join in with the traditional ‘audience participation’, and yet the calls for ‘Captain Flint’ throughout the show saw me shouting at the top of my voice to my hearts content along with the rest of the LPAC auditorium, with our endeavours rewarded with the appearances by James Ashfield.  The way the cast embraced and encouraged the audience certainly enhanced the experience for me and I’d encourage anyone who fancies a good giggle and a feast of entertainment during the lead up to Christmas, to get their tickets and go and have a bit of fun!Lincoln University

I wouldn’t be doing the show justice if I didn’t mention those important people that work on shows like this behind the scenes, the Crew.  Firstly the costumes; there was obviously a great team in place to come up with such stunning and authentic (mostly!) designs;  so well done to Helen Symonds, Steve Nash, Regan Bailiss, Gemma Batey, Katie Daw, Oksana Dergachova, Claire Godfrey, Heather Gray, Alexandra Hall, Poppy Howell, Katie Jacques, Lucinda Spurling, Alex Stanley-Ahmed, Hollie Starr, Marine Sztana and Bethany White for all their creative inspiration!

The Producer was Craig Morrow, Director Dominic Symonds, Assistant Director Stacie Cavell and as previously mentioned, Musical Director Mark Wilde.

There was also the Stage Manager, Martin Rousseau, Technicians, Emily Cartwright and Simon Panayi and Lighting Design, Thomas Marcinek. The Fight Choreographer was Andrew Ashenden, Assistant Stage Manager, Dwain Brown and the Production Manager/Designer Michael Hoyle.

 

You’ve still got plenty of opportunity to book tickets and take your family to see this wonderful show; you can click here to book!

Emerald Performances

£15 Full // £10 Child // £6 Schools

Monday 19 December 10am

Tuesday 20 December 10am

Diamond Performances

£15 Full // £10 Child

Saturday 17 December 2pm & 6pm

Sunday 18 December 2pm & 6pm

Monday 19 December 10am

Thursday 22 December 2pm & 7pm

Friday 23 December 7pm

Saturday 24 December 10am & 2pm

(Thanks to Phil Crow and Ashley Walls Photography for the photos included above, and some of my own (taken during the show on Tuesday 13th December, with no flash!).