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The Paintbox Players

The Paintbox Players

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The Paintbox Players

The Paintbox Players presents Puzzle Pieces
A series of one act plays by Robert Scott

Saturday 24th March 2018
Rosliston and Cauldwell Village Hall, Derbyshire, UK

Reviews by Vicky Talbot

The recently founded Paintbox Players delighted and entertained their audience last night with a series of one act plays written by award winning author Robert Scott. The set for each play was minimalistic; a painted window, a table and chairs to set the scene. It may have been nice to see a little more scenery, but as this is the very first performance from this group, I can imagine that the production had a strict budget.

Closure (Comedy)
Luke's birthday party is a lonely affair - there's just him, until his ex-girlfriend Tanya walks in. She only meant to drop off his gift, but soon they're involved in a strenuous argument over closure and who gets it. Carl Smith gave a strong comic performance as the frustrated Luke, matched by his counterpart Nicole James as Tanya. They worked well as a duo and a pleasure to watch with many funny lines. However, the pace really picked up during the second half as David Owen arrived as the bumbling caretaker, who caught them in the act of ‘making up’. There were plenty of laughs from the audience as Luke tried to hide Tanya from the caretaker. There were a couple of moments where lines were not heard due to laughter from the audience, but this was rare. David Owen’s dry performance was a joy to watch and worked splendidly as a counterbalance to the other animated characters.

Sketches (Comedy)
Two short sketches led by Adam Livett interspersed the plays. Joan (The Movie) was a humorous piece where Adam Livett, a Hollywood writer, pitched the most ludicrous storyline to the long suffering executive played by David Owen. The second sketch, Symphony Dreadful, was delightful. Carl Smith played the “Next Beethoven” although his only likeness to the great man was his deafness and ill-temper. His skilled performance maximised the comedic effect and produced one of the funniest moments of the evening. Adam Livett, playing a TV interviewer, had a natural rapport with the audience and his timing had the audience chuckling throughout.

Checkmate (Drama)
In this play, a friendly game of chess between husband and wife becomes more of a game of cat and mouse. Michael likes to think he's always one move ahead, but perhaps this time Amy has him in check. This script was a contrast to the others on offer (and I would guess this was a deliberate production decision.) The complexity of the characters and menacing dialogue created a Hitchcockesque thriller which relied upon two young actors to create the atmosphere. This was a directorial masterpiece by David Owen. Adoria Grace as the vengeful Amy was captivating. Her sensational performance gave a dark and disturbing portrayal of a woman on the brink of insanity, due to her husband’s treatment. Michael was played by Richard Frudd. Richard gave a strong performance. He was required to demonstrate a whole range of emotions from domineering to vulnerable, which he achieved, no mean feat in just over twenty minutes.

Bride Before A Fall (Comedy)
Victor and his mistress Madelyn plot an 'accident' for Victor’s dim but very rich wife Lottie. Their scheming oft goes awry as they consider 42 different scenarios for the deed. The final result has unexpected consequences for all three of them. Joel Hutson gave an amusing performance as the long suffering husband. His comedy timing was perfect which ensured the audience were in stitches towards the end of the show. In contrast to her earlier role, Adoria Grace played the rather unbearable and dim-witted wife, Lottie, showing herself to be a versatile and talented actress. Nicole James, as the jealous lover Madelyn produced an assured and strong performance and I very much enjoyed watching her in this role. There were a couple of stumbles which were well recovered from without the need of a prompt and were nothing that would detract from the enjoyment of the evening.

Verdict 4/5 - The production was clearly a success and achieved its purpose, an enjoyable night out was had by all. There were a couple of moments where pauses for laughter would have been beneficial, but perhaps this will be polished for future productions. All the plays were pleasing to watch, but if I had to pick one to highlight, Checkmate was unique and a quality piece of theatre.


Posted on 26/03/2018


Hand In Hand Theatre Company

Hand In Hand Theatre Productions

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THEATRE REVIEW: Baggage and S.P.A.C.E at Casa
by Chris High Reviews

Baggage & S.P.A.C.E.
CASA, Hope Street, Liverpool
January 25, 2018
Writer/Director: Bev Clark
Producers: Hand in Hand Theatre
Cast: Teri Bennett, Elisa Crowley, Susan Reeve, Geraldine Moloney Judge
Running Time: 2 hours
RATING: ****

See the full review here


Posted on 26/01/2018


Curtain Up Productions

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42nd Street

42nd Street – Curtain Up Productions
Review by Eira Hammond @eirajane


This glitzy, glamorous production has wowed audiences around the world, including Broadway and the West End and has now come to the Memorial Hall, Cleethorpes for a very limited 5 night run. The story is set in Broadway, and based on auditions and rehearsals for a musical, Pretty Lady.

Caroline Wright in the programme says:

“With love entwined throughout, the story may be a little dated but it’s aged to perfection and the fabulous musical numbers will leave you tapping your toes with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Musicals just don’t get any better than this!”

She’s not wrong, I had a smile on my face throughout the whole show and if I had time this week I’d certainly be going again and urge you all to get to the coast and have a fabulous night out this week!

See the full review here


Posted on 09/01/2018


Starbrite Studios

Starbrite Studios

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Students spread Christmas cheer with their delightful production of Elf Jr. The Musical.

A group of talented, young performers from Starbrite Studios School of Performing Arts successfully presented “Elf Jr the Musical” to 340 people at The Hayward Theatre in Beverley during December 2017.
The musical featured 60 Starbrite students, aged between 3 and 16 years, who are all dedicated to acting, singing, and dancing.
The musical was directed by Emma Bailey-Hague, Creative Director and Principal at Starbrite Studios, who has a wealth of experience mentoring and delivering pre-vocational training at the highly successful school since 2001. Not only did she run her own successful cabaret troupe, ‘Wicked,’ in which she performed alongside two other dancers touring around large corporate events and sporting events, but she also toured with the winner of BBC’s ‘Star for a Night', Mark Kerrins, performing vocals and choreography to sell-out audiences.

Emma Bailey-Hague says: “With catchy songs, fun characters, and bold dance arrangements which had people talking long after the show was over, Starbrite students presented this lovable story in an unforgettable way which encouraged each of us to approach each day with goodwill, wonder and cheer. From the first rehearsal, the students worked together as a team and created this wonderful experience which audiences thoroughly enjoyed.
All the students performed wonderfully, and everyone is very proud of the hard work they have put in.”
Friends, family and the local community supported the students with audience members saying:
“It was incredible! What amazing little performers! Thank you so much to the Starbrite team - you are all absolute stars!” - Victoria
Zoe said: “Well done to all the boys and girls. You all did fantastically!! We loved the show.”
Jason, a very proud Dad, said: “Well done to everyone for putting on another stunning performance!”
For further information on how to claim your free trial week visit the website and complete and return a registration form download here

Elf Jr Elf Jr


Posted on 20/12/2017


NE Musicals YORK

New Earswick Musical Society

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The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, NEMusicals, York, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

Read the review by Robert McKelvey from York Press here

The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe


Posted on 16/11/2017


Progress Theatre

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We've had three great reviews so far, check them out below:
Henley Standard
The Whitley Pump


Posted on 23/10/2017


The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin


Pirates of Penzance

See full review at the American Statesman

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Austin

Read the review of "Pirates" by the American Statesman's Andrew J. Friedenthal.


Posted on 17/06/2017


Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society - CUGSS

Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society - CUGSS


HMS Pinafore

see Review by Clare Cavenagh of Cambridge Theatre Review on 10th Feb 2017

See full review at

Confession: I'd never been to a Gilbert and Sullivan before last night. I mentioned this to a friend, and they said 'it's really, really stupid, but you'll like it'. How right they were. The Gilbert and Sullivan society's production of HMS Pinafore is certainly unashamedly silly, but it's also damn good: great music, interesting to look at and full of laughs. Head along to the West Road Concert Hall to catch it before it sails, swaying slightly, out to sea.

Central to the story of HMS Pinafore are Josephine and Buttercup. Josephine (Tiffany Charnley), daughter of the ship's captain, is due to be married to Sir Joseph (Michael Morrison), a small man with a big job as head of the Royal Navy. Unfortunately, she has (rather in spite of herself) fallen in love with a lowly sailor with a lovely tenor (Max Noble). Buttercup (Anna-Luise Wagner) meanwhile has designs on the ship's captain (Luke Thomas) and knows more about both him and the young lovers than she is letting on. Chaos delightfully ensues.

The G & S Society have decided to play this farcical, nautical romp in the most light-hearted and jolly of manners. The characters run around the stage in little sailor suits complete with white hats, or in lovely, floaty white lace shirts tucked into flowing skirts. Choreography sticks close to this, with a little waltzing, plenty of that crossed-arm, as well as some of that stiff-legged sailor-dancing everyone can recognise. Along with the simple yet effective and interesting sets (designed by Theo Heymann) this show is a rose-tinted delight to watch.

The music, which forms the backbone of this production is also wonderful. The orchestra, under the direction of Tristan Selden, do an excellent job of the score, and the singing onstage is wonderful - the cast all incredibly strong. Their expressive performances, peppered with some up to the minute jokes on topics as widespread as Brexit, Girton and S&M, kept the audience giggling right through the show.

HMS Pinafore did suffer from the occasional hiccough. There were a couple of technical issues with lighting, one rather confusing instance at the beginning of the second act, and a couple of lighting effects which seemed slightly out of time with the music. A little more diction from some soloists would have helped to make their thrillingly dense lyrics carry more clearly through the hall, and be more comprehensible. At a couple of moments the cast got slightly out of time with the orchestra, although this was quickly remedied by a few big conducting gestures.

Overall however, these faults were very minor, and HMS Pinafore was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of light-hearted laughs and great music. I'm not entirely sure that I'm a Gilbert and Sullivan convert, but if all the G & S Society's offerings are as much fun as this, you can count me in.


Posted on 11/02/2017


Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society - CUGSS

Cambridge University Gilbert and Sullivan Society - CUGSS


HMS Pinafore

see Review by John Elworthy of Ely Standard on 11 February 2017

See full review at

REVIEW: Cambridge University Gilbert & Sullivan Society offer a stylish performance of HMS Pinafore

There’s a lovely line in their programme notes explaining the plot of HMS Pinafore that reads ‘ it all works out in the end, hip, hip hooray!’
It does and indeed did quite satisfyingly on the opening night of the Cambridge University G&S Society’s production at West Road Concert Hall.

Jam packed with those studying everything from engineering to the classics, chemistry to languages, and from heart biology to behavioural science, you wonder how they find time, but grateful they have, for the subtleties, nuances and pure indulgence of a Gilbertian outlook.

The appetite for such light opera may have waned but the Cambridge audience – of an unsurprising large number of middle aged and older theatre goers who indeed looked capable of ‘whistling all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore’ – were happy to feast on the increasing rarity of a G&S classic.

Musical conductor Tristan Selden was rightly being congratulated by his orchestra members on his robust performance as I passed them during the interval – his was a stylish and at times delightfully frenzied journey that allowed the production to get into gear. G&S is about delivery and pace – the cast responsible for the former, the musical director for the latter. Both got it right.

Tiffany Charnley as Josephine was captivating, charming and ever so slightly coquettish to ensure Max Noble, as her suitor Ralph, was never to going be dissuaded from the challenge of courtship and marriage above his class.

HMS Pinafore was first staged in the late 19th century at a time when class was a dominant force in the British way of life and challenges to it a pre-occupation of satirists into which the G&S tradition was conceived and flourished.

Coincidentally alongside the impish drama of G&S this week class and society at Cambridge was being played out in real life by the university student filmed burning a £20 note defiantly in front of a homeless man on the city streets.

William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan would not have approved for Pinafore, and their other productions that came before and went after it, used literary devices and parody to challenge, and mock, the status quo.

HMS Pinafore has a shorter run than some years but brevity in performances has not stunted enthusiasm, production values and an outpouring of genuine zest and affection for a much loved and valued tradition.

Class is indeed alive and well – and being teased, tantalised and tormented with nicely.

You have limited opportunity to catch this show – take it if you dare.


Posted on 11/02/2017


Little Waltham Drama Group


Little Waltham Drama Group at the Memorial Hall - 17.01.17

A winning blend of originality and tradition for this year's Little Waltham village panto.
Festive favourite Richard Butler brought his trademark anarchy to the role of Squire Flinders, heading an excellent comic team which included Ken Little's dim Bobby and Gordon MacSween's lovely Scottish Dame, a wicked glint in his eye, sporting a wonderful wardrobe of fancy frocks.
Good supporting work from a double helping of duos: feeble seamen Poop and Deck [Hugh Godfrey and Julie Cole] and Skull and Bones [Kathy Jiggins and Verity Southwell], sidekicks to Ash Cobden's dashing villain Captain Spongebag Roundpants. Plus cameos from Jenni Money as Harry the Harbour Master, Brian Corrie as Honest [“no tic”] John and Martin Final as Bosun Rollicks [Rowlocks?] with his knobbly cosh.
Love interest from principal boy Zac Sparrow – a swashbuckling, thigh-slapping Tash Wootton – and Rebekah Walker's demure Moll Flinders. Karen Allen's Queen and Marea Irving's Priestess led the denizens of Discomania Island.
This being Little Waltham, there was a generous supply of disco routines from the hard-working chorus, impressively choreographed by Sue Butler and Karen Allen. A lovely undersea scene change, too, with bubbles and giant jellyfish. MD Karen Wray treated us to an eclectic play list: Barbados, Montego Bay, Otis Redding, Nelly Furtado, Michael Buble, Avenue Q, not to mention Prokofiev for the evil pirate.
And of course we had the walkabout with the sweetie baskets, a custard pie, and a nice hairy-bottomed ghost routine.
Liz Jones's backdrops included an impressive perspective for the Slack Jenny's deck; the stage-side murals this year featured Jolly Roger, gull and parrot.

Pirates of the Panto was directed by Jenny Broadway, who last worked with Karen Wray on the 2012 Abba Ali Baba.

See Michael Gray's Arts Blog here


Posted on 19/01/2017


Wilburton Theatre Group

Wilburton Theatre Group


NODA Review 15 April 2016
Wilburton Theatre Group
Directed by Emily Starr
Assistant Director Bryannie Quarrie
Musical Director Maria McElroy

Big Fish 12-chair is the new, small-cast version for 12 actors of a short-lived Broadway musical featuring music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa based on the novel by Daniel Wallace and follows on from the Tim Burton’s film of the same name.

At the centre of the story is Edward Bloom the main character, who is on his deathbed and reliving his “exaggerated” tales of life. Fish stories are the tales Edward tells his son, Will and are, of course, what “Big Fish” is all about. I’m telling you all this because Big Fish was a new one on me.

Apparently “the musical has elements from the book and movie, as well as a few new takes on characters and situations”, and who am I to dispute that, never having seen either? What I do know is, it is a great show: full of lovely songs and tunes: lively and at times sentimental.

Much of the music is complex but the singers and The Ashton Stomp Octet under the musical direction of Maria McElroy did a splendid job. Excellent choreography too by Emily Starr and Guest Choreographer David Mallabone.

This role of Edward, teller of fishy-tales was tailor-made for Tim Meikle who was absolutely outstanding, producing a performance full of energy and skill with the good vocal talent.

Laura Bryant played Sandra his wife giving an excellent performance topped off with a lovely voice. I Don’t Need a Roof was beautiful. Edward and Sandra’s love story is brought to life through a multitude of ages, from 15 to 50, as the story moves from present-day to past and back again.

Edward tells Will about how, as a teenager, he met a Witch, played by Shelley Martin who has an amazing voice. About the time he faced down a Giant, confidently played from great height by Aiden Roe who was terrorising his small Alabama hometown. And the story of how he met Will’s mother, Sandra at the circus.

We enjoyed fine performances from Aidan Meikle, following in family tradition as Young Will and Josh Greene as grown up Will, who is now about to become a father himself with wife Josephine played well by Becky Gilbert. There was nice empathy between this couple.

Apart from Edward, Sandra and grown-up Will, the other nine actors, doubled as school friends fishermen, wedding guests, circus performers, and college students, zipping in and out of the firstrate costumes with aplomb. Every single member of cast gave unstinting commitment to the production.

Barry Starr’s set was impressive having multiple functions, swiftly transforming into a bedroom, a hospital, a circus, a cave, a meadow . . . the possibilities appeared endless. There was even a river through which a mermaid “swam”. Great stuff. Well done too to the whole technical team.

Sound and Lighting were spot on cue the whole time. Hair, Make-up, Costumes, Props and the lovely daffodil backdrop looked great and the scene changes exceptionally swift.

The matter of facing up to one’s own mortality and the subsequent funeral was well handled.

Emotive without being morbid. Part of this, of course, would be in the writing but the Director has to bring it to fruition and here Director Emily Starr did a great job.

Wilburton Theatre Group can always be relied on to offer their public something different and this show was just that. It overflowed with humour, emotion, lively performances and excellent singing.

It is a show which reminds one why we love going to the theatre.
ulie Petrucci
Regional Representative
NODA Review 15 April 2016
NODA East District Four South.


Posted on 02/05/2016


Make Believe Productions

Make Believe Productions


Return of Neverland

Full Review

Production Reviews:

“The haunting and downright apocalyptic harmonies sang at the end of act one will blow audiences away”

“A well-thought out, well-written and well-performed production”

“The show was very good, flawless and smooth”

Return of Neverland

Musical Plot:
Peter Pan and Tinkerbell are struggling to keep the spirit of Neverland alive. Over the last thirty years the magic in Neverland has rapidly decreased, leaving Peter Pan and The Lost Boys grounded and Captain Hook and his crew docked. With nothing to fight for and no adventures to be had, Neverland has come to a standstill with no hope of a revival, or is there? With a little manipulation a secret is revealed that may not only save the island but create more power than Neverland has ever seen before. Will it end up in the right hands? Or will this be the end of Neverland for good? With twists in the tales and shocking revealing’s, Neverland is about to have its first adventure in years!


Posted on 19/04/2016


Farnworth Little Theatre

Snake in the Grass video

Here are some of Adrian Mottram's images from Snake in the Grass in a YouTube video along with the haunting music of Max Ablitzer's Ghost Song. youTube


Posted on 27/01/2016


Southwick Players

Be My Baby, won several of the Brighton and Hove Arts Council Theatre Awards in December 2015

Wins at Brighton & Hove Arts Council
Awards Night, 10th Dec.

Huge congratulations to the Director
(Sally Diver), cast and crew of BE MY BABY,
with nominations for
Best Costume Design
(Milla Hills and Margaret Skeet)
Best Sound Design (Kieran Pollard)
Best Lighting Design (Martin Oakley)
Best Director (Sally Diver)
Arthur Churchill Award for Excellence
Best Supporting Actress (Alice Wesby)
and winning the following: Best Set Design: (Martin Oakley and Sally Diver)
Best Technical Achievement: (Martin Oakley / The Set Team)
Best Stage Crew: Southwick Players
Best Publicity: Gary Cook
and Best Overall Show

pictured l-r Kerry Williams, Phoebe Cook, Nancy Wesby, Alice Wesby

Cast, crew and backstage team receive their awards

L-R: Phoebe Cook, Milla Hills, Kerry Williams, Ian Churchill, Nancy Wesby, Sally Diver, Gary Cook, Alice Wesby, Martin Oakley, Debbie Creissen, Sharon Churchill, Anita Jones


Posted on 07/01/2016


Play Safe
by Jane Hilliard & Paul A J Rudelhoff

Play Safe, West Moors Drama - West Moors Memorial Hall

By Stour & Avon Magazine | Posted: November 27, 2015

West Moors Drama chose a comedy for its latest production but not a familiar farce as this was written by experienced player and previous director Jane Hilliard, together with Paul A J Rudelhoff. They created a very funny play.

The action takes place in a home for retired entertainers (a splendid set which complemented the storyline) where the residents endeavour to relive their television roles. Into this world of eccentricity come a couple of likely lads on community service. They are not what they seem to be and pandemonium ensues as the story unfolds.

Fairlawn is run by Lance Kennedy who was previously a game-show host and Peter Wright does a good job with the part. Matron, his wife, is well characterised by Shelagh Rundle with the forceful voice and persona of a real battle-axe. Completing the staff is domestic help Carina and Joan Harrison impresses as she cleverly makes this pivotal role her own.

Miriam Maplethorpe, previously a television detective, is ideal for Anne Maynard who is delightfully dotty. She is a perfect foil for Peter Legrand – the capable Alan Dester – who recalls his career as a Shakespearean actor and quotes the Bard at every opportunity. Another resident remembering his glory days is Charlie Chuckles (West Moors Drama stalwart Derek Kearey) and his first appearance unclothed except for a blanket brings the house down.

Neither Florrie Fortuna – Jeanie Ellis is admirable – or Mavis Fulbright (the multi -talented Jane Hilliard) are as mad as they originally seem, revealing secrets as the plot thickens. Teenage brothers Ben - well played by Alex Willmott - and Lee (Tom Clifford shows promise) are not in Fairlawn to pay their debt to society and the boys are vital to the intrigue. This pair are making their debuts with the group and will, hopefully, continue to gain confidence and learn from experienced actors.

Tom Martin directed and produced, he must be congratulated for keeping up a fast pace and using the cast to their best advantage. Also taking the cameo role of Barry the Brain, he epitomises the spirit of amateur theatre so look out for West Moors Drama productions in the future.

Play Safe continues until Saturday, there may be a few tickets left but don’t delay if you want to see an original comedy.

By Pat Scott


Posted on 13/12/2015


Princess Frankenstein
by Claire Booker
Reviews of The Princess Monologues (7 x10 minute plays) that includes my play 'Princess Frankenstein.'

The whole show got 5 stars from Remote Goat!

The Princess Monologues with Eleanor Dillon-Reams

I especially enjoyed Princess Frankenstein by Claire Booker; can she surgically create the perfect man? (No, it turns out, but not before leading us ...

See review from here


Posted on 30/11/2015


Nottingham West Music and Drama Society - NOWMADS


Just when it seemed that the Kimberley based NOWMADS (Nottingham West Music and Drama Society) had reached a peak with a run of sparkling productions, out of the top drawer comes another amazing show.
The group's latest offering to packed audiences at the Kimberley School Theatre, was a brilliant interpretation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "Carousel" which earned standing ovations each night.
An appeal in the EKA for new performers paid handsome dividends and in new leading lady Laura Collins NOWMADS have unearthed a real diamond.
Laura's stage debut for NOWMADS after responding to the appeal landed her the demanding role of Julie Jordan and in a remarkable success story the Residential Care Worker showed immense quality in a part that was made to measure.
Directed by Graham Lambert, this wonderful tear jerking musical classic was given the full treatment by NOWMADS cast of just twenty four performers with Daniel De Martino a tower of strength as Billy Bigelow, Tom Bailey in the part of the menacing Jigger Craigin, and Hannah Lishman who played Carrie Pipperidge sharing the accolades with Laura Collins.
From its exhilarating opening aboard a fairground carousel to its fabulous poignant finale and a stirring rendition of the immortal "You'll Never Walk Alone", this show stopping musical, set in the 1870's in America's New England and first performed on Broadway in 1945 was another winner for the NOWMADS team.
Carousel was enriched with a wonderful score of music and songs that included "Mr Snow", "If I Loved You", "June is Bustin' Out All Over",the rousing "Blow High,Blow Low" and the immortal "You'll Never Walk Alone", played to perfection by a talented orchestra conducted by John Wilson.
Carole De Martino as Carousel owner Mrs.Mullin, Alison Reeves impressive as Nettie Fowler and Jayden Ragozins well cast as Mr.Snow, shone in supporting roles while other show newcomers Ellie Hibbert, Phillipa Taylor, Jo Needham and Evelyn Skellett who also responded to the newspaper appeal, made sparkling contributions.
The return to the stage of NOWMAD'S leading light Martin Belcher playing the Starkeeper following a serious illness was another boost for this immensely successful Theatre group.
Fabulous costumes, stirring choreography led by Merle Harrison and Jane Clarke, impressive stage artistry by Sue Campbell and great team work by the stage crew and the technical team contributed to the success of an Amateur production that was professional in every way.
Those who haven't taken the opportunity to see the NOWMADS should do so and the next production its annual pantomime " Mother Goose",will provide the perfect opportunityfor families to see the show which is being performed from Wednesday 17th February to Saturday 20th February.
To book tickets or for more information and further details contact the Box Office on 0115-9194322 or 0115-9276189.


Show star Laura Collins (front centre) with cast members.


Posted on 04/11/2015


DAODS - Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society

Review: Boogie Nights by DAODS: the reaction

From October 14-17th, 2015, the Dartford Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society (DAODS) performed the musical Boogie Nights at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford to packed crowds and huge acclaim. Here's some of the reaction as it happened:

See the full review here


Posted on 19/10/2015


Chiltern Shakespeare Company

Review: The Taming of the Shrew
Local theatre does not get any better than this! Hall Barn in Beaconsfield is the idyllic setting for this energetic, witty and visually beautiful outdoor production of Taming of the Shrew by the Chiltern Shakespeare Company. It cracks along at a rollicking pace and is utterly captivating from start to finish.

The striking set of an Italian piazza is adorned with pillars, a fountain, a trompe l’oeil of Padua and beautiful plants and benches, a perfect backdrop for the sumptuous and, at times, amusing costumes.

Emily Taylor-Callingham shines as the fiery, hot-blooded and misunderstood Kate. She storms onto the scene and drags us kicking and screaming on her journey, her expressive face capturing everything from indignant rage to great tenderness.

Jamie Kwasnik is impressive as the deliciously arrogant Petrucio, delighting us with his absurd mood swings, childish petulance and bewildering energy as he willfully attempts to tame his shrew.

Jean Warner as Grumio along with the rest of Petrucio’s servants are a joy to watch and provide many of the play’s greatest laughs. But the entire ensemble worked seamlessly as a team to bring one of Shakespeare’s more thought-provoking plays into glorious light.

A special mention to the talented Suzie McPherson who, as well as her vivacious portrayal of Biondello, choreographed all of the movement, fights and lively tussles.

This is a fast-paced, highly physical and comedic production and definitely not one to be missed. If you have not already booked, do not delay!

You can arrive two hours before the show and have a picnic in the enchanting grounds of Hall Barn Estate. Do not let the weather deter you as the audience is safely under cover, but you might want to bring a blanket for later.

The play continues its run today (Wed) until Saturday (June 20) at 8pm with an afternoon matinee at 2pm on Saturday.

Book online at or call 08700 66 77 20.


Posted on 18/06/2015


Congress Players

Entertainment Manchester

Review: Les Misérables - Oldham Coliseum
Les Misérables is the world's most popular musical having played continuously in the West End for almost the last 30 years and featured some of the best known names in musical theatre. Despite being panned by the critics in the beginning the show has gone on to play in 42 different countries and is the second longest running show in musical theatre history.

And now the show has arrived at the Oldham Coliseum where Congress Players are performing the schools version. Performed entirely by a youth cast this is no easy task but this production wouldn't look out of place on the West End Stage. From the superb cast to the imaginative and breathtaking set you are certain to leave the theatre with a smile on your face and maybe a tear in your eye.

Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables tells an enthralling story of broken dreams and unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption. It is a fight for freedom and honor that epitomises the human spirit.

Ex-convict Jean Valjean is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert after he breaks parole. When Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine’s young daughter, Cosette, their lives change forever.

Jack Dolan plays the role of Valjean, and you forget watching him of his tender years producing a performance of the highest quality. His vocal control is floorless and performance of ‘Bring Him Home’ pitch perfect rivalling anyone before him who has performed the piece.

Josh Hankey as Javert is delightfully menacing throughout as he pursues Valjean across France and his demise in act 2 is both a vocal and visual treat.

Fantine played by Amy McDonough and Georgia Taylor as Cosette effortlessly play their respective roles with McDonough’s act one performance of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ having the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention.

Eponine’s (Phoebe Coop) heart wrenching ‘On my Own’ was as equally well acted as it was sung and showcased the power and control she has in her voice. Jake Thompson is a likeable Maurius rescued from the barricade by Valjean.

Master and Madame Thenardier (Tom Shiels and Emily Clarke) bring some humor to the show as the vile and light fingered landlord and landlady. Their chemistry on stage is a joy to watch, a real audience favourite.

Not forgetting Riccardo Atherton as Gavroche who commanded the stage whenever he was on it with his cheeky urchin look. His final scene was heart breaking and acted sublimely for one so young.

It is difficult to put into words just how good this production is. From the moment the orchestra under the baton of Anthony Quimby played the first note until the curtain call you cannot help be enthralled by what you are seeing on stage. Choreography from Jean Johnson added to the spectacle.

There is nothing amateur about this production at all. It is rare to see such all-round quality in an amateur production but this show delivers on every level, exceeding even your wildest expectations. Director John Wood has created a masterpiece.

If you can get down to the Coliseum before it closes on Saturday, do it! It will be one of the best experiences of musical theatre you will ever have.

Reviewer: Paul Downham

Reviewed: 9th June 2015


Posted on 17/06/2015


Sweets for Addicts

Reviews for Hame - Performed 10th - 14th March 2015
The Shed, Shawlands, Glasgow.

Presented by Sweet For Addicts, a community company working with families impacted by drug problems, the play is rough, raw and sometimes sentimental, as old grandad Jimmy O’Donnell suffers a massive stroke, his quiet son Michael tries to help, and his high-flying granddaughter Annmarie returns from her lucrative job in London to visit and becomes drawn in to the referendum Yes campaign. For all its cheesy soap-opera moments and long blackouts between short scenes, though, Hame tackles some of the realities of Scottish life over the past year with an energy that often seems to elude better-funded companies. There are rows about the referendum, crises over Jimmy’s homecare, a touching recovery powered by the soft Irish singing of one of his carers, and a cast of 12 all working hard to deliver a thoughtful story of Glasgow life now. At the heart of the play, there are two gorgeous performances from Eve Menzies and Gill McGowan as Annmarie and her friend Kirsty; two young Glasgow women from different traditions glimpsing the chance of a new Scotland, while the older generation stand by counselling caution, or mourning lost glories.

Seen on 10.03.15

Reviewed by Joyce McMillan - The Scotman Newspaper


Posted on 01/06/2015


Bournville Musical Theatre Company

Review of "Kiss Me Kate" the musical by Cole Porter
Reviewed by Dave Massey @brumhour

Shall I compare thee to a summers day, when it’s too darn hot in Baltimore? Kiss me Kate is a musical by Cole Porter, about a travelling theatre company’s production of Taming of the Shrew arriving in Baltimore in the late 1940s!

I was really pleased to be invited to this first night which had a packed house at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

See the full review here


Posted on 16/05/2015


Little Waltham Drama Group

Reviews from a performance of "The Cemetery Club" by Ivan Menchell
Michael Gray Review
Mary Redman Review


Posted on 11/01/2015


West Moors Drama Society

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.
If another drama group were thinking of putting on this play I can recommend it.
It was great fun to direct and the audience reaction on all three nights was so good.

Plus...we have the nun's habits, priests/Cardinals costumes etc which we are looking to sell for a moderate cost should anyone be interested in staging this play. (our wardrobe Mistress was very busy!)

Jane Hilliard


Posted on 05/01/2015



Click on the link to see the full review

The Devil and Stepashka

A very gripping and haunting production

Little Red Hoodie
Part of a set of three plays entitled 'Retold' with new feminist angles on fairy tales. It's actually my first all-woman play. Quite dark, quite striking.

Both plays produced by Goblin Baby Theatre Co.
View 5 min film 'Enemy'
Tel: +44(0)20 8673 6147

Posted on 13/08/2014


Admiral Costumes Blogspot

Whodunnit – a comedy thriller by Anthony Shaffer

This brilliant and unusual little play opens with a taped message from the murderer telling the audience that what they are about to witness isn’t just another murder mystery. The voice confesses that he/she is the murderer and they are to look and listen for clues to help them solve the case.

The entire play takes place in the library of Orcas Champflower Manor, a rather grand 18th century house, located somewhere in the south of England. Six strangers and a butler have gathered for a dinner in a wealthy lawyers mansion during a thunderstorm.

We have thoroughly enjoyed putting together a set of suitable 1930’s costumes for each of the characters and sincerely thank Adhoc Theatre Group for the use of some of the wonderful photographs from their production.

For more information about our period costumes visit or call us on 01908 372504

Posted on 01/05/2014


Woodley Light Operatic Society - WLOS

NODA REVIEW - Gondoliers

On Thursday 21st November 2013 I was invited to review Woodley Light Operatic Society’s latest production “The Gondoliers” performed at the Kenton Theatre, Henley-on-Thames. In the past I think I have performed in all the G & S Operas and I think “The Gondoliers” is one of my favourites. To me, it is some of the most tuneful music written by Sullivan, it is a score that sparkles from beginning to the end and the libretto by Gilbert beautifully describes the wide difference in social rank between the gondoliers and their loves and the Ducal party and on the showing on the Thursday night, I think Woodley L.O.S. got the balance just right.
Tom Dance – (The Duke of Plaza-Toro, a Grandee of Spain) – As the ‘Duke of Plaza Toro’ Tom was excellent portraying well his need for money and was not particular in how he remedied the drawback. Vocally his singing of his various numbers displayed his light baritone voice to perfection with good diction throughout – Well done.
Jane Andrews-Wilson – (The Duchess of Plaza-Toro) – Jane can always be relied on to give a good performance in any character she plays and this was no exception. As the aristocratic ‘Battle Axe’ with an overbearing nature, you could not have seen better and together with her strong contralto voice which came to the fore in the number “On The Day That I Was Wedded,” which brought out all the feeling on her position – this was a good interpretation – Well done.
Kate Shaw – (Casilda, Their daughter) – As the daughter of the ‘Duke’ and ‘Duchess’ Kate was suitably aristocratic, extremely aloof and disdainful when in public, but was warm and tender when in the company of ‘Luiz,’ this was a good characterisation. Vocally Kate has a good soprano voice and to me this character has probably two of the best duets in any G & S Opera. You blended well with ‘Luiz’ but try not to push your top register as it can slip very slightly off-key – Well done.
Chris Wakelin – (Luiz, the Duke’s Attendant) – As the ‘Duke’s’ attendant who performs his duties with military precision Chris did quite well. I would have liked to have seen a little more military precision when in the company of the ‘Ducal Party,’ but your feelings towards ‘Casilda’ were well displayed. Vocally you used your high baritone voice in the two duets, blending well with ‘Casilda,’ but again, watch your top register, don’t push it – Apart from that small point – a good performance.
Alistair Parry – (Don Alhambra Del Bolero, Grand Inquisitor) – Alistair gave this character a different interpretation as one normally sees, making him more lightweight. I am not sure that this came off. Vocally the character needs a bass / baritone voice to have the necessary impact and which helps to present a ‘personage of great dignity.’ Vocally Alistair sang his various numbers well with good intonation but would have liked a slightly slower tempo which would have enhanced the character. Unfortunately your costume did you no favours, you looked more like a funeral director as opposed to a ‘Grand Inquisitor’ a man of great dignity. It needed a larger lace cravat and lace on the sleeve cuffs and possibly a coloured cummerbund to relieve the starkness of the black. Also you should have had a long cane with a silver top on your entrance in the first act which would have helped to present the right characterisation – That said, this was a good effort.
Lucy Hutson – (Gianetta, Contadina) – As the other half of the Contadina pair Lucy gave me the ‘Gianetta’ I wanted to see, showing well her feelings at being selected by ‘Marco’ and then her disappointment in losing him after just being married, to her joy at being reunited, all well expressed. Vocally Lucy used her soprano voice to good effect with a well sung solo “Kind Sir, You Cannot Have The Heart,” and with a well sustained soprano line in the difficult quartet “In a Contemplative Fashion” – Well done.
Melissa Harper – (Tessa, Contadina) – I have watched Mel over the years and witnessed her develop into a fine performer. Her expressions and movements are a joy to watch and indicate her professional training. Her superlative acting ability is sustained throughout her performance, not once dropping out of character. Vocally Mel has an expressive mezzo-soprano voice which blended well in such numbers “In a Contemplative Fashion” and “Then One of Us” – Congratulations – a fine performance.
Simon Hutson – (Marco Palmieri, Venetian Gondolier) – I understand you took over this role at very short notice, you would never know, This was a superb presentation of the character ‘Marco Palmeiri’ by Simon. You had the swagger of a young gondolier and a real lady killer, your feelings, facial expressions and movements were spot-on all coupled with a superb tenor voice of power and control, your singing of the well known number “Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes” was a joy, you brought out all your sincere feelings for your beloved ‘Gianetta’ – A great performance.
Lee Anderson – (Guiseppe Palmieri, Venetian Gondolier) – Lee made a great effort in presenting this character and on the whole did very well. I would have liked to have seen more swagger, particularly on your first entrance with ‘Marco.’ I also felt you lacked the ‘lady-killing’ instinct, so essential in this role. Your movement, diction and facial expressions were good. Vocally you used your baritone voice to good effect in the quartet “In a Contemplative Fashion” blending well with the others. Your number in the opening of the second act “Rising Early in The Morning” is a difficult number to sing requiring excellent breath control. One needs impeccable words and rhythm and to take it at steady pace but I would have liked to have seen more business whilst singing it, bearing in mind that it is a descriptive number.
Carol Woodroffe – (Inez, the King’s foster-mother) – This character only appears at the end of the performance and drops a ‘bombshell’ by revealing that the true King of Barataria is ‘Luiz.’ This is done in the form of a short recitative and is a study in suspense; Carol got the delivery spot-on with a dramatic pause after ‘His name’ — ‘Luiz’ – Well done.
John Robertson – (Antonio, a Venetian Gondolier) – As one of the ‘rank and file’ gondoliers, and who has his moment of glory in the opening sequence singing, “For The Merriest Fellows are We” John sang the number very well displaying a good singing voice, but most importantly he kept the ‘sparkle’ going as so often this number is dragged back which makes it more difficult for ‘Marco’ and ‘Giuseppe’s’ entrance who have to restore the ‘sparkle’ – Well done.
Julie Easton – (Fiametta)
Jenny Stacey – (Vittoria)
Michelle Nelson – (Giulia)
Tony Towers – (Francesco)
John Bagshaw – (Giorgio) – This group played their minor roles very well, entering into the spirit of the production and lending their voices to the many musical numbers.
Chorus of Gondoliers and Contadine – This group certainly entered into the spirit of this production enhancing the colourful scenes on stage with their movement and choreographic routines. Vocally they presented a good balance of voices in the many musical numbers.
Jane Murphy – (Director & Choreographer), assisted by Claire Rowell – Being an old G & S aficionado I was pleased to see that Jane had kept to the original format as I feel you cannot improve perfection. This was a well presented production with the assistance of Claire. It had a good pace throughout with well picked up cues. The chorus had been well positioned and in particular the choreography for the “Cachucha” was well devised and danced as was the ‘Gavotte’ sequence. Overall the characters had been well developed and exhibited a joy of performing – Congratulations on a well presented and enjoyable show.
Gemma Bagshaw – (Musical Director) – The pit at the Kenton restricts the number of musicians who can fit in the space available, which is a pity because Sullivan’s music really needs a large orchestra to do it justice, that said, Gemma had recruited musicians who played the music most sensitively, making it sparkle from beginning to end and at a good tempo throughout. All members of the cast, both principals and chorus, had been well rehearsed in the music making a very good and well balanced sound – Congratulations.
Stage Manager & Crew – This appeared a well managed stage throughout the performance under the control of David Parsonson and with no visible hitches. A pity the curtain was five minutes late in going up!
Lighting & Sound – The lighting and sound plot by the Dinrino Theatre Services was overall good. The lighting was well controlled and gave a good indication of sun-kissed Venice in the first act and a more subdued plot for the interior of the Ducal Palace. The use of individual spots in such numbers as “In a Contemplative Fashion” etc; had quite a dramatic impact. One small point, I did notice one or two dark spots on stage, noticeable when cast members moved from light to shadow. The sound plot and control was excellent with every word spoken or sung being heard at the back of the auditorium.
Set – This was a neat, simplistic set constructed in house which depicted well the two acts. It was colourful and well constructed ensuring the maximum space on the Kenton stage. I particularly liked the Ducal party walking on the gondola, a nice, humorous touch and in some ways helped to indicate their impoverished condition.
Costumes – This was a good set of costumes sourced from the Shinfield Players and WLOS, they were all in the Venetian fashion with a good contrast between the Ducal Party and the gondoliers and contadine. I have commented on the ‘Don Alhambra’s’ costume previously.
Wardrobe Mistresses – The wardrobe mistresses in the form of Jane Murphy and Jane Wilson had done a good job in ensuring the cast appeared on stage in clean, well pressed and fitted costumes. It was also good to see correct footwear on stage, an item that is so often overlooked.
Make-up – Nobody was listed in the programme responsible for make-up so I assume the cast were responsible for their own and which looked good for normal stage make-up, but in this instance it needed more attention to detail and the period. The contadine and gondoliers are sun-soaked peasants and whose base should have been a real golden tan on face, neck, hands and arms. The Ducal party however are Castilians and the true Castilian make-up for the ladies was a very white one, with rouged cheeks, pencilled eyebrows and shadowed eyes. It is this attention to detail that raises a performance above the norm.
Programme – How nice in this day and age to see a programme not inundated with adverts, in fact none. It had been well laid out with items of interest, good cast photographs and biographies, all printed on good quality paper with an eye catching cover.
Front of House – As one has come to expect from this society, Front of House staff were smartly dressed, easily identifiable, friendly and helpful to their audience.
Thank you for inviting me to review your latest production “The Gondoliers,” a most enjoyable production which I thoroughly enjoyed. May I take this opportunity of wishing all members of the Woodley Light Operatic Society a Very Merry Christmas and all success in the New Year.
NODA Representative – London Region – Area 13

Posted on 30/04/2014


Lyndhurst Drama and Musical Society

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.


REVIEW: Pinocchio, Lyndhurst Drama and Musical Society, The Vernon Theatre, Lyndhurst

10:33am Monday 10th February 2014 in Curtain Call By Anne Waggott

IT’S a subdued Italian Christmas – children are mysteriously disappearing, toy donkeys cry real tears, toymaker Geppetto is saddened that nobody is interested in his wooden puppet, while lift operator, Jimmy Crankit, and shop assistant, Grazia, are challenged by the arrival of diva Dame Scrumptious (charismatic Hannah Marks) and her precocious students!
Nathanial Bond, this evening’s Pinocchio, was excellent with his marionette actions, convincing and engaging, frozen impeccably until activated by kindly Fairy Sapphire’s magic (Michelle Bradley-Harris).
Neville Green’s portrayal of Geppetto was both comical and eliciting sympathy from the supportive audience.
Director Jenny Green claimed that she chose this script to give an opportunity for her Kidzone Drama Group to “shine in their individual roles” – and she succeeded. Two separate groups of child actors were cast (not clearly identified in the programme which were performing for specific shows), but all shared enthusiasm, enjoyment and created fun characters.
Enjoyable family community theatre!

Posted on 10/02/2014


Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.

The following reviews have been supplied to Drama Groups by Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society

Play Review: 'World Premiere' of "You Can Only Die Twice" by Clive Bundy a member of Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society
I was at the Thursday (7th November) performance of Powys Theatre’s most recent play 'You Can Only Die Twice'. The play was written by the theatre’s own Clive Bundy, and I really did not know what to expect from the evening. The atmosphere, as always was very pleasant and it was good company to spend your evening with.
The dialogue took a couple of scenes to get going but once it did the story flowed along very nicely. I found myself thinking that I had the plot all sorted out and made this clear to my companions during the interval. However I was proved to have jumped the starting block as it unravelled into something unexpected. Understandably this left me impressed with the playwriting, surprisingly, yet happily impressed.
Two people were making their debut for this particular theatre group, Peter Withers and Brian Davis, and they both performed their parts full heartedly. The standout performer was unsurprisingly Kim Davies, who played the lead role with the enthusiasm and skill that she has become known for over the preceding plays. Sadly I think this is her last play for Powys Theatre, and I know her talents will be sorely missed. It was also nice to see Barbara Stephens continuing her comeback, as she was very convincing in delivering her double-agent. I was definitely fooled. Gillian Thorp rose to a character which suited her perfectly and showed her strongest performance to date in my opinion. The rest of the cast all performed to their usual high standards, that is David Morgan, Heather Hughes and Gareth Woodhouse.
Overall an enjoyable night out and big congratulations to the theatre for successfully putting on the ‘Worldwide Premiere’ of You Can Only Die Twice. Their next play will be held in the week beginning 3rd February 2014. Bookings will begin on 20th January for Theatre Book Holders and 27th January for General Public.

David Thorp

Posted on 24/01/2014


Gillingham Dramatic Society

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well. The following reviews have been supplied to Drama Groups by Gillingham Dramatic Society

NODA Review
Set in 1880’s London, this musical is based on “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has been adapted many times for film and stage and this particular version appeared on Broadway in 1997.
The stark dark stage with only a staircase and ‘balcony’ set the scene and throughout, we were peering at the action through ‘atmospheric’ mist, which made it difficult at times to see anybody on that ‘balcony’. That said, the clever use of lighting, certainly made up for the lack of scenery and created such atmosphere, especially in ‘The Confrontation’, which needed good lighting timing.
Playing the very demanding dual role of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was a very talented Scott Highway who portrayed the torment of Jekyll and the evil of Hyde, terrifying yet emotional through both his singing and acting. Another strong performance was given by Debbie Brennan, who used her moving voice, to reflect the vulnerabilities of her character, Lucy. Rebecca Lehmann was well suited to the part of Emma, Jekyll’s love interest and gave a very moving performance when she cradled Jekyll on his demise. Tarquin Flanagan gave a good portrayal as Jekyll’s friend John Utterson reflecting the feelings of a captivated audience. In fact, all of the supporting cast made their individual characters their own – well done.
There was excellent choreography by Emma Hodge on what looked like a very cramped area (is that why you needed the extra bit in front of the stage?).
The music of this show is fantastic and it was brought to us by an excellent MD Peter Bailey, leading a super orchestra, hidden at the back of the stage. Why no mention of them in the programme? The sound system was quite loud but worked well after a minor hiccup at the beginning. Costumes were good.
This really was an excellent production directed by Francene Harris, with every single member of the cast and backstage crew pulling of what is a difficult musical to stage.
Thank you Jeannette and Stephen for your kindness and hospitality and I hope to meet you all on a future occasion.
Doreen Grierson.
NODA Regional Rep.
District 7

Sardines Review
Jekyll and Hyde
Written and composed by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse.
society/company: Gillingham Dramatic Society (directory)
performance date: 05 Oct 2013
venue: The Hazlitt, Maidstone
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)
The stage fills with smoke and coloured light as Victorian London emerges – the grubby reality of streets, the seedy faux glamour of brothels, counterpointed with the dry calm of a sitting room, the charm of a ballroom and the mysteries of a laboratory. We are firmly in Les Miserables country (although that’s the French equivalent, of course) with a dose of Oliver! and Sweeney Todd thrown in. And Frank Wildhorn’s Jekyll and Hyde music variously reminds me of all three.
Scott Highway, who is rarely off stage in the huge title roles, is the star of this show in every sense. He is a very good actor who manages the transitions between the earnest, honest, tidily coiffed Jekyll and the cackling, evil, manic, shaggy-locked Hyde with total conviction. Actors are meant to ‘present truth’ and that’s exactly what Highway does. Also a remarkable singer, Highway has an almost Pavarottian ability to sustain a long – and often quite high - note for bar after bar at the ends of songs, building momentum as he goes in apparent defiance of all the laws of biology and physics. His is an outstanding performance by any standards – and I review a great deal of professional theatre.
Debbie Brennan’s Lucy Harris is a highly accomplished piece of work too. She can do anything from spiky, immaculately articulated wit in the brothel scene, in which she cavorts and entices, by managing each accelerando and reprise with terrific poise, to full belt and a great deal of top notch acting through song, including the evocation of a great deal of sadness and poignancy. And there’s a fine performance from Rebecca Lehmann as Emma Carew, Jekyll’s hapless fiancée whose clear, bell-like, professional-standard soprano singing is a great asset to the show.
Musical Director Peter Bailey directs a superbly competent band – concealed behind an upstage curtain and not ‘discovered’ until the curtain call – and controls the singing beautifully. The impassioned quartet sung by Chas Alder (as Sir Danvers Carew), Scott Highway, Rebecca Lehmann and Tarquin Flanagan (as John Utterson) is a highspot, for example. So is the duet by Lehmann and Brennan in the second act.
Another star of this show is choreographer Emma Hodge who, working in the Hazlitt’s quite small playing area, moves her vibrant young chorus in such a way that the space seems much larger. The crowd scenes and the one in the brothel are some of the best things in the show. Watch out for Rae Hume too. She plays Nellie, the lead prostitute, but who has enough stage presence and talent to make her stand out even in this high quality show.
I have seen this version of Jekyll and Hyde by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn before and not liked it much – which all goes to show that a production’s success lies in what you do with the material. So congratulations Gillingham Dramatic Society. You’ve won me over.

This is a review from Mary Wills
Last evening I went to Maidstone's Hazlitt Theatre (hopefully soon to have a facelift) to see Jekyll and Hyde being performed by Gillingham Ops. And perform they did! I was gobsmacked (or any other more appropriate adjective you may prefer). The whole company – without exception – played their socks off on this the first night of their run. There was an amazing depth of talent and the total commitment of this accomplished company entranced their audience from the first note. I had never seen the show Jekyll and Hyde and hadn't realised how musically complex it is. To undertake to perform this was so brave – but my goodness their hard work and considerable talent really paid off. As mentioned previously the whole company were very special – all of the principals were quality – both in characterisation and voices. But everyone from Jekyll to Paper boys knew their role backwards; not one seemed in doubt or stumbled. If there were 'swans' among them – looking beautiful above the water while frantically paddling below – it didn't show. It is true that if you look committed and confident your audience comes with you. So well done to you all – including the accomplished orchestra that played out of sight behind the action. Wow – have a wonderful week – this one will be one to remember. Congratulations –

Posted on 10/10/2012


Gillingham Dramatic Society

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.

Some quotes from the first night(02/10/2013).
Fabulous, is this a professional show, as would not have looked out of place in the west end.

Mayor of Medway's quote about GDS'S Production of Jekyll & Hyde.
"Unique,Intense,powerful and absolutely brilliant".

Posted on 03/10/2012


Garden Suburb Theatre

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.

BDDF success - Alice wins prizes!

Jon Musker writes: "Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass was the GST's entry into this year's Barnet and District Drama Festival ('The Barnies'). This festival had eight entries this year, and gives out 11 specific awards, plus an award for all-round winner and one for all-round runner up.
At the awards ceremony last night we won the Best Theatrical Presentation award (the Hampstead and Highgate Express award) and the Adjudicator's Award (the Andrew Forney Memorial award). Danielle Stagg won the Best Young Actor/Actress award and we were awarded the Best Costume award (the Barry Serjent award).
Moreover, we were nominated for a further six awards; Adam Sutcliffe was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, Danielle Stagg was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, and Tempeste Hepenstall-Brown was nominated for Best Young Actor/Actress. I was nominated for Best Director and the show was nominated for the Most Ambitious Choice of Play and also nominated for the Best Set Design and Construction. Moreover we came a (very close) third in the all-round winner award.
The awards at such festivals are slightly artificial, in that drama is not really a competitive sport. However, in this case it was clear that the adjudicator really enjoyed the show, particularly noting the ensemble nature of the piece. She described it as a "perfect piece of community theatre". I think the awards that were presented really reflect the brilliant input from all the cast, production team and staging teams, and the adjudicator indicated that by choosing to present the Adjudicator's Award on the basis of the best ensemble work.
I was immensely proud to be able to receive these awards on behalf of you, the people who made it all happen.
She particularly mentioned the excellent quality of the ensemble singing; the puppetry; the staging; the caterpillar; the costumes and makeup; the warm welcome front of house; the lighting. If you haven't already, you can (and should) read the full adjudication report online - and there are in fact five different reviews of the show online at"

Posted on 01/07/2012


Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.

Fish Out of Water by Derek Benfield

Review of Fish Out Of Water, written by David Thorp.

I went to see ‘Fish out of Water’ on Thursday 7th February, at Powys Theatre, in Newtown. A comedy, which was written by Derek Benfield, and on the night performed by Newtown Amateur Dramatic Society.

To be perfectly honest, the play started quite slowly. This was, in my opinion, due to the storyline, rather than the acting. Soon enough, though, the performance decidedly brightened up, with the actors all warming to their respective parts.
Especially Martin Jones, who played the bumbling Brigadier, I thought he was exceptionally funny, taking his role by heart and producing many laughs throughout the evening. The other comedic elements were largely provided by Sue James as the very ‘English Old Bag’, and Clive Bundy, the enigmatic Italian Hotel Manager. Both acted extremely well, capturing the sole attention of the audience at all times during their dialogue, and deserve their recognition.

However, all the rest of the hardworking cast deserve a mention too, including Kim Davies, Jenni Freeman, Gillian Thorp and David Morgan, who were all excellent and added a little uniqueness to the show.

All in all, I felt the play was a success, shown by the audience who expressed their enjoyment as the curtains fell for the last time. I thought it was an admirable effort, a lovely little play produced nicely.
The next play in the season for NADS is from the 22nd – 27th April 2013. I recommend you go and check it out as I will.

Date 23rd Feb 2013


Ariel Drama Academy

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.

Stand Up

Wednesday the 5th December Ariel Drama Academy students performed a night of Stand Up comedy at the Woolpack, Burgess Hill , to rapturous applause.
Last year Crawley Ariel students performed and this year was the turn of our Burgess Hill students.
Mel Moon and David Candy have been teaching them on an intensive 10 week course to produce a 5 minute piece of original stand up which is offered free of charge to selected Ariel students.
"We are always looking at new and challenging genres of performance for our students and we were all so proud of them. Stand up comedy is hard and they really did have the whole pub roaring" says Nicci Hopson Principal of Ariel Drama Academy.
Mel Moon began her ‘stand up’ career in 2007 and has since gone on to perform at some of the most well known comedy venues across the UK. Mel has also worked with some of the most recognizable faces that you see on your TV screens today.
Along with David Candy, they have written comedy for various TV programmers including their own sitcom ‘Wake Up England’ which is currently in development with one of the country’s leading production houses.
MoonCandy Productions are proud to be joining forces with Ariel Drama Academy.
Mel Moon says: “Comedy is a gift and should never be ignored or taken for granted. Making people laugh simply by being yourself holds great honour and I cannot wait to encourage the Ariel pupils to use their natural comedy skills to their full potential. If your child has ‘funny bones’ then we will make them the best they can be. Similarly, if your child struggles with a lack of confidence then comedy is the best way we know of bringing people out of their shell and into the limelight".
The course covered all key areas including an introduction to comedy, identifying a style and writing and developing the all-important ‘first 5 minutes’.
David Candy adds: “The backbone of the course is the performance of 5 minutes of original material at a live gig that is open to the public, family and friends. The performance was a perfect way to bring down the curtain on 10 weeks of fun and hard work, it was such a positive evening".

If you would like more information about the comedy course, or Ariel Drama Academy, please contact Nicci Hopson on 01444 250407 or

Date 22nd December 2012

In November my drama group performed the play 'DRINKING HABITS' by Tom Smith. It went really well.


One of our favourite playwrights publishes a new novel

Take an old English manor in an old English village. Add a handful of ghosts, two psychics, a vicar, a curate, a haunted pub and a pig and you have all the ingredients for a funny, quirky tale.

This fast moving and merry novel makes an ideal read, or gift for anyone with a sense of fun who enjoys pure entertainment.


Posted on 22/12/2012

West Moors Drama Society


The Finish Line - West Moors Drama
Memorial Hall, West Moors

West Moors Drama presented a two act comedy with a new look for their autumn production. It had been written by members Jane Hilliard and Paul A J Rudelhoff. With Jane as producer and Paul as director, each twist and turn of a convoluted plot was thoroughly explored and the local community supported the production whole-heartedly, with a need for extra chairs to seat the audience when this review was done.

The action takes place in a rotting country house (Splendid kitchen set) owned by the eccentric brother and sister Sir Humphrey and Lady Gwendoline, with more than a little help from the domestic staff. Tom Martin has conered the market in bumbling elderly gentlemen and , as Humphrey, he is completely at homw while Anne Tillin is convincing as his sister who has moved on from eccentric into batty.
Enter another sibling, Lady Hester (Anne Maynard does a capable job of playing the schemimg and snobbish woman) while her art dealer friend, Sebastian is cleverly portrayed with subtle touches by Bill Walsh. Maisie the housekeeper is an ideal part for the talented actress Bev Cooper and Cook who lies a drink or several is well captured by Shelagh Rundle, the duo working well together. Into Woodley Manor come three former Olympic atheletes who add the chaos, Titania the Russian with a taste for men (Debbie Butteworth is a ral blonde bombshell) and Alexei - Jeanie Ellis is clever as the androgynous German forger Hans, played with a blonde wig and a confused expression by Mark Austin.
Add a subplot concerning local thief Fingers (Derek Kearsey seems ill at ease) and his step-daughter Brittany - good acting from this bright youngster - and an inspector calling about the cess-pit (great cameo role for Peter Wright) and little ownder that all manner of surprising secrets are revealed.
With so many different facets of the story in this home-grown farce and some

Date 11th November 2012

Banbury Cross Players

Press Release 208

House Proud - 2012/13 Season Preview

Over 120 enthusiastic theatre-goers were entertained at The Mill Arts Centre on 16 October 2012 at Banbury Cross Players' Season Preview evening. The event (now in it's ninth year) opened with the premiere of The Trench, a moving one act play written and directed by BCP member Steve Hatt, dealing with life in a World War I Trench.
BCP Chairman, Tara Lacey, welcomed the audience and introduced the first of the Season's Directors, Clare Lester, to bare all about the forthcoming November production of Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. Part of country-wide amateur theatre support for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Clare's presentation concluded with a sneak preview of six of the cast. Calendar Girls runs from 23 November to 1st December 2012.
Terry Gallager followed, introducing his production of JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls (BCP spring presentation from 6-9 March 2013). The play, first produced in 1946 and having recently completed a successful West End run and UK Tour, holds the audience's attention from start to finish in gripping thriller fashion.
Andy Crump's amused the audience by presenting each of the unconventional characters in his production of a different kind - Anthony Shaffer's comedy/thriller Whodunnit? (running from 15-18 May 2013). Will it be The Butler who "dunnit"? It's up to the audience to discover!
Liz Riley concluded the presentations with the help of five of BCP's actors performing a short extract of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple (Female version) (the summer production running from 17-20 July 2013). The fast-moving comedy will bring Girl Power 1980s-style to The Mill Arts Centre - with a little help from two fun-loving Spanish gentlemen!
The evening concluded with an invitation to the audience to join BCP members on stage for a glass of wine and the chance to get more of the inside story on BCP's 2012/13 Season.

Tickets for all productions are available from the Mill Box Office 01295 279002 or online at

For more press information contact Linda Shaw on 07802 301726 or mail'at'

19 October 2012

Date 19th October 2012

Jane Lockyer Willis

Member of The Society of Women Writers & Journalists.
To see scripts by Jane click here

I trained as a teacher of English, speech and Drama at The Guildhall School of Music & Drama - AGSM LGSM and I'm an Associate of LAMDA. After college, I did some pro acting, amdram and later BBC World Service radio acting (plays) For many years I ran my own company, Speakwell Communications and taught adults speech training and all of that. I have been published main stream: SPEECHES AND PRESENTATIONS and am part author of THE COMPLETE SPEECHMAKER. I continue to act and now write plays.


Peter set up and has run for a few years now. I was one of the first people to go on his site and just want to say a few words about what he has achieved. is a theatrical haven. Serving as a central site for groups and societies, it has developed and grown over time.

A mine of information, you can advertise shows and auditions; track lyrics; look for props and costumes; find or advertise a script and so on. There is even a 'Swap ideas' section. The site is well laid out and user friendly. It is uncluttered, full of information, attractive and welcoming.

Peter works tirelessly. In my experience he answers emails promptly, is extremely helpful and polite and gets the job done efficiently and as fast as he can. With so many people to deal with, I think this is admirable.

Without sites like, amateur theatrical life would be a great deal more difficult. I remember the old days, when one had to search all over for this or that prop, root out prospective actors who were reluctant to take to the boards, and hope to goodness that audiences would turn up on production nights. Now, with this sort of publicity and help, we can find like-minded folk who are only too happy to apply for parts, write plays, produce plays, swap a script or write a lyric etc. And all of this is due to Peter's inventiveness - someone who has recognised the needs of others, so that we can make use of all the varied facilities.

So from me, a BIG THANK YOU PETER for your help, guidance and support.


Date 7th October 2012

Little Waltham Drama Group

See the NETG adjudication on the website - click here

Date 16th August 2012

Trinity Methodist Music and Drama

Half a Sixpence - Trinity Methodist Music and Drama - Civic Theatre, Chelmsford

I had forgotten what a great show this is, a strong story line and some wonderful songs. This show was originally written for Tommy Steele and it is an obvious vehicle for someone of his immense talent. Songs and dances come through thick and fast. The action is unstoppable!
Toby Holland as Arthur Kipps was in no way daunted by following in Tommy's footsteps. He made this role his own, from his first entrance to his last he dominated the stage with his portrayal of the hapless Kipps. Toby's singing voice was one of the best that I've heard on this stage, including the many professional singers that I've heard. He seemed to have strength in his voice in all registers and his rendition of 'What Should I Feel' towards the end of the second Act brought tears to my eyes it was so movingly acted. In my experience singers so often forget to act while singing, it's as if they step out of character to say 'Now I'm going to sing so I don't need to act'. Enough about Toby for there were many others in this cast that deserve congratulations. Charoltte Reed as Ann proved a perfect foil for Toby, she too stayed in character the whole time through songs and dances she was 'Ann' always delivering never letting the mask slip. The 'boys' a trio of Buggins, Sid and Pearce all did their stuff and when singing ensemble blended so well together. A special mention for Mr Shalford (Tony Court) who managed a splendid character and his centre stage apoplexy when confronted by a 'newly rich' Kipps telling him what he thought of him was extremely well done.
I felt a little sorry for Chitterlow (Tony Brett - a super characterisation) for he was overpowered when singing with Kipps - perhaps the sound engineer could have done more to balance the two?
If I have any criticisms at all it would be that the sound was out of balance at times in the duets; the follow spot operator seemed to have gone asleep occasionally as he/she failed to pick up on cues; too often the chorus were asked to dress the stage in lines across and that got to be a bit too predictable and uninteresting at times; In chorus the singing was not quite crisp enough with some chorus members hanging on to notes when others had already stopped singing, sorry but it was very noticeable.
All in all this was a jolly good show and certainly worth the efforts of the cast and crew and the audience went away happy!
Thank you for such good entertainment.

Date 19th May 2012

West Moors Drama Society

Holiday Snap, West Moors Drama, West Moors Memorial Hall

10:32am Wednesday 25th April 2012 in Curtain Call By Jim Rumsey - Southern Daily Echo
SPONTANEOUS applause greeted the Portugese timeshare apartment set that provides the location for two holiday assignations.
Commander Chittenden (Tom Martin), as the holiday representative then sets about accidently destroying part of it as he prepares for the very first visitors.
Eve (Vivienne Price) and Leslie (Mark Austin) duly arrive, but the apartment has been doublebooked by Henry (Derek Kearey) and Mary (Janet Price).
Mayhem follows as both thinks the other to be the domestic help and that they only speak Portugese.
The shortsighted Commander is of little use as he begins to consume more of the provided alcohol.
Henry’s suspicious sister-inlaw, Celia (Jeannie Ellis), arrives to check on him and more confusion entails.
All the cast, including newcomers Debbie Butterworth and Mike Tong, combined to provide the audience with hilarious moments, even if some of the effect was diluted by occasional lapses of words recall.
Director Jane Hilliard has provided an entertaining evening.

Date 27th April 2012

Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves

ALI BABA and the songs of ABBA
Little Waltham Drama Group
at the Memorial Hall
Mamma Mia ! It's a panto packed with Abba hits, re-written to suit the plot of Ali Baba and the four tie thieves.
It's a gem of an idea - not always easy to judge how well it was implemented, since the lyrics were often swamped by the excellent band. What we needed was a few of those 70s hand-held microphones …
The book, by Simon Rayner Davis, was full of fun with money [fittingly] and hoary old chestnuts which kept drummer Colin Turner busy on the boom boom cues. Key to a good panto performer is confidence in the material and complicity with the audience, and it was pleasing to note that some of the most successful here were the youngsters: Hannah Walker as slave girl Morgiana, and Alex Lee as her Abba Baba ["I do, I do"]. In a large cast, space only to mention Reggie Mental Tie [Heather France], Linda Burrows as Rough Ralph, Susan Butler as [One-Eye] Maid Earlier – she had the best pseudonym, too: Duke Aaron Attention. And of course panto recidivist Richard Butler as Mustapha Tinkle.
In a series of splendid frocks, Mike Lee made a really good Rum Baba, with his gravelly Tommy Cooper tones and a good sense of timing [an immaculate pause at the end of the ghost routine]. All the costumes were excellent; the designs too – palm tree proscenium pieces and a lovely picture-book interior .
This unusual Ali Baba was directed by Jenny Broadway and Karen Wray.
Little Waltham Drama Group

Date 15th Jan 2012

Upton House Success
A Servant's Day Off

As part of National Trust property, Upton House's, winter programme leading local theatre company Banbury Cross Players presented three 1930s sketches on 10th and 18th of December 2011. The sketches soon caught the eye of the visitors who'd come to take in the stunning house and gardens as they wandered into the Long Gallery and Squash Court. Each sketch was presented three times on both days.
Director Linda Shaw said, "What a thrill to present pieces of the period in their genuine setting. It was like aristocratic street theatre with priceless works of art as a backdrop! Our fourteen actors had an incredible time. Upton House were perfect hosts and we would love to be invited back".
For more press information contact Linda Shaw on 07802 301726 or email Banbury Cross Players.
Banbury Cross Players

Date 19th December 2011

Banbury Cross Players

Grasshopper meets his friends
James and the Giant Peach

Throngs of happy children descended on the stage at the Mill Arts Centre, Banbury last week at the end of each performance of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, adapted by David Wood.
Invited by Grasshopper to take part in a triumphal march around New York's Central Park, the children came dressed up as one of the insects, Grasshopper, Centipede, Ladybird, Earthworm or Spider. The best dressed were presented with prizes by Grasshopper and everyone went back to their seat with a selection of sweets from James.
Oxfordshire schools had been invited to tell children about the performances and many responded. Both matinee performances were sold out but, more importantly, Banbury Cross Players were delighted to have bought live theatre to 300+ children in the county.
Banbury Cross Players’ next production is Agatha Christie's thriller The Unexpected Guest - 22nd - 25th February 2012, 7.45pm.
For more press information contact Linda Shaw on 07802 301726 or email or online
Tickets from the Mill Box Office at 01295 279 002 or online

Date 29 November 2011

Stewarton Drama Group

Abigail's Party
Reviewed by The Evening Times - Stewarton Area Centre - 7th Oct 2011

Lalita Augustine (Evening Times)

IT IS time to go back to the 1970s with big hair, glamorous evening dresses and cheese and pineapple snacks on a stick.
Mike Leigh’s classic stage play, Abigail’s Party, is back, revealing the hilarious antics of Beverly as she puts her guests through an evening of angst, humiliation and cheesy nibbles.
The play has achieved cult status since it was first screened in 1977 and was voted No. 11 in the British Film Institute’s All-Time Top 100 British TV Programmes.
What starts off as a get-together of neighbours quickly turns into an awkward evening of tactless remarks and growing marital strain, as overbearing and garish hostess Beverly plies her guests with cigarettes, alcohol and nibbles (including the now infamous ‘cheesy-pineapple ones’).
Now the Stewarton Drama Group has recreated this classic, with opening night last night and shows tonight and tomorrow.
Beverly will be played by Laura McPherson.
She said: 'Beverly is a great character to play in the theatre - she is such an iconic character and there is lots of fun to be had because she is such an over the top person.
She has been described by critics as quite monstrous and, having got into the play, I can totally appreciate why that is.
She behaves horrendously towards her husband, flirting with another man in his presence, and almost bullying the quieter guest Susan.
It is lots of fun and drama and she is dressed glamorously and over the top.'
Members of the drama group had wanted to put on the production for a number of years, but had to wait until they were granted an amateur licence.
They have gone all out to make sure the set, props, costumes and even the hairdos are all authentic 70s.
Kilmaurs-based Cameron Hair And Beauty were only too happy to show the three female cast members - Morag Smith, Suzie MacLeod and Laura - the authentic 1970s hairstyles for the show.
Linda Wilson, who is president of the drama group, said: 'The hairstyles are so important in Abigail’s Party.
But the end results were just fantastic - the girls in our cast were transformed into true 70s style in less than an hour.'
Morag, a student nurse who will qualify in February next year, plays ditzy, naive nurse Angela.
It has been good fun and the characters of Beverly and Angela are very different.
Angela is in a horrible relationship and there are many people like that. She must know it is not a good relationship because he is quite nasty, but she is just tying to make the best of it.
I am excited but also nervous. It is quite a wordy play and I don’t leave stage, I am on show the whole time. It’s my first time doing a full length play so I am looking forward to it.'
Laura is sure the audiences will enjoy the production and its many themes of failed relationships, career stress and annoying teenagers playing their music too loud.
As a theatre group it is a challenging play to do, but it is also exciting.
Although there is a lot of humour in it, it is quite a dark black comedy and there is the very tragic ending.
At its heart it is about relationships - neither of the two couples in the play are happy. The themes and status in relationships will still apply today.'
Director John Allardice also has a role, playing Angela’s miserable IT analyst husband Tony.
He said: 'More than 30 years after it was first broadcast on television, it is still hard to think of another play that offers such a relentlessly uncomfortable, yet hilarious, take on strained relationships and awkward social situations.
Abigail’s Party has become something of a theatrical phenomenon. It is a beautifully-observed period piece, combining comedy, drama and tragedy - all the ingredients of an iconic piece of theatre.'

GHOST - THE MUSICAL - Piccadilly Theatre - June 2011

I hadn't seen the film that this musical play is based upon but my wife gave me a short precis of the plot while we were standing in the bar having a pre-show drink. The Piccadilly Theatre is such a lovely theatre I don't think I've ever found another theatre that beats it for comfort and leg room. We were in the Royal Circle (1st balcony) and had tickets in the front row. A wonderful vantage point from which to see the show.
I think I must have been in the very small minority of people at that matinee perfoprmance who had not previously seen the film. From overheard conversations going on around me I think most others had and were waiting in eager expectation to see if the special effects from the film could possibly have been replicated on stage. Let me say from the outset that no one was disappointed.
The set was a marvel of electronic gadgetry, most of which I had not seen before. Cunningly the backdrops were set with what I took to be miniature tv screens on each of which was displayed a small part of the picture intended to be laid before us. Such that we were given backdrops from street scenes to the inside of an office; an apartment; an alley and many more. All done by displaying a different picture on these hundreds of tiny screens. Magic! Marvellous!
The scene where Sam is shot and killed in the alley by a small time crook was exquisitely timed. An audible gasp went up from the audience when 'Sam' ran after the gunman only for us to look back and see his body still lying on the floor. It was superb stage management, it simply couldn't have been better done. The same effect was repeated later on when Oda Mae Brown fights with Carl and he ends up running from his dead body. Another gasp from the audience!
How it was that the Ghost of Sam was actually shown walking through a door, such that bits of his body disappeared from my view I still don't really understand. Yet another magic moment.
Enough about the effects or I will give the impression that show was special effects and nothing else - it wasn't! This show has so many wonderful songs. The singing was exceptional; The love making between Molly and Sam was powerful; The two-faced demeanour of Carl was enough to make me dislike him intensely (had it been panto he would surely have been booed!) and Oda Mae Brown and her cohorts brought laughter to the stage.
This show will run and run! It is excellent. The entire audience stood and applauded at the end of the performance and for once I was in the majority when I wiped the tears from my eyes and swallowed the lump in my throat.
A true love story, I shall go to see it again!

ENCHANTED APRIL - Little Waltham Drama Group - April 2011
ENCHANTED APRIL - Little Waltham Drama Group - 30.04.11
Elizabeth von Armin's Twenties novel about the restorative properties of the Italian sunshine has been filmed twice, and is now, wouldn't you know, a musical.
This charming Broadway version by Matthew Barber got what may well be its UK première on the tiny Little Waltham stage last week.
Director Mags Simmonds gave it a convincing sheen of authenticity; the first act is all anticipation, in the second we escape to the wisteria and sunshine - a gorgeous backdrop by Liz Willsher - in the entertaining company of a quartet of ladies unable to resist a month in Heaven.
Susan Butler, as Lottie, the instigator of the invitations, shared her enthusiasm with the audience as well as with her contrasting counterpart, the 'disappointed Madonna' poignantly played by Victoria Rossiter. Their travelling companions were brilliantly characterized by Kim Travell as the glamorous, flapperish Lady Bramble, and June Franzen as the formidable Mrs Graves, making the most of every line, every laugh in a memorable performance.
The husbands - Gordon MacSween's humourless lawyer and Brian Corrie's salacious novelist - make the journey to San Salvatore too, to be thawed by the warmth of the Riviera. The maid Caterina was a hilarious Linda Burrow; Ken Little played the doting 'Tonio' whose attentions help the 'grey sisters' to reveal their hidden depths.
The themes of loss, regret, revelation and reconciliation are lightly touched on, and the whole fairytale confection was a delightful divertissement for the last night of April.




Whistle Down The Wind by Chelmsford Young Generation at The Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford.

I took my wife and daughter to see this play and I had forgotten what a friendly and warm atmosphere is created at The Cramphorn Theatre. A small, intimate theatre. Good seating, nice foyer, friendly staff.
The story is perhaps one most people are familiar with but I for one didn’t know the whole story and for sure my 10 year old knew nothing of it.
The stage was bare apart from a fairly large structure set in the middle and which we discovered later was a stage manager’s dream. It was circular and about 4-5 metres high having three distinct sides which when presented to the audience served as: the outside of the barn and the interior of a church (when dressed with a cross and bunting); the interior of the house, a small dining area; the interior of a barn suitably stacked with old boxes. The stage hands simply swivelled the structure to present the backdrop required for the scene. Very, very clever and well managed.
The cast was enormous and seemed to range in age from about 5 or 6 to late teens. I was very impressed by the way the cast got on and off the stage when required, with barely a hiccup although inevitably there were some minor delays with so many people making their entrances or exits at the same time but all in all very well managed.
I was unfamiliar with the music, which to my ear had no well known pieces and seemed at times to be slightly discordant but I’m sure the keyboard players were following the score correctly and I have to say that with two keyboards they managed to make one believe that there was a full orchestra. My hat comes off to them well done!
The cast, and it’s difficult to remember that they were children and teenagers as they did such a good job, were superbly confident. Not a stumble, not a sign of hesitation were superbly led by Kathryn Peacock playing Cathy Bostock and Monique Crisell and Jack Toland playing Nan and Charlie Bostock respectively. At the performance I saw Bart Lambert played ‘The Man’.
The acting was so good that I can honestly say that I came as near to tears as I ever have in any theatrical performance I’ve seen. My wife and daughter were in tears as were several other members of the audience. I can’t believe that anyone there on that afternoon could have failed to have been moved by the telling of this story.
I must make special mention of Kathryn’s singing. Her voice was so very good, perfect pitch and tone and a seemingly effortless delivery, a future star of the stage I’m sure if that is what she wants to do. All the singing was good although at times some of the other principals were a little strained in holding the notes in a higher register but superb singing overall, I was very impressed.
The ‘Last Supper’ scene, involving ‘The Man’ and the children was subtle and well produced. It was only on reflection and with prompting from my daughter that I realised what was being depicted. It was played with much sensitivity. The fire scene was very well managed and made believable by the smoke and flames effects and once again the depiction of the burned out cross so gently pointed up by the Police Detective was a lesson in stage art.
This was such a good production, with some wonderful performances. Well done to all! I’m already looking forward to my next visit to watch the next Young Gen production.

OLIVER! - Tarrant Valley Players - May 2010 - by Blackmore Vale Magazine

LIONEL Bart's hit musical Oliver is deservedly popular with audiences and performers, providing a strong story (based on Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist), memorable songs and terrific set piece numbers.
It is a serious challenge for a small amateur dramatic company, but one that Tarrant Valley Players rose to with distinction at the Anne Biddlecombe Hall at Tarrant Keyneston last week.
The huge demands of this sprawling story meant calling in friends, family and new members to fill the stage with singers, dancers as well as the 19 named characters. The story is familiar.
It starts in an orphanage where the venal Beadle Bumble and his grasping soon-to-be-wife Widow Corney rule their young charges with a rod of iron and a diet of gruel.
One boy, Oliver, dares to ask for a second helping, and so begins his dash for freedom that ends up, co-incidentally and dangerously, in the home of his grandfather.
His flight takes him to the home and coffin workshop of the ghastly Sowerberrys and on to the lair of the old miser Fagin and his team of child thieves, where tart-with-a-heart-of-gold Nancy and her murderous lover Sykes hold sway.
The TVP production, directed by Mandy Sheppard and Adrian Tuite, with Sam Ryall as musical director and accompanist, was a triumph.
Clever use of the small stage transformed workhouse to undertakers to London street to slum den to raucous pub almost seamlessly, and if a few things had to be shelved (most notably the Catch Him! Snatch Him! dash before the start of the song Oliver) the storytelling didn't suffer.
There were some stunning performances in this production, which had some doubling up of leading roles.
I saw Adrian Tuite as a terrific Fagin and Beverley Beck as a moving and loudly convincing Nancy.
The cast also included Rob Chalkley as a powerful Bumble and Michael Leggett, truly frightening as Bill Sykes. The ghastly Sowerberrys were played with relish by Tim and Jenny Munford, and their dog Ianto stood in for Bullseye, complete with white patch and convincing growls and barks!
I also saw a touching Amy Kerby and a spirited Emily Bray as Oliver and the Dodger, roles taken by Jessica Norton and Rory Shafford at other performances.
Bart's show is unique in many ways, having a score packed with unforgettable numbers, and providing its company with a vehicle both for ensemble playing and for starring solo roles.
Tarrant Valley Players did it proud, and special mention must be made of Sam Ryall, who not only coaxed fine singing from his company but performed the whole taxing and challenging score from the piano with gusto, delicacy, great variation and skill - no mean feat with a score intended for a full orchestra. GP-W

CINDERELLA - Little Waltham Drama Group at the Memorial Hall - 18.01.11

As the Group embarks on its 40th year, they've revisited the first panto they ever did, the classic Cinderella.
Many things have changed - keyboards, lasers - but three members of that original show were involved again this time, and of course the plot and many of the jokes are untouched by progress.
Susan Butler's fun-packed production succeeded not because of the music - though we did appropriately reference Mr Cinders and La Cage Aux Folles - or because of the book. Many of the best laughs came from the busload of Buttons fans in the cheap seats at the back. And from the spontaneous script embroidery which ensued. Inveterate ad-libber Richard Butler met his match this year in Gordon MacSween, [more than a touch of Dame Maggie about that one] a spicy Masala to his dodgy Tikka – tandoori puns were a feature. Another welcome newcomer was Karen Allen, who played a sweet Cinderella, coping coolly with the improvisation around her. Her thigh-slapping Prince, in modest fishnet, was Salley Abrey, Karen Wray was the mentor Fairy Godmother, and Jenny Broadway was a dragon of a Baroness. More classic panto turns from stalwarts Gill Haysham as a daffy apprentice Fairy, Brian Corrie as a doddery Dandini, Ken Little as a brilliantly bashful Buttons, and Glyn Jones as Baron Hardup.
Nothing impoverished about the production though, with the costumes especially stunning. If the transformation scene had to happen out of sight in the car park, we did at least have before and after pumpkins in pride of place either side of the proscenium.
Musical Director was Chrissy Gould – the show's greatest hits were the Uglies' Duet Nobody Does It Like Me, and in an impressive “follow that!” number, Moon River for the Baron, Dandini and the loyal chorus.

Nine - Ghosts


Congratulations to the cast and crew of Nine! You were all awesome - it was an amazing show. Click here to read a fantastic review from Sardines magazine.

The Sorcerer - Bookham Light Opera Society

BLOS, the Bookham Light Opera Society excelled themselves in an excellent production of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Sorcerer' at the end of October in Fetcham Village Hall. It is not one of Gilbert and Sullivan's better known operas but the company could not be faulted for providing some really good entertainment and the enthusiastic reaction of the audience.
Very often in amateur dramatics the drama lacks pace but it was not so for this production with the lively music and acting. Everybody in the production must be congratulated and there was no lack of talent. The singing and acting were of a high standard with some excellent voices and the stage was alive at all times. Joe St Johanser was an excellent John Wellington Wells with the marvellous 'patter song'. It was reminiscent of the famous John Reed (who only died earlier this year aged 94) and Peter Pratt before him. It is invidious to pick out a single character as there were so many marvellous performances.
The photos tell some of the story and illustrate the enthusiasm of the cast. Selena Hegarty was the conductor maintaining the momentum of the music with John Mortimer on the electric piano.
There really was some talent here and it provided such a good night out - if you want a really enjoyable evening and you like music make sure you look out for their next performance 'Kiss Me Kate'.
photos & article

Local singers nominated for double award 2010
Preston Opera, Lancashire

A Lancashire society, which has been bringing opera to the county for over 30 years, has been nominated for two prestigious awards.

Preston Opera is up for Best Chorus and Best Actress in the annual North West NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) Awards for its recent production of Donizetti's 'The Elixir of Love'.
'The Elixir of Love' saw Preston's Charter Theatre transported back to the days of the Californian Wild West as Nemorino fought for the affection of Rachel Ashton's stubborn ranch owner character, Adina.

The show was a big success for the company and the new family-friendly show gave Lancashire's youth an introduction to the fun and exciting world of opera.

NODA representative for the area Christine Hunter-Hughes, who put forward Preston Opera's nomination, said of her decision: "Rachel Ashton was simply a delight to watch - she looked as if she was thoroughly enjoying the role and both her expression and general characterisation was excellent.

"The chorus had really good facial expressions and reacted well as the story unfolded around them. The music was excellent," she said.

The amateur operatic society, which performs two shows in its home town Preston every year, is up against other nominated groups in the county ranging from musicals to plays.

The winners of the NODA NW Awards will be announced next month in a glittering ceremony in Blackpool.

Preston Opera has been a starting point for many professional singers, but it is its chorus that makes it a success, Chairman Geoff Horton says.

"I'm thrilled that we have received these nominations. Rachael's is much deserved, but I am delighted that the chorus is also nominated. It is just reward for the dedication of the whole company and a tribute to our chorus master, Barrie Wright," Geoff said.

"Preston Opera is its chorus. We may work with amazing principal singers, but it's the loyalty and hard work of chorus members that makes this company truly great.

"A review of a professional opera company production in a national newspaper once lamented the fact that their chorus was not of the quality of Preston Opera!

"I think our audiences throughout the years would agree that it is the chorus that is the making of Preston Opera and what enables us to fulfil our aim to bring enjoyment and understanding of this supreme art form to the people of Preston, Lancashire and beyond."

Preston Opera is performing Offenbach's classic story of Hoffmann and his three fantastical loves at The Playhouse next month. 'The Tales of Hoffmann' runs from Wednesday 20th to Friday 23rd October. Reserve your seats at Tickets or call Preston Tourist Information 01772 253731.

Macbeth - July 22 23 24 2010 - Gadzooks Theatre Company, Plymouth, Devon

THEATRE folk regard Macbeth as an unlucky play.
No disasters here, though, as directed by Sam Grayston in his fast-paced production.
The play, Shakepeare's shortest tragedy, is notoriously full of pitfalls, but here most of them have been avoided through imaginative solutions.
For instance, the sometimes hard to take Witches are convincingly integrated, the fights are realistic, and the especially tricky sequence of Macbeth's vision of the future is achieved by shadow puppets and a startling eruption through the screen.
There is a carefully executed use of frozen action to emphasise or counterpoint sequences.
The set is multi-purpose, different locations being isolated by lighting, and, except for Lady Macbeth, the costumes are basically the now often adopted rehearsal garb with specific items to personalise characters, plus lethal swords, which get plenty of use.
But central to the production is the relationship between Macbeth and his Lady. Robert Chapman may be a bit young to fulfil Olivier's belief that to play Macbeth successfully "an actor has to be of a certain age in life's experience", but the player inhabited the role as a fervent exploration of ambition and power in a flawed man eager to bolster his resolve by belief in the half truths the witches offer. To this he added a powerful physicality and a command of Shakespeare's poetry without muddying its meaning.
Lady Macbeth mirrors him, indeed outstrips him, in ambition and is clearly the motivating force, more so than the witches.
Jane Grayston is a passionate, single-minded wife, who ultimately cannot cope with the consequences of her actions, and her sleepwalking scene crowns her performance.
Between them there was real chemistry, and their timing was impeccable.
Also notable was Jojo who portrayed a regal but kindly King Duncan, and then followed the Elizabethan tradition of encouraging the company's comedian as the Porter to raise laughter in the groundlings.
In the large cast there were bound to be less convincing performances, but the ensemble and discipline could not be faulted.

A rewarding production of a great play.

Plymouth Evening Herald

Pack of Lies - 24/04/2010

Little Waltham Drama put on Pack of Lies by Hugh Whitemore. Surprisingly this production has been put on by several other groups in the area but I only saw this one. I was glad that I went along.
The set on the very small stage a Little Waltham was a master piece of ingenuity. Tardis like in its ability to make us believe that the stage had been extended to accommodate the ground floor of a normal house in 70s Suburbia. Stage left was the living room; stage right was the kitchen / diner; up centre was a hall doorway leading to the front door and the stairs; downstage right was a back door leading to a garden. All these things were on stage but the walls between the living room and kitchen were imaginary as were the wall supposedly at the back of the house; the garden door stood on its own like a sentinel guarding the access to the outside world. Good use was made of the entrances through the hall up to the garden door as if walking up through the garden. The Group had even dressed the wall of the hall stage right with a fence covered in shrubbery - a good touch!
As an audience we soon forgot the absence of walls, our imaginations filled in what we couldn't actually see - a tribute to cast and director that this came off so successfully.
The play takes place in the house of Bob and Barbara Jackson who are visited by Stewart an MI5 man who intimates in a very roundabout way that their good friends and neighbours Helen and Peter Kroger are under suspicion for being linked to 'a man we are watching who always visits this area over the weekend.'
This very clever and well written script explores the stresses and strains that the whole Jackson family, including daughter Julie, come under while accommodating an MI5 watcher in their upstairs bedroom and trying to continue their relationship with the 'best friends' the Krogers.
All the actors played their parts exceedingly well, the few prompts were quickly over forgotten and forgiven. The audience was caught up in the drama and the tension. Even my 9 year old daughter was captured and fascinated by the play.
The director was lucky enough to have Linda Burrow, a real American, play the part of Helen Kroger. Linda was suitably over the top friendly zany American, never once missing a beat in her performance she captured the stage whenever she appeared.
Brian Corrie did an admirable job as Helen's husband Peter Kroger. Brian held his accent throughout and gave that typical American toothy grin and gravel voice that so readily depicts this type of man. He was believable and we believed him.
Barbara Jackson was played by Victoria Rossiter. This was a daunting part which required every emotion to be shown and registered with us the audience and register it did. Vickki was rarely off stage and must have been exhausted by the end. It was through Barbara that we were shown the difficulty the family had in playing the spy. She it was who had to contend with the watchers upstairs while still being openly friendly to the Krogers. She it was whose heart and mind fought each other as she first believed them innocent and then admitted to herself that they were guilty. She it was who was torn apart by these months of playing the spy.
The daughter Julie played very well by Zoe Pearson gave us all the problems associated with teenage hood; the riding of motorcycles with undesirable boys; the excitement of having her room used by MI5; the joy of being young. All this while not knowing that it was Auntie Helen and Uncle Peter that were being spied upon. This revelation at the end broke her apart and she showed this to us.
Martin Final as the MI5 man Stewart gave an understated performance. Quiet, authoritative, devious. He only gave as little information as he could get away with, he left these poor Jacksons in a state of anxiety and quoted the Official Secrets Act in a strangely offhand way that left the Jacksons in no doubt as to which side they were on. Cool and calm at all times - I felt that I wanted to see more of him, I wanted to see the steel of his inner core but that was not to be.
The watchers played by Nicola Ayris and the smaller part by Sue Joyce did a good job and played it simply as people doing a fairly boring job. Apologising for being there in someone else's house, trying to be friendly and in Nicola's case showing that she understood something of what Barbara was going through.
Throughout the performance there were little cameo monologues which the director (Margaret Simmonds) had people deliver from downstage in spotlight. This was very effective, it caught at our attention, made us sit up and listen, a great idea. Never more so than when at the end the Krogers have been wrapped up and taken off to gaol and Bob Jackson come to the front to tell us that some few years later his wife had died from a heart attack - leaving us to believe that it was the strain of the whole episode that brought this about. Such was the strength of this delivery that several people in the audience cried openly.
Who needs the West End when such talent as this can be found on our doorsteps.
Peter Travell

George's Marvellous Medicine - 13/04/2010

I took my daughter along to see this children's show based on the book by Roald Dahl. Here is her evaluation:

My Marvellous Day.
My Marvellous Day was about going to the theatre. We went to go and see George's Marvellous Medicine on stage. The person that wrote the book was Roald Dahl and adapted for the stage by David Wood. The Director was Phil Clark and the Lighting Designer was Jacqueline Clark. The composer of the music was Matthew Scott, sound designer was Tom Lishman and the puppet master was Roman Stefanski, he was in charge of all the animal puppets. Also George was played by Clark Devlin, Mum was played by Alason Fitzjohn, Dad by Tom Woodman, Grandma by Erika Poole and the Giant Chicken was Jason O'Brien.
My favourite part of the play was when Grandma grew and grew after she drank the marvellous medicine that George had made and her head went through the roof. My other favourite part of the play was when the chicken drank the marvellous medicine and grew then chased George and his Mum & Dad round and round then it laid a giant egg!
Grandma drinks a second cup of medicine and shrinks and shrinks until she disappears. At the end of the play Grandma had the curtains shut and sudenly after Grandma disappeared Grandma's shadow where the curtains were shut appeared and said "I told you I had magic at the end of my fingers but you didn't believe your old Grandma did you?" Then when george opened the curtain she had gone. Also when george put his hands up he said "Today I've touched a new magic world" and lightening came out of his fingers.
I really enjoyed this play. I even got ice cream at the interval. After we went to my Nanny's house and had a lovely dinner.
Chloe Mae aged 9

The Lady Vanishes - 06/03/2010

I enjoyed this play but more as a comedy than a suspense thriller. The production failed to make the audience sit up in their seats and wonder what was going to happen next. Perhaps because The Lady Vanishes is an old story that we all know so well. Whatever the reason the cast seemed to sense the lack of drama and played their parts to full comedic effect, where the script allowed.
The train, which formed the backdrop for the majority of the action was very cleverly managed. Three carriages cleverly straddling the stage and occasionally being shunted, really did give the impression of a train moving although the static backdrop of the alps gave lie to that effect. Unfortunately, in ensuring that the train was adequate to the task of providing the backdrop to the story, which of course takes place on a train, the production threw away the hotel scene by having an unbelievable hotel with the most unlikely of bedrooms and foyers. I think the production asked too much of its audience's imagination to find the scene believable at any level. This is where the comedy started with a wonderful italian hotel manager, played entirely for laughs by Terry Molloy who also doubled as the plausible Docktor Hartz.
I went to the matinee performance, which was populated mainly by elderly people and I noticed several grey heads 'nodding' and wives using their elbows to good effect to ensure wakefullness in their husbands.
It was a good laugh and it is undoubtedly a good story that stands the test of time. In this production however the suspense and mystery were entirely missing,
Peter Travell

That'll Be The Day - 15/02/2010

What a show! I’ve often seen it advertised at our local theatres but never actually been along to see it. It was great! Songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s sung with gusto and charm. The show was littered with comedy sketches backed up by movie footage to highlight the era and to complement the humour. It was all brilliant fun.
The theatre was packed to the rafters and talking with some of my fellow audience members most of them were avid admirers of the show having been several times before and as for myself having now finally experienced and enjoyed the show I shall definitely be seeing it again.
Brilliant take-offs of some of the most well known singers of the era: Cliff Richard; Elvis Presley; Buddy Holly; Little Richard; Mick Jagger; the list was endless and the music was wonderful. Audience participation was invited and encouraged but in no way was this in the style of pantomime this was a glorious review of the decades interspersed with extremely funny and clever sketches and imitations from the very talented performers. I was amazed that the performers managed to switch vocal styles, instruments and costumes with such alacrity and aplomb.
Foot tapping; hand clapping; crazy laughable fun. Next year is the shows 25th year anniversary. I shall definitely be buying a ticket and I would certainly advise anyone else to do the same. A wonderful show long may it continue.
Peter Travell

Troy Players

Cornish Guardian


Dunmow Broadcast & Recorder

Joseph & The Technicolour Dreamcoat

Dunmow Broadcast & Recorder

THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY CONCERT Essex Chamber Orchestra at Christ Church 19.09.09
ECHO was born in 1979, to give musicians from EYO performing opportunities as they turned 21. Thirty years on, it still boasts many of those youngsters, as well as many others who live or work in the county. For this anniversary concert, they chose three popular pieces. First, Weber's overture to Der Freischutz, with its dramatic strings, and of course the huntsmen's horns. John Mills, who played the Britten concerto with the orchestra last year, was back as soloist in the more familiar Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. It was a forthright, fluent performance, with a gripping cadenza in the opening Allegro. Later, a little of the detail was lost in the general enthusiasm [or was it the acoustic ?] but this was an impressive, engaging performance by any standards. After the interval, Saint-Saens great Organ Symphony, with the might and muscle of the orchestra matched by Simon Harvey at the Christ Church Organ. A driven, urgent performance; we were concerned that there might not be enough energy left for the final pages, but Colin Touchin and his considerable forces had strength in reserve, and we were certainly not disappointed. ECHO were led by Suzanne Loze, with Timothy Carey and Alison Eales at the piano.
Vienna by Candlelight The Locrian Ensemble Civic Theatre 19th September
Jim Hutchon was in the stalls ...
The Locrian Ensemble transported us from a damp Chelmsford Saturday into the lush Imperial world of Vienna, complete with powdered wigs and tights set in a classical statuary backdrop. But the light-heartedness of the setting, or the jokey anecdotes, fooled no-one, this is a group that is serious about its music and its expression. The Ensemble comes together for these ‘Vienna by Candlelight’ concerts, although all the members are sought after soloists in their own right. They are led by Rita Manning, formerly leader of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Orchestra, who was able to breathe unexpected vibrancy into such pot-boilers as Lehar’s Gypsy Fiddles. Founder and principal raconteur of the Ensemble is cellist Justin Pearson who is also artistic director of the Nationl Symphony Orchestra. The music was a varied selection of quite easy listening, mainly by Mozart, Strauss, Vivaldi and Lehar, although all were performed with a freshness and vivacity which belied their clichéd status. Guest soprano ‘the pocket diva’ Annette Wardell took on three solos with clarity and a warmth of expression, including the fiendish Queen of the Night’s aria from the Magic Flute. Other guest soloists included the very talented Irish harpist Jean Kelly and short sequences from a pair of dance champions, Shaun Christie and Emma Munbodhowa, who performed, of course, immaculate waltzes, as well as rhumba and cha cha. Audience participation was a short lollipop which included burst paper bags to emulate the cannons in a truncated '1812' and an encouragement from the soprano to join in ‘Vilia Oh Vilia’.
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM College Players at Brentwood Theatre 18.09.09
Kate Atkinson's first novel transfers remarkably well to the stage: the story of Ruby Lennox and her dysfunctional extended family makes an absorbing drama in Bryony Lavery's adaptation, which was impressively staged at Brentwood by the College Players. Ruby too clever for her own good is guided by her therapist as she revisits her colourful past. Emma Feeney gave a beautifully observed performance in the role funny, and deeply moving in places, she held the narrative together as it leaped the generations and travelled from Whitby [paradise with Auntie Doreen] to Scotland [hell with the Ropers] via the Trenches and the lost property cupboard of the afterlife. There were many more fine performances in a very large cast Dawn Cooke's blowsy Bunty, and Lindsay Hollingsworth's Grandma Nell, ageing 50 years in an instant. Lauren Bracewell's wondrous production had many memorable, moving moments. The ghosts of York crowding the stage, with the tiny lost sister weaving through them, the layers of memory in the shoeless shoe box, the expressionist fire and the climax on the ice. Music and lighting were effectively used to enhance the drama, set against a palimpsest of peeling wallpaper and family photographs. programme design: James Feeney
THE MAN WHO WAS HAMLET George Dillon at the Cramphorn 24.09.09
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, favourite of the Virgin Queen, resident of Hedingham castle. And author of the plays and poems usually attributed to Shakespeare. Or so many of his fans, following the eminent John Thomas Looney, would have us believe. In this fascinating one man show, George Dillon has de Vere come back from the dead to tell his history, pointing up the parallels with the Prince of Denmark, but without explicitly making any claims. The audience are to sit in judgement, it seems, as Edward, like Faustus with one bare hour to live, travels in his mind's eye from Castle Hedingham to Cecil House, from Venice to Verona to Illyria. He paraphrases Hamlet, colourfully insults Sir Philip Sidney on the tennis court, and twice meets the Stratford simpleton who is fit only to hold his horses. We meet Lord Burghley, Arthur Golding, the pope in Rome, George the clown, as well as the Virgin Queen and the 16th Earl, his father, whose death unhinged the boy. A clever conceit, compellingly delivered, with Dillon's clear diction encompassing bleeding chunks of the canon, cod Shakespeare and modern asides. The anachronisms were effective - I was less happy about the solecisms - maybe a script editor ? The piece was directed by Denise Evans, with music by Charlotte Glasson. It may not make Oxfordians of us all, but we may well wonder, with Bernardo, 'Is not this something more than fantasy !. O God! What a wounded name, Things standing thus unknown, I leave behind me! In this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story!'
PHOENIX98fm YOUNG CLASSICAL MUSICIAN 2009 at the Brentwood Theatre 26.09.09
Edward Wellman, who presents the Monday classical music show on Phoenix, was master of ceremonies and accompanist for this, their first ever Young Classical Musician competition. The nine finalists we heard made up a varied and entertaining programme. There were three pianists, playing a barely adequate instrument: Sasha Millwood, who gave us a spectacular sequence of Chopin and Rachmaninov, William Church, who followed a poised Bach Prelude and Fugue with a solemn Brahms romance. The youngest pianist, Jack Angell, was in many ways the most engaging, with his brief set of a Bach menuet, a Carnival Elephant and a cheeky Top Cat. Sam Hayday, cornet, played one of those showy variations brass players love, while the overall winner on the night, flautist Sarah Woollatt, from the Ursuline School, played a movement from Reineke\'s Undine. Even Classic FM don't play musical theatre, but for some reason all the vocalists sang numbers written with a big voice and a microphone in mind. By far the most successful was Rosie Bloom, confidently delivering a number from Phantom. A great strength of the evening was the panel of judges - Michael Frith, Benjamin Grosvenor and Philippa Penkett, who gave instant feedback and advice to the young competitors. Breathe, don't be afraid to ham it up, and wear a dress that covers your trembling knees
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang August 2009

Dunmow Broadcast & Recorder
Guys and Dolls March 2009 at the Kings Theatre
Julie Petrucci reviews NOMADS’ production of Guys and Dolls in March 2009 at the Kings Theatre. This review first appeared in Combinations, the amateur drama newsletter issued by Combined Actors of Cambridge. Based on Damon Runyon’s short story 'The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown,' Guys and Dolls centres round Nathan Detroit, the organizer of the oldest permanent floating crap game in New York, bets Sky Masterson that he can’t make the next girl he sees fall in love with him- this is Miss Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission. Meanwhile, Nathan’s long-term fiancée and the main attraction at the Hot Box nightclub – Miss Adelaide, only wants to get married. In the end the gamblers and 'spunky do-gooders' are thrown together and a few changes are made. Never short of talented performers NOMADS fielded a strong team of principals with AMANDA ALDRIDGE as Sarah Brown and JAMIE MAGUIRE as Sky Masterson: excellent empathy between the two led to some good sparky scenes coupled with great acting and singing. TIM McCORMICK made an excellent Nathan Detroit with opposite number CHARLOTTE MARTIN putting in a feisty performance as his long-suffering fiancée Miss Adelaide. Both actors had a great feel for the humour of their roles. ADAM BONNER gave a notable performance as Nicely-Nicely Johnson - good voice and great stage presence and it was good to see Alan Coogan (Harry the Horse) and Wallace Wareham (Arvide Abernathy) treading the boards again after a much too-long-a break for them both. The success of this show depends as much on the male chorus as it does on the principals. NOMADS had a large and talented male chorus for this production and their two major numbers Luck Be A Lady and Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat were excellent. Great voices and confidently executed choreography by Jessica Clifford and Andy Thorpe made these scenes stimulating. The men were balanced nicely by the lively Hot Box Girls with two very energetic numbers A Bushel and a Peck and Take Back Your Mink. Added to this we had the enthusiastic input of the members of the Mission Band rounding off this talented cast nicely. Despite having lost their musical director SIMON PEARCE a couple of days before opening night when he suffered a heart attack (from which, I understand, he is recovering well), the cast pulled out all the stops and did director GAIL BAKER and Simon proud with a great production which played to packed houses all week and deservedly so.
The Lady in the Van March 2009 at the ADC Theatre
Julie Petrucci reviews BAWDS’ production of The Lady in the Van in March 2009 at the ADC Theatre. This review first appeared in Combinations, the amateur drama newsletter issued by Combined Actors of Cambridge. Not everyone could cope with an eccentric old lady living in a battered van in the drive of their home for fifteen years but that is what writer Alan Bennett did: and he documents his very odd long-term relationship with “Miss Shepherd” and the frustrating and hilarious encounters with neighbours, doctors and the social services in his diaries. Bennett has now turned these anecdotal diary notes into a stage play which I didn’t feel worked as well as I had heard it did. It is probably sacrilegious of me given the great esteem in which Alan Bennett is held by people, myself included, to say it but I personally feel the play is wordy, at times repetitive, and definitely over-long. The evening was saved for me by the way Bawds met the challenge of this play: which they did marvellously well. They provided a visually stunning set with a mesmerising backcloth (painted by students of Anglia Ruskin University’s theatre design course) and a fantastically believable van which even changed colour! (courtesy of Tony Broscomb and the Penguin Club). The lighting, sound and props were excellent and costumes just right. Under Richard People’s firm directorial hand the acting was beyond reproach Barry Brown and Dave Foyle as the two Alans were totally believable and, much of the time, worked as one. In fact Barry Brown gave such a realistic impersonation of Bennett’s voice it was quite spooky. Rosemary Eason was a stunning success as Miss Shepherd: the thought which had gone in to the characterisation and clothing (especially the hats and socks) was impressive. The ten other very minor roles were played with confidence by good strong actors adding to the overall strength of the acting. Whilst there was much to commend from the production point of view sadly, for me, the play itself did not live up to expectations. Visit the BAWDS group record for more information about this group.
Rebecca December 2008 at the ADC Theatre
Colin McLean reviews BAWDS’ production of Rebecca in December 2008 at the ADC Theatre. This review first appeared in Combinations, the amateur drama newsletter issued by Combined Actors of Cambridge. Few adaptations of famous novels can have enjoyed such immediate and lasting success as Rebecca. With this production BAWDS showed us just how enduring that appeal is, for this was a treat of an evening. This production was very much the sum of its parts for every aspect contributed to its effectiveness and memorability – the strength of the performances, the assured direction, the striking stage design and wardrobe, imaginative lighting and perfectly matched sound, indeed down to individual properties and the programme itself. Attention to detail paying off handsomely indeed. It is worth recalling that two of the principal characters are never seen, namely Rebecca herself, of course, and the sea. In the novel, and here on stage, the sea is a subtly menacing presence and this for me was one of the evening’s triumphs. The play opened strongly, driven in particular by Steph Hamer’s pacy and admirably strident Beatrice Lacy, and we were drawn immediately into the action. Mike Milne, as Giles Lacy, had some richly comic moments (not least of all when dressed for the ball) and David Brown’s Frith was a very well-judged adjunct to the various visitors and comings and goings at Manderley. He seemed perfectly suited to his environs. So too did Alice, Catherine and Robert (Christine Easterfield, Katie Charles and David Hazelhurst); often appearing to be part of the background. Deftly handled. By the time the principals appeared we were very well set in the milieu. Frank Crawley (Colin Laurence) provides a vital link to the Rebecca era at Manderley and his striking performance was etched with wistful memory of happier, easier times. It fell to Angela Chatterton, as the redoubted Mrs Danvers, to bring Manderley’s brooding past into the present, a task she achieved with formidable skill. When Maxim and Mrs (notably bereft of a Christian name) de Winter reach Manderley we are ready for things to be less than easy, and so they prove. Both Julian Cooper and Alexandra Fye made these complex characters, with their shallowly-rooted marriage, come fully to life. Very strong individual performances combining to form a wholly convincing, ill-matched and, surely, fated couple. They both deserve great credit for maintaining our fascination in what is, by modern standards at least, a play that is overlong by perhaps as much as half an hour. The irrepressibly caddish Jack Favell (a gift of a part, duly and admirably seized upon by Guy Holmes) adds a further note of discord to the plot. Hugh Mellor and Rosemary Eason (Colonel and Mrs Julyan) brought their considerable talents to the latter stages of the play – indeed, Colonel Julyan adds to the enigma at the close itself. To what extent he is complicit in any “cover up” is uncertain but may certainly be surmised. Both Sandra Bimie (Mrs Fortescue-Coleman) and Andrew Shepherd (William Tabb) added further assured realism to the storyline and in particular to the denouncement. The deft hand of the director, Lyn Chatterton, was visible throughout and the naturalism and conviction of the story owed huge amounts to her. Once again, a feast for the eye and a triumph of invention too, Tony Broscomb’s set was another huge contributor to this undoubted success. The individual costumes were so well suited to the characters as to be almost taken for granted – the sure sign of lots of very hard work at the planning and execution stages. Further congratulations to Ed Hopkins, Graham Potter and tireless efficient Penguins. What a way to mark the splendidly revamped ADC Theatre. All involved should be reflecting on a very fine close to the BAWDS’ 2008 season - another feather in their cap indeed. Visit the BAWDS group record for more information about this group.
All Shook Up May 2008

Dunmow Broadcast & Recorder
Dick Whittington Jan 2008
The Weekly News Review by Michael Gray
Always a seasonal treat to travel to Little Waltham for their traditional village panto. And this Dick was one of the best of recent years.
Beautifully painted sets, a good band, two classic routines impeccably done, plus ripe rhyming couplets and reality TV, all directed by the sure hand of Susan Butler.
A strong cast was led by stalwarts Richard Butler and Gill Haysham. It was a pleasure to watch them work off each other and the volatile matinee house: the front-cloth banter leading up to 'A You're Adorable' was pure magic. Sable Corrie purred and preened inside a wonderful costume as Tommy; her foe King Rat was Mike Lee, also magnificently dressed as a rodent Goth. Steve Buscall blustered nicely as the Captain, with Andy Walker as his first mate. Our level-headed, thigh-slapping hero was Sue Joyce, with Lisa Jones charming as Alice and the inimitable Glyn Jones as her father. And a special word for Karen Wray, promoted from follow-spot to Fairy at four days' notice. I liked the running gags - throwing painful missiles into the wings - though we could have had more groanworthy jokes, and local references.

The Weekly News did get a mention, as did sponsors the Rose and Crown, where we had an excellent Sunday lunch before the show.

Small Miracle
Small Miracle at the Mercury by Neil D’Sonza - June 2007
Six of us went to the Mercury recently and saw the above. Here are two different views of the play.
The scene: A rundown caravan park attached to a religious shrine in rural Ireland.
The Characters: A dysfunctional ‘family’ consisting of mother and 13 year old daughter – Irish, the mother’s boyfriend – Indian and his elderly mother.
Mix in family rows, mysterious phone calls to the dead and a “miracle” which turns the ailing mother into a feisty woman who starts a relationship with the park’s manager, much to the horror of her son.
The second Mercury production staged by placing three banks of seats on the stage fitted this space beautifully. The direction and acting were brilliant. I especially loved the music which merged Iris and Indian together and was accompanied by snatches of dances to match.
There were funny moments and poignant moments but the play as a whole didn’t work. The ending however was intriguing.
After seeing four magnificent productions this was a disappointing end to the season.

The title of Neil D’Souza’s play gives nothing away. When I came out at the interval someone asked me ‘What do you think?’ and I had to answer honestly ‘I don’t know’. Indeed, from what we had seen in the first half, the play could as easily been called ‘Family at War’ or ‘The Battle of Cultures’ or ‘Five Characters in Search of a Story’!
We had an Irish Janitor of a ‘certain age’ in charge of a site of religious significance and its dreary camping site (for pilgrims of course) in Knock. ‘Holidaying’ there were an Irish mother with her Anglo-Indian boyfriend, who has brought along his indomitable mother and a zany (loony?) daughter (though it was never clear to me whether this was ‘their’ daughter or just ‘her’ daughter).
The rebellious teenage daughter is in a world of her own, with her own ‘field of dreams’ and Joan of Arc voices. Her mother wants to get her to a psychoanalyst in Galway. The Anglo-Indian boyfriend is trying to ride the impossible rocky road between pleasing his Irish girlfriend and his Indian mother at the same time. The girlfriend tries to please the Indian mother, but is unable, and no doubt unwilling, to adopt the Indian family values where only the mother can criticise her son! Indian family ties are very strong whereas in English and Irish culture these have become less and less so. So we have mother and daughter (Irish) and mother and son (Indian) culture and religion conflicts. However, to return us to sanity (or is it insanity?) the janitor seems only to be worried about a blocked toilet throughout a good part of the play!
Definitely better in the second half, ‘Small Miracles’ was billed as a comedy-drama with a warning of ‘strong language’. Certainly there were ‘laugh aloud’ flashes of humour, sometimes where the ‘strong language’ from an unexpected quarter heightened the humour! It was dramatic at the end - an ending not to be disclosed in case anyone decides to see the production on tour at the Tricycle Theatre in London – however, I don’t think that I will be one of those.
I was too mean to buy a programme so I have no idea who the Mercury Theatre Company players were, but was particularly impressed by the Indian mother (who I think may have appeared in the film ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’) and the Irish mother. I loved the ‘postcard’ set (‘Greetings from Knock’) with its working caravan.
Marks? Probably five out of ten!

Bookshop dreams fade in comedy
HAYWIRE, Little Waltham Drama.
HAYWIRE, an undemanding comedy from sitcom-meister Eric Chappell, tells the sad tale of Alec [Graham Pipe] who lives over his bookshop, and dreams of romance in Marbella with his glamorous assistant Liz [Sue Walker].
But fate and his family conspire y against him. His aged mother checks her¬self self out of Summer End, his wife buys a needy puppy, his daughter turns up heavily pregnant, his son with crutches and a gangrenous ankle.
Mr Pipe did a nice line in manic exasperation, well supported by Sue Walker as his slightly annoying, stridently Sibylline bit of stuff.
Wendy Padbury-Clark was his long suffering but suspicious spouse, Adam Joyce his laid-back, smirking son, Lisa Jones his feisty daughter.
Some of the loudest laughs went to Sable Corrie as the interfering old body with support stocking and a coarse cackle.
Will Maggie catch the bus to the bulb fields? Will Alec make Hay-on-Wye while the sun shines? Whatever happened to raffia?
Glyn Jones’s polished production was enthusiastically received by a loyal audience; the crazy climax of the third scene was especially well crafted.
Michael Gray - Weekly News
The Queen of Hearts

Weekly News : Thursday January 25th 2007

“A hearty sing song”

Little Waltham Drama Group

You can whip through the nursery rhyme plot of “Queen of Hearts” in a couple of minutes, and they did.

But John Richardson’s magpie adaptation pinched characters, plotlines and settings from all sorts of pantos, and had his hard-working cast break into song at the least excuse.

Amongst the songs broken into were ditties from Dodd, O’Shea and Dubonnet (Wilson, Keppel and Betty not being available), and the walkabout music this year was Joplin, with the promising Richard Stephens at the upright. There was also a magnificent irrelevant “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”

Impossible to do justice here to the two dozen named characters, including two game old Phoenix Birds as the Ugly Sisters, two comedy foreigners as the Brokers’ Men, of whom I would have liked to have seen a bit more, and four excellent juveniles who sang a catchy “Friends” number.

Gareth Blanks enjoyed himself hugely as a ruddy Captain Hook and Abanazer, duetting memorably with Chrissie Gould’s Twankey. Sable Corrie made a suave Ali Baba, while Margaret Chung was a frustrated fairy.

Brian Corrie played the tart-obsessed King with Karen Wray as his Gilbertian Queen, and the dependable Jim Bell as the Knave – not guilty on this occasion.

The script had more twists than groans this year, but it was all great fun, and I liked the story-book scenery, and the Murder She Wrote MC detective who just about pulled the plot together.

Michael Gray

The Odd Couple - LWDG - Memorial Hall, Little Waltham (27/04/2006)
The first thing to say, VERY LOUDLY, is WHAT a difference a good play makes.
Little Waltham Drama Group's choice of "The Odd Couple" in the version written for a predominantly female cast, was positively inspired. Although the play actually dates from 1965, and has been re-cycled in various forms over many years, it still stands up as ajolly good evening's entertainment, crackling with wit, humour and human insight, - and what is more the text provides a steady stream of good lines for everyone of the cast.
I did harbour some initial doubts about how six women would deal with the American accents, and Simon's very distinctive New York/Jewish brand of fast wise-cracking one-liners, but the moment they opened their mouths I knew they were up to the pace.
This was a very enjoyable evening, one of the best I have enjoyed this season,_and my_impressions were confirmed by a happy buzz throughout the full-house audience.
Direction was in the hands of Mags Simmonds, who also directed the Group's two previous Spring productions. Here again it was clear that she had paid enormous attention to detail, in the way she grouped the ladies so naturally but yet always with their faces clearly visible to the audience. The Trivial Pursuit game in the first act carried on with the rapport and camaraderie of long custom seemed the most natural occupation in the world as a background to the main action.
Each lady was very clearly an individual, and each had plenty of good lines making this a really well balanced ensemble. The arrival of the hysterical hypochondriac Florence was greeted by each of them with a varying if typical reaction.
Everything changes after Olive has impulsively offered to share her flat with Florence. Relationships are strained all round, as Florence is clearly irritating everyone. The differing reactions of the six ladies are beautifully handled, from indignation, and plain exasperation, to Florence's air of injured innocence - which of us has not been driven to the brink of murder by someone else's well intentioned fussing.

J.W. North West Essex Theatre Guild
Guys & Dolls - CAODS - Civic Theatre, Chelmsford (01/04/2006)
What a great musical. It was a pleasure to be reminded of the story and the wonderful songs. Sky Masterton, Miss Sarah, Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide. A strong cast, with strong acting, dancing and singing. A temptation by the actors, no doubt under direction, to constantly move around, presumably to fill this glorious stage, did nothing to detract from the fast paced action of this piece, which left the audience, let alone the cast, breathless with the sheer vigour of the performance. Miss Adelaide particularly is to be congratulated on a superb performance. The manner, accent, look, all held throughout the performance to perfection. Another triumph for this most professional amateur group.
Peter Travell

The Gruffalo - Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Take your children to see this how when it's on near you, that's my advice. A lovely story, a cross between fairy tale and pantomime the cast had the audience (Mums and Dads as well as kids) spellbound. A simple story of an adventurous mouse who braves the deep, dark forest and frightens Fox and Owl with tales of an outlandish imaginery creature called the Gruffalo. Imagine how mouse is surprised when suddenly the Gruffalo appears threatening to eat her for a tasty snack. Good fun, music, song dance and a great story.
Peter Travell

Robinson Crusoe - Weekly News Review - Little Waltham
Pantomime at Little Waltham has a long and honourable tradition. All credit to them, this year, for launching an almost untried cast and a new look. Mind you, many of the old hands were on the production team - not only Producer Glyn Jones and Director Peter Travell, but John Richardson and Kim Markwood too. Rehearsals must have seemed like master classes in the ancient art of panto ...
The show was Robinson Crusoe: an anonymous opus, but a long way after De foe. The patchy script had a good few groans, and lots of the old favourites - opening chorus, slapped thighs, Busy Bee.
The choreography was economical but very effective - Sailing, for instance, reprised in a lovely stage picture just before the interval, or the hand-to-hand combat.
The crew of the Mary Rose included Jim Bell's imposing Captain, and Ken Little's cheeky Kenny Crusoe, in a splendid harlequin-inspired costume. Bill Piggott was a shrill Camilla, but interacted well with the audience and was not shy of attacking the lines. Equally effective was Gareth Blanks as a bombastic pirate. An impressive double act from Sable Corrie and Brian, nicely timed and pitched just right - they had a lovely Red Peppers duet in Act Two. Billie Bond was a strong Principal Boy, with Katie Norris as the object of his affections. And a quick mention for Richard Thomas and Adam Joyce in telling cameos.
Richard Langstone was at the keyboard.
Michael Gray

Beauty and the Beast review - By Alison Woollard - Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Newpalm Productions have once again produced this year's panto at the Civic Theatre. Our reviewer Alison Woollard has been to along to see the show.
The Civic's pantomime looks very stylish this year with the clever use of backdrops creating an impressive beast's castle. It's also traditional: Zach Vanderfelt revels in the role of the evil sorcerer and Evelyn McLean provides a spirited and rather bossy good fairy who gets everyone organised. Jenny McGrath is also strong as Beauty and puts more characterisation into this panto heroine than usual. There's the wallpaper slapstick scene and a couple of funny comic songs from the whole cast. The Civic always make good use of the local dancing school and both the teenagers and the tiny tots made the most of their costumes and dances.
What makes this show a little different is the actual story because the love between Beauty and the beast is more complicated and takes longer to develop than in most pantos. The love story was sincerely acted and Chris Middlebrook managed to look dignified even in his evil beast costume.
Faithful to the traditions of panto and done with style.

Cinderella review By Alison Woollard - Harlow Playhouse
Cinderella is this year's panto at the Harlow Playhouse. Reviewer Alison Woollard has been to along to the show.
Philip Dale and Michael Fentiman have come up with another cracking show. It's got all the traditional elements but plenty of heart and style as well.
At two and a half hours it's noticeably shorter than previous Harlow pantos and it zips along at a cracking pace too.
What really comes over is the warmth and enjoyment of all the performers from the main characters to the tiniest tot in the dance routines. The costumes are gorgeous, the dancers energetic and precise and the ponies are real. There were lots of inventive touches to keep everyone involved: The good fairy appears in a shower of pink bubbles, the ugly sisters are preceded on their first entrance by a rush of men in boxer shorts scrambling to get away from them and there was a really sweet dance from the children in the chorus dressed up as grannies and performing with their zimmer frames - yes, it is stolen from the current West End production of The Producers, but stolen with wit and warmth.
Christmas magic for everyone.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs - Cliffs Pavilion - Review by Alison Woollard
Husband and wife, Sam Kane and Linda Lusardi, feature as the wicked step-mother and the handsome prince in this years Panto at the Cliffs Pavillion.
This production often looks like the Disney film with Snow White wearing the traditional apron and puffy sleeves and the dwarfs' cottage looking just as cute. The lighting and music are similarly glossy and tend to project a 'show biz' atmosphere unlike some of the more individual productions elsewhere in the county.
Husband and wife team, Sam Kane and Linda Lusardi feature as the wicked step-mother and the handsome prince. They both give 'star' performances and replace the traditional evil genie and principal boy.
Other 'names' in the cast are Gary Beadle and Kev Orkian. There's a lot of business related to their work outside the panto and I was really aware of them being personalities rather than playing actual roles in the story. The mirror works very well as special effect and some of the dancing is excellent.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - Cliffs Pavilion - 12th-17th September 2005
What a great show. If you've ever watched the Hollywood film and ever worried about how it could ever translate to the stage, worry no more. This production fills the stage with energy. The dancing and singing is superb. The production numbers simply rip up the stage while the songs are alternately sweet and brash but always brilliantly sung. The only note of concern I had with the entire show was with the stage management, which saw scenery being moved unnecessarily during songs, curtains in the wings being flapped aside by performers. That apart and I know it's picky, the show is one to go and see there's nothing to beat it.
Peter Travell

An Evening of Swing - Little Waltham Drama Group - Memorial Hall Little Waltham - 20th-23rd July 2005
As the Sammy Cahn song reminds us, you've either got or you haven't got style.
Little Waltham troupers have that style in spades and last week's visit to their "Premier Nightclub" was a vintage treat.
Rat Pack pics adorned the walls; the stage was a glitzy Fifties bar, all chrome and cocktaol glasses.
The music too, took us back with solos, duets, sextets and choruses from the era of radiogram.
How well these numbers translate to a choral setting; how we miss the Mike Sammes Singers.
Among the highlights were a powerful Mack the Knife, the EmCee and the waitresses hoofing through Putting on the Ritz, an atmospheric version of One for My Baby, and a superb Lady is a tramp from the show's producer, the inimitable June Newman.
The quartet in the pit gave strong support, with the all important sax to the fore.
It certainly made a change from the Magic of the Musicals and the village audience, seated cafe-style round tables, loved every minute.
Michael Gray
(Weekly News)

Jane Eyre - by Charlotte Bronte adpated by Constance Cox - Palace Theatre Southend - 11th-16th July
A super play and a wonderful adaptation of this classic. The whole show literally moves with emotion. The world weary, angry Rochester (Peter Amory) and the innocent but strong Jane Eyre (Sarah Mowat) set the audience simmering with the heat of their emotions.
As the story unfolds we see the depth and breadth of character with a whole host of emotions chasing each other across the footlights keeping the audience rapt and spellbound as we first dislike and then feel sympathy for this most dislikeable of gentlemen. But through all his anger and abruptness there is an innate goodness and modesty in Rochester which was shown with remarkable candour should you care to look beyond the facade of the weary, hard done by youngest brother.
Jane too starts as a little innocent abroad who would not say boo to a goose but very soon we see her mettle as she stands up to Rochester and earns his respect, much to his surprise.
At the end of Act I they confess their love for each other after he has tried unsuccessfully to send her away. The wedding date is set and all is joyful although there is some fearful secret of which Jane is unaware. The mad woman in the West Wing, who made not enough of an appearance in my view, was the fly in the ointment, as she had to be. The sudden appearance of the lawyer Briggs (Bruce Montague) and Mason (Phil Gerrard) put the proverbial 'spanner in the works' and with the marriage abandoned Jane flees in order to preserve their honour. A fire brought about by Rochester's mad wife brings an end to herself and disfigures and maimes him. So he is now free to marry but unable to think of himself any longer as eligible. Jane haunts his every moment he calls out her name in his agony and grief. Across the miles which separate them Jane hears him and returns. She is shocked to find him in such distress and expecting her to refuse he summons his courage and asks her to marry him once again. To his undeniable surprise she agrees and in the final emotional scene he clings to her like a drowning man.
This play really is a two hander with not much else going on with the exception of the housekeeper Mrs Fairfax (Katie Evans) who keeps the story moving along filling the gaps and laying out the story in a quiet, serene way. This role is underrated and overlooked but essential to the plot and was played superbly by Katie Evans.
Peter Amory and Sarah Mowat are to be congratulated an their performances. They brought such humanity and sincereity to the story that the audience in some cases were hard put not to join them in shedding a tear.
Go and see this play when it tours near you. It's well worth the price of the ticket.
Peter Travell (LWDG)

Daisy Pulls It Off - Bishops Stortford Girls High - 7th-9th July 2005
When it was announced at the end of the show that the cast had only 6 weeks to put this whole show together from start to finish the audience were amazed.
What a good show. What confidence these young performers showed. The whole thing from start to finish was simply wonderful.
From the girls of the chorus, giving us a simple understanding of the plot line, to the tap and 'hot water bottle' dancers, not forgetting the singers, who had themselves and us in stitches, the production simply burst with energy.
The 'actors' were great, the acting and characterisation consistent. Concentration at times slipped here and there with a few cues and ringing of bells missed or delayed but nothing impaired the show itself. Special mention must be made of Daisy Meredith (Phillipa Hogg) who as well as having a horrendous number of lines also showed that she can play piano and sing, a true talent. Her erstwhile sidekick Trixie Martin (Bethanie Mitchell) showed thoughout the presentation at the end of the show, for which she played Master of Ceremonies, that in real life she has the confidence and aplomb that she dispayed on stage in character. One last person to pick out as being immensely larger than life, gving the audience someone to laugh with and applaud with was Mr Scoblowski played by Camilla Akers complete with black beard and moustache. This girl brought the house down. She played the audience like a virtuoso never once coming out of character and with the ability to convey feeling and emotion without words. No easy thing.
A very enjoyable evening all round. Well done girls, well done school. I look forward to the next production.
Peter Travell (LWDG)

Lesley Garret in Concert - Cliffs Pavillion Westcliff - 18th June 2005
Stunning, glamourous with a voice to die for.
This sums up the wonderful performance and show put on by Lesley Garrett at The Cliffs Pavillion. Ably backed by The London Symphonia and playing to a packed house she charmed, stirred and shook us until we were left breathless and dizzy with sheer magnificence of her performance.
Songs from Opera, from Shows, hymns and music written especially for her. She never failed to move us with her wonderful voice, exercising a level of range and control which left me open mouthed in admiration.
Couple all this with her showmanship, her ease with the audience while she regaled us with anecdotes and the stunning costumes, of which there were many, showing off her very shapely figure and we have an evening which no one could argue was anything less than magnificent.
Lesley will be touring with the Welsh Opera in a production of The Merry Widow. Don't miss it!
Peter Travell (LWDG)

Carousel (Rodgers & Hammerstein) - Trinity Methodist Music & Drama - 10th - 14th May 2005
This most enjoyable musical play, full of character with some of the most wonderful songs was staged at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford. The sets were lavish the costumes lush and the music wonderful under the auspices of the Musical Director and Conductor Gerlad Hines
The opening of the play left a little to be desired. The overture was set against a backdrop of people at the fair. Unfortunately, it went on a little too long and while the chorus made every effort to entertain with various antics the audience became restless and willed it to end and the story proper to start.
Overall the production lacked pace with far too many meaningful silences and gestures that translated into embarrasing pauses where we weren't sure whether a prompt was required.
Billy Bigalow (Brian Lovell) lacked the stature and hardness to make a serious fist of the part and his singing voice was sometimes too gentle for the part. However, he made a most complete job of 'My Boy Bill' and in the final scenes the tragedy of his love for his wife and daughter were most poignant.
Julie Jordan once again lacked the singing voice for this part, although she played the part most demurely and made a very nice picture with Billy in their scenes together.
Deborah Anderson was a convincing Carrie. A fine actress, always in character, with a fine singing voice, very well complemented by her partner Enoch Snow (Derek Lee)whose fine tenor voice made the most of the most wonderful songs.
Mrs Mullins played by Jacqui Tear had the most delightful voice, carrying such fine songs as June is Bustin' Out All Over with such style and charisma that we could ignore the sometimes awkward choreography of the chorus and the finale number of You'll Never Walk Alone carried such warmth and emotion that several members of the audience were brushing tears from their eyes.
All in all a jolly good show redeemed by some of the best musical numbers to come out of Broadway. Always worth seeing, this show remains one of the best on offer.
Peter Travell (LWDG)

Pushing aside all superstitions, it being Friday the 13th! Peter, Billie, Karen and I went to see our own Fleshcreep, (Gareth Blanks) in Carousel at the Civic theatre in Chelmsford. Though a little slow in places (not in any scenes with Gareth though!!) costumes and singing were lovely! I resisted temptation to wave a football scarf over my head when they sang You’ll Never Walk Alone!
Julie (LWDG)

When We Are Married - Stone Street Players
A few of us recently supported member Brenda Wilkinson when she appeared as Maria Helliwell in the Stone Street Players production of "When we are Married." They are a Halstead based group and perform in the Empire Theatre, Halstead. We envied them their wide stage and very comfortable theatre seats. Like many amateur groups they experienced a crisis one week before production, a cast member was taken into hospital and someone had to step in to take on the role of Henry Ormoroyd, the photograper. He did a marvelous job even managing to appear on stage without a script. We also noticed that Jayne Tarbun a past member of L.W.D.G. was the prompt. Good to see she's still active in amateur dramatics.
June Franzen (LWDG)

Season's Greetings - Little Waltham Drama Group - 27th to 30th April 2005

Alan Ayckbourn’s deceptively simple comedy about a Christmas family gathering is actually a thinly-veiled comentary on a family’s descent into meltdown. In Little Waltham Drama Group’s production, director Mags Simmonds catches the mood and tempo exactly right – a Christmas where all the emotions boil over. She is assisted in this by a talented and disciplined cast. They worked well together to maintain high-octane pace and believable characters.All the key memorable spots were spot on and delivered with great timing, the very funny flying pigs puppet show, the groping under the Christmas tree and the line-up on the stairs.
Martin Final is perfect as the zealous old bigot with wild eyes and gun, who shoots the hapless writer, Richard Butler.
Jenny Broadway has a superb play, journeying from drunken hypochondriac to alluring femme fatale.
Her husband, the failed doctor and puppeteer, is played with earnest forlorness by Mike Lee.
Simon Tolliday and Susan Butler are the failed couple, there to make their friends feel good, and the way Susan dealt with the role was real, pathetic and funny.
For me Billie Bond as the wife seeking love as an escape from a humdrum existence, really is the business. She captivated the stage whenever she appeared and was the pivot upon which the play turned.
Jim Hutchon - Weekly News.

Far Pavilions - Shaftesbury Theatre 2005
The Show that Never Was!!!
Having read the promotion material for the Far Pavilions, the new West End musical about a British officer and an Indian princess, I was more than happy to make a group booking for 13 on 2nd April!
So, there we were, having met in My Old Dutch, the pancake house in Holborn, standing outside the Shaftesbury Theatre, along with a few hundred others, where we were informed that the performance was cancelled as the leading man had been involved in an accident and the understudy was “unable to perform”. Dejected and downhearted some went home, some went off in search of other shows and some went to the cinema.
It was an interesting, if surprising evening!
Karen Wray (LWDG)