NODA South-East Representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of Jack And The Beanstalk by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
This well known and oft-performed pantomime has all the essential elements so loved and so familiar to British audiences. The charismatic but hard-pressed Dame, the daft son, the essential baddie and incompetent baddie double act and the all-essential eventual triumph of good over evil. And glory be, in this innovative production, a welcome but increasingly rare in amateur panto, two-person skin act.
Daisy the cow made a major contribution to this show and two young people, Andrea Almazán and Oli Newhall, succeeded in giving Daisy a distinct and engaging personality of her own. She squealed, rather than mooed, which I found amusing. This particular script had some very witty lines. I especially liked “longer than a Government decision”, very apt right now. I also much liked the fact that each person in the show was given an actual named character which, I suggest is especially important and beneficial to the young and very young players.
Visionary director Andrew Hamel-Cooke is well known for his fresh ideas and his keen and skilful encouragement of young players. Some in this production had not acted in panto before, even some of the adults, but had their programme notes not said so, no one would have guessed.
Millie Jane Franks made a fine principal boy, Jack Pott – I dislike the growing trend for a male to play principal boy – and a jolly good job she made of it, thigh-slapping with the best of them, with stage presence to spare!
John Want was a highly suitable Dame Pott, likeable, real vulnerability, but with an eye on the main chance.
Adam Coburn was a fine Grotweasel, scary, hideously made up (in other words “good” and hugely watchable.
A lovely touch was the double fairy act Fairy Greatgodmother and Fairy Godmother on “work experience”. Margaret Simmons and Alice Baron, respectively, played them for all they were worth.
Sasha Plaché DeVilliers was an excellent Jill, elegant, talented and a top all-round performer. Ella Kay made Silly Sally into something really special. She was superbly charismatic and a real hit! Graham Botterill was an excellent squire. Clearly a highly experienced performer and how it showed.
The twerp baddie duo were Dogbreath and Hairball, played by Sophie Johnstone and Matthew Weaver respectively, providing great comedy.
Musical Director James Marr, with his small combo, provided good musical support and the singing was generally good or adequate, with one or two quality singing voices. Sasha and Andrea jointly choreographed and were able to use the many young and spirited performers in particular to good effect. Costumes by Jenny Hasted and Ella Kay were generally good, though I would have preferred far more vivid panto colours on chorus members. There were a little too many pastel shades ideally. The dialogue at times lacked pace and cues were not always picked up quickly enough. The set was well thought out and constructed by The Tuesday Crew – presumably in-house. Good sound effects and lighting, by Clive Vinall on sound and Tony and Dee Bowdery on lighting, added lustre to this engaging production.
I liked a number of the essential traditional panto requirements such as topical and local gags, well put over too I thought, and humorous stage set signs such as “Ample Bottom, 75 inches” with Fore Sale indicating the bailiffs on the Dame’s Cottage. The four candle seller was an inspired touch. I loved the giant and the voice, courtesy of Murray Stephen and the Act Two Ice setting was highly effective. Lots of visual plusses then!
A word for the excellent programme with welcome CVs for all members. For the younger members, in particular, it is an excellent idea to make each one a named character with a chance to tell us something individually. Overall, this was an enjoyable production and an undoubted success. A few nitpicks here and there did not detract from what was a really well put-over production.
Jon Fox – NODA South-East Representative
The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.
All our reviews are written independently and shared with The Nomads after the production. Please bear with us while we update this page… more coming soon!
Gym & Tonic
By John Godber
5th, 6th, 8th, 9th March 2019
Directed by Andrew Hamel-Cooke and Moyra Brookes
“This is a play that is true to the Godber formula of humour with a healthy helping of comment on life. It is a bitter sweet kind of formula. We see elements of human frailty and confusion cleverly blended with line after line of humour.
The opening scene showed us the aerobic class at a chic spa hotel. The energy and synchronisation were sharp and exhausting to watch. The late arrival of Don Weston (Jason Spiller) provided us with the first of many “I’ve been there” moments. His total ineptitude was hilarious. He wasn’t able to grasp what the class was doing, couldn’t get the rhythm of the exercise and finally collapsed in a heap when the lesson came to an end. Don was obviously not enjoying this holiday.
His wife Shirley (Nikky Kirkup) on the other hand, was throwing herself into everything in which she could participate. They were the two faces of mid-life crises.
Shirley wanted to make the most of this huge de-stressing investment. She chattered with the overzealous, too chirpy, ‘I can push myself further’ character, Ken Blake (John Want.) She clearly wished her husband had Ken’s energy and positivity.
As Don and Shirley work their way through all that Scardale Hall has to offer, we see their relationship almost unravel.
Another staying at the spa was Gertrude Tate (Judy Abbott) who was an Ann Widdecombe kind of character who doled out oodlings of superior comment and very poor advice. She almost brought about the complete collapse of the Weston marriage. The larger than life character of Gertrude filled the stage with every entry. Her articulation was very good and her sense of character was well considered. A very consistent performance which added considerably to the comic value of any scenes in which she was involved.
There were some excruciatingly funny moments. Amongst those were Don’s first massage. His reluctance to strip down especially when he thought he would have to take off his underpants was hilarious! Funnier still was the second massage when he stripped down with greater confidence, only to find that he was having just his face massaged. During this third massage he relaxes to the point where he fantasises about the pressures in his life, also extremely funny. This was cleverly achieved by a pre-recorded video which was projected onto the screen. This was hugely effective.
Again in the squash game scene the lighting of the squash court added realism to the pretend game.
Don’s performance developed until he reached his crisis. He was more stressed than when he had first arrived, but now it seems at least he was able to express it. His final moments gained our sympathy absolutely and Shirley did what we spent the whole play hoping she would do, and cradled the overstressed Don in her arms.
Shirley’s character blossomed in those last scenes. It was a thoughtful and well-timed performance. She became a character in whom we could really believe.
The over energetic Ken Blake (John Want) provided a great foil for the less sporty Don. He was annoyingly competitive. His final coup was to win at squash against the Hall’s resident coach. The pace was kept up throughout.
The minor role of the Bellboy (Ieuan Want) offered little opportunity but he made the most of it when he could as did Shaun (Josh Locke) the very young chap who was “relaxing” before doing his A levels. His acerbic repartee was well handled and again it was not a huge role so difficult to do a great deal with it.
The aerobics teacher Zoë (Cheryl Chamberlain) was physically excellent and added real energy to the piece.
The masseuse, Chloë (Ella Kay) was wonderfully pan faced throughout Don’s embarrassing “should I strip off?” scene. Her declaration “today is only the face,” was wonderfully timed to give maximum comic effect. Her change of character to the uninhibited seductress in the fantasy scene was excellent.
The sets, always a feature of excellence at the Nomads, was slick and effective. (I loved the brief acknowledgement of the garden scene in Twelfth Night ). The stagehands were very swift and neat in executing the scene changes.
My congratulations to Andrew Hamel-Cooke and Moyra Brookes on their first collaboration on direction. I look forward to seeing more of their work together.”
By John Godber
23-26 January 2019
Directed by Hayley Clines
An anonymous reviewer writes…
“The first thing that struck this reviewer on entering the Studio space of the theatre was the authenticity. The bouncers saw us into the ‘club’, our wrists were stamped with a ‘passout’ logo and we were warned as to our conduct whilst in Flamingo Joe’s. A brick wall faced us , beer barrels littered the floor and a table and a pair of record decks set the scene for the evening.
A companion piece to Shakers (performed in The Nomads’ Studio last February), Bouncers takes us through a boring Saturday night in a tatty club where groups of young men and young women attempt to have fun and maybe ‘get off’ with each other. The bouncers meanwhile marshall the floor, throw both their real and metaphorical weight around and possibly dream of better things.
All parts, male and female club goers and the bouncers were played with energy and style by four excellent actors. Ian Creese played Les, a gruff-voiced individual played with a scowl and more than a hint of menace, Judd was convincingly played by Guy Shirley as a borderline perverted individual, not over-endowed with intelligence and eager to use his fists.
The youngest member of the quartet Ralph was played with enthusiasm and obvious relish by Daniel Shepherd revelling in the acting opportunities offered by the various roles he played. The fourth character ‘Lucky’ Eric, the ostensible leader of the group, was played with clear enjoyment by Chris Butler, exuding the subtle mixture of faux authority and menace that can both intimidate and reassure club goers.
The director, Hayley Clines, had a challenging task in coaxing a range of responses out of each of the four cast members. A challenge to which she rose magnificently. Lairy, boastful men, girls playing hard to get, vulnerable characters and overconfident individuals and more. All were played with conviction and a lot of truth came through in the performances. The enclosed space was used well and the production moved along with pace and energy. A very entertaining evening out underscored by disco style lighting and music of the period. Well done Nomads!”
NODA South-East Councillor, Kay Rowan, reviews the recent production of A Christmas Carol by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
A Christmas Carol – a step back in time to the Dickensian era.
The pleasure of espying this delightful theatre is only heightened by the splendid theatre vestibule and surroundings. All the front of house staff were dressed in
The whole area of the stage was used at some point
All the costumes, hair and makeup were particularly appropriate in all scenes.
The use of songs by the ensemble served to raise the atmosphere of Christmas and family entertainment rather than promote music and singing for its own sake. All the music was well chosen
and executed. The solos were delightfully clear. The use of recorded music was very judicious with the right level, length
The adaptation of this Dickens novella was excellent. Graham is to be congratulated on his insight both of the original story, the ability to stage all the different scenes and guiding this fine cast to such a high standard of performance. The cast
Congratulations to everyone involved for bringing this gesture to Christmas to the stage of The Nomad Theatre and for giving the audiences so much pleasure.
Kay Rowan – NODA South-East Councillor
The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.
By Frank Vickery
12-15 September 2018
Directed by Michael Ayres
“A summer evening’s barbecue with a few friends in a leafy part of Surrey. A pleasant few hours of small talk, laughter and friendly conversation. An idyllic scenario. Yet not in the world of Frank Vickery’s Trivial Pursuits where the underhand maneuvering, petty intrigue, and egos of a small Amateur Dramatic society are hilariously laid bare over two hours.
The director Michael Ayres (also on stage relishing the part of the society’s camp luvvie, Teddy), gathered a group of experienced and talented actors to produce this comedy on The Nomads’ small Studio stage. The restricted space meant the short conversational encounters between the characters could be better handled than in the larger auditorium.
Nick, played confidently by Stuart Tomkins, is the director of the fictional Ockham Operatic Society and the annual barbecue is where he announces the next season’s show. The fact that he cannot get the barbecue to light gives the audience a clue as to the way the evening is going to go – badly!
The first act skilfully established the characters and the fraught situation. What show would Nick announce? Could he be influenced by blackmail, bribery or other means into putting on a favourite of any one of four of the group?
Roz, Nick’s organised and down to earth wife holds the group together in an unflappable way until she realises Nick has been using his directorial influence too intimately with the company’s youngest female recruit. Played by Cheryl Chamberlain, recently seen in Love Me Slender, this was another strong performance. Her sister Joyce, once talented but now a bit of a lush, was played with clear enjoyment by a new Nomad, Fiona Whitehead.
The humourless Mona was wonderfully played as a bit of a diva by Juliana Anderiesz, appearing for the first time on the Nomad stage. The part of the society’s treasurer who knows the truth of the dire financial situation the company is in was ably realised by Elaine Burns whilst the part of the depressive Derek was played as an emotional weakling by Paul Asher. His (soon to be ex), wife Deidre was acted with evident delight in the part by the ever-reliable Moyra Brookes and in the exchanges between her and the pathetic Derek we saw all the impatience of an exasperated wife. Deidre’s escort for the evening, the television obsessed Eddie was played superbly by Iain Macfarlane obviously enjoying the potential for humour in the character.
In the role of the not-quite ingenue Jessica was Alannah Winn-Taylor, a young veteran of the Nomads. She played the part with spark and energy.
Due in no small part to Frank Vickery’s script there were gales of laughter from the audience throughout the show. It ought to be noted that laughs only come off the page when there is an experienced cast who know where the laughs are and how to maintain the pace to maximise impact.
Well done to all the actors.
Movement around the small set was fluid, and no-one bumped into the furniture or each other. The programme tells me the ‘Tuesday Crew’ was responsible for the set design and build. Whoever and how many they are, they did a first-rate job of constructing a small suburban garden. Plaudits are due also to the lighting crew who created the evening light ambiance and to the wardrobe mistress who dressed the cast in clothes reminiscent of that carefree decade of thirty-some years ago.”
Love Me Slender
By Vanessa Books
10-14 July 2018
Directed by Andrew Hamel-Cooke
Please note: this review is an abridged version to allow for brevity only.
“The piece, for a female only cast and written by a woman, is built around a slimming club which meets regularly in the back room or vestry of a church. We are introduced to the group, three of whom are longstanding “achievers” and three “newbies”, one at a time. This was a clever device which gave us a clear view of each character. The group was led by the iron-fisted, ruthless, brutal and entirely self-serving Siobhan.
Siobhan, played by Moyra Brookes, made a powerful first entry. She had a huge voice which seemed to sit around the falsetto range much of the time, was well projected and clearly articulated. The performance was well sustained and fluent, but perhaps a bit more variety in vocal power and pace would have made for a more impressive characterisation. Her tour de force was the penultimate scene where the power haircut, the figure-hugging dress, and harsh make-up were abandoned. We met here, an almost contrite figure who, to some degree, acknowledged the
harm she had done to those whom she purported to want to help. This was a HUGE role and Moyra is to be congratulated on her performance.
The first new member we met was Claudette (Cheryl Chamberlain). She wanted to be slim so that she could have another stab at finding a partner. She wanted, above all else, for her fatherless daughter to find her acceptable enough to spend some time with. This was a sound performance, well timed and communicated. She had a very expressive face and used her space well.
Next on the scene was Rosie (Laura Spalding). Rosie was Siobhan’s faithful helper. She was treated appallingly and was made to feel foolish about being in love with Laurence. In a cruel attempt to put Rosie off, Laurence was made out to be an “undesirable”. We later discovered that
Siobhan herself had been creating false information about him. This was a well placed and convincing performance and she caught our sympathy especially when she described that Laurence had brushed some ice-cream from her face. There was tremendous tenderness about this moment. Losing those last extra pounds, alas, had not brought her the joy of marriage she so desperately wanted.
Another of Siobhan’s helpers was Kelly, (Emily Ingold). She probably had fewer lines to speak than any others, but her body language and almost shuffling movement around the stage caught one’s attention, curiosity, and sympathy. There was something very wrong with her, but the group leader, who prided herself of understanding and having the best interests of her “girls” at heart, failed to spot or begin to understand, the problem. Kelly becomes the unexpected focus of the darkest moment of the play. Her next appearance was of a slightly more “together” person. She achieved the effect very well with few lines and not that much stage time.
Lucinda (Sarah Gage) was an already willowy, new class member with ambition…..ambition that she felt she could achieve by losing enough to slip through the gap left by two desks placed deliberately by her boss to be the measure of a girls’ most desirable behind! Her very high heels
and her draping of herself around the stage conveyed her extreme awareness, as she saw it, of the power of her body over the weakness of her gross but powerful boss. Her extreme shoes underlined her extreme femininity. Although her speech was clear and lines delivered without
hesitation, she might have created an even better impression by using a little more vocal variation and facial expression, but a good performance which presented a clear characterisation.
Celia (Susan Monteregge) was definitely the ‘hockey-sticks” character. She was bold, confident and had a very clear delivery. She made the most of her character from the very first moment. She seemed an unlikely character to go to a Slim for Life class, but we discovered later that the
reason was not so that she could go hiking with a friend. There was another quite unexpected reason.
Jean (Nikky Kirkup) was Siobhan”s great success. She was at target! What greater achievement could there be? Far from being free of the Slimming Club, she was persuaded to keep going and finding the money. Despite achieving all five of Siobhan’s tenets of successful slimming, she still lacks the confidence to be her own person. Finally, it was the suffocating worry about money matters and the decision, to be honest with her husband despite Siobhan’s advice, which finally saved her from disaster.
The fourth scene, immediately after the interval, was a very impressive if long scene. The mood changed from the frenetic, hectoring of the previous three scenes. It was a kind of denouement and was basically a huge monologue by Siobhan. The attention of the other actors as she spoke was hugely impressive, a real tribute to the speaker and the listeners.
This was a very difficult piece. The playwright seemed to want to say everything about everything, in one go. The underlying themes were myriad, including an unhealthy bitterness about men, greed, honesty and everything in between but the sensitive direction by Andrew Hamel-Cooke gave them all a voice. It was a huge undertaking for the author, actors, and director. It was very well done and a courageous production.
As always, the set, lighting, sound and costuming were highly professional and the wonderful team made for a very polished presentation.”
By John Godber and Jane Thornton
14-17 February 2018
Directed by Michael Ayres
“This companion piece to John Godber’s ‘Bouncers’ (written by him and his wife Jane Thornton), was set in a cocktail bar somewhere in the north of England during the Thatcher years, but could easily have been a comment on austerity Britain and the #metoo movement.
The cast was made up of four actresses, who each spend almost the entire 90 minutes on stage and between them play a wide variety of parts related to the cocktail bar. Each has a core role as one of the waitresses in the bar and then also had several cameo roles – male and female – ranging from the girls celebrating a 21st birthday party, young couples on a big night out through to the TV executives taking advantage of “happy hour”.
Each character gave a monologue during the action which illustrated the living, breathing aspects of their lived lives as human beings, in contrast to the sneering, condescending customers who called them ‘lovey’, made tiresome innuendoes and saw in them distortions of their own tawdry fantasies.
The director, Michael Ayres, had gathered a strong cast to represent the waitresses. Carol (played with an affecting world weariness by Nikki Kirkup), has a degree and urges the other girls to make something of themselves and not waste their lives on men. Nicky, admirably played by Laura Spalding, yearning to be an actress showed confidence, – until faced with an audition. Adele (Hayley Clines with an impressive reprtoire of facial expressions told us of her first sexual encounter, – at age 16, with her teacher which led to an abortion. Mel, young, sarcastic and embittered by life, was wonderfully played by Lucy Hamilton.
As an ensemble the actresses showed us how the friends supported each other and clung on to their self respect and belief in something, maybe, a little better than they had in the bar.
The Nomads’ decision to stage the play in the cramped (Ed: some might say “intimate”!) Studio was an excellent one. The audience being in the midst of the smoky atmosphere. Sound, and choice of music was spot on, and brought new romantic (was it?), nostalgia to the play. The minimal set was well wrought too, showing enough of a, slightly seedy, cocktail bar but allowing us to concentrate on the people who populated the space. A nice touch was the velvet roped entrance to the club in the Nomads (real), bar with a DJ’d doorman to lead us through the light festooned (very ’80’s!), corridor into ‘Shakers’. And can I have been the only audience member to have got in to the spirit of the play with a pre-show ‘Greenroom Gloomraiser’ cocktail?
Thank you Nomads!”
As seen by Amdramfan
NODA representative, Mark Allen, reviews the recent production of Dick Whittingon and his cat by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
The NOMADS – “Dick Whittington and his cat”
Nomad Theatre – 13th December, 2017
Author – Peter Denyer
Director – Andrew Hamel-Cooke
Choreography – Samantha Potten
Musical Director – Gareth Alber
Warmly welcomed by the front of house I was ushered into the bar and awaited meeting with Andrew, the director who extended his good wishes and requested we remain to meet the cast later. A refurbished and (purpose) rebuilt theatre, it was gratifying to see it almost full.
Greeted with a relatively simple set which worked very well, the changes as they were, were slick and without much fuss. Well lit and with good sound too, the diction was clear and could be heard well above the three-piece band offset stage left.
In true fashion the pantomime started and we were introduced to a motley cast of characters ably led by Sophie Johnstone as Dick, Daniel Shepherd, very boo worthy as
King Rat and the sweet and innocent Hayley Clines as [Fairy] Bow Bells, all three confident and audible.
Michael Ayres played the dame Sarah the Cook, and seemed to be enjoying the role too, as was fairly evident. I liked the enthusiasm, it rubs off well!
The cast and chorus were well drilled by Andrew Hamel-Cooke and the choreography (Samantha Potten) was well performed, and in the main all in time too! Again like Sarah the Cook, the chorus and associated cast (too many to mention) (Ed: see below for our comments!) were really enthusiastic and this came across well, helping the audience to a very good evenings entertainment.
Overall a really enjoyable evening, and well worth the drive to see it. Well done Andrew and well done Nomads.
The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.
Unfortunately, the large cast meant that not everyone got a mention by name, but we wanted to add a few notes on their amazing performance!
Millie Jane Franks as Idle Jack was punchy, energetic and had fabulous stage presence!
Iain Watson (Alderman Fitzwarren) and Jeff Wightwick (Captain Cuttle) both embodied their characters with sincerity and humour.
As The Sultan of Morocco, Richard Peachey‘s accent work and nimble movement made for very lively scenes!
Sasha Plaché brought grace and wonderful singing to the part of Alice Fitzwarren.
King Neptune and his mermaid (Ricky Powell and Tilly Winford – not to be mixed up) were ethereal and deserving of the audience “oohs” and “aahs” under the sea.
Our not-very-dynamic duo of baddies, Gnashfang (Lisa Arnold) and Gnawbone (Johnny Diamond) were suitably nasty, horrible and comedic in equal measures.
Tommy The Cat played by Karolina Sepiak presented an amazing solo self-choreographed dance piece as well as plenty of laughs and cheers!
All the adults and children in the ensemble clearly worked very hard to present coordinated and energetic group songs and dances which the audience loved.
All of the production team should have a huge pat on the back too – costumes were fantastic as always,… make-up was striking and a great display of what Guildford College students can do,… props convincing and consistently well placed,… lighting enhanced the audience understanding of the story locations and sentiment,… sound kept the pace and humour of the scenes,… staging, flying and scene changes were slick,… and the chaperones kept all of us in check… not just the children!
Theatre reviewer, Polly, provides this review of The Nomads 2017 pantomime, Dick Whittington & his cat
“Think Christmas and at some point you will think panto. It is about as much part of our British Christmas as Carols from King’s College and the Queen’s Speech. This kind of iconic position brings with it a certain expectation, of course. It is an uniquely British form of theatre and we have a formula which must be adhered to or it’s not a panto! The story is usually a fairy or traditional tale, there is always a baddie, there is always a goodie, there is always a lot of singing and dancing, there is some very obvious, groaningly obvious humour, a lot of double entendres to keep the parents awake, pyrotechnics if you can and huge spectacle especially in the last scene. I have not mentioned, of course, the audience participation. This is as formulaic as are the plots. The phrases such as “He’s/it’s
behind you!” or a particular phrase given us by one of the “helpful” characters; the panto dame always played by a man and the Principal Boy is always played by a woman. You have to be British to understand any of it. Perhaps something like cricket?
So the expectation is high, but in the Nomad’s production of Dick Whittinton and his cat, they didn’t miss a trick. The programme itself promised a very high standard of things to come. Starting from the bottom, at least in height, I have to say that the young ratlets (Patrick Anderson, Ori Carr-Stein, Eden Garland, Amelia Tang and Ethan Tang) were terrific and the very youngest dancers were a delight. The choreographer, Samantha Potten did sterling work preparing her chorus of dancers (Alice Burgess, Caitlin Byrne, Ciara Byrne, Abigail Darke, Emily Davey, Amelia Potten, Katherine Warr, Sienna Wayland, Charlotte Weller and Francesca Woof.) I especially loved the more taxing and very difficult point work shown us by the older dancers. To top off the dancing, we had a panto dame, Sarah the Cook, played by Michael Ayres, who joined in the tap routine. Wonderful.
Tap dancing wasn’t the only thing that the Dame was good at. ‘She’ spoke with great clarity, though some of the jokes might have benefitted from a little more exaggeration, but his/her make-up was wonderful. “Her” son Idle Jack played by Millie Jane Franks was a wonderfully drawn character, with hugely exaggerated facial expression and physical movement. It was “he” (another girl playing a chap!) who led the audience participation.
She put huge energy into getting us to respond standing up and repeating a little routine each time she came on. We were not a very good audience as we were a bit lazy about getting up and speaking the lines we had been
given. Speaking for myself, I was heavy with cold and recovering from ‘flu so getting up every two minutes did not get my vote, but that was just me. I’m sure with a slightly younger audience especially, there would have been no difficulty and Jack really did deserve more help than we gave her!
Dick Whittington (Sophie Johnstone) spoke with great confidence and commitment and was a suitably glamorous and character. Dick and Alice had some very enjoyable duet and solo moments and between them kept the central story theme on track. They were an engaging couple.
Alice Fitzwarren (Sasha Plaché) was a very lovely young leading lady and she obviously enjoyed her role which communicated itself well to the audience. She obviously had her father, Alderman Fitzwarren (Iain Watson) in the palm of her hand as he quickly agreed to allow Dick to join the crew of his last surviving ship. The Alderman came across as an affable chap, who took his bad luck in his stride. He was kindly too to his officer in charge, Captain Cuttle played by Jeffrey Wightwick. Cuttle made good use of the silliness
when trying to call the crew to some order and made a significant contribution over all.
Bit parts are the real fun of panto. You get to be there almost all the time but don’t have to worry too much about lines and Colin Barnard and Joshua Locke made full use of their
moments as the Arabs, the Sailors and in the general ensemble. King Neptune (Ricky Powell) in the beautiful underwater kingdom scene where we also met a delightful mermaid, played by Tilly Winford, was also a bit part well developed and delivered.
Another high spot was the scene in the harem. Fabulous colours and sinuous choreography. The Sultan of Morocco (Richard Peachey) was every inch the part and gave us a lovely bit of singing although we could have done with a facemike at some moments. Nevertheless the scene was visually splendid and we enjoyed the sultan’s contribution .
The “baddies” are what really make a panto and gives us the excuse to boo and hiss to our hearts content at their every entry. Gnashfang (Lisa Arnold) and Gnawbone (Johnny Diamond) were wonderfully evil and their immediate boss, King Rat (Daniel Shepherd) was truly superb. His performance was suitably horrible and very well sustained.
In contrast to his nastiness, another must of panto is the Good Fairy Bow Bells (Hayley Clines) whose fluency and well pointed and delivered lines had us all enthralled. A
There is one supremely obvious omission in all this comment, and that is of Tommy, Dick’s faithful and hugely intelligent and clever cat which is pivotal to the progress of the story. Tommy was played by Karolina Sepiak and what a great job she made of it. There was total engagement throughout and her catlike movements were sustained at all times, but her real moment of glory came during Dick’s solo when she used the stage to its fullest extent and gave a terrific dance/gymnastic display, moments of which were absolutely jaw dropingly supple and a joy to watch.
The scenes and costumes, always spectacularly good at the Nomads, were glorious. This was, over all, excellent ensemble playing, each player supporting the others and matching each other’s commitment to the success of the evening.
I had one or two issues with the general pace of the piece, but in the following performances I’m sure the actors will have bedded in to their performances as general confidence grows. The other slight grouse I should mention is that one has grown to expect that when there is an obvious joke in panto, one expects a “boom tish!” from percussion. That wasn’t quite as obvious, to my mind, as it might have been. The band, directed by Gareth Alber, however, were otherwise a great asset to the performance and provided sympathetic
support to the singing. One further niggle is that perhaps the flys could have been just a shade faster.
I am not usually a huge fan of pantos, but I really did enjoy this performance. The director, Andrew Hamel-Cooke and his army of back stage “beavers” such as lighting, props, stage manager to name but a few, are to be congratulated in bringing together so many players to produce such a great evening. We must remind ourselves that these are all people who give freely of their time to present us with high quality, local entertainment throughout the year. Thank you all. Your efforts are much appreciated.”
Theatre reviewer, Polly, reviews Move Over Mrs Markham
“The very mention of the name Ray Cooney brings a smile to the face of anyone who has any experience of theatre. It was with such expectation that we took our seats at the Nomad Theatre on Thursday evening. We were not disappointed.
The opening musical theme prepared us for what was to come. The curtain rose on a wonderful set which evoked the period to a T. The ubiquitous Tretchikoff’s “Green Lady” the “Picasso” etc, sealed the moment in British fashion. The attention to detail in all Nomad sets is something to be
very proud of. It gives all the shows a feeling of professionalism and this set was “out there” with the best, It was detailed and beautifully observed.
The story of the very average couple whose flat becomes the focus of an hilarious tangle of events is laid out in the first act. The opening moments were, almost of necessity, a little slow and in no way prepared us for the absolute mayhem of what was to come in Act 2!!
We first met Mrs Markham (Nikky Kirkup) who was wearing a very snug fitting dress. She gave us a well drawn character of a very reasonable, supportive wife who was leading a very quiet,”normal” and blameless life. Her husband (Matt Weaver) was the very essence of the hard working, committed, slightly boring “grey man” or was it perhaps John Major making a surprise visit? Together they presented the face of an ordered married life. Fortunately for us, their employees, in the shape of the Interior Designer, the maid and their friends, were less ordered.
Nathan Farrell as Alistair Spenlow was excellent His presentation of a slightly camp but “up for it any time with any lady” was hilarious and very nicely balanced. His entry in a tangle of curtain fabric seemed like a metaphor for what was to come. I think this is the very best performance I have ever seen from Nathan. His interaction with the lovely Sylvie (Emily Tietz) was delightful.
Together they created some very funny moments and some moments of the nearest thing to true romance that we got in the play. She was particularly effective in Act 2, appearing as she did, in a very pretty lemon ‘shortie’ nightie. Just the kind of lady for an Interior Designer, attractive in every way.
Vykky Mash as Linda Lodge was a delight. Her frothy and giggly, ‘teetering on high heels’ sort of character was beautifully sustained. (I once knew a young student just like that.) She kept me giggling with every appearance. Her interplay with Mrs Markham was always excellently fluent,
well projected and fluent. They played well against one another. Always believable and clear.
Linda’s husband, Henry Lodge (Simon Openshaw) cut a very urbane figure in his elegant blazer. He presented the very epitome of the ‘English chappie’; who likes a ‘bit of fun’ and fun he had galore. His delighting in ‘entertaining’ ladies served as a wonderful foil to his more sober partner, Philip Markham. Simon sustained this role with absolute conviction and confidence throughout. An excellent portrait of one of the key characters.
We had to wait until Act two to meet the other three characters. Olive Harriet Smythe was wonderfully well portrayed by Judy Abbott. This was a sensitively thought out character, played with absolute confidence and commitment. It was fortunate that she was such a very talented actor because her character was the pivot on which everything in Act 2 relied. I think we have all read about characters such as this, but it was wonderful to “meet” the real thing. It is a pity that the script did not allow us a moment with any of her canine friends. What fun that would have been!
We learn in Act one that Linda was trying to wreak revenge on her straying husband by having a little ‘dalliance’ with Walter Pangbourne, (Iain MacFarlane). This sober, well at least for his first entry, gentleman, complete with bowler hat, rolled umbrella and bunch of flowers contributed wonderfully to the whole chaos of the second act. He seemed unphased by anything that was thrown at him even having to adjourn to the office below the flat for his bit of “slap and tickle “ with Linda. This was a smallish role, but he created a real, comic character with every entrance and utterance.
That leaves us with Miss Wilkinson (Samantha Potten). Her first entry wearing rather forbidding glasses gave no hint of the lithe and foxy lady she became once the glasses were off. Again this was almost nothing much more that a cameo role but she made a most wonderful job of it. Her discreet but suggestive Helen Mirren-like strip was beautifully and bravely handled. She added considerably to the comic progress of the piece and her clear diction and projection ensured that
her performance was well noted.
This was a wonderfully funny piece of excellent ensemble playing. There were some very glorious moments of comic “business”. The bra strap being entangled in Philip Markham’s wrist, for example as he tried to thread the black bra through the louvered bedroom door, and the scene where “goosing’” was explained, were side-splittigly funny. As with the whole piece, the timing was first rate and the music and the lighting did their bit in creating the whole performance. Farce is a
hugely difficult format, but here is was, flowing along with consummate ease.
This is a slightly dated piece in the sense that it deals in a rather non-PC way with the issue of homosexuality. Although is was very well done, it did make me feel a little uncomfortable and was a sad echo of the kind of view that was common when the play was written. I can only hope that
any gay members of the audience felt we were laughing with them rather than at them. That said, this was a really excellent evening’s entertainment and it was gratifying to find the house almost full of appreciative and enthusiastic audience members.
One slight criticism. I felt a second curtain call was called for. This was a great performance and the level of enthusiastic and appreciative applause really demanded a second appearance of the cast so that we could say ‘thank you’ properly. As a company, you give huge amounts of your time
to such productions and we, your audience, would love to show our warm appreciation.”
The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson
The realistic, well observed and detailed set prepared us for an equally forensic examination of the lives and attitudes of the three daughters. Teresa, the oldest (Moyra Brookes) quickly established the character of the dutiful daughter relied upon by the two others to take on the responsibilities of caring for the ageing and latterly, hospitalised mum. Her obsession with all things natural and organic is quickly established as is her irritation with and scorn for her siblings.
Moyra Brookes played with great consistency, the very set of her head declared her supremacy among the sisters. The head gradually lowered as she lost her composure completely when finally tempted by both a spliff and a quantity of whisky. Her acid turn of phrase reached its most bitter as she revealed her “clever’ sister’s teenage pregnancy. The performance was sustained and developed throughout. It was a well observed and entirely credible characterisation. Although the butt of some of the comic moments she conveyed the frustration of many a sister who finds herself “in charge” of the older parents. Her portrayal of the woman unused to much liquor becoming slowly more and more drunk was excellent and totally convincing. This is very difficult to achieve on stage but she was entirely convincing and funny and tragic at the same time. The crumbling of the family cornerstone, as she saw herself, was very poignant.
In the opening moments of the play we also met Mary. She is revealed as an overcommitted and exhausted doctor trying to sleep off the last shift. Played by Sarah Mullins, this character was perhaps the most sober, unsmiling of all. Her obsession with one patient’s welfare impinged even upon her personal life, but there was a darker side to Mary as we learnt later. Her sharp reposts and unsmiling expression carried through most of the play, but the revelation of the real tragedy came much later. Its announcement by Teresa was cruel and unvarnished. Later, however, Teresa revealed the caring and more tender side of her nature as she told Mary of the hidden tragedy. An explanation perhaps, for her taking on the responsibility of her mother’s wellbeing.
The third sister was the whirlwind of a character, Catherine, played by Helen Dixon. She was the peripheral figure of the family as far as she was concerned and slightly written off by the other two sisters. The role was played with huge energy and variety which was well sustained throughout. Her mercurial change of mood, her inventions of half truths were both the tragedy and the comedy of her life. Her plea to be understood and loved was a real crie de coeur, but laughed at by us probably because there is a bit of Catherine in us all
The three sisters vie with varying degrees of vehemence for the “starring role” in all the half remembered family sagas of childhood. The one thing they seem to agree on is that Mary was the favoured child, the one whose cleverness had to be protected and cosseted and who ultimately became a doctor.
The one thing that the daughters share is a disappointment in their relationships with men. Theresa has the most stable partnership with Frank. He is the one she depends on for everything. He is her second husband and she chose him via a dating agency. Frank (Murray Stephen) portrayed the tolerant and long suffering Frank with commitment and consistency. He physically dominated the stage which was fortuitous given the character he played. His head was hung a little low so we rarely got a full face which was a shame. He did however, play the comic moments with great success and prompted lots of laughter. Even when finally standing up for himself he inspired laughter that rocked the studio.
Mike (Mike Ayres) made a hugely comic entry through the window. A doctor having a long term affair with Mary, he came across as an affable and easy going even affectionate partner. He contributed well to the comedy, but ultimately he too made a considerable contribution to Mary’s sense of hopelessness. Essentially the most privileged of the sisters, she suffers the greatest sense of disappointment with life at the hands of the easygoing Mike.
Off stage as it were, there is Xavier, commonly referred to as Pepe much to the annoyance of Catherine. Xavier is Catherine’s Spanish “boyfriend” but he too finally fails the ultimate test and abandons Catherine, in a brief telephone conversion.
I have left consideration of the character of the ghost of mother Vi (Elaine Burns) until last, because in many ways she is the most important character in the play. She visits Mary because as she says ‘I look at you and I see myself’ and gives the mother’s point of view. It was played with great clarity and sympathy and was the “glue” that held the story and indeed the production together. The playing was very engaging and totally convincing. The fact that we could “see the ghost” didn’t in any way upset one’s suspension of disbelief. Her interpretation gave stability and credence to the comedy.
The interplay and ensemble playing was of a very high standard indeed. there were no weak moments and the comedy flowed almost until the end. There was a momentary touch of farce as Mike’s bright cerise bath towel towel slipped almost revealing all. It was well timed whether it was deliberate or not, we shall never know. However it added to the momentary revelations of flesh that were an integral part of the “family” at ease. There were many moments of high comedy. Too many to identify in detail, but Catherine seeking comfort from Frank as he lay exhausted on the bed and the sisters trying on their mother’s old clothes will remain in the memory for some time. Both scenes were highly comic and served to enhance the poignancy off the situation.
The costuming and set were, as always with Nomad productions, absolutely perfect. Sound and lighting, suitably discreet, gave a delicate touch of icing on the cake. There is nothing “Am Dram” about this team.
Polly 6 July 2017
Local theatre reviewer, Lola, reviews Oklahoma!
“Bookham Light Opera Society chose wisely in offering Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical collaboration for their Nomad theatre production this year. With plenty of well known songs and opportunity for lively dances they were surely on to a winner.
The well organised set, together with the effective lighting and well designed costumes effectively established the scene of 1906 Oklahoma. The musicians led by James ‘Mr Music’ Marr underpinned the action perfectly and must take their share of the credit for an engaging production.
The casting was spot on, Melanie Kemp portrayed Laurey as both strong minded and vulnerable when the characterisation required it. Her singing raised the quality of the production. Michael Ayres‘ Curly was an interesting mixture of introspection and confidence in particular at the social where he shows his determination to win Laurey’s affections.
I was much taken by John Beavis’ Jud. Slow and menacing, he is in contrast to the the more romantic things going on around him. John carried off the role wonderfully well. Joanne Silcox as Aunt Eller and Vykki Mash as Gertie both looked to be enjoying their roles as did Julian Warner-Edney (Will), and Colin Barnard (the ranch owner), and added to the gaiety of the show by the exuberance of their singing and dancing. A word for the ‘dream’ ballet sequence, Matt Gardner and Laura Thomson showed dancing ability and poise not always seen at the Nomad theatre.
Richard Peachey again showed his gift for comedy in his portrayal of Ali Hakim whilst Sophie Johnstone almost stole the show with the consistentcy of energy and vigour in her scenes.
There are several set pieces in Oklahoma! that drive the story along: the principals have their songs, the dances are important to the entertainment and the plot must of course be made clear to the audience. Yet the running time of over two and a half hours was a tad long, maybe some judicious cutting might have been made without diminishing the enjoyment of the story.
Overall a competent production with fine singing and movement. I cannot finish this review without a word for Sid Dolbear‘s magnificent ‘tache which almost acted his eyebrows off the stage!”
Oklahoma! by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II
In association with Bookham Light Operatic Society Facebook Link
Directed by Jackie Shearer
See more reviews here: Review pages
Local theatre reviewer, Lola, reviews the studio production of “Happiness” by Paul Matthews
NODA representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
The NOMADS – “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”
Nomad Theatre – 14th December, 2016
“This fascinating novel from the mighty pen of C S Lewis is the best known of the Chronicles of Narnia and is a good choice for a company such as Nomads, who have several talented children as players. Set in wartime 1940, when the four Pevensie siblings, Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy were evacuated to the Dorset countryside to live with the Professor – unnamed in this production, but Digory Kirke in the novel – and a scary housekeeper, Mrs Macready, the story revolved around the adventures of the four children in Narnia, reached via a prominently placed wardrobe.
An opening set of the children’s bedroom contained four single beds (with bedding) and a wooden chair and table with sewing machine (for Mrs Beaver to use later) set downstage left. A prominent and effective looking street lamp stood downstage right. The winter Narnia scene was beautifully set out with snowy landscapes and icicles up left. Tinkling winter music enhanced the magical effect.
The four leading players were three children and a very young adult. They were, in age order, Hazel Eve as Peter (late teens), Poppy Finnigan as Susan aged 12, Ethan Tang as Edmund aged 10 and Eleanor Cain as Lucy, also aged 10. Hazel as Peter, the oldest sibling was a most accomplished actor, dressed in boy’s garb (shorts and pullover), and had the natural authority of an oldest child. This was a performance that will long remain in Hazel’s memory in years to come though she is already an experienced performer for her age, it must be said. Ethan as wilful, naughty Edmund, had amazingly good body language, which I noticed straight away. He had wonderful diction too, as did all the siblings – Eleanor as Lucy, the object of Edmund’s lies, had real actor’s truth in her protestation of having previously been in Narnia. later proven as the truth. The brother / sisterly teasing and protesting was so well done. If we did not know that all drama playing children were practically perfect in every way, at home, etc. I could have sworn that they had sometimes actually been naughty in real life, so natural was their playing. Forgive the teasing, it really is a compliment! Poppy as Susan, the second eldest child, initially disbelieving Lucy, but believing that Lucy was merely game playing, rather than lying, was a key force for good in the plot. Her tenderness towards Aslan and courage in defying the Witch, showing her steely character. Another extremely mature performance for a mere 12 year old.
Helen Dixon as the White Witch was evil personified. She has enormous stage presence, with superb timing and diction and clearly relished playing this evil character as much as I certainly did watching and admiring. As the Witch’s “alter ego”, Mrs Macready, her bossiness and disdain for young children was made, rather marvellously, richly evident. Her demise (as the Witch) was wonderfully portrayed!
In stark contrast, Owain Williams, who was also the kindly yet mysterious Professor, endowed Aslan the Lion with a calm stoicism and timeless force for good. To my mind there were definite similarities to the story of Christ sacrificing his mortal life to save others. C S Lewis surely intended this thought. Owain had the aura both as Professor and Aslan, so vital in these, giving a titanic performance. There were distinct Biblical parallels!
Michael Ayres as the scary Maugrim, in magnificent costume and facial make up (including coloured contact lenses and wolf’s teeth), was marvellously horrible. Much heavy breathing (think Donald Trump with asthma), plus a horrifying howl …… lovely! Voraciously evil and eventually slain by Peter.
Matt Weaver, new to acting as his programme CV stated (though one would not have realised) was an athletic and kindly Mr Tumnus, the fawn greeting Lucy, whilst carrying an umbrella and two parcels and inviting her home for tea, but with a view to betraying her to the witch. Stick with the acting Matt, it suits you!
Iain Watson and Elaine Burns as Mr and Mrs Beaver, protecting the children in their home where Mrs Beaver sat sewing and welcoming. Warm and skilled portrayals were given by both players, their vast acting experience being obvious.
Colin Barnard was an affable and well played Father Christmas. No trainsets or playstations here, but rather a sword, dagger and magic potion. But he was accompanied by an elf, three (girly) reindeer and, glory be, Jingle Bells with dancing, A most effective scene.
Several keen and agile young folk played various creatures. The dance of the tiny animals was carried out charmingly by Izzy Teasdale (Rabbit / Leopard 1), Jenny Bridges (Deer / Leopard 2) and Amelia Potten (Deer / Leopard 3). All these young players did themselves proud in this production. Another young performer who did well was Emily Ingold, just a little older and a fairly recent school leaver, playing Santa’s Elf and the Wolf, later slain by Peter and carried off by Maurgrim. Amelia Tang was a sinister dwarf.
It is immensely healthy that NOMADS have these young folk coming up, hard on the heels of the older generation.
I was impressed by the scenery in this production; the winter scenes were spectacular and made me shiver, merely watching. The statues and stone table were excellent too. The Witch’s sledge was also realistic. The in-house set construction team of Tony and Dee Bowdery, Justin Cobb, Ben Egan, Andrew Hamel-Cooke, Iain Macfarlane, David Martin, Anne Thomas, and Clive Vinall deserve a special mention for the superb creations they all made.
Props – I loved the Witch’s whip, by the way – were by Jennie Hamel-Cooke and Tilly Winford, which is good news for the company.
Costumes – again of top quality and effect – were in the capable hands of Sharren Bridges, Elizabeth Cross, Jenny Hasted, Jennie Hamel-Cooke and Caroline Tang.
I would also like to mention the outstanding make up by Anna, Naomi and Becky, all Guildford College students. Absolutely superb work girls!
Spectacular lighting was provided by Tony and Dee and sound by the assured Tim Williams.
Without the expertise of dedicated, capable and unassuming people of this calibre, shows of this top standard are not possible, as all who are true theatre people are fully aware.
Choreography was by Sophie Johnstone and the young people will have learned much from working under her tuition. Much of the dancing was quite charming.
Anthony Kemp was the mighty Director working with Andrew Hamel- Cooke as Artistic director. The work and imagination that both these gentlemen provided in this vibrant production will stay long in the memory, not only of those fortunate enough to be cast on stage but also with the privileged audience.”
NODA District 19
Local theatre reviewer, Polly, reviews the December production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
“I saw the Thursday performance of this children’s favourite and what a charming affair it was. The very first thing to say is how exciting it was to be in the Nomad Theatre and find it buzzing with life and the auditorium full to capacity. Wonderful!!
This is a lovely story and a favourite with children since it was written. The Nomads’ performance retained and enhanced all its magic with beautiful and simple sets, hugely effective makeup and wonderful costuming. The entry of each character was a delight. As one would hope, the entry of the White Witch in her sleigh was stunning and there was an audible intake of breath as she glided onto the stage.
Of course, although these are very important factors in a performance, the main responsibility for delivering the plot is down to the actors. We were not disappointed. The children in particular were excellent. Eleanor Cain as Lucy gave a very clear and committed performance throughout, Susan, played by Poppy Finnigan was equally positive and focussed, Ethan Tang though sometimes a little under projected, was physically convincing and remained absolutely in character. The principal children’s role was taken by Hazel Eve playing Peter. She remained “in charge” throughout and clearly enjoyed the fighting scenes and was generally very credible.
Supporting the children were the adult roles. Mrs Macready (Helen Dixon) with her withering looks, stern voice and cutting Scots accent was enough to frighten anyone, she was equally scary as the White Witch. Both roles were very well developed and her projection and general movement around the stage, excellent. Mr Tumnus (Matt Weaver), the fawn, was very carefully considered and the facial expression, movement and the very clear voice made for a character we could immediately relate to. So sweet when he shared his inability to be cruel and then to discover that he had been captured by the White Witch!!!!! It was quite a relief when he reappeared later.
Mr and Mrs Beaver (Iain Watson and Elaine Burns respectively) were wonderful. Their movements and especially their “paws” were especially endearing. Michael Ayres as Maugrim was terrifying and his makeup was particularly good. I think we ought to have hissed a bit when he came on but I think, as an audience, we were a little shy of throwing in panto conventions! His companion, the dwarf played by Amelia Tang sustained her movements and character very well as she shadowed her mentor, Maugrim.
Emily Ingold’s wolf and Santa’s elf were nicely contrasted, while the leopards (Izzy Teasdale who also played the lovely rabbit, Jenny Bridges also an adorable deer and Amelia Potten the baby deer and the acrobatic little leopard) were a little gentler than we might have expected, but then Aslan, the lion (Owain Williams) wasn’t the most fierce of Kings of the jungle!
Owain played the dual roles of the Professor and Aslan. Of the two, the physicalisation of the professor was the more successful. Aslan, the loveable lion was sometimes a little hesitant, but his physical presence was very effective and I loved his roar.
Added to all this excellence were the impressive and quite unexpected pyrotechnics enhanced by some exciting lighting. The almost inevitable appearance of dry ice just added to the whole sense of magic. “Voices off” were very well handled and the music was the finishing touch.
You had a full house on the evening on which I attended and I believe you are sold out for some of the remaining performances so, well done and thank you again for a most enjoyable evening at the theatre!
I have deliberately not mentioned Father Christmas till the end. Colin Barnard’s appearance was the archetypal reminder of the kindly chap who epitomises Christmas for children and Colin did not let us down. It also gives me and excuse to end my review by wishing everyone a fabulous Christmas and a very Happy New Year.
THE NOMADS “Twelfth Night” 28th September 2016 – Noda review
This oft staged Shakespeare comedy is described in the director’s notes as “a delightful and raucous frolic with improbable coincidences etc.” The play usually opens with one of the Bard’s most famous lines “if music be the food of love, play on” spoken by Duke Orsino of Illyria, where the play is set. Director Andrew Hamel-Cooke, however, transposed the opening scene in the Duke’s palace with the sea coast and shipwreck scene, which sets up the story to come, leading to greater ease of understanding.
There have been myriad takes on this “romcom” of Shakespeare – “romcom” thankfully being one word he did not invent. Andrew saw distinct parallels with the age of free and anything goes love of the nineteen sixties and chose music from that exciting decade throughout to amply illustrate his point. Some examples were: All you need is love (Sebastian and Olivia) – Are you lonesome tonight? (to Malvolio in his captive “room”) – It’s not unusual (when Malvolio is accosted by Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Fabian) – Going to the Chapel (Olivia and Sebastian) – and Everlasting Love (show exit music). This brought the play’s theme of love and comedy neatly into the present, since love is immortal, and so is Shakespeare.
The delightful Nomad Theatre was a perfect setting for this so well known play.
The basic sets of Orsino’s Palace, Olivia’s house and garden, the sea coast and a nearby street were set out well with the stage doubling as Olivia’s house (stage left) and the palace (stage right) with prominent pillars across stage. Set construction was by the in-house team and sensibly was not too ornate, which focused attention on the actors.
The period costumes were most authentically sourced and provided by Jenny Hasted and Jennie Hamel-Cooke. If I am not mistaken, several had come from Kris Benjafield. The costumes were extremely effective and well fitted, thankfully.
Lighting, as usual at the Nomad theatre, was provided by the painstaking team of Tony and Dee Bowdery and sound was by Tim Williams. The lighting and sound effects were skilfully handled throughout to their great credit.
The cast was a very strong one, with no weak links. Strong and charismatic performances were given by all the main characters on stage.
Helen Dixon in the pivotal duel roles of Viola and Cesario (in male attire) was truly outstanding as was the ultra elegant Sarah Wilson as Olivia. Two talented ladies without doubt!
I hugely enjoyed the antics of the distinctly merry and indefatigable Sir Toby Belch, inhabited rather than acted by Murray Stephen. He was matched by the splendid and effete foppishness of Daniel Shepherd as Sir Andrew Aguecheek; his reluctant duel with Cesario, each mistakenly believing the other to be a ferocious fighter, was a comic highlight.
It is hard to warm to the ridiculous Malvolio with his pomposity and conceit, but I certainly warmed to the talent of Graham Botterill, who breathed authenticity into this easily fooled character. His hapless wail of self-pity from the confinement of his cramped “gaol” beneath the stage actually moved me – I had to remind myself that he was acting and not in real distress! What a boon is a stage trap door.
Michael Ayres imbued Feste with an impish charm and devious cunning, combined with fine unaccompanied and also self accompanied singing and nimble feet – a true clown.
Richie Halsey Watson was a forceful Duke Orsino more in love with being in love itself than with either Olivia or Viola. He beautifully captured the wonderful “sickness” of being in love with love.
Stuart Finlayson really hit the mark as the determined Sebastian, Viola’s presumed drowned (by her) twin brother – he showed huge presence throughout his scenes.
Andrew Hamel-Cooke, very late in the rehearsal period we learned afterwards, played the pirate (or was he?) Antonio. He won’t want me to say he stood out, so I won’t – but he did. Oops!
Moyra Brookes added artful guile and feminine wiles to the scheming Maria, her zest truly bringing this role to life.
Giovanni Tagliarini and Oliver Forsyth did well as Valentine and Curio respectively. Matthew Weaver was a thoroughly suitable choice to play Fabian and he was also a Sailor. Jason Lambert was a realistic and weathered Sea Captain. Sid Dolbear was a believable Priest. Jason and Sid also played Officers 1 and 2. Rita Derriman was a Lady in Waiting.
This complicated and multi layered love comedy with its mistaken identity at the heart of much of the confusion and comedy was a marvellous vehicle for a richly talented company of players like the Nomads. The director had worked in great depth with the performers upon the interaction, absurdities and human qualities of the many flawed characters. I would praise the diction of all on stage as I could clearly hear every word, which is not usual in amateur theatre. The casting of the players as their various characters was well chosen. The captivating performance eventually came to it’s most enjoyable end with the energetic Feste singing of the wind and the rain and with these final lines, ” But that’s all one, our play is done, And we”ll strive to please you every day.”
Your striving certainly succeeded , Nomads!
Local theatre reviewer, Polly, reviews the September production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Andrew Hamel-Cooke.
The Nomads – “Twelfth Night” – 29th September, 2016
“I went to see this show on Thursday Sept 29th. What a treat! It was an excellent production.
The play opened with what appeared to be a a scene on the very front of stage, but the gradual bringing up of the lights revealed a very lovely tableau set behind a gauze, which gradually “came to life” with the lifting of the gauze, the bringing up of more lights and the opening lines by the Duke Orsino.
The single set was exquisitely simple with two centrally placed columns. There were two rostra representing Olivia’s house stage left and Orsino’s stage right. Downstage, again on each side, were rostra and benches. The only things added during the play were some moving trellises behind which Aguecheek and his friends, watched the humiliation of poor Malvolio, and later the bars of a prison. The bars were cleverly placed over a trap-door which gave a dramatic sense of Malvolio’s being cast into the darkness of a dungeon.
It was real joy to see a Shakespearean play dressed in period. The previous evening, I had watched a professional production of one of Shakespeare’s works dressed in rather bizarre sort of modern dress and it was a complete distraction.
The Nomads production was elegant and restrained. The only real pattern and colour was reserved for the twins, Viola and Sebastian. and Malvolio’s cross gartered yellow stockings. My one criticism would be that Orsino’s (Richie Halsey Watson) costume didn’t really hang well on him. It was just too big? It reduced the dignity of his otherwise confident and clearly delivered performance. His walk perhaps was a little too rustic for a Duke!! Perhaps again attributable to the costume??
Olivia’s delivery (Sarah Wilson) and movements were suitably stately. Most of the time her lines were well pointed and conveyed the meaning clearly. There were however moments of under projection.
There was a very impressive evenness in the quality of acting. Viola/Cesario (Helen Dixon) was an excellent reading of the role. There was a sense of ease in the way she/he delivered familiar lines. Sebastian, (Stuart Finlayson) when he finally arrives fairly late in the play, also gave an assured and well placed performance.
The comic interludes featuring Sir Toby Belch (Murray Stephen) had a fabulous speaking voice, Andrew Aguecheek (Daniel Shepherd) was gloriously inept but amusingly agile and the very wicked and very focussed Maria (Moyra Brookes) was very well played. Who could have watched the drunken scenes and those behind the trellises with Fabian (Matthew Weaver), and not fallen about with laughter?
The fool, Feste (Michael Ayres) was superbly equipped to play the role. The so familiar lines were clean and clear and the singing was absolutely right in mood and execution. Feste is one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s fools and in my opinion, one of the best. It was really lovely to have him presented in the way he deserves.
Malvolio (Graham Botterill) is a cruel and hugely tragic role, in stark contrast to the tomfoolery of the real comics of Aguecheek and Belch and Maria. However, his pomposity makes him an obvious victim for some prank and deception. Malvolio was a little vocally restrained at first but was physically most convincing. He could perhaps have been a little more pompous initially so as to offer a real contrast to the savage cruelty served on him in the madness scene. However, it was a very dignified final scene and I did feel real sympathy for him.
The supporting roles helped to give the whole piece a sense of cohesion and structure. It was all in all, a very fine production particularly as it is a small amateur production.
The use of much more modern music was a witty and amusing idea. For someone like me who was not altogether familiar with the music used and who was much more interested in the beautiful language, it served only as an irritant. That is a personal opinion but the only weakness I would mention. It was particularly sad, I thought, as Feste had brought live music to the play which was a real and impressive bonus.
Thank you once again for a most enjoyable evening at your beautiful theatre. It deserves much greater support.”
Review author – Elaine Burns
The familiar opening music of Strictly Come Dancing has been resounding through the theatre this week as the participants in Play in a Week have been rehearsing their Shakespearean version. It opened with a married couple settling in front of the TV to watch, (David Hatton and Patsy O’Brien) with the husband repeatedly asking to watch the football instead. Then the whole cast appeared in Elizabethan costume doing the jive.
The four judges were gloriously over the top and very funny. Jamie Bensted as Len Goodman danced a few steps and made sure he gave someone ‘seven!’..Oliver Forsyth as Craig Revel-Horwood, was spot on with his tone of voice ‘a-ma-zing’. Naomi Brown as Darcy Bussell looked the part and was elegantly emotional at every opportunity. Andrew Marber dressed as a jester and going way over the top was born to play Bruno, leaping out of his seat and loving everything especially the fairies. Daniel Galliford as Brucie used all his catchphrases in a suitably creepy manner; everyone was his favourite.
The script by Rachel Barnett was very clever at merging Shakespeare with ‘Strictly’, my favourite was when Henry V’s insults to Falstaff were taken personally by Craig. The TV show is ripe for being sent up and it certainly was, with the audience joining in by chanting all the catchphrases.
Memorable couples included Romeo and Juliet (Yves Roudaut and Zena Rose) slowly dancing to ‘Kissing You’ from Baz Luhrmnn’s film, beautifully sung by Luke Tye. As the dance ended they died, of course along with all the other couples.
Richard Watson as Henry V danced solo to Mars from the Planet Suite while on video the cast spoke a line each from Henry’s Agincourt speech.
The Mechanicals from Midsummer Night’s Dream plus some very badly behaved fairies, partly on film for the special effects, were hilarious. The dance routine had it all, a wall, the lovers, a distraught Thisbe, a roaring lion and an ass. Mathew James sang a spirited version of ‘where the bee sucks’ as accompaniment.
Shakespeare himself (Giles Walker) and his Dark Lady danced while Luke Tye sang Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Sonnet 29’. A very difficult song but handled well by Luke. Meanwhile Annie Brennand Roper was a feisty and stroppy Dark Lady.
A final very moving moment came when Puck’s speech ‘if we shadows hath offended’ was presented with great intensity as single lines on a flip chart. The audience were asked to hold up their tea lights while the glitter ball was lit to send light spinning around the auditorium. Magical.
Congratulations to everyone from the director Brandon to the ladies making tea. There was so much in this show that I haven’t been able to mention everything or even every person on the stage. What came across so strongly was the sheer joy and energy of everyone involved in any way.
Review author – Elaine Burns
This year’s summer show by the Nomes Youth Theatre was based on the stories told by Sheherazade to keep herself alive. Every age group was involved from 4 year olds to 18 years. Impressively all the scenes were devised by the Nomes in rehearsal.
The set was simple; several rostrum plus arches painted in vibrant colours. A lamp and jars at the side of the stage and a magic carpet. The costumes were harem pants and black T-shirts.
For the introduction everyone was involved, were well-drilled and mostly easily heard. The juniors performed the Ali Baba scene and their ‘Bad Boys’ routine was delightful.
During Aladdin the minis had their Magic Carpet scene, assisted by three of the Young Company. Each of these 4/5 year olds had a line and enchanted the audience with their energy and innocence. I did enjoy the use of physical theatre as Nomes formed the cave entrance.
Act 2 opened behind the gauze with the full cast minus the minis who were too young to be on stage any further. The staging was very effective as the Seniors acted out the story of The Little Beggar. This was well-executed, very funny as each person in turn thinks they have killed the beggar, and all were heard clearly.
The adventures of Sinbad the Sailor were performed by the Juniors and Seniors and their extra confidence and experience showed, beginning with some excellent solo singing. They then told the stories of the Whale. the Giant at the Gate and the Cannibals.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable show and it was a joy to see how the Nomes are well on their way to learning about and acquiring stagecraft.
Nomes Youth Theatre Classes
Registers are now open for a September start!
All of our classes have an emphasis on confidence building, teamwork and developing theatre arts skills in an inclusive environment.
NODA representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of the 1950’s musical “The Pajama Game” by The Nomads in association with Bookham Light Operatic Society, at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
Bookham Light Operatic Society – “The Pajama Game” – 12th May 2016 by Jon Fox
This tuneful and popular musical premiered on Broadway in 1954 and is a regular on the amateur circuit. Set in a Pajama factory in the American Mid-West, the central plot is of the new factory superintendent Sid Sorokin falling out with the grievance committee leader Babe Williams over a pay increase demand whilst simultaneously falling in love with each other.
A mid-west American accent (or any American accent) is not easy for most British people and, in this production we had good and average among the various players. A very strong principal cast backed by a highly enthusiastic and energetic chorus made for a very high performance standard.
The show opened with a most impressive factory scene with a row of real sewing machines being used, together with several ironing boards. The company were all busily going about their business, be it sewing, ironing, portering, supervising etc. A round of applause from the audience! In a show where time and motion study was a recurring theme, not even Vernon Hines the T&M study man could have criticised the pace of events as the story unfolded.
The two leading players were Helen Dixon as Babe Williams and Michael Ayres as Sid Sorokin. The love interest scenes were played with convincing chemistry and both played these forceful characters with passion, bringing stage presence and good singing – none better than the duet “There once was a Man”.
Simon Openshaw was a comical Vernon Hines. Though the butt of humour especially when told to remove his “pants” (trousers) in order to dress in pajamas, he played this jealous character with great truth and retained a likeability. Simon gave a most impressive performance, his two songs being put over really well. His duet “I’ll never be jealous again” with Mabel – played with vivacity by Dreen Legg was a show high spot’.
David Foord-Divers gave us a bombastic Old Man Hasler the pajama factory owner conspiring to cheat the workers out of their pay rise demand. He glowered and raged to good effect and was highly charismatic. Sophie Johnstone also shone with fine singing and strong acting as Gladys Hotchkiss (Mr Hasler’s Secretary)
Dreen Legg was Mabel – Sid’s secretary – and gave a very fine performance. Chris Poplett as Prez was a handsome, womanising union man and gave a very watchable performance despite being landed with the show’s least melodic song in “Her is”. To his great credit, he performed it skilfully, firstly with Gladys and then the reprise with Mae, played by Tracey Gillard, a grievance committee activist who clearly enjoyed herself in the role – as did I watching.
Laura Thomson was a flirty and larger than life Poopsie, one of the factory workers, and really caught the eye, being clearly the best dancer on stage.
Nicole Perrier-Doe also did well as Brenda another grievance committee member. The shamming, work shy factory hand Gus “hurt” by Sid, who pushed him to get moving, was given a chip on the shoulder persona by Mark Leddin, who made much of this smaller role. Colin Barnard was a suitably angry salesman, Max, annoyed at the deliberately badly stitched pajamas.
Peter Hart made the amiable, stamp collecting, Pop (Babe’s father), really come to life. Clearly a highly experienced actor, he gave a polished performance of professional standard.
Among the ensemble were several names I have seen play lead and major roles in other productions and their well drilled acting, singing and dancing fully reflected this standard.
Musical Director James Marr achieved a good balance in the company singing and managed his three piece band with aplomb.
Choreographer Christina Harris, as top choreographers do had worked tirelessly with some innovative routines. I especially liked “Steam Heat” with the three elegant black suited and white gloved dancers, “Seven and a Half Cents”, the stonking “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “The Pajama Game” reprise in the Finale.
Andrew Hamel-Cooke, the experienced director, had his stamp all over this energetic, yet emotionally vulnerable show. The characters were all well cast and scenes ran seamlessly with clever use of lighting by Dee and Tony Bowdery and sound by Clive Vinall and Justin Cobb. Jenny Hasted’s costumes were spot on for the fifties era, as too were the hairstyles.
The “Once a Year Day” company outing with the extremely well enacted knife throwing act was a very special scene. In fact, a lady sitting next to Sue and myself would not believe the knives were not actually thrown!
This was a high energy show, but with well directed contrasts of emotion, pathos and all the characters, apart from the “Villain” Hasler retained a likeability. In my opinion this is an underrated show; catchy tunes abound, it has a strong story and much opportunity for dancing. BLOS made a wise choice to stage this show and did full justice to the show’s writers, and more importantly, to themselves.