NORTH ESSEX THEATRE GUILD
FULL LENGTH FESTIVAL 2015-2016
Group: Writtle CARDS
Production: Last Panto in Little Grimley/Writtle CARDS Present 'Strictly Sex Factor On Ice'
Venue: Writtle Village Hall
Date: 27th November 2015
Director: Liz Curley
These two plays use the same idea of following the challenges facing an amateur drama group in putting on two different genres of plays. The plays follow a similar structure and have just four characters in each allowing for eight actors to each have a significant role. Good comic timing, sustained pace and sincere delivery will be essential to a successful outcome.
Front of House managed by Sharon Goodwin
Assisted by Jodee Goodwin and others
Box office Leila Franci
There was an eager and long queue waiting outside the hall when we arrived and we were met with a friendly welcome and some thoughtfully reserved seats.
Poster design Liz Curley & Clare Williams
Programme graphics Clare Williams
Auditorium design Clare Williams & Liz Curley
I have grouped these three elements together as it was clear that Liz and Clare had worked closely to produce a beautifully co-ordinated appearance to the publicity material, programmes and the auditorium. There was plenty for the audience to admire around the walls and there was a nice sense of humour in these visual displays. It really got the audience in the mood for what was to come, and the effort that had gone into preparing this was rewarded by the audience 's reaction to the posters and decoration. The motifs on the walls were used in the programme which contained all the necessary information about the plays and a friendly message from the director as well as information about future productions. A carefully thought out set of designs. Well done.
Stage manager Michele Moody
The set changes were managed well and there were some small but detailed changes made to the set in terms of dressing which indicated a shift in time.
Set design and built by Pete Goodwin
The composite set worked well for both plays and made the most of the features of the venue. By changing he position of the trestle table we felt we were in a different place. The sense of the village hall rehearsal space was clearly conveyed and struck a chord with the audience.
Properties Janet Osborne Williams
Assisted by Michele Moody
It did seem as though compiling the collection of props had been fun and thoughtfully co-ordinated with the auditorium design, especially in the second play by including the 'cut out judge.' Providing a change of notice board also supported the work of the stage management team well.
Sound & Lighting design Neil Smith, Chris Saxton & Tom Harris
Music was well chosen and sound cues accurately executed. Lighting clearly defined stage lights and working lights with the lovely moment in the first play of the cast shuffling into he only available bit of light as the fuses went out. In the second play the coloured lights added to the 'sparkle' of the comedy. Good teamwork here.
Costume Jan Irving
There was a good selection of outfits for the characters in both plays reflecting the personalities involved. Joyce's sparkly t-shirt, flowery leggings and wonderful woolly hat (complete with dangly tassels) hinting at her brightness and open nature. This made a nice contrast to Margaret's more formal black trousers and cream jumper stylishly accessorised with purple scarf. Bernard's overalls, check shirt and tie along with his cotton jacket and a fine selection of beanie hats emphasised his labouring role. For Gordon his brown jacket with the stripes showed his desire to be seen as the creative mind behind the group. In the second play it was interesting to see that the role of Don went for a different 'look', the more formal dark coat and trousers and maroon scarf helped to give him an air of authority. Barry's more casual outfit showed his more casual approach to the problems in hand which made his appearance in formal attire a moment of surprise for the audience. There was also good differentiation between Joy and Margaret with Joy's elegant outfits and Margaret's more glamorous colours, there was also a clear difference between their rehearsal clothes and their 'performance' outfits with the women's dresses reflecting a bit of 'Strictly' sparkle.
The pantomime outfits for the first play were very funny. The dame's wig and skirt were suitably dishevelled while the principal boy's bright green costume looked neat and sharp. The best however was the cat costume with its wonderful slippers, tail and ears, it really helped Joyce to maximise the comic effect.
For both plays a subtle change of accessories indicated a new scene. A well co-ordinated achievement.
Prompt Sharon Goodwin
Sharon's support was needed in the second play, her interventions were timely.
Last Panto in Little Grimley
Joyce Jean Speller
Jean gave us a delightful portrayal of this character, her enthusiasm bubbled over to the audience who loved her wide-eyed approach to being in a show. Her opening number of 'There's no business' set the pace well and she has a very expressive face which allowed us to see exactly what she was thinking. When she was in her cat costume she looked wonderful and her body language when she was trying to explain that Margaret had broken her leg was extremely funny. She was like a small child, and the penguin-like arm movements had us chuckling long after the play was over. A really entertaining performance - thank you!
Margaret Paulette Harris
As Margaret, Paulette conveyed her character's thought and attitudes so clearly through her body language which was tight and closed in the early scenes and only relaxed when she got her own way. Vocally she had a nicely triumphant tone indicating that of course she was right and her timing in her retorts was good. She also managed the physical challenge of the 'broken leg' well in the final scene.
Bernard Daniel Curley
Daniel seems to specialise in these 'curmudgeonly' roles and this one did not disappoint. His open-mouthed gaping reaction to Gordon was very funny and the quick responses (often a put down to Gordon) clearly represented the tension between the characters. Daniel dealt with the physical comedy of the role very competently, the banana eating moments were well timed, his first appearance from beneath the stage flats amusing and the business of putting out the props for the pantomime was done with the air of a long-suffering servant. A very amusing performance.
Gordon Nick Caton
This is a role that reminds us of Peter Quince in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' trying to get his actors to go along with his ideas and 'vision'. This came through in Nick's performance with his 'tired' tone of voice and patronising manner especially when talking to Joyce. His tense, pursed lips and repeated pacing reflected his sense of frustration. there was the potential to develop this characterisation more by making his body language a little sharper. This would have increased the level of nervous tension and heightened the contrast between him and Bernard more.
Writtle CARDS Present 'Strictly Sex Factor on Ice'
Margo Beth Crozier
There was an opportunity to portray a rather glamorous 'diva' here and Beth needed to be more assertive with her voice and body language in this role. We should have been able to pick up on hints of the 'affair' between Margo and Don that Barry reveals later in the play. She has a natural elegance which could have been accentuated with more pointed mannerisms. Disappointingly she lost her way with her lines at one point and needed a prompt, that seemed to knock her confidence. Vocally her delivery ws clear but needed more variation.
Joy Marge Naylor
Marge really looked the part in this play, her nervous mannerisms and facial expressions clearly conveyed Joy's personality. It was a shame that she was not secure with her lines and in needing prompts slowed the pace of the play. Her good physical reactions to the other characters were timely and added to the comedy. She coped well with the demands of the roller skates - a brave undertaking.
Barry Chris Rogerson
We were impressed with Chris's performance. He has a good sense of comic timing shown in his quick retorts and responded well to the different mood changes the role demanded. His glum, sullen manner was reminiscent of a stroppy teenager and his cynical reaction to Don's suggestions were very entertaining. He was a supportive presence and has an engaging manner. His interactions with Don were particularly good.
Don Jim Crozier
Jim gave this role nicely restrained body language, allowing his frustration to become implicit rather than explicit. This resulted in some 'Victor Meldrewish' moments, such as his tired greeting of 'Hello Margaret' with such a weary tone, or the way in which he put his head on the table in palpable disbelief. Vocally Jim was strong and adapted his vocal style to become Shakespearean in his delivery of the 'Mark Anthony' style speech and Churchillian in his speech towards the end of the play. A strong performance.
Director Liz Curley
The two plays clearly have parallel roles and one of the challenges a director faces is to present these with subtle differences. This was managed well with the roles of Gordon and Don in particular showing contrasting styles of leadership. Bernard and Barry also provided us with nicely varied comic performances - Bernard being largely physical comedy and Barry more verbal. This shows good awareness of your actors' strengths. The storyline of the first play was strong and the actors played their roles confidently, moving smoothly around the set and managing the physical stage business well. With the second play the pace was not as evenly sustained resulting in a slightly hesitant feel especially in the performances of Joy and Margo. The build up to the last scene felt a little laboured and the scene with the judges became a bit confused and so the comic effect of Joy on the roller skates was almost overshadowed.
The technical aspects of the shows were good and there was evidence of good teamwork behind the scenes.
With the panto season nearly upon us I wonder if it would have been better to do the plays in the opposite order and certainly the ' Last Panto' was the stronger of the two plays both in terms of storyline and performance.
The audience were very responsive and enjoyed the production. Thank you for the opportunity to see the shows.
Best wishes accompanied by
Maggi Fisher Penny Davidson