REVIEW: A Bunch of Amateurs by Ian Hislop & Nick Newman
Ian Hislop describes A Bunch of Amateurs as a love letter to amateur dramatics. And so it is. Anyone who has ever been involved in am-dram will immediately recognise the characters and dilemmas faced by the eclectic mix of personalities that were the Stratford Players.
The play opens with Dorothy Nettle (Jenny Lloyd-Lyons) pleading to the audience to support the theatre, which is under threat of closure for redevelopment. So sincere was her plea that some in the audience murmured regret. It took a moment to realise that this was part of the story. From her opening speech, we were swept along on Dorothy’s determination against the odds to get King Lear to performance. Jenny inhabited this demanding role. Her delivery of comic lines was well timed and we sympathised with her frustration when placating her disgruntled star actor, Jefferson Steel. David Morley shone in the role of Steel, the movie star who believes he has come to play Lear in the birth place of the Bard only to discover it is Stratford, Suffolk. Morley’s was a completely convincing characterisation moving from childlike tantrums through gradual acceptance and finally enthusiasm for the project. His American accent, star swagger and timing never slipped.
With some of the best comic lines, Michael Wilson gave us an excellent portrayal of the pompous Nigel Dewbury with more pinpoint timing. We all know someone like him! Star struck Mary Plunkett (Sally Ann Lycett) was a delight with castanet clicks that punctuated every disapproving word of her rejection, and which will stay with me for a long time. Katie Marks as Jessica Steel captured all of the teenage attitude of a disapproving daughter without making her role a caricature. Mark Lee played the ever willing Denis and made us laugh with his eye antics whilst Madeline Lee played the role of Lauren Bell with great energy and enthusiasm.
Congratulations too for the backstage team, including Bez Cuss and Libby Annetts who provided off stage voices. The set design worked well with smooth scene changes and clever props although it was sometimes difficult to hear the Fools Song over the music during these changes.
This show bubbled along with a cast that were loyal to their characters and never farcical or contrived. Plaudits to Director, Christopher Lacey, on perfect casting and for nurturing an utterly convincing company. This was a funny, entertaining, engaging production for which all involved should feel justly proud.