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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Thirty Nine Steps - Last entry in the Rep 2011/12 Film Season Theatre Stakes.(Opens 13th July)

I love theatre but I love horseracing more. So a bit of promised nonsense to rise to the challenge of the Rep's film season. When you have a blog you can post any old rubbish. Roy Hall.

THE DUNSTABLE REP HANDICAP THEATRE STAKES (GRADE ONE)    For theatre productions taking place at the Little Theatre, Dunstable during the 2011/2012 season. Minimum rating 150.  (Ratings based on expectations, play-writer-director-cast, prior to production.)

1.      STILL LIFE  (180) Noel Coward (ACT Theatre Company)

Classy pedigree.  Sire Alan Clarke; Dam Megan Clarke. Late supplementary entry due to fine form shown on the gallops. Faultless jumper which stays well. Has been clocking very good times on the tracks.

2.      PLAZA SUITE (175) Neil Simon (Dunstable Rep – Sept)   

Prone to make the odd mistake but finishes its races well. American pedigree and a bit fragile. Acts on any going except heavy and runs in snatches.

3.      A CHRISTMAS CAROL (180) Charles Dickens (Dunstable Rep – Nov)            

Trainer Alistair Brown has a great record in these races and his flamboyant style is reflected in his horses. This one jumps impeccably but with a tendency to move off a straight course. Flashy performer at best but prone to throw in the odd wobbly. Very good in a finish.

4.  CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (170) Tennessee Williams (Dunstable Rep – Jan)                  
     Another American import which has improved under trainer Chris Lavin’s care. Inexperienced main pilot in this class but gallop reports suggest this won’t be a problem. Prone to sweating.

5.  A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (175) Stephen Sondheim (Luton Light)
     A few setbacks in training but trainer Mathew Orr is determined to get this one ready for its late supplementary entry. Indifferent starter but improves the further he goes. Can cope with all goings and has won on heavy snow in the past.

6.  BLITHE SPIRIT (185) Noel Coward (Dunstable Rep – Mar)           
      Another classy entry with enormous potential to cut it in this grade. Has shown a lot of spirit in training and Joe Butcher reckons it will make all the others go. Subject of heavy gambles as stable staff frantically peddle their bikes to the local Ladbrokes.

7. THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY (175) Patricia Highsmith (Dunstable Rep – May)
      Murderously talented but prone to tail flash when under pressure. Second entry for trainer Alan Clarke and has a lot of class. Not the safest jumper and blinkers applied to sharpen her up. Gets the usual filly allowance and it might make the difference.

8. THE THIRTY NINE STEPS (170) John Buchan (Dunstable Rep – July)
     Yet to have a run but Bekka Prideaux is very keen on this one. Strong and experienced jockey and subject of some shrewd bets in a very open market.

     Betting forecast. 7-2 Blithe Spirit. 4-1 A Christmas Carol. 4-1 Still Life. 5-1 The Talented Mr Ripley. 7-1 A little Night Music. 8-1 Plaza Suite. 10-1 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 12-1 The Thirty Nine Steps.

    Spotlight view: A tricky race made even more complicated by the supplementary entries of Still Life and A Little Night Music. The original film season six all have their merits even if The Thirty Nine Steps has yet to show its promise on the track. Off time is 7.45pm on Friday 13th July and whichever wins it should be an absorbing race. Full race analysis will be recorded here when the final saddles are off and deserved rub downs have taken place. And, boy, do I like rub downs. Roy Hall

The Thirty Nine Steps – Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the book by John Buchan.

The Little Theatre, High Street South, Dunstable. 7.45pm

13th – 21st July 2012.

Tickets £12 (Members guests £10)

Box Office 07940 105864    dunstablerepboxoffice@gmail.com

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

St Andrews Players -The Drowsy Chaperone (Full Review)

St Andrews 60th Anniversary production, The Drowsy Chaperone, is my sort of musical. Roughly translated that means it ain’t one. None of your Rodgers and Hammerstein thigh slapping cowboys here. It is more a play with an imagined musical, a pretty naff one, seen through the eyes of one of life’s natural losers. He sits in his chair, boils his kettles, shouts at phones he refuses to answer, and plays his records. He drinks small brandies from half bottles, such folk do, and constantly pops pills. Didn’t see him doing the latter, but such dysfunctional nerds have them in their cardigan somewhere. Trust me, I am an expert on neurotics. And the record he plays for us is a recording of his mother’s favourite. The fictional 1928 Broadway musical, The Drowsy Chaperone. Never heard of it? Well neither have I or anyone else. But the Man in Chair (a beautifully crafted portrayal from Steve Peters) and his performers brought it all to highly comic and inventive life. In other words its creators, headed by Canadian actor Bob Martin, had conceived an absolute gem of a theatrical experience. It was full of more surprises than you usually get in half a dozen shows. You gasped and giggled in equal proportions. If you missed out, it was your loss.
That’s not to say I was completely bowled over by the production. A greater contrast between the isolated refuge of our storyteller and his whiz-bang performers’ platform would have been more pleasing. This set had marginally too much of a stage musical look to it and reality and imagination were only partially defined. But I am picky, you all know that. Explains why I also sniffed at obvious stage markings, not a good idea in a raked theatre, and the occasional dodgy mike. But, unsurprisingly, it all mattered hardly a jot. Our Man in Chair wheeled out those performers and fleshed them out. You learnt about the weird musical characters, the Broadway acting set and their bizarre friends and enemies, and you learnt about the fictional actors playing them. This anorak in the chair knew everything about them. You know the saying ‘he should get out more’, well they coined it for him.
He played the record and the actors twirled and sang in a glitzy  wedding plot I have no intention of outlining. You wouldn’t believe it anyway. The musical wasn’t important, only the magnificent way it was performed. If the record stuck and repeated, the actors stuck and repeated. If he stopped the record he stopped the actors, there were some superb freezes, and in a hilarious opening to act two we got the wrong musical. Something about the Great Wall of China. I kid you not. I have never heard an audience laugh so much. And that included this cynic. They topped it all with a wedding in the sky that was rich in theatrical imagination. I mean, two ironing boards and an electric fan? I told you that you should have seen it. In a large cast Joanna Yirrell stood out for a portrayal redolent of Hollywood Queen Ann Sheridan, lovely acting and singing and super hair, and Sarah Albert for the dizziest blonde I have ever seen on the local stage. Her Kitty was an absolute joy. Not often I get a chance to say things like that in a review.
Shan’t single out the others, this was very much a team piece, other than to say that Richard Cowling was a brave and beautifully over the top Aldolpho, and Andy Whalley a spiky, cigar chewing, Feldzieg. Beth Thomas conducted a lively unseen band, Jo Harris made them all dance their socks off, and Frances Hall directed. Hey ain’t I married to her? Makes not a jot of difference other than, unlike other directors, she gets the chance to kick this self opinionated old bastard out of bed.
But what about the Drowsy Chaperone? Isn’t she what the show is all about? Actually she isn’t and although Sharon Robinson played her alcoholic lines with pithy aplomb she is a bit of a marginal comic character. If I had the title role in this I would have thrown at least three strops. It’s really ‘The Man in Chair Musical’ but that’s even less catchy than the one chosen. The Chaperone, drowsy and red, was just one of the crazy team he conjured up. And from that first dangerous moment, a long and clever speech delivered in the dark, you just knew you were going to enjoy it. Not all the performances were top notch, I’m not blind even if I don’t want to be kicked out of bed, but they blended with style in a show which deserves every award those astute Americans gave it.
St Andrews Players did it justice and that, on your 60th Anniversary, can’t be bad.
Roy Hall

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Drowsy Chaperone (St Andrews Players)

The Drowsy Chaperone is my sort of musical. Probably because it isn’t one. It’s more a play about a nerdish and lonely man bringing a pretty naff one to life. It’s awfulness makes it almost wonderful. At least to him. Stand outs amongst the cast conjured for our entertainment were Joanna Yirrell as a Hollywood queen, Sarah Albert as the obligatory vacuous blonde and Steve Peters as the beautifully crafted Man in Chair. Not everything worked but overall I loved it. If you didn’t go because you had never heard of it then you missed a treat. Roy Hall

Full review to follow