Between Monday 12th and Saturday 17th March Louth Playgoers, at The Riverhead Theatre went back to the 1980’s, the height of TV sit-coms, not that I can remember (much!). Hi-De-Hi was one of those shows where you got to know and love the characters, so it was with great delight that all of those wonderful stars were brought back to life by Louth Playgoers, and took us back to a time of fun and frolics on the stage.
The show was based on the popular TV series by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and won a BAFTA as best comedy series in 1984. For those too young to remember, and didn’t get chance to see the show at Louth, it was based around the lives of the entertainers at a fictional holiday camp, Maplins, in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s; The ‘Yellow Coats’ were a group of either struggling wannabe actors, or washed up has-beens.
From the moment the cast appeared on stage, I had great fun putting the new faces to the well known names. One of the lead roles, the infamous Gladys Pugh was played by Teresa Appleton who mastered her Welsh accent beautifully; forever playing up to the boss, Jeffrey Fairbrother, brilliantly played by Andy De Renzi.
A highlight for me had to be the Sand dance, a hilariously set dance piece by Pamela Whalley and Graham Turner, who played the couple, Yvonne and Barry Stuart Hargreaves; Their onscreen chemistry worked a treat, a great piece of casting and even when they were joined by Ted Bovis, played by Ray Baker, in a costume not leaving much to the imagination. Ray delighted the audience with his garish suit and larger than life character.
The audience would never have realised that the role of Peggy Ollerenshaw, originally played by Su Pollard in the TV series, only stepped into the role at short notice when the original actress fell ill. She did a great job, and obviously threw herself into the ditzy role of Peggy with great vigour, bringing to life that wonderful character on to the stage. It was great to see that Su Pollard visited Louth a few days before the production to visit the Theatre, and NT Shaw of Louth, the Proud Sponsors of Louth Playgoers Hi-De-Hi, and had some photos taken with the cast.
The whole show was great fun, and all the cast worked together to keep the audience entertained throughout. The set was very well put together, it looked great, and I loved the clever use of the doors and overall staging. Thanks and well done to those responsible for costumes, plus the backstage crew and lighting and sound. Director Sue Soper and Producer, John Hallam – a great job; it was a brilliant night out that kept the audience laughing from start to finish.
Got back late last night from a fun evening of brilliant entertainment at Louth Riverhead Theatre watching their production with Blaze of Avenue Q.
I hadn’t seen the show before and heard a few things about it; I heard comments that it’s cheeky, it’s naughty, it’s a bit rude, it’s edgy; my nephew said its like ‘the muppets twisted sister’ or ‘Family Guy to the Simpsons’. So I had some expectations, but nothing could have prepared me for the lovely, simple story, brilliantly observed comedy, and catchy songs that would stand up completely out of the context of the show. Yes, it has some of those moments that if you’re not open minded, or up for a bit of naughtiness you might be shocked, but overall it’s a show that would make everyone think about our own morality and the way we all think and react about subjects that are often taboo.
So over to the show itself; imagine we’re back in Sesame Street, where we’re transported to a dingy set, a road in the US with trash cans and ‘for rent’ signs (well done to the set and backstage crew!). In comes a recent graduate looking for cheap accommodation, no purpose in life, believing his life can’t get any worse, realising that real life isn’t what he expected, and in come the other residents who show him that in fact, most people also have bad things happening in their lives and all is not as good as it appears.
I’m not going to give too much away of the story because for me, each song and each scene was a wonderful surprise (yes even the naughty bits!), and it wouldn’t do justice explaining the plot or the specific developments. What I will say though, is that I was made to think, ‘what do I think about that?’, ‘am I really like that?’, ‘do I really behave in that manner?’, ‘is that what I believe?’.
There was a cast of 9 ‘real people’ who mastered the art of being puppeteers (despite sore shoulders!) in such a way that the audience were constantly drawn to the puppet rather than the puppeteer. They have perfected the movements, the characterisations (which I didn’t believe was even possible in a puppet!) and the transitions, where sometimes puppets were shared, all completed without the audience hardly even being aware. And one other thing I didn’t bank on, was the fabulous voices of each individual puppet, no small feat for those managing two puppets, at a few points with one on each hand, having a conversation with themselves – pure genius – congratulations!
We’ve all got friends like ‘Bad Idea Bears’, leading us astray, a few of my friends came to mind, and we all sometime feel that other people are a bit too opinionated, but actually aren’t we all in some way? Very strangely, there are definitely a few lessons to be learnt watching this show!
The singing was brilliant, as was the small live band supporting under the leadership of the Musical Director Jacqueline Wilson (Director of Blaze), with Alex Frost and Matthew Gidlow. This is Rob Bishop’s musical directing debut, which he did as well as appearing in this production, with more than one puppet, and one voice to contend with, brilliant!
Cast members, in order of appearance (with their dress rehearsal puppets):
Princeton/Rob – Rob Bishop
Brian – Jamie Harris
Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut – Hayley Wrightam
Nicky/Trekkie Monster – Steven Greenwood
Christmas Eve – Helen Sargent
Gary Coleman/Mrs Thistletwat – Nikki Law
Bad Idea Bears – Kennedy Gardiner and Adam Barlow
Newcomer/Narrator/Ensemble – David Wrightam
The show runs from Wed 14th to Saturday 17th February, so only a couple of chances left to see this brilliant spectacle. If you want something completely different, something to make you think, laugh and just have a great time, get your tickets now. Tickets: £12 / Under 18s £6, TheatreCard £11 / Under 18s £5
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
“Filled with gut-busting humour and a delightfully catchy score, not to mention puppets, Avenue Qis a truly unique show that has quickly become a favourite for audiences everywhere. Although the show addresses humorous adult issues, it is similar to a beloved children’s show; a place where puppets are friends, Monsters are good and life lessons are learned.
THIS PRODUCTION IS NOT SUITABLE FOR AUDIENCES UNDER 14 YEARS
It is safe to say that if you are an adult with a good sense of humour, then AVENUE Q is right up your street.
Is it appropriate for kids? Er, well, this is where it gets a bit fuzzy. If your teenager is mature enough to see a musical about issues such as sex, drinking, and surfing the web for porn, then they’ll probably love AVENUE Q too! Only you can judge. It’s hard to say what exact age is right to see AVENUE Q – parents should use their discretion based on the maturity level of their children. But we promise you this – if you do bring your teenagers to AVENUE Q – they’ll think you’re really cool!
Tickets: £12 / Under 18s £6
TheatreCard £11 / Under 18s £5
I only have a vague recollection of Michelle Magorian’s children’s novel Goodnight Mr Tom from watching the film and TV series some years ago, but I do remember it being a wonderful story with sad, yet powerful moments. Set in a little village in 1941 we see children evacuated from London. A completely different life for some, and especially for the little boy in ‘Mr Tom’s’ care. The audience were taken through the transition of William to life in the country; his visit back to his difficult home in London with his negligent mother, and back to the country. Poor little William had a lot to contend with in his short life, and things didn’t get much better when he went through further losses when back in the village.
In my opinion Louth Playgoers have a great track record of putting on productions that audiences want to see, and this play was no exception; they performed to nearly sell out audiences every night and justifiably so as the whole show was professional, entertaining, engaging and dramatic. I went on the second night, Wednesday 6th December, with a few friends and family, and every one of us thoroughly enjoyed the performance.
The cast overall were brilliant and worked together really well, but I want to mention just a few individuals; I thought Tom Oakley ‘Mr Tom’, played by John Elliot was totally believable and gave a compelling performance, emotional, heartfelt and engaging. William Beech, the young evacuee was played wonderfully by Robert Husband, I totally felt for him all the way through; he showed timidity, the difficult circumstances he’d come from and his difficult background could really be seen in how he portrayed that character. Another standout performance for me was the role of Zacharius Wrench, played by Ben Jones. I did hear after the show that this was Ben’s first ever performance so I can’t wait to see what he does next. His character, exuberance and larger than life personality really shone out in every scene.
Congratulations to the whole cast, you could feel the emotion, through both the happy and the more difficult to watch scenes and most of the audience left with more that a little tear in their eyes.
This is the first production that Daniel Wakefield has Directed at the Riverhead Theatre; Daniel said in the programme “it was daunting… there was 18 different locations to change throughout the show”; he said he wanted to keep the set simple without the need for major set changes. This worked really well as the set was indeed simple, but with a few changes here and there, transformed very cleverly from one location to another, keeping the story and the dialogue moving throughout. Two other elements were also brought into the show that I enjoyed; puppetry and projection; the snippets of film really transported the audience back to the time of the story; my mum certainly enjoyed re-living some of the experiences of her childhood during the second world war as she watched with me. And although I enjoyed the puppet dog, which also worked really well, the audiences laughter as they reacted to the dog in certain emotional moments was a little distracting and a bit unnecessary.
Well done also to the backstage crew including wardrobe and set design and build and the sound and lighting crew. A brilliant job; and another well done to Daniel Wakefield, Director (also responsible for designing and operating the lighting) and Laura Martin, Assistant Director. I’ll look forward to seeing some more future performances!
My first show of the new season, 11th – 16th September 2017 sees the current Louth Playgoers Production, written by Jim Cartwright, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. I knew the film fairly well so was interested to see how the Director, Jeremy Smith and the Producer, Jamie Harris translated this story onto the stage and brought to life the funny yet sad story to the stage.
The play tells the story of a shy, reclusive girl named Little Voice and her larger than life, out of control mother Mari.
Desperately missing her dead father, Little Voice spends her time locked in her bedroom listening to his old record collection and perfecting astonishing impersonations of famous divas including Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and Dusty Springfield.
When Mari starts dating small-time club agent Ray Say, she thinks he’s her last chance for a better life. When Ray Say hears Little Voice sing, he thinks she’s his ticket to the big time. Little Voice just wants a normal life and to be loved. Not everyone is going to get what they want
I actually can’t believe its 25 years since the film was made with Michael Caine, Brenda Blethyn and Jane Horrocks, and was delighted to see that the play had its own particular quirks and nuances that added a brilliant comedic effect; definitely not a copycat version of the film despite still only having 7 cast members.
Helen Crawshaw played ‘Little Voice’ and I was really impressed by her impersonations and her portrayal of shyness in the beginning and her transformation on the stage when she eventually found herself (which brought a tear to my eye); it was really well done.
Laura Martin, who played ‘Mari Hoff’ was very funny and utterly believable as the drunken, uncaring mother, delivering her lines with clarity and great comedy and her sidekick, Yvonne Bates who played ‘Sadie May’ made a brilliant pair; their MJ disco moves were fab. I really relished the ‘vacant, vacuum and void’ look of Sadie, what a character. Her little personal ‘gems’ totally grossed me out if I’m honest (in a good way), but added fabulous detail to an already brilliantly played character. I’m just glad I wasn’t the one clearing up after her! Very well done, I can’t say you were born to play that part Yvonne but I bet that was fun.
Derek Maher obviously had a few fans in the audience on Tuesday evening as he played ‘Ray Say’; I loved the way his character changed from Mari’s lustful lover, to showing empathy and being manipulative in equal measures with Little Voice and then turning completely, by totally humiliating Mari; he moved from one Ray to another with believable ease despite some scenes being a bit uncomfortable to watch.
It was a wonderful performance by Jack Lovett in his third venture into a dramatic role as ‘Billy’ the telephone engineer’s assistant, and love interest of Little Voice. His ability to show sensitivity and understanding to Little Voice’s concerns and helping her to overcome them came across beautifully. I loved the way the audience could see his emotions without him having to say a word… a complete change from other roles I’ve seen Jack play previously.
I loved the way the set was built, and the attention to detail was very clever; I did wonder how the transition to the club scenes were going to happen with the size of the set but it was very well done (the set was Designed by Eric Cahill and Brian Disbrowe)! I also loved the use of lighting, to highlight the different elements of the stage and set, and the changes between scenes. It all added a great atmosphere and made the audience feel they were there in the moment, especially in the ‘club’ scenes which were very cleverly thought out and Billy’s ‘lights’ at the end. Well done also to Gareth Bates who played a delightfully cheesy ‘Mr Boo’; I don’t think I was the only member of the audience who felt that they had gone into the wrong theatre for Act 2; the ‘Phoenix Nights’ vibe was very funny! It was good to have live musical accompaniment too from Matthew Jeffery on piano and Stuart Spendlow on Drums (is that really your accent Stuart?). I must also mention the ‘Phone Man’ Andrew Milsom, he played a dual role the ‘Showbiz Agent’ looking to take ‘Little Voice’ to greater things.
The Director was Jeremy Smith who has been with Louth Playgoers for six years; the Producer was Jamie Harris, a familiar name at Louth Playgoers, directing, producing, singing, acting and even designing lights in many productions, as well as forming his own theatre company, JAM JAR PRODUCTIONS, who are currently rehearsing for their next production, ‘Confusions’ by Alan Ayckbourn to be performed at the Riverhead Theatre in November.
Well done to the whole cast and crew; a fabulous production that I urge anyone who can make it this week before the end of the run to take the time and book your ticket, you truly won’t be disappointed. The show runs from 11th to 16th September and tickets can be purchased from Louth Riverhead Theatre Box Office or by visiting Louth Riverhead Theatre, Victoria Road, Louth, LN11 0BX or by Telephone: 01507 600350, prices range from £4 to £8.50.
The Box Office is open for advanced booking every Monday to Saturday from 10.00am – 1.00pm.
What a great evening of fun and laughter I had last night at the very first show for this brilliant play, written by local Louth talent, Beth Raithby (who happened to be sitting in the balcony for the whole show without the audience knowing until the end – you really did deserve that applause Beth!)
Louth Playgoers described the show:
The winner of our 2016 Scratch Night, “Live in Five” written by Beth Raithby follows the hilarious SLWK News Team. Sex. Booze. Moles with socks and rogue panthers. It’s all in a day’s work. But with the Station Manager on her way and the team at loggerheads, anything could happen!
Booking info: www.louthplaygoers.com or Box Office is open Mon -Sat 10am-1pm 01507 600350
It was a pretty fast paces comedy, in which a series of very different characters, all of which were played brilliantly, all came together in the stressful environment of a back stage newsroom; directed by John Hewer, assisted by writer Beth Raithby.
There were only 8 roles, and every one of them was portrayed very well. I loved all the characters in different ways so I’m not going to pick any of them out in particular (see the cast list and their roles below), but for them all to remember the vast amount of lines was remarkable! Each one of them had a different persona, which regularly clashed, as you would imagine when stresses run high. If you don’t appreciate regular use of profanities, it’s possibly not the show for you; but in my opinion the bad language was appropriate in the context of the show and not overused or deliberately offensive in any way and often added to the hilarity of the scene.
The set was very simple but effective, and I liked the use of the clock and calendar which gave the audience a sense of the lapsed time. Even the set changes, although done in full view of the audience, despite the lowered lights, did not detract from the performance.
I applaud the whole cast for their obvious hard work in pulling together a play like this that left each cast member no room for error. With the amount of laughter coming from the theatre – and there was a lot of it – the rest of the audience obviously thoroughly enjoyed it too.
So well done everyone – if you haven’t got tickets to see this brilliantly funny play, you have tonight and tomorrow to take advantage of the few tickets there are remaining!
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!
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!
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.
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 whichreally added a special something to the performances.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Nos‘ will 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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