Friday, January 24, 1986

Snow White

Little Waltham’s pantomime is always worth waiting for – this year’s is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, written and produced by David Madams.
David confesses that he’s not really a panto fan, but he tells me that he’s tried to write something he wouldn’t mind seeing himself.
It did have the awful jokes, the Oh No He Isn’t routines, and Heigh-Ho, but this Snow White was no ordinary pantomime.
Writer/director David Madams cleverly blended the traditional story with an approach equally palatable to the grown-ups in the audience.
The literary references ranged from the Goons and ITMA to Dylan Thomas. Among the less orthodox characters were Marcel the axe-man [Wally Greaves] and the Queen’s daily mirror [Glyn Jones]. Samantha Brannon made a dashing prince in a white tuxedo, Christine Moor was a deliciously evil Isolda, and Rachel Whitely managed to look just right as the heroine whilst coping very professionally as the tongue-in-cheek Seven Go Mad In Waltham dialogue.
The famed Little Waltham chorus line were most amusing as terminally bored Ladies in Waiting.
The ticklish problem of the dwarfs was ingeniously solved by having the little fellows eat Marmite sarnies – the growing-up spread – and turning into a very polished comedy team. The children were led by Matthew Newman as Bossy, who turned into Alastair Irving, an entirely incredible hulk.
“They don’t call this amateur for nothing,” muttered Ringo when the Heath Robinson lights went out. Most unfair – the cast and audience rallied in impromptu community singing, so enjoyable that Eliot and Snow White’s babe in arms were quite sorry when power was restored, thanks to the valiant efforts of Edwin Leach and Ron Hancock, the unflappable stage manager.

Tuesday, January 14, 1986

One of the best in twenty years

Troupe – Mercury Studio

Troupe is an amateur theatre company formed to present small-scale plays of merit. It draws its members from a wide area; all of them work for other local groups.
Eddie Mackay, the group’s inspiration, has directed many successful productions for Chelmsford Theatre Workshop and Braintree Opera.
Troupe’s second production, David Storey’s Home, was presented recently in the Mercury Studio.
It was one of the best amateur productions I have seen in twenty years.
Under Eddie Mackay’s direction, the excellent cast achieved a level of ensemble playing that many regional repertory companies might envy.
Set in the grounds of a mental hospital, the play is a formidable undertaking, The meaning and the mood are buried beneath superficially banal exchanges between a quartet of patients.
Robin Warnes, well known for his work with Latchingdon and Little Baddow amongst others, played Jack. It was a moving performance, the tragedy thinly disguised beneath the suave exterior. His friend Narry was Tony Saitta, who made a totally convincing old gentleman.
The loud ladies who interrupt their elegy for the old England were imaginatively interprested by Sara Green as Kathleen and Barbara Pears as Marjoie, who gave a performance that was a masterpiece of observation – every gesture, every expression contributing to this sympathetic study of mental disorder. The cast was completed by Rupert Jones as a monosyllabic youth.
Troupe are fortunate to have such a showcase for their talents, especially in this piece, where the mood could easily be broken by insensitive lighting or a tacky set.

Monday, January 06, 1986

Challenging year for Workshop

Chelmsford Theatre Workshope goes into 1986

1986 will be a challenging year for Chelmsford Theatre Workshop. Now the facelift is practically finished, they can channel their energy into productions.
The season to come includes the long-awaited Amadeus, Ibsen’s Ghosts and Coward’s Present Laughter. And regular workshop sessions [currently on Shakespeare’s Othello] youth group and members’ evenings.
A convivial group of members whiled away the waiting for the turn of the year with a neat little review called Odds and Ends ‘85.
Much of the material dated from the heyday of the genre, when Alan Melville was the last word in satire and the Lord Chamberlain’s Office rules the West End.
The watershed Beyond the Fringe was represented by The End of the World and Alan Bennett’s classic Take a Pew. Mr Bennett also contributed The English Way of Death, a no-nonsense Northern look at cremation, faithfully rendered by Mona Wright.
Tom Morris did Brian Thompson’s wicked fantasy about pot-smoking at a Silver Wedding, as well as a naughtly monologue, with mime, called Benjy the Robot Wire-Walker. Amongst other rare delights were David Madams in drag, courageously recalling Coward’s Waiting in the Wings, Sheila Lauder in the Loo at the Ritz and Alan Maryon as a lubricious old lawyer in Jealous Judge.
If you’re thinking of joining CTW at the Old Court, either as a member or as a member of the audience, ring Secretary Barbara Newton on Chelmsford ****** - you’ll be made very welcome.

Friday, January 03, 1986

Follow the Star

Follow the Star – Young Gen at the Cramphorn Theatre

Ray Jeffery’s Follow The Star ends it sell-out run at the Cramphorn tomorrow [Saturday].
An enthusiastic young cast made the most of the big production numbers: every Time You’re Good You Grow A Bit, Clap Your Hands And Be Cheery, and the frenetic Tension, but in the small theatre the more intimate numbers, too, achieved their true significance in this light-hearted look at the Nativity.
Jeremy Cowell made a benevolent old Olly, served by assorted angels, including Paul Dicker as the lovable Gabby, Stephen Emery as Chicago, the hood with the heart of gold, with Emma Watts, Helen Weatherly and Tim Clements as Angy, Jelly and Lofty.
Herod, the demon king, was bloodcurdlingly brought to life by Lee Threadgold; alexiaa Burland and Nick Ross played Mary and Joseph.
The Wise Men were nicely characterised, and beautifully dressed, but almost upstaged by their cuddly camels.
The imaginatively conceived costumes, with lots of changes for everyone, made the angels look like kids from Fame, with leg-warmers, headbands and mittens.
Ray’s star-shaped set was ingenious, with spiral stairs and a slide linking the levels. My only reservation was that the band, excellent musicians, were too prominent visually right behind the acting area.

The Regent Panto

Pro Panto’s 
Puss in Boots 
at the Regent Theatre

I bet the Regent thought it would never see another panto – it’s the Coral Social Club now, but the original boxes and the ornate mouldings are still there behind the fruit machines and the bingo tables in the orchestra stalls.
Pro Panto brought their pocket Puss in Boots there last Sunday afternoon, woriking wonders with the mantelpiece stage and a lively audience. The whole show was lit by a single float, which brought an air of Victorian melodrama to the proceedings.
The style was Play School rather than Palladium, with no jokes for the grown-ups, and songs kept to a merciful minimum.
Chirpy performances from a small cast [six, I think – there was no programme and some deft doubling]. The Queen of Cat Fairyland, with her fishbone wand, Puss and her friend Jack-In-A-Box, Ginger the Magic Rabbit, Thunderbolt the Demon King in a horned half-mask, in cahoots with the evil Baron Hardnose, Busy Lizzie, the maid of all work, Princess Laura and Tom, the Marquis of Carabas.
I hadn’t set foot in the Regent since The Towering Inferno. It was good to have a last look inside the town’s oldest surviving theatre – thanks to Coral and the enterprising Pro Panto company.