Seasons Greetings – Chorley Little Theatre

This was, as can only be expected, well-acted and funny. A parody of a family Christmas, with an aunt getting drunk in the kitchen, the hostess falling for one of the guests and the men slouching around trying not to do anything. Although the children were oddly well-behaved in this party, always staying where they were told: just off the stage.

My disappointment was that it all ended in a rather unresolved fashion. Although of course that is how family gatherings do work: a continual rolling conversation spanning months or decades as people travel to group together infrequently. Potentially the unfinished nature is therefore a comment on the subject matter rather than a failing.

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Hamish and Dougal – Chorley Little Theatre

Chorley Little Theatre try to produce their own material, and this is something that their director adapted (with permission) from “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”

You’ll have had your tea?

This was a light, silly play of Hamish and Dougal, as they muddle through life, together with the rest of the village. It was packed with innuendo, along with gags at every opportunity, and we had a good giggle.

Pals – Chorley Little Theatre

Pals was written by artistic director Mark Jones, specifically for Chorley Little Theatre. It is very much feels set in the textile industrial background of Chorley, although no place names (or even pub names!) were mentioned explicitly.

It is a look on the front of the Great War, of course, and the stories that came out of that. But more than that, it is a story about life, and men’s friendships. How shared work and a quick drink after developed bonds, where gradually the truths about family and love become clear. But then also friendship between a history student and an elderly man. A friendship with a rocky start, but finally a chance for Bill to tell the tale of his life.

I love that we don’t just see Bill in those key minutes where everything changes, but we also see the human side before and after. What was there, what was lost, and what little was saved. There were few dry eyes in the house by the end, which speaks volumes for the strength of both the writing and the acting.

Phantom of the Opera

Turn your face away from the garish light of day

Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light

And help me make the music of the niight

We saw the magnificent production of Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre in on the West End last night. The sets are fantastically luxurious, with the odd scene that was strongly reminiscent of 1980s music videos.

John Owen-Jones made a splendid Phantom, seductive with an edge of creepiness that gradually crept up to a murderous rage.

He contrasted well with Celinde Schoenmaker as Christine, who plausibly fell under his control, even as she fought him at every possible moment. She sang beautifully, with a convincing transformation from sweet-but-shy chorus girl to lead, and spellbinding performances as the story underwent transitions.

Theatrical Interval – Fallen Angels

I saw Fallen Angels at the Theatre Royal in Bath. Its a Noël Coward play written in 1925 with a backdrop of the swinging twenties in London, and reasonably wealthy characters. The set is purely in the sunroom of the flat of the Sterrolls which for this production was between Art Deco and Victorian in style.

Noël Coward was known for his witty scripts and the basic premise of this play as a farce in itself provides good light comedy. Combined with this is the act which most shocked audiences at the time, in which the respectable middle-aged ladies, unable to cope with their own emotions get completely drunk on-stage and have a row. This maintains its humour although no longer as shocking to see on stage, with the audience laughing at the on-stage antics.

The maid (Saunders) is definitely the stronger of the supporting characters, with the best lines and corralling the drunk main characters along, but despite the men being absent for most of this play I think it still manages to fail The Bechdel Rule (unless the interspacing lines about the alcohol they’re drinking to forget him count). Its a sign of the times the play was written in of course, and the men barely talk about anything other than the women too.

Rent in Concert

I need to mention that RENT was my very favourite musical when I was 15-17 (ish). I saw it 4 times in the Prince of Wales Theatre in London (whilst living in Lancashire) and still am word-perfect with the lyrics. So its no great surprise that I loved this.

Its still as raw and powerful as ever, and the basic set with musicians on stage added to that. I think there must have been a speck of dust in the auditorium because I had a tear in my eye by the end, then everyone was up on their feet for the finale and encore.

I do feel old now, just because aside from the film I haven’t seen this in a decade and it was so much of my life then.

Noises Off

Noises Off is a farce and a play within a play, which was on at the Keswick Theatre by the Lake in the summer season 2011. It mocks the relationships between actors, and how these individuals behave behind the curtain.

Three acts long, Noises Off runs the same act of a fictional play three times, through dress rehearsal, from behind the scenes and then the last night. For the first two acts, this is underpinned by a vague plot in the development (or rather breakdown) in the romantic relationships between the actors (when offstage). These two acts are funny and brilliant.

Sadly, in the third act it appears that the playwright felt he had to get all the jokes he had thought up into the play somehow, and whilst there were some funny gags, the last act was not held together by much of a plot, and detracted from the rest of the play.