A Bunch of Amateurs
by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman
performed by Waterbeach Theatre Company
directed by Julie Petrucci
I received a warm welcome from Julie Petrucci on a foggy November evening and after being shown to where my seat was, I was offered a drink by Chris Shinn. Thank you to the friendly front of house team who had also happily sold me raffle tickets, no I didn't win. I settled down comfortably to read the programme in preparation for watching A Bunch of Amateurs performing Shakespeare! I have seen the show before and have even read the script with a view to performing this play.
This is a wide stage especially when the forestage is set ready for scenes in the bedroom and Mary's Bed and Breakfast Dining Room, both simply dressed sets but very useful as they had their own entrance doors, this made them self-contained especially when lit. The only comment here was that I had to turn in my seat to watch the action in the Bed and Breakfast. The main stage was dressed appropriately as a backstage area of a small theatre / rehearsal room with a good hired backcloth and set dressing with clothes rail, chairs, table and a small number of various props. This set was completely transformed to an impressively dressed stage for the 'performance' of King Lear with swags, banners and a throne. I was impressed with the use of video technology which certainly gave a sense of an arrival 'press conference' for Jefferson's arrival at the airport. Also, the live use of Zoom for David's appearance, luckily absolutely no tech issues here or throughout the show with good lighting design, sound throughout the show and the use of original music. A nice touch, on a stage large enough to take it, was the Mobility Scooter supposedly Jefferson's 'Limo'.
This play has a reasonably sized cast and they seemed to have been cast with some thought into the characters they were portraying. The dialogue was good throughout, I noticed no hesitation and the pace throughout was good, diction nice and clear and interaction between the characters was good. The 'star', Jefferson Steel was convincingly played by James Dowson, a very confident portrayal of a big movie star coming to terms with himself, showing the change between an unconvincing stage actor to a confident Shakespearean performer together with a changing relationship with his daughter and ultimately with Dorothy Nettle played well by Marcelle Olivier. A big role in itself dealing with the ups and downs of an amateur society as well as the problems of a prima donna. Very well played and fully in command of her role especially dealing with the decidedly pompous Nigel Dewberry, a well-cast David Moat. David suited this pompous solicitor to a 'T', movement, diction and mannerisms were very well shown through facial expression and voice. The feeling that he should always have the star role was made very clear through his acting. The comedy of the role of Denis Dobbin was brought out by Michael Husband, this was a part that needed a sense of comedy and timing throughout and Michael did not fail us here, he knew when to allow for audience laughter and seemed to enjoy himself all the time. If that was not his natural accent he held it well, if it was then it so suited the character. Cath Langride's Mary Plunkett had the unenviable task of playing a star struck fan and a disgruntled infatuated Bed and Breakfast owner, she made this role her own with her looks, expressions and actions as she forever mistook the films that Jefferson had starred in, another fine performance.
Around these five main principals we had Emma Bolton-Luckie playing the sponsor Lauren Bell suitably portrayed through costume and dialogue, she also had the task of massaging a semidressed actor, both of these images of the role of Lauren were played with fervour and confidence. Jefferson's daughter Jessica was well portrayed as a surly teenager by Olive Sparrow who convincingly had enough of her father, didn't think a lot of him and was exasperated be his behaviour, she showed clearly the way the characters view of him changed throughout the play. Rounding up the cast were James Windle and Yvonne Peat, not easy with non-speaking roles but they added authenticity as they performed their roles, both 'back stage' and as Courtiers and of course the cameo appearance of Nick Gulvin as David.
As I said at the beginning, I have seen this play before and this was a superior production to that previously seen. Congratulations to the cast, Technical Director Mark Easterfield, Composer Mike Milne and particularly to Director Julie Petrucci. Well Done.
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