On reflection I should have seen both performances of Oakland College’s showcase for its drama students. Would have been worth it, as the A Chorus Line I popped in on in Welwyn was pretty good. It’s an ideal vehicle for individual talents, lots of rewarding cameos, and simple to stage with a minimum of fuss and cost. With thirty odd performers director David Wilson and choreographer Victoria Markham, the teachers, cleverly divide them into two groups and most get their chance to dazzle on one or other night. I took in Real Arts Theatre Company on Thursday for personal reasons. So, apologies to those who zinged on Tuesday (Slapstick Arts) and were fillers on Thursday. As I say, with hindsight I should have seen both nights. But with hindsight I would back more winners. Opticians sell lots of glasses but none for that sort of vision. Gap in the market somewhere methinks.
Whatever sort of specs I was wearing I would have been blind not to recognise some seriously impressive talent on show, especially in effortless and consummate dancing. (Don’t you just love these seamless blogging links?) Whatever my thoughts on individual singing or acting, this lot, or most of them, danced with warming balletic grace. I take my hat off to both them and Miss Markham. You don’t get such dancing on the amateur stage. Connor McSweeney (Mike) was outstanding in the I Can Do That number but a few others were up there with him. And musically the company (Musical Director-Maureen Roche) gave us a strong opening with I Hope I Get It and a pretty good closing One. I have heard the latter sung better but rarely with such dancing precision. A real Chorus line.
Individually Danielle Field (Val) impressed for a vibrant Dance Ten, Looks Three, coping well with the slight hiatus to her Tits and Ass number, and Alice Smithson (Diana) put a lot of emotion into a pleasing rendition of Nothing. But the outstanding individual number of the evening was Roz Farmer (Kristine) and Calum Brooker (Al) for a sharp and scintillating Sing! Interplay between the two nerdy newly marrieds was razor sharp and Miss Farmer was exceptionally good for the variety of emotions she packed into one song. Victoria Burrough did a solid job in the key role of Cassie, lost love and lost stardom, but lacked authority and status. I reckon it was the girly dress because she sang and danced her The Music and The Mirror number very well. It’s my age folks. That and the influence of the film.
In acting terms the three outstanding performances of the evening were Hector Hadley as hard-bitten musical director Zach, Helen Abbott as the ageing sassy Sheila, and Bryan Fawcett as the troubled homosexual Paul. All these performances were rich in tone, variety, light and shade, and pace. Everything an actor needs if he is to progress. The scenes between Sheila and Zach zinged for precision of delivery and excellent timing and were a personal acting highlight and Mr Fawcett touched every heart with a sensitive monologue on his decline to the bottom of the theatrical pile. I have seen these three young performers before and, believe me, they are very good.
So all in all a pretty good evening and their teacher folks can be pretty proud. Given the resources it would be nice to see them do this as a full blown show with all the production values you need to sell it to Joe Public. The talent is there. Even the flouncy reject at the beginning made her mark. She left beautifully and acidly, whoever she was. My specs, foresight and hindsight combined in dusty lenses, spotted that. They also spotted that a lot of supportive folks turned up. Genuinely, it was well deserved. Real Arts gave us a bloody good evening for four quid. Pensioners who rage at the young, but not the theatrically talented, appreciate that. Means more money for glasses. Roy Hall