Review: ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’
The Woldingham Players have just finished their run of Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s “A Bunch of Amateurs”, which was well received. Local critic wrote:
From Theo Spring 31st October 2018:
“It’s a cruel world, amateur dramatics” is the pithy observation made by David Martin as Denis Dobbins, as he tries to fathom the machinations of the on/off production of King Lear in which he is involved.
The Stratford St John Players are a fading company, along with the fading of the community of their village. They have a plan to resuscitate both by putting on a full scale production of King Lear and by inviting a well-known celebrity to take the lead.
Jefferson Steel’s fame is also fading, from being the grand American movie star to few roles. His agent gets him this booking, thinking that it is Lear for the RSC at Stratford. Chester Stern’s larger than life Steel is a foul-mouthed bully who initially expects star treatment but who slowly reverts to a better human being as, after various tantrums and vicissitudes he mucks in with the very amateur Players. Bombastic, demanding and with a well-sustained accent, he strides the stage, delivering many of the comic lines written by the playwrights Ian Hislop and Nick Newman.
Amdram groups do certainly find casting difficult, with lack of numbers as much as experience, and The Players have had to double or triple up their Lear roles.
It is Dorothy who, determined to save The Players, takes up Mary’s bright idea of inviting a celeb to join them. As the director and doubling as Fool Sarah Greenwood’s Dorothy is enthusiastic, mostly organised and does everything in her power to pander to Steel with both comic, serious and, at times, troubled, results. Steel, a known womaniser, makes the odd move on her with more comedy ensuing.
Steel demands a five-star hotel in which to stay. What he gets is Mary’s B & B. Berry Butler’s Mary is a fan of Steel’s, frequently endowing him with success in well-known films in which he never appeared. Initially star struck, it is Mary who is the cause of inaccurate headline news which accuses Steel of taking liberties with Lauren, the Marketing Manager of their sponsor – a brewer with an ability to re-name his beers at will – thus, amongst others we get Lear’s Beer. Doubling as Goneril and Regan, the role is played with earnest enthusiasm which ends contritely when her inaccurate accusations are explained.
Are there ever Prima Donna’s in Amdram? Sadly, yes, and The Players have Nigel who desperately wanted the role of Lear and aided Steel’s newspaper defamation. Colin Brown gave Nigel wonderful diction and his underhand conspiracy was well delivered. The aforementioned Denis Dobbins added more comedy with his various suggestions as to how, in his role as Gloucester, his eyes could be put out.
The newspaper furore was all down to a misunderstanding about treatment for Steel’s bad back which Catherine Elliott as the glamourous Lauren executed so well, finally helping to save the day as Goneril. Also stepping in at the last minute was Steel’s estranged daughter Jessica ,Heather Hannaford delivering a stroppy character finally forgiving her father and agreeing to play a Cordelia which Lear was actually able to lift, dead, in his arms.
A play with six scenes in Act 1 and eleven in Act 2 is demanding on a set designer. Oh for a Revolve to speed up the many changes. The design by David and Pippa Martin did work, however with its impressive barn for the rehearsals and a low thrust to house the B & B. The transformation of the barn to the theatre was excellent.
With its dialogue from Lear intermingled with the script, some music and splendid Lear costumes by Berry Butler and the Miller Centre, donned with impressive speed at the end, the production, directed by Pippa Martin will undoubtedly increase in pace from my first night visit and continue to deliver some delicious comedy.
Write-up: Acted Play Reading on 22nd February 2018
The Players performed a witty play called ‘Key for Two’ written by John Chapman and David Freeman renowned for their hilarious comedies. This play was produced at the Miller Centre recently and three of their actors were co-opted by our Producer Christine Bower for our enaction of the first act of this skit on human relationships – all very offbeat.
The setting was the inside of an elegant flat in Brighton inhabited by Harriet, a divorcee living on her own, played by Allison Blair. Can you imagine the ‘goings-on’ that might ensue when the hostess entertains two married gentlemen callers on different days of the week, plus her friend Anne whose marriage to Richard, a vet from New Zealand, is under strain; parts played by Colin Brown, Ewen Rose, Sue Simpson and Reg Anderson respectively.
The reading was most entertaining with lots of mime, appropriate confused movements and mistaken identities. The actors and the audience enjoyed themselves immensely.
Congratulations to Christine for a carefully thought out production including a multitude of props! The North Downs Golf Club was our venue with tasty refreshments provided. Altogether a fun evening.
For further information contact one of the Officers:
David Martin – 01737 763395, firstname.lastname@example.org
Berry Butler – 01883 652448, email@example.com
Colin Brown – 01883 652005, moc.n1542800109sm@nw1542800109orbpm1542800109uj1542800109
History of the Society
Woldingham’s dramatic society was founded in 1927 and, with only pause in wartime, has been active with productions every year. We aim to produce one or two full-length plays every year at the well-equipped Woldingham Village Hall – in the past occasional musicals, but these days classic drama, thrillers, comedy and farce. We enter annual one-act play drama festivals as often as we can, principally the Southern Counties Drama Festival and since 2010 the Leatherhead Drama Festival.
We have had some notable successes at these. In recent years Blue Remembered Hills reached the semi-finals of the All England Festjval in 2004, the Dear Departed won at Leatherhead in 2010 and A Little Box of Oblivion was the best adult performance at the Southern Counties in 2017.
We welcome guest actors and they have contributed greatly to some of our productions in recent years. We are always on the lookout for new members, actors, back-stagers and anyone who is keen to contribute.
A regular feature of our programme is play-readings, all acted nowadays. We try to hold 3 or 4 each year and they afford the opportunity for aspiring actors to get a taste of the fulfilment that can be enjoyed.