Sunday, November 29, 2015


Writtle Cards in the Village Hall

Among this year's festive invitations: The Nutcracker on Ice, and The Sword in the Stone reworked as a rock'n'roll panto. But nothing quite so outrageous as this – fictitious – entertainment on offer in Writtle.
Times are hard for Little Grimley Amateur Dramatic Society. Their ranks are thinning, talent is in short supply and audiences seem to prefer to spend their Saturday nights in front of the box. Hence these desperate measures. A sex panto – though I think Jim Davidson got there first with his smutty Sinderella – and a monstrous mash-up of talent shows off the telly.
The first play – Last Panto in Little Grimley – sees members of the group debating, very amusingly, the way forward. Four lovely performances here: Jean Speller as the hapless Joyce, Paulette Harris as the overbearing Margaret, Daniel Curley as the “ape man” stage manager and Nick Caton, loudly booed by the audience, as the ruthless director. The wonky word-processor gag seems lame, but there were many hilarious moments, not least the very recognizable round of “diary bingo”.
There may be trouble ahead” warns Nat King Cole at the start of the second piece. Same characters, but renamed, recast and relocated to Writtle. From the subs bench we have Beth Crozier being overbearing, and new signing Marge Naylor as Joy, compelled to perform on roller skates, just like they never did in Cats. Jim Crozier is the autocratic dictator this time – a fine oratorical monologue – and, getting lots of laughs as the lad Barry, Chris Rogerson, wisely creating a character as far removed as possible from the consummate comedy of Mr Curley, whose use of a banana was a masterclass in hilarity. The choreographed scene changes work well, and I love the inflatable Tonioli on the judging panel.
Post-match stats – number of prompts – something of a hostage to fortune, perhaps, as is the cutting criticism of Simon Dupont, reviewer for another paper, who pens the kind of poisonous piece I shall write just before I retire ...
It's not Noises Off, or The Play That Goes Wrong, or even the Farndale Ladies. But it is a wickedly well observed look behind the amdram scenes, slickly directed by Liz Curley, and a great hit with the packed house in the Village Hall.

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