I started this blog just over a year ago. Previous attempts (two) were singularly unsuccessful. Hits were low (none and three) and my pitiful attempts to be the next mumsnet or guido fawkes were mercifully strangled shortly after birth. Was no one interested in the closure of my local post office or the dangerously incipient spread of unsalted biscuits and crisps? Clearly not. Or not from me on cumbersome and complicated sites. I nearly gave up. But the hankering to blog was clearly there and I made a third attempt. Anton Chekhov said that theatre was his mistress (medicine was his wife) and, in a way, I suppose it is mine. Whatever my other interests, it has dogged me all my life. So why not give it a try I said. A few folks who should know better said they missed my paper reviews and, who knows, I might get a few hits to make it worthwhile. A year on and the numbers make me blink. Nearly five thousand and climbing. You actor folks may not always like or agree with what I write but at least you have a look. Having your own opinion confirmed, whether on a scintillating new local star or an oik who lost his script, is clearly much more fun than musing on unsalted biscuits.
In my first year I have stuck my oar into over twenty presentations. Not an earth shattering number but you have to pay the gas and whisky bills, the latter anyway, before forking out on theatre tickets. That’s my excuse for being a lazy sod. If I see it, I feel inclined to blog it and these days inclinations, of any ilk, come along fairly infrequently. Hasn’t stopped me seeing everything the boys and girls of Dunstable Rep and Wheathampstead Players pushed out. Their classy and cosy venues account for about half of my output. Wheathampstead have yet to hit the theatrical heights overall but in Irene Morris (Broken Glass, Losing Louis), Sara Payne (Time of my Life), and Jan Westgarth (Time of my Life), they show they have some bloody good actresses. And in Sarah Brindley (Broken Glass, Losing Louis) they have an exceptional one. I like my local lot down the B653 and I have a feeling it won’t be long before they get an overdue rave. The quality is there; just needs something extra to make it gell like it did in the past with The Winslow Boy and The Cemetery Club. Dunstable Rep sometimes have the same problem. They regularly turn out some individual crackers, most notably Joe Butcher (Plaza Suite), Angela Goss (Plaza Suite and Blithe Spirit), and Phil Baker (A Christmas Carol), in productions which failed to totally impress. But they cram a lot in at the Rep and in the ‘Film Season’ ones that did tick most of my boxes Dave Corbett (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Justin Doherty (The Talented Mr Ripley) scored heavily for the boys and Liz Caswell (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and Jenna Ryder-Oliver (The Talented Mr Ripley) for the girls. Only my opinion of course. So do not drop bricks on my blog, unless it is one of the John Gielgud variety.
In my theatre reviewing days for The Luton News I used to give out individual gongs for my personal bests. Not fair to do that here as, unlike then, I haven’t seen everything in the local area. I intend to have some fun with my Rep Theatre Handicap Race (see below) but that is a private bit of nonsense. The rest is merely comments on my first theatre blog year. Individually I also appreciated performances from Elliott Lawrence (Still Life – ACT), Steve Peters (The Drowsy Chaperone-St Andrews), Lewis Cox (Absent Friends – Harpenden High Street Players), Jonathan Field (Time of my Life-Wheathampstead), Ciara McDermott (Aladdin –Stage One), Suzy Major (Under The Stars – Company of Ten), Dianne Pickard (Under The Stars – Company of Ten), Natalie Gordon (Still Life –ACT), Katie Brennan (A Little Night Music – Luton Light), Caroline Fitch (A Little Night Music – Luton Light), Rona Cracknell (A Little Night Music – Luton Light), Joanna Yirrel (The Drowsy Chaperone-St Andrews) and Sarah Albert (The Drowsy Chaperone-St Andrews). Collectively Les Miserables (Empire Arts) was awesome and if I had a Director’s Award I would give it to Lucy O’Hare and Ashley Mead for knitting sixty plus teenagers into a magnificent evening of total musical theatre. As it is my blog I’ll give it to them anyway. None who saw it last Autumn would complain. Except possibly Matt Flitton, Kelley Sarson, John O’Leary, and the prolific Joe Butcher who combined beautifully in a madcap 39 Steps. But there were only four of them.
And that nicely leads us on to Dunstable Rep’s 2011/12 Film Season. They had six, from Plaza Suite to The 39 Steps, and two guest productions which fitted the criteria. Alan Clarke, greedy bugger, had one of each and both Still Life and The Talented Mr Ripley were absorbing evenings of theatre. The other guest production, Matthew Orr’s A little Night Music for Luton Light, was also pure class and when you throw in Chris Lavin’s compelling Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Bekka Prideaux’s fun packed The 39 Steps you know it ain’t going to be easy to find a winner. In the end Still Life just edged out Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and those two, along with that magnificent Les Miserables, were my personal tops of a first year of royhalltheatre.blogspot.com. Twenty plus shows and all an absolute pleasure. I love horseracing, win or lose, turkeys or triumphs, and theatre is much the same. So, in true Olympic spirit.
The Winner Is:-
Gold Medal. STILL LIFE
(ACT Theatre Company – Dunstable Rep – July 2011)
Just shaded in the envelope were runners up:-
Silver Medal. CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
(Dunstable Rep – January 2012)
With an honourable mention for:-
Bronze Medal. LES MISERABLES
(Empire Arts – Queensbury Theatre – August 2011)
Good field, lousy critic.