Hilary Sage reviews Chorus of Disapproval

Chorus of Disapproval
by Alan Ayckbourn
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Julie Petrucci

There is good news! The Fun Night Out (For The Whole Family) is alive and well and flourishing in the careful hands of Waterbeach Community Players. There is even better news! This group lays to rest, once and for all, the sour old assumption that village productions are reluctantly made up of folk who would rather be appearing in 'Town' productions had they the skill to do so. Julie Petrucci's cast was quite obviously happy to be there, they filled the stage with confident, strong performances and an exceptionally efficient technical team, led by Mark Easterfield, supported them. The hall had been arranged so that people could enjoy themselves and so that their comfort, ability to see the stage, etc. etc. appeared to be of some importance to the organizers. Huzzah! So we drank wine or juice and nibbled nuts at our well set-out table and were able to sit back and let it all happen.

And happen it did. This is not a very challenging play - well you don't go to Ayckbourn if you need an intellectual work-out do you? - but it entertained at every turn, and the slow build-up, through the play-within-the-play, of excruciating auditions, self-congratulatory castings, soul-destroying rehearsals and debilitating fallings-out and re-castings, led to one of the most cataclysmically well-intentioned interpretations of 'The Beggars' Opera' that you are likely to see. The chorus had worked hard at their 18th century songs and, in between scenes, gave the unfortunate pianist, played by Shirley Randall, a hectic run for her money. There was the odd moment of wondering whether the singing was authentically ragged or simulatedly so - and I particularly loved a ladies' duet in which one lady was only just inaudible throughout! - but it mattered not: the tankards duly failed to clash, the dancing was accurate but joyless and the final 'production' ended on a note satisfactory enough to justify all the mutual congratulations and the general hilarity and relief of the opera's cast. (Many will know that director, Julie Petrucci, is a dab hand at directing 'real' coarse acting - as scripted by Michael Green, that is - but any theatre lover could appreciate the experienced hand behind the dramatic endeavours of PALOS. the amateur operatic group in question!) That having been said, some of the scenes were more successful than others: the opening audition scene was marvellous, the pub scene lacking in focus, the seduction scene awkward, the dance rehearsal and prison scenes hilarious. The costumes were terrific, the sets a bit stark, but there are only so many miracles that one can contrive on a school stage.

Stephen Smith shone as Guy Jones, the hapless and innocent outsider, whose desire to be part of the group was exceeded only by his amazing social ineptitude. Alan Maltby was superb as Dafydd ap Llewellyn, the bullying, arrogant, obsessive artistic director of PALOS while his singing voice left us in no doubt at all that his is a genuine talent. His range of emotions, from uncontrollable anger to private anguish, was sensitively and confidently played, and he never allowed the hectoring tones to overwhelm his audience. Stephanie Waller, Linden Leeke, Catherine Perkins and Linda Smith gave good, convincing performances, but I particularly liked Christine Easterfield's determined performance as Fay Hubbard and Candy Tucker's lovely portrayal of the stroppy S. M., Bridget Baines. But it is a big cast and a big production team - led by Rob Ball and Lisa Bygrave - and it reflected the great depth of talent and commitment in Waterbeach Community Players. I am sorry that I have not been able to mention more participants. Whether on stage or off, everyone deserved the thunderous applause that they received on the Friday night. They - especially Julie who had, so the programme says, taken over the production from someone else! - should take full credit for that unbeatable, wrap-around, comforting sound: the sound of people thoroughly enjoying themselves. So the recommendation is clear enough: when next you want a F. N. O. (For The Whole Family), see what Waterbeach Community Players are up to!

Waterbeach Theatre Company
All performances at
Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023
Email: secretarywtc@icloud.com

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