Gay's Beggars' Opera [a bit of a change from The Student Prince] is tellingly referenced in Ayckbourn's unblinking look at the Am Dram world, A Chorus of Disapproval.
In Peter Rowe's production for the New Wolsey and the Mercury, Guy Jones was played by leading light of Eastern Angles Julian Harries, in a reading which got all the laughs without sacrificing the sadness.
The 'director', whose distant apprenticeship on the professional stage - “a lot of it in Minehead” - is both a fond memory and a nightmare albatross, was a larger than life Sion Tudor Owen, with Katy Secombe [daughter of the legendary Harry] in good voice, and often touching, as his “Swiss Army wife”.
Many familiar Mercury faces made up the motley company of PALODS – Roger Delves Broughton and Jill Cardo as the talentless stalwarts [“unless you say 'well done' all the time they won't turn up,” moans director Dafydd]. And Christine Absalom was the redoubtable Rebecca, wife to self-made man Paul Leonard.
I liked Charles Davies's nudge-nudge swinger, though I feel that the wife-swap sequence, though hilarious, really belongs in a different play.
Come on, you've seen this world from both sides of the footlights ! Is this how it really is ? Well, no, not really. Sure, I've waited in “ghastly, smelly little kitchens”, and seen the back row of the chorus desperately trying to recall the words, or the steps, or the show. But as I said to the Rotarians, in my considerable experience almost any other group – bell-ringers, say, or bee-keepers – would afford more opportunities for hanky-panky than the would-be luvvies of the arts scene.