A Fine Bright Day Today – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

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A-Fine-Bright-Day-Today-posterSeeing A Fine Bright Day Today was really nice! I know “nice”is a fairly nondescript word, but I’m not sure what else best describes this charming, and gentle play by Philip Goulding.

I don’t see “nice” as a negative either, so much theatre veers onto the offensive, “edgy” or harrowing (and there is a place for this), that it was a refreshing change to be sat immersed in a world that was like the serene lapping of the sea that forms the backdrop for this play.

It certainly gets you thinking as it examines the existential ideas of dwelling on the past and being fearful of the future. Yet it does so in a subtle way. It’s a play of pondering rather than one that rams its agenda down your throat.

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The small cast of three give nuanced performances, Mary-Rose Goodliffe as Margaret endears us to her closed and fearful character. Whilst David Kay as Milton is superb as the interloping American tourist that helps her to see beyond the small world she is trapped in. Micha Patman as daughter Rebecca plays an excellent foil to both Margaret and Milton as she helps to bring them together.

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Gail Bishop’s direction keeps the story moving along with wonderfully constructed segues so that there is no lull between the scenes which I especially liked. She allows the strong characterisation to come through the story telling. I loved her set design, which encapsulated the coast and homeliness of the play perfectly.

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I highly recommend you catch this play. It’s refreshingly different from many modern plays and it was nice to have a nice night out at the theatre!

 

DISCLAIMER : I know the director very well and one of the cast but didn’t allow that to bias my review too much.  I enjoyed this play thanks to their hard work and the excellent choice of playwright that Gail chose to direct.

Little Theatre Guild – Conference 2014

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This weekend has seen me attending the annual conference of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain. I’m the rep for The Miller Centre Theatre.

The Guild is a group of just over 100 community theatres in the UK. We gathered at The Oast Theatre, Tonbridge for 2 days of workshops/talking about theatre/seeing theatre and dealing with the business of the Guild. This was my first time at the conference as I only became my theatre’s LTG rep last September. It was such a great time I can’t wait for next years!

Highlights for me were the workshop where we got to rummage in the extensive wardrobe the Oast Theatre have. Our task was to dress me as a Restoration gent. Finding boots seemed to be the hardest part, but we managed and got everything right. My final touch was a mask to give me a touch of Dick Turpin. A photo will be posted as soon as I get a copy!

Most of all it was nice to meet theatrical friends I’ve garnered over the years, some I’ve been in productions with, others have done the Theatre Studies degree via Rose Bruford. It was great to meet up with them unexpectedly here.

Of special note is our Patron – Sir Ian McKellen. Many charities patrons are simply a valuable figure-head. Ours certainly is, but we’re so fortunate that ours is also very hands on, being present for the AGM and the performance of  Loot the Oast Theatre put on Saturday night. I know I speak for all of us in the LTG by saying a HUGE thank you to Sir Ian, it makes such a real difference having a Patron who is so enthusiastic for our work.

Sir Ian with LTG members

Sir Ian with LTG members

We were also excited to have some observers present. It is unfathomable that there currently is no academic studies on the role/influence/importance of community theatre. That is all changing as a project is underway conducting academic research into community theatre : http://www.amateurdramaresearch.com/ is their website and I look forward to seeing how this develops over the coming years.

It was fabulous to spend time chatting over drinks, sharing stories/experiences and the buzz that our passion for theatre created. We’ve just had our website revamped so take a look at www.littletheatreguild.org.

Here’s to 2015!

 

 

After the Dance – It’s Over

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Well another production is over – I’ve had the (very) small part of Lawrence in The Miller Centre Theatre Company’s production of the Rattigan masterpiece After the Dance.

I’m a HUGE Rattigan fan, so it was great to finally be in one of his plays. After the Dance is one of my favourite plays of all time as well. The more I watched it and observed the audience’s reactions to it, the more I learned about what a master of playwriting Rattigan was.

Small lines and pieces of stagecraft that on page looked quite inconsequential had major influences on the audience and piece. He really knew how to craft drama like few others.  For me it is an emotional play and there is specific moment that “gets me every time” – when Joan bursts into tears as she realises her marriage is over. It always brings a tear to my eye and lump to my throat.

Rattigan - no other writer's works speak to me like his do.

Rattigan – no other writer’s works speak to me like his do.

It’s always sad to come to the end of a production (I dubbed it “Post Production Depression”  previously) new friends have been made, much hilarity ensured over the course of the run and there was an air of sadness as we parted ways. I’m sure our paths will cross again. I’ve not got long to wallow in melancholy, as I’ve a read through and meeting regarding a production I’ll be producing in 2014 tomorrow, alas it’s not a Rattigan play however my time to direct/produce one of his plays will come!

 

 

Boeing Boeing – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

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Boeing Boeing Paster

Totally biased review alert!! Boeing Boeing is one of my favourite plays of all time. I caught it in 2007 and have been waiting for the amateur rights to be released so that my local theatre could put it on.

We’ve literally been checking every week to see when the rights would become available. Well they have and The Miller Centre Theatre Company are one of the first amateur theatre companies to present this fabulous farce.

Watching it last night, I’d forgotten what a cleverly crafted piece this really is. Acting in a farce of this calibre is no easy job, it requires pace and split second timing. Forget the gym, if you want to lose pounds get a part in this.

It’s premise is pure farcical genius, Bernard has three air hostess fiances, who he assures his visiting friend Robert, can never meet or find out due to his “pure mathematics” of their flight timetables. Well a new jet, a storm over the atlantic and one planning a surprise visit put paid to his calculations and hilarity ensues.

Camoletti allows the terror of the situation philandering Bernard gets himself in to become an absolute riotous romp. It was a delight to be in an audience roaring with laughter and having such a good time.

The cast give great performances, I must give a special mention to Gail Bishop though, she nails the character of German airhostess Gretchen. A performance up there with how Tracy Ann-Oberman delivered the part in the West End in 2007.

It’s on for another week. This is a play that’ll let your spirits soar, and lighten your load. A wonderful piece of theatre.

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Theatre Rewards Those That Take Risks – The Clearing – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

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Theatre rewards the risk takers. Not just the cast and creatives but audiences that step outside the safety of what they know.

The Clearing

This production is a treasure,  a pearl of great price for those that will seek it out.

A play about Oliver Cromwell’s genocide in 17th century Ireland is not an easy sell from a marketing point of view. This is a play about so much more, with a disturbing relevance for our divisive 21st century. Helen Edmundson has finely crafted a tense, emotional and dramatic story. I studied this play at college and it has remained with me since that first reading. It has one of the best final scenes of any play I’ve read or seen.

High praise to director Chester Stern who set this play in the round. Which allowed for a fluid change of scenes. He brought the best out of his cast and created the harrowing world of 17th century Ireland before our eyes.

The cast got a (rare) standing ovation from me. I’ve never seen a better amateur cast. Being brutally honest they were better than a great deal of so-called “professional” casts I’ve seen.

Robin Clark gives his greatest performance to date as Robert Preston the English gentleman caught between saving his way of life and yet trapped by his marriage to Madeleine his Irish Catholic wife. His tragic descent from hero to selfish turncoat were superbly shown by Robin.

Lucy Baker as his passionate wife Madeleine gave an equally brilliant performance. Particularly moving was her scene at the docks with Pamela Cuthill’s Killaine who is in chains, destitute, broken and bound for a life of slavery. It’s a scene that’ll stay with me. It was dramatic, touching and brought tears to our eyes. Their interaction throughout the play was a joy to watch. The relationship between these two is the heart of the story for me.

The villainous Sir Charles Sturman was played by Lawrence Marsh. What a nasty piece of work! Yet Lawrence gave him a zeal and religious intensity that made us realise he really did think he was being merciful and Christian in committing such atrocities all in the name of “cleansing” this “wicked land”.

Mark Pendry and Sally Bosman are touching as the kindly Solomon and Susaneh Winter. Their pleading before the judge was particularly moving as were the dilemmas they face. I’ve seen Mark in a few things, this performance certainly rates as his best.

Cris Semple digs deep to bring fire and the sense of injustice in nationalist Pierce. A small but vital role as his character lingers in the background of all the goings on.

Tony Dent provides support as a commissioner, a judge and a sailor. He gives weight to these small roles as they’re present at key scenes. His sailor in the aforementioned dock scene was truly menacing.

The play cleverly shows how being thrown into turmoil affects people in different ways, and offers a warning that we may not be as righteous as we may think , God forbid, we should ever be in a similar situation.

So as you can see I loved it. It’s on until 8th June. Make the effort,  you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable night at the theatre. Tickets can be bought here.

I normally refrain from giving amateur productions a star rating. On this occasion I make a valid exception. Nothing amateur about this production.

STARS : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Ps. I declare that I know the director and some of the cast. Yet this is no hyperbole but heartfelt. I am genuinely proud of what they’ve achieved with this piece.

The History Boys – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

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Caterham’s very own likely lads

It’s one of my favourite plays, but I’ve only ever read it (and seen the wonderful film adaptation). So I was excited to finally get to see it brought to life by the Miller Centre Theatre Company.

A superb bunch of lads gave their all as the eponymous History Boys, battling their way against the social, educational and sexual mores of 1980’s grammar schooling. I went to a single sex grammar school (in the 1990’s not 80’s I hasten to add!) and I suppose that’s why I like the play so much, as I can identify strongly with the characters and situations.

However, even if you’re not from the world the play is set in I think it gives everyone something to think about, especially what is real education? As education ministers seem to become even more concerned with statistics and “results”, Alan Bennett shows us that what we take from our schooling is more than just the exam results.

Each of the cast give bring their characters to life and the superb set transports us from classroom to headmasters office and staff room seamlessly.

It’s been wonderful to finally see a production of this great play (one of best plays of the  21st Century so far, in my opinion), brought to life so competently. It’s sold out for its run, you may be able to get returns, but the cast deserve to be playing to full houses, A* to everyone involved.

End of the Road

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All good things must come to an end, and that’s what has happened to the run of The Long Road. I mentioned in my previous post how I’d enjoyed it and found it has helped me grow as an actor.

Theatre is an existential art form and now all that remains are fond memories. My thanks to my co-actors, Jen, Chris, Saskia and Helen who were such fun to work with. Thanks also to the director Iain, who pushed us to be the best we could be. I’ll miss you all.

Going to miss these folks!

I’ve spoken previously about Post-Production Depression  and how I always feel low for a few days following a production, as I miss the people and play. That’ll be especially acute following this play I know.

It won’t be long before I tread the boards again though (February 2013), so I’m looking forward to having a chance to see some theatre over the next couple of  months and the reviews will be here soon!