Go Back For Murder – June 2013

Experience: 7/10

By Agatha Christie

Directed by Joe Harmston

Agatha Christie Theatre Company

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Friday 14th June 2013

No programs? What do you mean, no programs? We had to be content with a photocopied cast list and actors’ CVs – no details of the creative team, background info, nor any interesting and entertaining articles. I had to get the essential details from the flyer – good job Steve has a penchant for collecting such things.

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Miss Nightingale – June 2013

Experience: 7/10

By Matthew Bugg

Directed by Peter Rowe

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Thursday 6th June 2013

This was an enjoyable musical burlesque, a bit like Funny Girl does Cabaret in WWII London. A young woman, Maggie Brown, was trying to make it as a singer while working during the day. Her composer friend George was a Jew who fled Germany before the Nazis made it impossible to get out. He was also gay and earning a bit on the side as a rent boy. One close encounter with a posh chap turned into a close encounter with a policeman, as George allowed himself to be caught to save the other man’s reputation. This good deed was returned later, when the posh chap, Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe, turned out to be the owner of a new nightclub who was looking for talent to entertain his discerning clientele. Maggie and George were a perfect fit, and once Frank got over his concern that George was trying to blackmail him, the three of them developed a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Four Farces – May 2013

Experience: 6/10

By – see below

Directed by Jonathan Kemp

Company: European Arts Company

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Wednesday 8th May 2013

This was a good collection of one-act farces by Victorian writers. We’d seen one of them before – A Most Unwarrantable Intrusion – and being a Gilbert and Sullivan fan I was very keen to see Box And Cox, the basis for Sullivan and FC Burnand’s light opera Cox And Box. The cast was limited to three actors – Richard Latham, John O’Connor and Asta Parry – so the farces had been selected with that limitation in mind, and it was good fun to see the actors take a variety of roles throughout the evening.

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The Virgin In The Ice – March 2013

Experience: 6/10

By Ellis Peters

Adapted, designed and directed by Michael Lunney

Company: Middle Ground

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Friday 29th March 2013

Fortunately I’m already a fan of the Cadfael books, as this rather choppy adaptation of Ellis Peter’s The Virgin In The Ice wouldn’t have encouraged me to become one. Middle Ground did their best, but it’s hard to transpose detective fiction successfully to the stage – Agatha Christie adapted several of her own books to make sure they worked – and despite the clever use of video for backgrounds, maps, etc., there was still a lot of stage furniture to be wheeled on and off between quite short scenes. Even with the help of an abundance of monks, this took some time and inevitably lost momentum.

I won’t go over the story again; they were pretty faithful to the book, and the scene at the robbers’ stronghold was very well done. With so much of the action being on the top of a tall structure we couldn’t see it very well, but the dialogue was clear enough. Gareth Thomas was fine as Cadfael himself, and there was good support from Paul Hassall as Hugh Beringar and Daniel Murray as the young man, Yves Hugonin. But with so much story to tell, the other characters were sketchy at best, although I wouldn’t criticise any of the actors as I did feel they weren’t helped by the adaptation.

We enjoyed ourselves well enough – as I said, we’re fans of the books – and I did have a few sniffles at the end when Cadfael came face to face with his son. A good effort, but not Middle Ground’s best work.

© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

A Cricket Match – March 2013

Experience: 6/10

By Alan Ayckbourn

Directed by Patric Kearns

Company: Talking Scarlet

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Wednesday 13th March 2013

This is a version of Ayckbourn’s Intimate Exchanges; we’ve seen four others before, so we were keen to see how this one played out. The weather problems may have contributed to the small attendance, but even so the cast gave us a good performance, and it was an enjoyable enough evening. I found myself wishing for a full-on production sometime, with all the parts played by different actors, but that’s just a pipe dream for the moment. It would also be nice to have an Intimate Exchanges marathon sometime, but again I’ll have to wait.

This version took us down the route of an affair between Celia and Miles. Miles was married to Rowena, a free spirit type, while Celia was married to Toby, Miles’ best friend, who owed his job as headmaster of a local school to Miles’ role as chairman of the board of governors. Miles contrived to see Celia alone for dinner – she thought it would be a foursome – and made his play, ending up in the shed with his trousers round his ankles. Their affair was common gossip, and while Miles eventually returned to Rowena, Celia was stuck with an unsympathetic Toby.

The third act gave us the cricket match. It’s difficult with only two actors to show us all the necessary characters, but these two did very well. I did find myself distracted by the lack of accurate scoring at times – always a drawback when putting cricket on stage – but the development of the relationships was pretty clear and by this time the audience had warmed up a bit so there was more laughter as well. Stephen Beckett was particularly good when it came to Miles’ hesitant and bumbling way of talking; his ‘blah, blah, blah’ noises when fast forwarding through the speech he was rehearsing were very funny.

© 2013 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Bugle Boy – June 2012

7/10

Original concept and book by Den Stevenson

Directed by Bruce James

Bruce James Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Thursday 28th June 2012

One thing we were sure of before we left for the theatre tonight – the music was going to be good! And it was, too, with a fifteen-piece band on stage to give us a rich, full sound throughout the evening. Three of the band left their seats at times to play other characters and contribute vocals, while Ian Knauer and Lisa Lynch, who played Glenn Miller and his wife Helen, also sang in character. With so many on stage, there wasn’t much of set, just a large screen above and behind the band, and a few furnishings as required for some of the scenes. The actors played the train journeys on tour by carrying suitcases and  jiggling a lot, and the whole story was framed by an interview with Helen telling the story of Glenn’s life on a radio program. The costumes were all good, and with the music really getting us ‘In The Mood’, we had a great time.

Ian Knauer was fine as Glenn Miller, having just the right degree of stiffness as he stood conducting the band. Lisa Lynch’s voice was a bit harsh for me, too brassy in the wrong way, but Maddie Cole was a great singer – she did the rest of the woman’s parts – and she was the only one we could hear clearly above the band. Of course they were all miked up, but then that’s a necessity these days, and much less strain on the vocal cords. I sniffled a good deal, especially when they announced the loss of the plane that he’d been on, and also during the final montage of pictures, and quite a few other times as well; just a big softie, me. They certainly got a good response from the audience; given the average age in Worthing, that’s not a surprise, but I hope they get an equally warm welcome wherever they play – they deserve it.

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Murder Mistaken – April 2012

6/10

By Janet Green

Directed by Bruce James

Company: Bruce James Productions

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Wednesday 4th April 2012

An old one, this, which we’d seen many years before. Steve remembered it, I didn’t, but there weren’t many twists to unravel in this psychological ‘thriller’. A man kills his much older wife for her money, only to find that he’s not as well off as he thought he would be. Another rich woman comes along – will she meet the same fate? Meanwhile another tempting female with money turns up, and we’re wondering who will do what to whom? With moments to spare, will the murderer be revealed in time, or will he succeed in getting the money he craves through another murder? Decent performances all round in this fairly average will-he-get-away-with-it (the last we’ll be seeing from this company, as it turns out).

© 2012 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me