Review for THE NOMADS, Nomad Theatre, East Horsley September 2021
Living Together by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Danny Sparkes
Living Together is part of Alan Ayckbourn’s Norman Conquest trilogy, which was written in 1973. The three plays cover a traumatic family weekend in the same house, each set in a different area. Living Together is the second of the three plays, and is set in the living room. The Nomads put on a successful production of Round and Round the Garden 2 years or so ago. Here we see the return of the same talented Director, Danny Sparkes, and largely the same cast reprising their previous roles. A comedy, of course, yet many a sad element to the three plays. All human life is here, so to speak: bickering families; the rivalry between siblings and in-laws; the male ego, often very fragile; the fading looks and chances, and fears of approaching middle age; the delights and disappointments of marriage; and the looming presence of the Aged Parent! Simmering tensions abound.
There was an attractive living room set, with a view to the enticingly lit garden outside (scene of Round and Round the Garden). Doors went off to the right, from whence came various disastrous crashings and bangings, and exclamations, as some of the action obviously took place in the dining room, scene of the other play, Table Manners. A satisfying set, I found, with many elements to observe along the way, some of which played a significant role in the proceedings, for example, the chaise longue and the rug, and the ominous box containing Reg’s board game! Costumes were very much ‘of the period’ and were indeed largely the same ones used in Round and Round the Garden. Lighting was very effective throughout.
The central character in all three plays, as the name of the trilogy suggests, is Norman, a librarian and bumbling would-be Lothario, who aims to seduce either, or both, of his sisters-in-law. At the start, one of them, Annie, seems susceptible, though later less so, and the other, Sarah, seems more drawn to his rather feeble efforts later on in the play. Guy Shirley gave a good performance as Norman, though his whiny character will have made many women in the audience more likely to ignore him than succumb to his supposed charms! Norman is the perpetual little boy, which I guess is a typical characteristic of such characters. Persistence he certainly had, and the ability to opportunistically grab every possible chance. Well played, Guy, and very funny, especially in the ‘rug’ scene, where for want of any other success, he finally seduces his own wife on the rug in the living room. The four women in the play are all strong and feisty, though we never meet Mother, who stays up in her room.
Annie is an unmarried daughter who has got stuck at home looking after her. Suzanne Doherty gave a fine, nuanced performance, allowing us to realise the frustrations of her life, bound by the ‘pills’ routine, and lack of much of a life of her own. She resents the more independent existences of her siblings Reg and Ruth, though bears all largely with civility and a certain amount of gratitude that they have come to visit for the weekend, along however with a simmering resentment that they are obviously fairly oblivious to the ties that bind her forever to fending for Mother’s every need. Such a common situation for so many families, and great writing from Ayckbourn to portray this so successfully.
Annie does have a chance of romance, however, with her suitor, the vet Tom whose head is always up in the clouds, and who has the emotional intelligence of a flea, quite unable to read Annie’s signals, and get round to popping the question, or indeed grabbing a kiss. A lovely and endearing performance from Matt Weaver, I think we were all rooting for him to get on and make a move! I’ve now seen him as Tom twice, and can’t wait to see him in a different role and a quite different character – a swash-buckling pirate, maybe, or a wild murderer!
Reg and Sarah are the archetypal married couple swamped with children, glad to be free of them for this weekend away. Wife wears the trousers, probably because she is the more practical and focussed of the two. Husband is really oblivious to most things, other than his all-consuming passion – the invention of board games! Plenty of humour in all that, exploited well by Ian Macfarlane as Reg and Vykki Mash as Sarah. Vykki Mash portrayed Sarah well as the woman who has grown away from her boring husband and would now be quite open to exploring other possibilities, with her brother-in-law, for example, if the opportunity arose. Wild-tempered she could be too when roused, and Vykki gave us some good demonstrations of this. Ian Macfarlane managed to make us feel quite sorry for him in the board game scene, whilst at the same time, we shared everybody else’s frustration at having to play the damned thing! Good comic performances.
Finally, in the second half, we get to meet Norman’s long-suffering wife Ruth. Moyra Brookes played this role to perfection, making us wonder how a feisty lady such as she could both manage and put up with a roguish wimp (can there be such a thing?) like Norman. And yet, and yet, was there still some genuine affection there? The ‘rug’ seduction scene allowed the two of them to show us that there was.
Ayckbourn’s play showed us the sadness of the human condition, and the cast brought this over very well, but also the comedy of the hum-drum middle-class existence. And for most of the characters, Ayckbourn provided an element of hope – though I’m not sure about Reg unless he managed finally to sell one of his games to a manufacturer!
Danny Sparkes provided a finely directed evening’s enjoyment. We laughed a lot, but we were also given food for thought.
Dead Man Quotes
Directed by Daniel Shepherd
This was a wonderful piece and Daniel Shepherd is to be congratulated on its creation. He had a huge advantage, of course, in playing the main role of Terry. It has to be said, however, that playwrights don’t always make the greatest actors, so well done on both fronts.
The prospect of cleaning up a seemingly abandoned council flat is not the most savoury job. Many of us have seen glimpses of this real-life situation on television and turned away in horror.
Foremost in the minds of our band of “habitat containment and removal managers” was the observance of tradition. The two more experienced ‘operatives” wanted to ensure that the newest recruit to the team, Pike, (Roland Eve) should understand the importance of Tradition. He needed to know how things were properly done.
The discovery of the light switch changed the mood of the whole piece. There, in the middle of the room, it appeared there was a corpse, decently covered, having to remove it was not part of their traditional role. The Police were to be called and the team’s first thought was to return to the depot. But before they could leave, they decided that it would be respectful to say “a few words.”
The discovery of two photographs on the sideboard, some questionable magazines along with some unpaid bills gave them, they thought, a suitable profile of the dead person. The resulting dialogue, inventing a character for the deceased, created moments of really great black humour. Poor Pike (Roland Eve) was clearly bemused and wondered what he had walked into in every sense of the phrase. Roland portrayed a lovely, uncertain, and hesitant character. His face was very descriptive and his voice well projected.
The character created by Jerry (Sid Dolbear) gave us so many occasions on which to smile and laugh. His facial expressions alone were a joy to behold, but he sometimes under projected. His character, however, was entirely believable. Have we met him before in Dad’s Army, I wondered?
Barry Whitglow’s (Murray Stephen) entry was an explosion of light, colour, and volume, it provided a hilarious contrast to the melodramatic, momentary sobriety of the other three characters. Sadly, he had been over-enthusiastic on his entry and momentarily lost his lines which broke the pace a bit.
Despite this, it was a funny, sad and very successful production and I hope that Daniel will continue to write for the stage.
Review by “Polly”
Directed by Moyra Brookes
It was a delight to be back at the Nomad theatre again. Despite very strict Covid rules being adhered to, there was a buzz of excitement around the theatre at the joy of being back again. It is a fabulous facility and The Nomads make full use of it.
This was a brave choice of play. A two-hander sustained for an hour without a break is a tough undertaking but Nikky Kirkup (Anya) and Vykki Mash (Sonia) took it in their stride. They created the Chekhovian atmosphere with a possible hint of Genet, with minimum fuss and complete success.
Anya’s opening moments set the scene and her scream on seeing the coffin in her sparsely furnished room was convincing beyond words! It gave her the opportunity to reveal her relationship with vodka within minutes.
We also quickly learned that she had a limp and her rather tired, once-glamorous dress underlined the fact that she had fallen on difficult times. The entrance of her sister Sonia dressed as housemaid established in our minds a firm, friendly relationship between the two.
The initial dialogue was a little stiff and the picking up of cues could have been a little more slick, giving pace to the opening moments. The scene soon settled down, however, and we became engaged in the story. We got to know the characters.
It appeared that a coffin had also appeared in Sonia’s room. The two women freshly arrived from a seance which, it seems, both were in the habit of attending. The growing hysteria in Anya had earlier revealed her fear of death and her belief that the coffin was an omen.
The coffin was the focus of their early dialogue and finally led, with the help of much vodka, to the revelation of the terrible secrets that each had kept from the other. One was a serial murderer and the other a procurer. When the reason for the appearance of the coffin was discovered, one couldn’t help wondering whether the relationship would ever be the same!
Nikky created a very credible character in Anya and showed total confidence using the acting area. She was fluent, her voice well projected and she had a good range and believable facial expressions. She did wonderfully well is sustaining a considerable limp.
Though we saw her very close relationship with vodka, she showed almost superhuman ability not to show that she must have been getting a little more tipsy as the play went on. Playing “drunk” is notoriously difficult, but I think we needed just a little attempt here. Surely, it was the vodka that led her to reveal her terrible secret.
Vikki too created a character (Sonia) in which we could believe and this became more convincing as the play progressed. There were a few moments when the voice dropped a bit too far and there was a little over gesturing which didn’t always seem to arise for the lines of the situation. This was, however, also a successful and well-sustained characterization. As time went on, the ensemble playing between the two became more and more impressive.
The set was minimal and reflected the situation in which the two women found themselves. The lighting was suitably dingey and supported the atmosphere of a situation of “reduced circumstances.”
I liked the choice of music, but it was a bit too loud at some points and I would have liked to have heard the difference when the door opened and closed. A tiny, nit-picking comment, I know, but little details like this matter.
All in all, this was a very enjoyable performance. We were drawn into the emotional awfulness of the revelations the women made to one another. The touches of black humour were always a welcome diversion. They were well pointed and enhanced our enjoyment of the play. And what a relief when we discovered the real reason why the coffins were there! More smile and a little wry laughter.
The director is to be congratulated on a very interesting and brave choice of piece. It was very effectively executed and was clearly enjoyed by all the audience. What a tragedy there were so few of us.
Review by “Polly”
Review for THE NOMADS, Nomad Theatre, East Horsley June 2021
God Of Carnage
Directed by Elaine Burns
God of Carnage is described as a “dark comedy”. It is set in Paris, in the living room of Michel and Véronique Vallon whose son Bruno has had a fight in a local park with Ferdinand, the son of Alain and Annette Reille. Ferdinand knocked out two of Bruno’s teeth. The parents of both boys, who are aged 11, meet to discuss the matter. The evening starts in a fairly civilised way with tea and clafoutis (a classic French cherry cake), the men bonding with each other to start with, but gradually degenerates into chaos as the four become progressively more argumentative and childish, take to the bottle, and eventually part company, hurling accusations at each other including their own spouse. The characters retained their French names, emphasising the setting of the story in Paris. Other productions over the years have adopted English names, losing the French location. The play has been performed all over the world in different languages since it was launched in 2006, and includes a film adaptation directed by Roman Polanski in 2011 under the title Carnage.
The casting was impeccable. The play opens with Véronique Vallon, played by Andrea Charles, reading the extent of her son Bruno’s injuries from a clipboard, playing with semantics as to whether the other boy, Ferdinand, was ‘armed’ with a stick and did he ‘disfigure’ Bruno. Her claim to fame is that she is writing a book on Darfur and has an interest in art, cherishing various exhibition catalogues. Michel, (Ian Creese), her somewhat coarse husband, is a wholesaler of household wares (pots and pans, as he described it) who has a slightly neurotic, sick mother who constantly telephones. He slouches in his chair, while initially trying to keep the peace. He is vilified by the others for throwing out his daughter’s pet hamster and leaving it to die in the street. (Fortunately, we don’t actually see this!)
Annette Reille (Helen Teasdale) and her husband Alain (Jason Spiller) are the slicker of the two couples – he an arrogant lawyer and she is something to do with wealth management. The superior (he thinks) Alain is constantly interrupted by his mobile phone and we listen to his conversations with colleagues, becoming more and more irate and vindictive, about a court case with a pharmaceutical company that is verging on litigation. Spiller’s handling of the mobile phone calls was superb, very believable, and his subsequent descent into inebriation after partaking of too much rum was skilfully controlled and not overdone.
Another clever touch was when Annette realistically vomits all over the floor, coffee table and precious art books, cleverly operated from a cushion she was clutching. Her tantrum over Alain’s use of his mobile which she throws into the vase of flowers was very funny, as was her parting shot of trashing the tulips out of the vase, which Alain tries to clear up, crawling all over the floor.
The play ends with both couples being the worse for wear, the Reilles’ staggering out, leaving the Vallons to continue their own personal brawl and Véronique still trying to meet up with Annette to discuss their sons’ behaviour. There is a danger with a one-act play and a small number of characters that the pace drops off or it is too static. Not so here. The skilful direction of Elaine Burns made sure that it moved along briskly but without being rushed. The cast provided their own costumes which appropriately displayed the difference in their social standing – the professional Reilles’ and the more down-to-earth Vallons.
A single, simple set of the Vallon’s living room with one entrance centre back, giving nothing away as to the era but clearly indicating the present because of the extensive use of a mobile phone. Minimal props but the scene with the cushion concealing the vomit of the unfortunate Annette was cleverly performed! The introductory music of Françoise Hardy singing Tous les garcons et les filles de mon age provided an authentic French feel and certainly took me back to my days at University in France in the early 1960s!
A most enjoyable evening. Congratulations to everyone – skilful direction by Elaine Burns who was lucky to have an extremely talented cast, every one of them wholly believable, and a friendly welcoming Front of House team who managed to uphold the necessary Covid rules without overdoing it.
Jane Turner – Assistant Rep, NODA
Review for THE NOMADS, Nomad Theatre, East Horsley June 2019
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery
Directed by Elaine Burns
Perhaps it’s because of the naff sounding titles, that the Farndale series of plays are sometimes confused with light, frothy comedies that are easy to stage and to perform…and to enjoy. But Farndale plays are complex, very carefully crafted and come with explicit instructions. You deviate from these at your peril.
Staging the play in the restricted area of the Studio could have caused a few headaches. But, in fact, the set design was a triumph; and the intimacy of the whole space added greatly to the atmosphere. There were four exits (SL archway, SR passage, SR stairway and a window), plus a false door and a fireplace
flat. All were used to great comic effect.
The initial disintegration of the set was delightful and nicely timed. The pelmet & curtains fell down; a leg came off the chess-table, sending it and the pieces flying, and the fireplace flat collapsed. Lighting and Sound were perfectly co-ordinated. Deliberately mistimed cues peppered the action and
confused the characters…particularly when the light switch also operated the telephone…great moment! The Isle of Man video was beautifully filmed and artfully projected. Very dignified performances by Mr Beasley and the Manx cat. Props were always available and hilariously inappropriate…particularly the recurring accordion. Costumes were well chosen, in that they were slightly eccentric for the characters and completely bonkers for the fashion show.
Much of the comedy was when people fell out of character into their Townswomen’s Guild persona. Felicity and Audrey struggled with the fireplace flat…first erecting it back to front and then upside down. People used the wrong entrances, shuffled their lines, repeated their lines, corrected each other,
corpsed shamelessly and recited recipes to the audience.
Moyra Brookes was surely born to play Mrs Reece, the Chairman. The “one or two announcements” that went on forever, the rivalry with Thelma, exasperated asides to lighting & stage management, the succession of characters and the final upstaging of Felicity and everyone else. It was a monstrously fine performance.
Juliana Anderiesz played Thelma, second in command and Mrs R’s implacable rival. She showed great comic timing as she flipped in and out of character. Wonderfully funny moment when she and Murray (as O’Reilly) appeared to get into a loop whilst discussing her former lover, Randolph. Very difficult to achieve and very nicely performed. Cheryl Chamberlain played Felicity. Her gentle character contrasted well with the butch portrayal of Dawn and Colonel King, who she played in insanely rapid succession and with good physical comedy. Particularly loved the moment when she switched on the standard lamp…not really believing that it would work.
Fiona Whitehead was Audrey, who vividly portrayed a range of eccentric characters. She was very good as Violet, the spinster aunt with the dodgy Yorkshire accent. Murray Stephen was the stage manager, Gordon, who’d been dragooned into playing the police inspector at short notice. He looked appropriately uncomfortable: searching for his lines, addressing the floor and never knowing where to stand. Lovely timing and characterisation.
The director, of this production, has faithfully followed the script and its instructions…and it has paid off. The pace was excellent and interactions were well co-ordinated…there was a chair arranging sequence that seemed to take up a whole act. It was impossible to spot any fumbling that hadn’t been
There was such a rich vein of comedy that we, the audience, hardly dared laugh in case we missed the next nugget of humour.
To conclude: you must be fine actors, well-directed and rehearsed, to appear so exquisitely incompetent!
NODA Representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of Round And Round The Garden by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
We are thrilled to have been awarded “Best Drama” in the South-East district by NODA for this production!
“This sparkling Ayckbourn comedy was first produced in 1975 and made a great impression on me. To see amateur actors stepping into the shoes of such showbiz greats as Michael Gambon, Penelope Keith and Felicity Kendall among others was always going to be a worry, I reasoned. But I need not have been at all concerned, for the six players all did admirably well. Almost incredibly there was not a single prompt – indeed, I later learnt that the director chose not to have a prompt in the wings at all – and the talented Danny Sparkes, who directed, made a wise if somewhat brave choice. It was quickly made very obvious that all six actors thoroughly knew their parts and the whole piece had excellent pace, with crisp and completely audible diction. In fact, there was a professional feel to the production.
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.
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.
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