Archive | July, 2019

funny turns at Jermyn Street

22 Jul

BY DAVID HAMSHIRE AT JERMYN STREET THEATRE

Here is a brilliant show for anyone sick to death of politics and the 21st century and would like to enjoy a real show business treat.

The setting by Sharon Lovett Lampi is the living room in theatrical digs in 1935. – accurate in every detail. There is a cuckoo clock on the wall, framed posters, pictures and photographs of show business personalities. The Parker Knoll armchair in front of the fire. Correct period dining chairs. A piano in the corner with a shawl thrown over it.

It is a time of peace. The characters still remember the first world war but are not aware that there is a second one on the cards. Bernard, the husband of Alice, the landlady, was injured in the war, is in bed offstage and does not appear. His wife Alice – a caring landlady, played with complete accuracy by Joan Blackham and her pretty daughter Sally (Georgia Rily) are at his back and call throughout the play.

Norman Tate, (Kenneth Michaels) one of the lodgers, is a failed comedian who manages to think of jokes long after they have been performed by somebody else. As he gives the feed line one can almost hear the minds of the audience as they mentally provide the tag.

‘ Conjuring With Comedy!’ Mansel David plays the eccentric magician in an exotic dressing jacket. Scattered around the set, in vases and peoples’ pockets and pushed down chairs is a plethora of his colourful coloured silk scarves — retrieved by Sally from all sorts of unusual places. (I knew a magician who had the same problem)

An evil little song and dance man who is loved by Sally but who is not all he seems is Lewis Rae as Carlie Prince.

Nellie Price is a plate spinner and also the wife of Norman – a kind-hearted, generous (with presents and sexual favours), but incredibly annoying Irish woman Crissy Mullen.

One of her lovers is Martin Wimbush, authoritative and amusing as Harold Chance, an impresario; another is the author David Hampshire, a ‘legitimate’ actor.

Every one of these characters is real and played with extraordinary perception by the stunning cast. They are real people, we love them, cry with them and are sometimes irritated by them, but never for one moment are they false to the audience.

David Hampshire, after forty years living with and studying theatricals, has given us something important. I have seen it played at the Comedy Museum and then twice at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Once to an audience of theatre professionals where the laughter was loud and long. Then again to a regular theatre-going audience where the laughter was less noisy but equally enthusiastic.

There is one more character, which is everybody’s favourite. David Forest gives to ‘Arthur Merson, the man with the tunes’ an exceptional truth and vulnerability. He steals everyone’s heart with his brilliant portrayal of an ex performer who tries to play his song over and over again to the disinterested members of the cast. The audience is deeply affected each time he is foiled when he attempts to play his masterpiece. “Don’t send my Wanda to Wandsworth.”

Hayward B. Morse, another terrific show biz veteran is the perfect director for this production. So beautifully done.

The author quotes Roy Barraclough in the programme. “If you wrote some of these stories, people would say they were made up.”

So David did, And they are not.

private lives at Sonning

8 Jul

‘Don’t Quibble Sibyl’ is my favourite line from Coward’s most famous play ‘Private Lives’ currently playing at the Mill at Sonning, probably the most delightful theatre setting in the world. It is a great adventure to go there — just a ten quid taxi from Reading Station to the old Picturesque Water Mill. Here in an atmospheric wood-beamed hall, you get an exceptional lunch or dinner and then go to the theatre for a play – the whole experience for fifty-one pounds. That is about what the meal alone would cost in the West End. The play itself is so well known to most of the audience, but I was a bit worried about the length of the first part, which consists of both Acts one and two. For some reason, three-act plays are out of fashion. I would have thought that another break after the hilarious Act One would be good for bar sales. The second part is a dissection of the Elyot/Amanda relationship, and I have to admit I find it a little repetitive and I did see a couple of the audience inspecting their watches. The physical fight scene is the one everybody is waiting for, and I think we could get there a little sooner with a few judicial cuts (If the Coward estate would allow it) However, the play still has its magic. The characters are all charming and narcissistic and the silly second wife and the boring second husband are irritating, well drawn and sadly familiar – we all have some of them in our lives. The star couple Elyot and Amanda deserve each other. The dialogue is always witty, and director Tam Williams has not held back on the fisticuffs between them. Amanda and Elyot are intelligent and entertaining people. Hell to live with but Divine at Dinner Parties. All the actors are ridiculously beautiful and well dressed by Natalie Titchener, in period style and the setting is a magnificent feat by Michael Hold. Lydea Perkins is comical as the girlie Sibyl and so is the unbearably pompous Victor Prynne as played by Tom Berkeley. Darrel Brooks is acerbic and a true Coward Anti hero with Eva Jane Willis as the glamorous Amanda. Her reaction at seeing her ex on the balcony when she almost falls off the stage is a vision that sticks in the mind – the two of them are perfectly paired.The big surprise is Celia Cruwys-finnegan who not only plays Louise the maid but entertains us before the show and during the scene change by singing and playing her piano accordion. I have a small quibble with this. Although it is delightful having memories of Piaf in La Vie En Rose, I would have been happier if the period of much of the material had been adhered to more rigidly. However, despite quibbles one might have, the total experience at the Mill is enchantment from beginning to end Sylvan beauty all around us, the sound of swirling water under the bridge with outdoor space to enjoy the sounds and sight and in the bar, the old Mill continues to keep on turning. All this and Noel Coward. For just a few hours, we are allowed to live in the past. One must acknowledge the producer and artistic director Sally Hughes who is so welcoming and her smiling staff who are all perfect at their jobs, making us feel relaxed and happy. More happiness to come this year Agatha Christie’s ‘Towards Zero’, Ray Cooney’s ‘Run for your Wife’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ How can we keep away?

private lives at sonning

8 Jul

‘Don’t Quibble Sibyl’ is my favourite line from Coward’s most famous play ‘Private Lives’ currently playing at the Mill at Sonning, probably the most delightful theatre setting in the world. It is a great adventure to go there — just a ten quid taxi from Reading Station to the old Picturesque Water Mill. Here in an atmospheric wood-beamed hall, you get an exceptional lunch or dinner and then go to the theatre for a play – the whole experience for fifty-one pounds. That is about what the meal alone would cost in the West End. The play itself is so well known to most of the audience, but I was a bit worried about the length of the first part, which consists of both Acts one and two. For some reason, three-act plays are out of fashion. I would have thought that another break after the hilarious Act One would be good for bar sales. The second part is a dissection of the Elyot/Amanda relationship, and I have to admit I find it a little repetitive and I did see a couple of the audience inspecting their watches. The physical fight scene is the one everybody is waiting for, and I think we could get there a little sooner with a few judicial cuts (If the Coward estate would allow it) However, the play still has its magic. The characters are all charming and narcissistic and the silly second wife and the boring second husband are irritating, well drawn and sadly familiar – we all have some of them in our lives. The star couple Elyot and Amanda deserve each other. The dialogue is always witty, and director Tam Williams has not held back on the fisticuffs between them. Amanda and Elyot are intelligent and entertaining people. Hell to live with but Divine at Dinner Parties. All the actors are ridiculously beautiful and well dressed by Natalie Titchener, in period style and the setting is a magnificent feat by Michael Hold. Lydea Perkins is comical as the girlie Sibyl and so is the unbearably pompous Victor Prynne as played by Tom Berkeley. Darrel Brooks is acerbic and a true Coward Anti hero with Eva Jane Willis as the glamorous Amanda. Her reaction at seeing her ex on the balcony when she almost falls off the stage is a vision that sticks in the mind – the two of them are perfectly paired.The big surprise is Celia Cruwys-finnegan who not only plays Louise the maid but entertains us before the show and during the scene change by singing and playing her piano accordion. I have a small quibble with this. Although it is delightful having memories of Piaf in La Vie En Rose, I would have been happier if the period of much of the material had been adhered to more rigidly. However, despite quibbles one might have, the total experience at the Mill is enchantment from beginning to end Sylvan beauty all around us, the sound of swirling water under the bridge with outdoor space to enjoy the sounds and sight and in the bar, the old Mill continues to keep on turning. All this and Noel Coward. For just a few hours, we are allowed to live in the past. One must acknowledge the producer and artistic director Sally Hughes who is so welcoming and her smiling staff who are all perfect at their jobs, making us feel relaxed and happy. More happiness to come this year Agatha Christie’s ‘Towards Zero’, Ray Cooney’s ‘Run for your Wife’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ How can we keep away?

How to find Happiness (July 2nd 2019)

2 Jul

Samantha Hannah How to find Happiness in a year

Last year – when he father was desperately ill, he announced that if he could see his daughter settled he would die happy. She was pushing thirties, and she discovered that the average age to marry was 26 and she’d missed it. Nevertheless, undaunted, she set off ‘How to find a husband in a year’ and her adventures filled fifty minutes full of humour as she made a world wide tour including the antipodes and related her experiences with the cobbers there. Eventually she found her soul mate while she was in New Zealand – a native New Zealander who was not actually there, but was living in London and they continued their relationship on line until she eventually arrived back in the UK. 
Toby is still with her and visits all her shows.
He was there when I went to the Vauxhall Comedy Club see her Work in Progress ready for her appearance this year in Edinburgh. This year she has named her set ‘How to find Happiness in a year’ with a close examination of how others had succeeded – or failed – in the attempt. She has explored the subject closely with hilarious results. 
I hope she will forgive me if I quote – or misquote her.
“They say’ Happiness is not in the arrival, but in the Journey’. Obviously from someone who had never travelled
on Ryan Air.”
She is to present her finished show at the Vauxhall Comedy Club on 30th July before her next Edinburgh adventure.

Laughing Horse and Cabaret, Voltaire Main Room
August 1 – 25 at 12.01

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