Jesus Christ Superstar – Louth Playgoers – Revew by Frances Brindle

 

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I’m absolutely delighted that even though I’m still away in the USA I am able to publish a review for this great show via a wonderful friend from Louth Playgoers (LPG), Frances Brindle, for their current production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the Rock Opera, in Riverhead Theatre, Louth from 17th to 27th May.

Frances is usually onstage for the musicals but as well as performing for LPS she’s been Assistant Director, Producer and taken Choreographer roles.  She’s also on the marketing team and is on the Board of Directors. You can also find her smiley face in the box office from time to time!!!

Frances next  LPS project is Once Upon a Time, the summer concert on August 12th where she’s Producer and choreographer.

Over to you Fran…

Having not been involved in this years musical (an odd feeling!) I thought I’d embrace being on the other side and I’d review it.

Not being a massive fan of Jesus Christ Superstar, hence not being part of the show, I can’t say I wasn’t looking forward to the show, but my reason for going was to support the cast who have worked so hard to produce it.

And a huge amount of hard work has gone into it. I’ve heard first hand that there’s literally been blood sweat and tears, and that was just building the set! Bob Booth and his crew have produced the largest construction our stage has ever seen. With giant steps, platforms, trapdoors, and multi levels, the immense presence of it is the first thing you notice when the curtains go back. It is utilised in so many different ways, which I won’t spoil, but the cast are constantly all over this giant structure making full use of the dynamics this set has to offer.

The most striking thing about this show was that everyone on that stage was fully invested in it and committed to providing a great performance. It was lovely to see so many new faces on the stage too, I hope they’ve loved it enough to join us in the forthcoming season.

The wardrobe team must be congratulated for their efforts because you could quite happily believe you were in biblical times, which is no easy feat when you have to source clothes in a modern society. They were tasteful, suited and my favourite part was that there were so many colours on that stage but they weren’t super bright and they fitted the show perfectly. The use of scarves and shawls was an excellent addition to each costume and I’m sure it aided the cast in defining their characters.

Colours for me played an important role in this show, Pilate in purple typically an “evil” colour, Herod’s glamorous gold, and Judas in Red which is essentially an angry colour and in the scene where he’s fighting his inner demons under the red lighting and wearing a red costume absolutely took the audience on a journey of his mind set.

The lighting in the whole show was very atmospheric and the use of candles to create a hazy glow in certain scenes definitely worked for me. There’s something to be said for emotional scenes portrayed in the flicker of candlelight.

The show is full of strong voices but the trio of Jesus (Jody McCutcheon) Mary Magdalene (Evie Dodds) and Judas (Rik Hardenberg) carry the show along at a pace which tells the story beautifully yet keeps the audience on the edge of their seats, literally. Their performances are brilliant and all differently so emotive that towards the end of Act two my stomach was in knots and I still felt a bit shaky after the show. It’s intense, shocking, heart wrenching and emotional whilst still having moments of upbeat, lively fun.

The fun mostly comes from the ensemble who are the heart of this show. They never stop! They are constantly climbing up and down stairs and scaffolding, on and off the stage, and it’s their commitment to this merry dance that makes the story so believable. All whilst performing perfectly placed choreography (by Sarah Hagerup) remembering harmonies, singing and still managing to breathe!! Hats off too to Keith Weston, the Musical Director, because it takes an awful lot of work to accomplish a rock opera with no spoken lines and just pure singing, and it’s a hard sing! And a hard play for the band too who absolutely rock!

The concept of this show is still one I can’t get my head around, but a lady who has, is the Director, Sue Hamilton. She has had the enormous task of bringing this vision to reality. It has been done in such a way that not only works, but flows so much that a scene disappears before your eyes before you’ve had a chance to realise it’s gone. And it happens more than once!

For a show that I don’t like, tonight I loved it! I smiled, I clapped and I cried, it moved me so much!

So if between now and Sat 27th May you want a great night out then go and see Jesus Christ Superstar, because they’re all Superstars!

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There are some tickets left and you can get them at www.louthplaygoers.com or call Box Office on 01507 600350 open 10am-1pm Monday -Saturday.

Thank you Frances for taking the time to write this great review, I’m just very disappointed that I’m unable to see this show that I know and love, and that I was part of in the Lincoln Cathedral production in both 2015 and 2016 with some of the same cast as in this particular production.

I hope that all the cast and crew have a great rest of the run, and that everyone enjoys it as much as Frances obviously did!

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“The Lady in the Van” – A Louth Playgoers Riverhead Theatre Production

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When I saw that Louth Playgoers were putting on a production of “The Lady in the Van” I was really pleased to see something a bit different to the usual performances that seem to come up in local theatres.  I’d seen the film with Dame Maggie Smith last year, and loved the story, so was very interested to see how this would work in theatre.  Would there be an actual van on stage?  How would the sets work?  Well I wasn’t disappointed!

The production, Written by Alan Bennett and Directed by Susan Hewer, worked really well on stage. The set design, by John Hollingsworth was very well thought out, the little windows in Alan Bennett’s office in Camden, the garden fence (ivy included), the gate, the houses across the street, all added to the feeling of looking in on a private driveway, people watching.

Susan Hewer, in the Director’s Notes in the programme, says ‘The play is both funny and sad, provocative and uplifting, being a blend of unbelievable truths as we are drawn into Miss Shepherd’s world of experiences”  She’s right, and with the addition of the dual roles of Alan Bennett, (dressed identically, with the same mannerisms and accents) really had us drawn into his life, his feelings towards his own mam, and the way he felt about Miss Shepherd.

From the moment Linda Goodman Powell, who played Miss Shepherd, shuffled on stage in her untidy mac and Nora Batty stockings, I knew we were going to have a few laughs…  She brought ‘Miss Shepherd’ to life in her own way; beautifully portrayed mannerisms, wonderful facial expressions and brilliant accent, bouncing off both Alan Bennett’s in humour and in her own cantankerous way.  The Alan Bennett’s were played by Andy De Renzi (Alan Bennett 1) and Derek Le Page (Alan Bennett 2).  Both Alan’s did extremely well, bringing their own portrayal of either the physical or the psychological characters to life;  and considering all three main parts had seemingly hours of dialogue, monologues and soliloquies, it’s no wonder they had to receive some cue’s from the prompter (Christine Raithby) from time to time.

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I enjoyed seeing a few familiar faces on stage from previous Louth Playgoers performances, including Rufus, the neighbour played by James Burgess;  who along with his stage wife, Pauline, played by Laura Martin, really highlighted the difficulties people must have experienced when faced with this type of situation.

Alan Bennett’s mam, played by Pamela Whalley, portrayed the mam beautifully, initially a happy, caring mother, but later, more reserved and worried; she really did show the different characteristics.

I really loved the way the sound and lighting designers and operators manipulated the lighting between scenes.  The programme tells us the music in the production was from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 27 in E minor, op. 90, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 24 in F sharp major, op. 78 and J.S. Bach’s Mass in B minor, the Kyrie and the Gloria.  The rest of the music had been special composed by Mark-Anthony Turnage which really added a special something to the performances.

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I can’t mention everyone who was involved, but the rest of the cast did really well, especially those playing multiple roles.  Special mention must also go to the Stage Manager (and controller of The Van! – Tony Blackmore – wow ‘The Van’s’… red, and ‘crushed mimosa’ and even the mop head brush!).  Also need to say really well done for the set build, taking the set designs and making them a reality, Alan Fisher and Team.  The costumes and props also need to be highlighted; Ashley Stevens and John Hallam were responsible for the props and Barbara Vickers, Fern Garland and Pat Fisher for the costumes.  There were a few characters with a variety of costumes but Miss Shepherd’s range of outfits were brilliant…  I loved the whole look, the hats, the bags, the carriers, just her look – it was genius, well done!

Thanks for a good night out, and in the words of the lady I met at the bar before the show started who had never been to the Riverhead Theatre before, “What a beautiful theatre, and a wonderful variety of shows, we should come more often, we only live round the corner”.

There are tickets still available for tonight (Friday 14th April) and tomorrow (Saturday 15th April) so if you can, go along and support, it’s a fabulous story!

Click Here for tickets and more information on other shows coming up!

Thanks to Lesley Jane Mitchell and Jack Lovett for the photographs.

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Review – ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ – A Louth Playgoers Production

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I’m always a bit wary going to a production on opening night… I always ask myself, are the cast ready? Are there going to be glitches?  Do the cast need to settle into having an audience?  Monday night was opening night and I had the same questions, and more, when I realised that the theatre was very empty compared to how I’m using to seeing Riverside, I was more than a little bit wary of what to expect…

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To be honest, it took a few minutes for the play to ‘get going’ although Penny Frost, playing Lady Agatha, set the initial scene really well, and looked exactly the part in her beautiful costume.  Penny really showed the determination of a strong woman in playing Lady Agatha, and found discovering the character of this particular role really interesting.

I wasn’t totally sure about the casting of Robert Rusling as Sherlock Holmes, but once the cast got into the swing of things, and I got used to the completely different nature and characteristics of this particular Mr Holmes, I settled down and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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I want to start by making particular reference to the spectacular set – which earned a massive ‘WOW’ from me as soon as the curtains first opened.  I’ve seen a fair few plays in recent months, and reviewed many of them in this blog, but I have to say, the attention to detail, the quality of the furnishings and all the little added extras, really made a difference to the overall feel of the play…  I could see myself sitting in that lounge, looking out at the moors through the French doors, there was nothing cheap or MDF about any of it.  Congratulations to the team involved; Brian Gutherson, for Set Design along with his team for the Set Build… brilliant work! (I’m only sorry I don’t have a photograph to show their hard work).

The second big congratulations must go to the wardrobe team – the photo’s I’m using here were taken before the final costumes were acquired, and so although really good, they don’t really do justice to the quality and authenticity of the superb costumes we saw on the night.  The changes in clothes for many of the cast throughout were each as good as the costume before – so thanks to Sue Hudson, Barbara Vickers, Beryl Baker, Christine Maltman and Sue Markham, you did a superb job dressing the cast so well!

So what about the play?  Although now I’ve seen it I remember the story, it had been such a long time since watching it on TV I didn’t really know what was going to happen.  I’ve listened to, and watched many Sherlock Holmes stories, including the recent TV series, so I kind of had an expectation.  I was a bit disappointed with the lack of a ‘hound’ – although I must admit, I’m not sure how a theatre could involve any kind of hound in a performance like this… I guess for me, the story didn’t really lend itself to the theatre as well as it has done in film where the scope can be much greater, by being able to get involved in the ‘chase’ on the moors.

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Moving on to mention all the characters, Ruairidh Greig was brilliant as Doctor Watson; his flippant, comedy lines, and his obvious passion for getting across the nuances of this particular character were a delight… I looked forward to his lines every time he came on to the stage.

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Another favourite character was Sir Henry, played by Jack Lovett;  I saw both Ruairidh and Jack in the Pantomime, Dick Whittington earlier this year;  Ruairidh played the nasty ‘King Rat’ and Jack was ‘Idle Jack’ and thoroughly enjoyed both of their performances then.  They kind of swapped roles with nasty villain ‘King Rat’ playing a kind of light hearted role in Doctor Watson, whereas Jack moved from his comedy panto role into the well-to-do, emotional gentleman, Sir Henry, taking full command of his role.  I also saw Jack in another of his comedy acting credits when he played the role of Private Pike in Dad’s Army last year.  I personally think Jack is one to watch for the future – he’s going to go a long way!

 

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Mr Barrymore, the Butler was played by Chris Rozier;  Chris has appeared in and directed productions for over forty years, and this was another interesting character to play…  I wasn’t sure at first why he seemed to keep looking away when he was speaking, but we found out eventually he was a shifty character, hiding secrets that he was trying not to give away…

Mollie Tunnicliffe (who I also saw in Dick Whittington), played Perkins, and Di Flower, a member of Louth Playgoers since 1982 and twice previously has been the President of Louth Playgoers, played Mrs Barrymore.

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Amber Asunta played Kathy Stapleton, a delightful character (until we find out about the real Kathy and her character transformed!); Amber has been waiting quite a long time to have the opportunity of playing a role like this; and she did really well!

The final two cast members were Daniel Blascow and Jade Smith, playing Jack Stapleton and Laura Lyons…   Daniel (a semi successful rap artist) has enjoyed a variety of roles in the past and hopes all his experience gained in local theatre will put him a step nearer to an acting career.  This play was Jade’s first key role, having only been with Louth Playgoers for about a year, and hopes to continue with her passion for theatre by studying a performance arts course at college when she finishes school.

The play was Directed by Mike Gibson who has worked with the Assistant Director, Brian Cliffe for six years as both his Director, and his Assistant Director.  He pays particular thanks to the set designer and costume teams for bringing to life the story and drama of the play.

I want to applaud Louth Playgoers on their programmes;  I always buy one, to make sure I get the characters and actors names right, and read a little about each of them, sharing some of the details in my reviews.  The programmes from Louth Playgoers never let me down; for a minimal cost of £1, this time we got 20 pages of useful information with only a few small advertisements.  Some of the other bigger theatres and shows need to learn a lesson or two from this company who have got it so right!  Well done Jeremy Smith, programme design and Geoff Stone, programme editor!

Some final thanks to Alan Portas, Stage Manager; Shirley Woods for her Prompting, Ashley Stevens and Peter Hall for props, Roy Hobson for the lighting design, Nigel Gay, lighting operator, Brooke Vickers for the sound design and Carol Tinkler, sound operator.

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Photos courtesy of Louth Playgoers; in particular the photographer Lesley Jane Mitchell, and Flora and Paul Bennett from Brackenborough Hall for use of the location for the photo shoot.

Despite my initial reservations, I did enjoy Monday night, and urge anyone to book now for the remaining few nights of the run and enjoy a good night out.  The show runs now until 18th March, in Riverhead Theatre, Louth.  You can buy tickets direct from the website by clicking here.

 

 

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 ‘Two’ – JamJar Productions – Louth

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I had no choice tonight but to come straight home from Louth, after watching the performance of ‘Two’ by JamJar Productions with my friend Dawn and write this review.  The show tonight had sold out and I believe right now there are a very limited number of seats available for the final 2 shows for tomorrow, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th February.  Both shows deserve to sell out and if I didn’t want as many people to watch the show as possible I’d be buying another ticket myself and going to see the play again.

When I wrote the ‘preview’ on 20th January (Preview – ‘Two’ – JamJar productions – Louth) I wrote about an ‘intimate’ performance, but never really having seen a show like this before I didn’t know what to expect…  well quite honestly, this was nothing like I might have even dreamt I was expecting.  From the moment Dawn and I walked into the small, upstairs theatre, The Studio, in Riverhead Theatre Louth, we knew that we’d definitely feel a part of the show.  With only 2 performers in the show, my head was definitely tricked into feeling there were more people coming on and off set throughout.

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Our seats were right in the middle of the front row, which meant our feet were actually on the stage, right up close to the ‘set’ which was a traditional lounge bar, set with bar, tables, chairs, stools and beermats…  it was sparsely furnished with no sign of any glasses, bottles, beer pumps or ash trays, but actually that didn’t matter, it was all about the ‘people’.  From the time the lights came on indicating the start of the evening shift, until last orders were called and the lights turned out, we were part of the pub, the audience were in the pub, doing exactly what people do, watch the banter, look at characters and do what I personally love to do the most… ‘People Watch’.

For those of you reading this that are yet to see the show, obviously I don’t want to give too much away, but want to tell you enough to encourage you to take the plunge and buy one of those precious few tickets that might be left by the time you read this…  Trust me, nothing I’ve written here will detract from the experience you’ll get being part of the audience for this intimate production!

As the pub opens it’s doors for the evening, we are introduced to the landlord and landlady…  for those of you who have spent time in your ‘local’ (and I did for many years in South London where I worked as a bar maid for a good number of years) you’d recognise the pair behind the bar with their bickering and banter…  I think it can be quite typical behaviour when two people are faced with spending so much time together in such close proximity.  They are the only constant throughout the show, and as they leave the set to stock up on crisps, or the odd barrel replacement, new characters enter through the doors.

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We then see the old woman in her shawl, enjoying a bit of respite from her loneliness and a little evening tipple; then the fabulous, eccentric, loud and confident ‘Moth’ made an entrance… I have known quite a few ‘Moth’s’ in my time and I’m sure a few of the ladies in the audience have too!  When his beloved ‘Maudie’ comes in and catches him in the act, flirting with anyone and everyone (literally), she has a few harsh words, but following his compelling, energetic ‘Saturday Night Fever’ moves and some excuses, which she’s obviously heard before, Maudie softens, and persuades him that they may have a future after all!  Some brilliantly written, wonderfully hilarious and heart warming moments that had the audience laughing out loud and really relating to people they know or have known in the past!

We were brought down to a more sober level with the entrance of the old man…  he obviously missed his deceased wife terribly and came to ‘the pub’ to relive some old memories of being with her.  Although a slightly more sombre section, the audience felt a level of sensitivity towards him but I’m not sure if it was just me, but I’ll never look at a ‘brown teapot’ in the same light…

In between banter between Landlord and Landlady, Mrs Iger’s arrived and we had a few minutes to really get inside her personality;  loud, arrogant, bossy and obviously domineering, the complexity of her character became even more apparent as Mr Iger joined her… talk about chalk and cheese, Mr Iger being very timid and obviously weak willed but totally doting on his overbearing wife… quite a complex couple I would say and although very funny in places, a certain amount of empathy must have been felt by the whole audience towards Mr Iger.

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Following a short interval, we then met Lesley and Roy…  it was fascinating that we were privileged as an audience, to be privy to such private and intimate conversations that we wouldn’t normally hear.  Although you can generally read body language across a room, to hear what is being said so clearly, whilst knowing what is being said should be very private, was a very difficult scene to watch.  The emotional rollercoaster was up and down like the ‘Big One’ at Blackpool and once again we were plunged downwards into a chasm of darkness by a couple with very obvious problems that you wonder how and where they will both end up.

Fred and Alice changed things up again as they ‘turned on the TV’ and sat discussing the programme;  Alice was obviously losing her marbles a bit but they definitely enjoyed each others company and made each other laugh…’Fat Fat Palomino’!

Then came ‘the other woman’, desperately wanting to be seen and caught out, but trying to keep a low profile…

Finally, after helping a little lost boy who had been left outside with pop and crisps, we are left once again with Landlord and Landlady…  last orders taken, glasses cleared (no not the ones on my face!), and Landlady finally takes the opportunity to tell Landlord exactly how she’s feeling.  It’s totally unexpected, tempers flare, emotions bubble to the surface, and we finally get to see the real reasons behind their behaviours…

Personally by the end of the show I felt like I’d been put through an emotional wringer – washed out and hung out to dry…  we were built up then knocked down several times, we saw characters emerge, tempers, friendships, despair, horror and some love, but most of all we saw people, we saw characters.

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My utmost respect and congratulations to the ‘Two’ – Sophie Grundy and Jamie Harris; talking to Sophie very briefly afterwards she said one of the most difficult things for her in the show was to keep changing from one accent to another, especially Liverpool;  we heard Yorkshire, London, Liverpool and others in between, all perfectly believable from both Jamie and Sophie!  With limited costume changes, mainly using accessories to distinguish a new/different character, we completely relied on the voices and the characteristics to identify each pub goer.  I was in awe of the performance as a whole, to watch a show with only 2 in the cast, but actually see a pub full of people, with 14 characters, and constant dialogue, and with such varying emotions, was a massive achievement, so again, well done to both of you!

I’d also like to mention the rest of the team;  Directors – Rob Mapletoft and Holly Mapletoft, Roy Hobson for the lighting design, Rob Mapletoft again for operating the lighting and Holly Mapletoft for Sound Design and Operation.  The poster used here and in my preview was designed by Jerry Smith.   An additional thank you is also given to the ‘local’ Woolpack, Louth for the loan of the furniture (and also for our delicious pre-theatre meal tonight).  Matt Sargent and Nick Kendall were also given thanks for performance advice and sound support respectively.

I also want to personally thank Hugh Poths…  the very distinguished gentleman in the immaculate tuxedo, welcoming guests as they entered the theatre…  He obviously recognised my name when I went to pick up my tickets as the ‘Review Writer’ and was very complimentary about my blog/review writing.  Thank you Hugh, if my reviews get just one more person to buy a ticket for a show then I’m happy – it’s all about promoting the brilliance of amateur theatre and I love doing it!

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Jamie, Holly, Rob and Sophie

In the programme Director, Rob Mapletoft said:

“It’s been a joy to work with Jamie and Sophie (and of course my wife Holly, on ‘Two’.  I must confess I’d never heard of the play, but once I’d given it a good read, I relished the challenge.  Two actors, 14 characters, a range of ages and potentially an audience of 270! So no pressure then…

I love how the play works on a number of levels.  Superficially how all of the characters put on a public face – they are all in a pub after all – but scratch the surface and each character shows a number of hidden depths, each with their own anxieties, issues and concerns.

We have opted for a minimal set for a number of reasons.  The time and cost factor was a part of it, but mostly we wanted an uncluttered back drop, thus allowing you to fully immerse yourselves into the skewed realities the characters offer.  The dialogue and relationships are key here, not the fanciness of set and props.

So pull up a stood, refresh your pint, and sit back and enjoy.  We really hope you enjoy the show, and leave feeling refreshed and yet reflective.”

 

The Company – JamJar Productions

JamJar Productions was set up in September 2015 by Louth based director and actor Jamie Harris.  It’s main ethos is to produce and perform plays for small casts that are not often seen on the local stage.  The first production, in collaboration with Hambledon Productions, was in July 2016 and it was the Anthony Shaffer classic ‘Sleuth’.  It enjoyed sell out success and was praised by audiences, which then lead the way to tonight’s performance of Jim Cartwright’s ‘Two’.  Vastly different shows, but sharing two things in common for which JamJar strives… great scripts, and small casts.  Plans are already in place for JamJar’s third production, which will be brought to the Riverhead Theatre in Late 2017 or early 2018.  Watch this space!

‘Two’ is running from 9th-11th February 2016 at 7.30pm.  Adults £9, Under 18 £7

Box Office Telephone: 01507 600350 or go to Louth Playgoers

 

Preview – ‘Two’ – JamJar productions – Louth

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I’m really looking forward to this intimate production of the Jim Cartwright’s ‘Two’ with Jamie Harris ad Sophie Grundy at the Studio in Riverhead Theatre, Louth on 9th February.  I have seen several productions from Louth Playgoers, both Directed by Jamie Harris and with Sophie Grundy in various roles and I’m really excited to see how this particular insight into life in a Northern Pub will work in this setting.

Jamie Harris first joined Louth Playgoers in 2010 after graduating from Aberystwyth University with a degree in Drama.  In his time at Playgoers he has acted in 18 productions, directed 10 and been the lighting designer on 5.  Recent directing credits include ‘Songs We’ve Always Wanted to Sing’, ‘Sister Act’ (which I absolutely loved!), ‘LPS Christmas Concert’, ‘Practice to Deceive’ and ‘Musical Memories’ (which had some incredible talents on show!).  He also Directed the 2013 Pantomime ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and the 2015 pantomime ‘Beauty and the Beast’.  His most recent acting credits include, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Sleuth’, ‘Practice to Deceive’, ‘Journey’s End; ‘The Ladykillers’ and ‘Me and My Girl’.    I recently saw the Pantomime ‘Dick Whittington’ which Jamie also Directed;  see the review here.  Jamie’s next directing ventures will be ‘LPS Summer Concert 2017’ followed by the 2018 pantomime.

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Jamie Harris in ‘Practice to Deceive’

Sophie Grundy was a delight to watch in the recent pantomime ‘Dick Whittington’. (See link above for my review of that production).  It was her third leading role in pantomime and she told Louth Playgoers “I can’t wait to get back on stage and bring my character ‘Alice’ to life!”.  Sophie recently appeared in ‘Songs We’ve Always Wanted to Sing’, and was a part of the ‘Sister Act’ cast which she said was an incredible experience.  Before Dick Whittington, her last acting role was a Princess Rose in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in 2013.  However, her most recent work was as Assistant Director on ‘Sleuth’ which was shown in July in the Studio Theatre at the Riverhead,  she also found that a great experience.  Sophie is really looking forward to performing in this production of ‘Two’ with Jamie Harris, despite the show being only a week before her wedding!  (It’s certainly one way of taking your mind off your big day Sophie!)

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Sophie Grundy in ‘Dick Whittington’

Louth Playgoers Say of this production:

From the company that brought you the sellout production of “Sleuth,” JamJar productions is proud to bring you Jim Cartwright’s “Two.” This classic play from 1989 gives an intimate insight into the colourful life of a Northern pub, via a rich tapestry of witty, moving and at times heartwarming dialogue. A bickering landlord and landlady, along with a further 12 pub regulars who enter their lives, are brought to the stage by just 2 actors. You’ll laugh at the flirtatious Moth and his long suffering girlfriend Maude, you’ll hate the aggressive Roy and feel for his abused wife Lesley, and you’ll fall in love with Fred and Alice who just want to sit alone and watch the tele! A play which takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, it is both hilarious,heart wrenching and above all honest. So pull up a barstool before last orders are called!

‘Two’ is running in ‘The Studio Theatre’, part of Riverhead in Louth on 9th, 10th and 11th February.  The tickets for this ‘up close and personal’ performance are very limited and are selling well, so ensure you book now to avoid disappointment.

Watch out for my review of this show on 10th February!

Box Office

Telephone: 01507 600350
The Box Office is open for advanced booking every Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 1.00pm.

The Riverhead Theatre
Victoria Road
Louth
LN11 0BX

Email: admin@louthplaygoers.co.uk

Photo’s courtesy of Darren Hobson Photography

Review – Dick Whittingon – Louth Playgoers

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It was at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton in 1987 that I last saw a Pantomime;  it was ‘Babes in the Wood’ and starred Les Dawson and John Nettles… I don’t have any memories of the show but whatever I thought of it, it has taken until last night for me to see another Panto, ‘Dick Whittington’ in Louth at the Riverhead theatre by Louth Playgoers; and what a fabulous night it was!

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The show was produced and directed by the talented Jamie Harris, with Frances Brindle his very able assistant, who between them choreographed the dances in the show, apart from the Studio 2000 dances with choreographer Nicky Wright.  with Joel Browne Musical Director and ran from 6th to 14th January 2017.  At this moment in time, there are  a very limited number of tickets available for Tonight – Thursday 12th January, all other shows are fully booked, and I’m not surprised.

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The first thing that struck me when the live band started and the curtains opened was the delightful set and scenery depicting London Town, both up close with the shop fronts, including a little tongue in cheek reference to Bake Off and in the distance the London skyline;  all designed and constructed under the direction of Bob Booth, with both new and older set pieces brought back to life for this production.  His team of set builders and backstage crew did a wonderful job and with 8 scene changes throughout the show, each one very different and beautifully crafted, including a ship with moving wheel and brilliant side panels which changed as the ship fared the storm.  I was both delighted and surprised during Act 2 after the storm, to be transported to an under sea world, where fish, dolphins, turtles and other sea creatures sparkled in the near complete darkness with UV light, highlighting a brilliant spectrum of colours and shapes; what a spectacular display with wonderful music accompaniment.  Just awesome and breathtaking!

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We were introduced early on to Alice Fitzwarren played by Sophie Grundy, and her father, Alderman Fitzwarren, Chris Leeworthy.  Both played their characters extremely convincingly, Alice the demure girl, quiet and friendly to everyone, with Alderman a force to be reckoned with.  He came into his own especially in the later scenes where he’s trying to show the deck hands how to mop the deck with very little success, ending in a mass of mops being thrown around the stage! Despite the hilarity, he kept his poker face throughout!

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If a character wanted to make an entrance in this Panto then King Rat played by Ruairidh Greig did that every time he entered the stage.  The special effects team did a fantastic job, with sparks, flashes, smoke and bangs which all added to the dark and exciting side of this character.   The audience got right into the booing and hissing and King Rat’s make up was as brilliantly scary, nasty and mean looking as his perfectly matched characterisation, including the voice (how he learnt so many words I don’t know!!) (photo above not depicting the make-up from the actual production)

At this point I’d like to make special mention to the wardrobe team, – Elizabeth Rodger, Shirley Berry and Mandy Barker and also those responsible for the make-up – what an exceptional range of costumes and designs they came up with – from rats, cats, Captains, Sultan and of course the fabulous Dame, who had more costume and hair changes than anybody.

Dame Dolly, Richard Precious, was for me, one of the funniest characters in the whole show;  how he maintained his act and with so much going is a wonder;  I don’t think I’ve laughed so much for a long time.  The sewer scene with King Rat was probably the highlight for me, most likely for all the wrong reasons; starting with discussing a furniture store bringing in recycled stools and ratchet screwdrivers, those near me (and you know who you are J and E), despite some of us not ‘getting it’ immediately, couldn’t stop ourselves from completely losing it from laughing so much; in fact my cheeks still hurt until I’d driven home to Lincoln several hours later!  What with ‘Hooting Hooters’, ‘He’s behind you’ and ‘Oh No He Didn’t’ moments, and general bawdy humour suitable for both children and adults, it was a never ending fast paced feast for the eyes and ears.

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Another favourite scene was in Act 2, in the Galley, where Dame Dolly and her son, Idle Jack played perfectly by Jack Lovett, were cooking for the crew.  The typical ‘slapstick’ routine was hilarious, with ‘soggy bottoms’ a plenty.  The comic timing was impeccable and had the whole audience, including a group of very special young people, joining in with gusto!  Jack showed himself as a very versatile actor, despite most of his stage presence requiring a lot of comedy, he played the fool, the simpleton, the clever son dodging out of work and he did all those with aplomb; a delight on the stage!

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I loved the pairing of Captain Cuttlefish, Derek Maher and Scupper, Darren Melton; they were a great comic combination and bounced off each other throughout all the scenes they were in, especially on the ‘poop’ deck – or was it a deck, or even just ‘poop’?

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Dick Whittington himself was played by James Burgess; I loved the parts where he showed his ability to act the part, as if he couldn’t act; genius, well done James! I couldn’t possibly mention Dick (yes Dame Dolly, we’re talking about Dick again…!) without mentioning Tom the Cat played by Molly Carter; her feline characteristics and mannerisms were purrrfect!

One of the final scenes of the show took place in Morocco, where we saw the Sultan, played by Neil Le Sueur and his many ‘ladies’.  Neil played a powerful character, and held centre stage showing off his formidable strength in front of his ‘harem’; including the fabulous Dame Dolly who he took a shine to!

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I couldn’t end this review without mentioning Fairy Bowbells, played by Laura Kelly.  She narrated sections of the Panto and lead the audience through the scenes, and ended Act 1 with a gorgeous rendition of ‘Hero’…

Along with the Louth Playgoers cast, the dancers from Studio 2000, both junior and senior dancers took a leading role throughout the Panto.  The dancers appeared in many scenes, performing various creative routines, all in different, but spectacular costumes to suit the set and scene.  The junior dancers performed the ‘Hornpipe’ routine, and completely stole the hearts of the audience, they were all fabulous!

The live band carried the whole production together with the cast singing along in lovely harmonies with a number of solos to a vast array of well known and loved melodies including:

Good Morning London Town
Hornpipe
Man I Feel Like A Woman
I Would Walk 500 Miles
At The Shop
Consider Yourself
Live and Let Die
Bad
Hero
Sea Cruise
If I Were Not Upon The Sea
My Heart Will Go On
Proud Mary
Jaws Theme
Wipeout
Hot Hot Hot
Everlasting Love
Happy Days
Good Morning London Town Reprise

From start to finish, my friends and I were enthralled, and engrossed, and although it was sometimes difficult to pick up some of the dialogue,  overall it was a fabulous show, and well deserved of it’s near sell – out run.

Well done to the live band, the technical and creative team, and all the other set builders and backstage crew.  You should be proud.

Thank you to Darren Hobson for use of the photographs.

Now for an insight into the ‘people’ behind the character!

Dame Dolly – Richard Precious

How long have you been involved in theatre?

Started with ‘WAP’ at the Caxton theatre in Grimsby so nearly 34 years!

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

Bouncers by John Godber – been in it twice, directed it once at university

What, for you, makes a great performance?

Thorough preparation with a thorough knowledge of the script so you know others lines too should you need to get out of a ‘mind blank’ moment

What do you do to prepare yourself for your performance and to get into character?

Keep quiet. Isolate myself and focus on what’s ahead

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

The Deck scene with Captain Scupper, Jack and Alderman. Visually funny and great to be a part of

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Sir Anthony Hopkins, a great, fantastic all round actor

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

I’ve just done it… The Dame!!

Why is community drama/theatre important?

Which Leads to a focused, confident and relaxing performance

 

Idle Jack – Jack Lovett

How long have you been involved in theatre?

3 years, starting with the Playgoers production of Sleeping Beauty in December 2013

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

Beauty and the Beast – the Playgoers 2015 pantomime. It was an excellent team, a fun script, and my first stab at a principle role

What, for you, makes a great performance?

As an audience member, a great performance is one that draws you into the story and genre, inspires you, and touches your heart. As a cast member, it is one that portrays the story and characters as you, the writer, and the director envisioned; it gets a good audience reaction, draws the cast and crew together as a team, and is fun.

What do you do to prepare yourself for your performance and to get into character?

I generally try to start taking on my character in the wings before going on stage, and I go through what the character must be thinking or feeling in the coming scene. There is also no shortage of pacing and stopping in the bathroom, especially on opening night!

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

My favourite part of this show would have to be the scene in which the Alderman is shouting commands at us on deck, and we are making mistakes and getting everything wrong, and throwing mops all around the stage. My favourite song is definitely ‘Consider Yourself’.

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to work with Tom Hanks – his ability to excel in portraying both comedic and dramatic roles is a tremendous inspiration to me.

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

I would love to ply Cosmo Brown from ‘Singing in the Rain’, especially having seen Donald O’Connor performing ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ on Screen.

Why is community drama/theatre important?

Community drama/theatre is important because it allows you to meet new people, make connections, and build lasting friendships. It teaches you talents that go beyond performance, such as working as part of a team and relating to people. It is also an excellent way to temporarily escape from life and have a laugh.

 

Fairy Bowbells – Laura Kelly

How long have you been involved in theatre?

I have been involved in the theatre since I was 15 years old. My first show was Cinderella panto in January 2010

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

Definitely ‘Sister Act’, it was such an amazing show to be part of and I love the songs in the show. Sister Act was such a ‘feel good’ show and I would love to do it again!

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

My favourite song from the show is definitely ‘Hero’. I think it is such an iconic song, and is definitely a challenge for me! I also love the lighting and special effects during the song, particularly the smoke and the lights on the dancers costumes.

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

I would love to work with Tom Hanks! He is my favourite actor and I’ve heard he’s a very nice person! I would also love to work with Meryl Streep as she is a very diverse actor and I’m sure I could learn a lot from her!

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

I am next auditioning for the role of mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. I love the show as it has some very powerful moments, and also because Mary is an alto singing part which is perfect for me!

 

Tom the Cat – Molly Canter

What, for you, makes a great performance?

Staying in Character

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

500 Miles

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Mara Wilson because my favourite film is ‘Matilda’

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

Annie

 

King Rat – Ruairidh Greig

How long have you been involved in theatre?

Five Years

What has been your favourite show that you’ve been part of?

‘Ladykillers’ – I played Professor Marcus and General Gordon (the parrot)

What, for you, makes a great performance?

The script reminds me of the character I’ve worked on for months

What is your favourite part/song from this show?

Good Morning London Town

If you could work with any actor or actress, from past or present, who would it be and why?

Patrick Stewart because of his hair style, Audrey Hepburn because she is… Audrey Hepburn

What is the one theatrical character you’d love to play

Fagin in Oliver

Why is community drama/theatre important?

Keeping creative drama real not just disembodied on TV screen

Thanks Team, looks like Tom Hanks needs a visit to Louth!