Salisbury Studio Theatre

Tickets: Salisbury Information Centre, Fish Row, Salisbury Phone: 01722 342860 or from https:/ticketsource.co.uk/studiotheatresalisbury

Review – A Bunch of Amateurs

Brian Oliver of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association wrote that:

“A Bunch of Amateurs” written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, seems to be a very popular choice with drama groups throughout region at the moment. Having always been very impressed with the previous Studio Theatre productions that I have seen. I was eagerly looking forward to seeing this performance.

In the sleepy little Suffolk village of Stratford the local drama group are struggling to keep going. In an attempt to save their Theatre the committee decide to engage an American Actor from Hollywood to play King Lear in their next production. Jefferson Steel, a faded Hollywood action hero, arrives in England thinking that he is going to be performing at the home of Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon.

I think A Bunch of Amateurs is a wonderful script and once again I was aching with laughter throughout as the Jefferson Steel clashes with the enthusiastic local amateur group who have to suffer his prima donna demands and expectations. Anyone in the world of amateur theatre may had seen the scenarios of this play acted out in front of them many times

It never fails to surprise me that with the same script, a different group and director can make a play look entirely different. I was very impressed with set that was built on three levels, it looked good and it work superb. Jefferson’s drunken scene, with the attics high up on a ladder, was very well performed, excellent direction.
The cast members, as I have come to expect with this group, were well directed and they all gave an excellent performance. I did think that Paul Chalmers (Jefferson Steel) and Samantha Luckman (Dorothy) were both outstanding.
I was recently reading article that discussing the differences between professional and amateur theatre productions. In many cases, as with Studio Theatre, the difference is only, that everyone involved gives their time for no economic reward.

Scene One+ wrote:

Director Anthony von Roretz has brought together a cohesive ensemble production with a cast who gel well together, providing credible and recognisable characters from the am-dram world.

Samantha Luckman is charmingly convincing as King Lear’s long suffering director as she cajoles and massages the egos of her narcissistic leading men, encourages and guides the entire company, and attempts to keep control of the divergent personalities within her cast. David Rhodes is splendidly grandiose as pompous Nigel Dewbury, as well as showing hidden depths of the reluctant supporting man throughout the Shakespearean vignettes.

Paul Chalmers brings depth and honesty to the role of the bumptious Steele, with a valiant attempt at a consistent American drawl. I would like to see him being even more overbearingly arrogant on first meeting his alter ego to really emphasise his character’s mellowing personality throughout the play, but Chalmers does show Steele’s vulnerability beneath his brash exterior, especially in regards to his daughter and his personal insecurities, that add depth to his role alongside his capacity for comedy, and his switch to the dramatic persona of Lear is commendable as Steele learns to cope with the delivery of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Chalmers shares a very believable rapport with Fabia Alexander as his daughter, Jessica, who in turn brings spirit and vivacity to the character with a mix of rebellion, resilience and vulnerability, a convincing American accent and honesty to the role. Lauren Bell is a difficult character to ‘flesh out’ in comparison with the other roles, but Sophie Newton succeeds in making the part her own on her return to the stage, showing promise for the future in both comedy and Shakespearean roles.

Sally Marshall (Mary) and Kris Hamilton-Brain (Dennis) are wonderful in their roles; both have superb comic timing and physicality, visually and delivering dialogue, and both exhibit the skill of performing comedy sincerely and earnestly, not forcing the comedy but letting it flow innately with a combination of naturalistic and heightened styles.

Colin Hayman’s well designed and constructed set makes excellent use of the performance space on multiple levels, which are well used alongside von Roretz’s directional tool of seating King Lear’s director and prompt on the steps in the audience at various times. The crew and cast ensure that the many scene changes run smoothly, although voiceovers at the same time as music during some of these transitions are confusing, lacking clarity as they collide with each other and ultimately becoming an increasingly unnecessary irritant after the interval. However, Brian Waddingham’s wonderfully plush Shakespearean costumes for the Stratford Players’ performance of King Lear are superb.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment. Studio Theatre’s first production of their new season proves yet again that this is a very accomplished ‘bunch of amateurs’ who are able to put on a most agreeable evening of comedy and laughter!

Full review at: A Bunch Of Amateurs – Scene One+

Image: By Ary Scheffer – Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection http://luna.folger.edu/luna/servlet/s/sp6136, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

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This entry was posted on July 10, 2019 by in Uncategorized.
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