Big Bad Mouse – NODA Review by Pamela Booth

Pictures from RehearsalWe stepped back into the 60's for this Philip King and Falkland Cary farce set in the office of the Chunkibix Biscuit Factory. Mr Price-Hargreaves rules the roost with secretary Miss Spencer catering for his every whim. Poor Mr Bloome is very much the underdog in the office until the day he is accused of accosting and chasing a young girl. Suddenly he becomes a hero, a 'real man' of the firm and he gains celebrity status.  I'm not sure how PC this would be nowadays but in the 60's we obviously didn't notice. There were some great performances in this production and it was good to see new young faces in the cast. Katie Milner as the office girl Fiona was very relaxed in her role.It is not easy opening a play alone on the stage but she was completely at ease as a trendy teenager. She was joined by fellow office worker Harold (Tom Powell) and the two of them were an excellent addition to the cast. The blustering Mr Price- Hargreaves ( Mark Bamforth) brought his experience to the stage and dominated the office over the nervous Mr Bloome (Richard Sutcliffe) until the tables turned in the second act. Mr Bloome's transformation was very convincing and highly amusing. Paula Vickers as the long suffering secretary was excellent in her role and very amusing. She had wonderful facial expressions and her transformation in the final scene was brilliant. The partnership between Mr Price-Hargreaves and Mr Bloome worked well and they handled their role reversal in the second act very well. Miss Spencer's niece Doris (Emily Hobbs) the cause of all the confusion, was excellent in her part and there was a pleasing performance from Jennifer Scott as the overbearing Lady Chesapeake. The costumes brought back many memories and had been well put together for the 60's look. This was a wonderful romp with lots of funny moments and a great selection of songs both at the start of the play and during the interval. I must confess to knowing the words to all of them. Director  David Newall Assistant Director  Zarina Belk  

‘Entertaining Angels’, Grassington Players 12/05/16

pic-eaWhat constitutes a ‘straight’ play, which, according to director Andrew Jackson, Entertaining Angels by Richard Everett was? Well, it had laughs, but wasn’t a comedy; tension in the plot, but it wasn’t a thriller and there was a partly unexplained death, but it wasn’t a whodunit. So a straight play must be one that combines all these disparate elements into a satisfying and entertaining whole as that’s what this production admirably achieved. Set in a vicarage garden Entertaining Angels takes that most English of settings  and subverts it somewhat showing us a snapshot of four lives upset from an outwardly idyllic present by the sudden death of the fifth character Bardolph, the vicar, played calmly and with a quiet authority by Andrew Jackson himself. Apart for the shock of his death Grace is forced by a sudden revelation from her sister Ruth to confront Bardolph's ghost and the truth of their marriage while therapist daughter Jo has to analyse her own feelings and future plans when new vicar Sarah confides some un-clergy like secrets. The performances required skill and tact so that the strong emotions evinced by these events didn’t come across as melodramatic and that the upset and hurt experienced by all members of the cast looked realistic and authentic. Emma Shepherd as Jo and Sarah Vetch as Sarah developed the friendship between the two characters in a believable way in the short time allowed while Bev Cuerden as the revelatory wayward missionary sister Ruth moved at least one audience member to tears with her heartfelt reactions to the events her confession precipitated. The play though had to centre on Grace, at once sharp and witty, uncertain and confused, angry and hurt and Penny Hart-Woods gave an exemplary performance managing to convey all the breadth of these feelings without putting a foot wrong. Mention must also go to the wonderful setting, realised by Barrie Doyle and Derrick Lee but the plaudits go to the cast and direction in this compelling ‘straight’ play. Mark Bamforth.

A Bit of Comedy Tonight

A Bit of Comedy Tonight - October 2013

Kath Gower in The Shoe Shop Sketch

A full house thoroughly enjoyed the Grassington Players’ 90th anniversary show ‘A Bit of Comedy Tonight’ on Saturday after warm feedback from audiences on Thursday and Friday evenings.

Amateur dramatic societies often cry out for more men and more young members. It is a sign of the strength of this society that the guys out-numbered the girls and skilled teenagers played an important part in the production. At the opposite end of the spectrum a dazzling performance by an octogenarian had the audience in stitches.

The show was a revue including some golden excerpts from the last 60 years of comedy, from the famous “Elephant in a Box” sketch right up to Blackadder. Bev Cuerden put it all together and produced the show, which is a much more difficult job for a compendium than it appears, and her success was clear for all to see.

The performance sparkled. No prompts. No awkward moments. Just a very enjoyable evening from start to finish. When the standard is high it is dangerous to pick out performances as readers will assume the rest fell short. In this case they certainly did not. So what follows should be treated as a very personal reaction. I loved the “Elephant in a Box” which was a gem of a performance. I thought Lottie Cuerden’s interpretation of a Guys and Dolls number was beautifully understated and Tom Powell in Spamalot showed he has a great talent which has not yet been fully utilised.

Altogether a wonderful evening from a very skilled cast. But next time Mrs Slocombe appears on the Grassington stage, please may we be treated to her feline double entendre?

John Anderson

Waiting for Godot – Spring 2013

Octagon Theatre, Grassington, 9th, 10th and 11th May

What an exceptionally thought-provoking production this was, and how very privileged I feel to have attended it! The play is an enormous challenge to perform, and in the hands of less talented actors could be an absolute disaster, but certainly not so in the very capable hands of Grassington Players. What is Waiting for Godot about? Another member of the audience asked me that question, and I replied “Whatever you want it to be.” A much quoted review states that it is a play where nothing happens, twice over. My, of course subjective, view is that, like all existentialist work, it is about the pointlessness of life. We carry out our little routines every day, constantly trying to improve ourselves, our homes, our careers, our lives in the belief that in the fullness of time all our expectations will be fulfilled. When Godot arrives everything will be better. Towards the end of both acts a goatherd boy enters and tells the two tramps that Godot will not be coming today, but will surely come tomorrow. However, Godot, in common with tomorrow, never comes, but maybe tomorrow will be different……. Perhaps even the name is a significant sobriquet; Vladimir only ever calls his companion Gogo, while Estragon calls his Didi. Their full names appear only in the cast list. Could Godot be a pet name for the deity? Even the goatherd boy, most admirably played by the young Jim Mallalieu-Black with humble deference to the tramps, could be seen as a prophet announcing a brighter future. Despite the sombreness of the play, where more than once Estragon suggests they commit suicide, there was much humour and it was splendid to hear Grassington’s Octagon Theatre resounding with laughter. Leslie Kerkham’s optimistic and loquacious Didi was a splendid foil to Mark Balmforth’s dour and absent-minded Gogo, and Andrew Jackson’s Pozzo was a vile, cruel and controlling monster to the hapless and ironically named Lucky of John Anderson, who has only one speech, but what a virtuoso one it is! What was not noticeable, because it was so subtly well done, was the comic timing, allowing any nuance to be appreciated by the audience without slowing down the performance or becoming laboured. Very, very well done to all concerned, both on and off stage, for putting on such a wonderful production and one I shall always remember. Marion Field

Calendar Girls (NODA)

How fitting that this Society should be chosen to be the first amateur group to perform Calendar Girls as it really felt that the play had come home. There was such a great atmosphere in the Devonshire Institute with lots of paper sunflowers and elegant ladies dressed in black. There were jars of jam and marmalade to buy and the whole evening was a delightful tribute to the original Calendar Girls. A strong cast had been assembled and they took us through the hilarious and heartbreaking moments in the story. It was good to actually see the five ladies blossoming as the play moved on, starting off with humdrum lives and ending up being world wide personalities. They must have spent hours perfecting the ‘nude’ scene as it worked beautifully, bringing well deserved applause for each individual photograph. The set changes were kept to a minimum and the simple backcloth was quite sufficient for the outdoor scenes. Traditional brass band music between scenes was lovely to hear. This was a very moving production with all cast members treating their roles with great sensitivity. Well done to everyone connected with this production both on stage and off and thank you for the programme packed with information which I will be keeping as a souvenir of a lovely evening. Pam Booth District15

Calendar Girls

There was inherent danger for Grassington Players in staging the world amateur premiere of Calendar Girls. Bringing the production home, as it were, meant that not only would the event generate immense media interest but local people would not forgive any imperfections, given the sensitivity of the subject. The Players were going to be judged in a blaze of publicity. The standing ovation which the cast received as the curtain came down after the first night proved that any fears were misplaced, and that they had honoured the original Girls with a faultless and moving performance. I have been attending events in Grassington Town Hall for 30 years but I have never felt the sense of excitement and warmth which permeated the auditorium as the audience gathered. There was a wonderful sense of occasion which was enhanced by the front of house team, dressed in black dresses and tuxedos. With the Calendar Girls sitting at the front of the Hall, and with the whole story rooted in the locality, there was a strange sense of seeing reality and theatre inter-twined, and feeling that the actors recognised they were playing the next stage in the real story, which continues to evolve. The fact that so many of the audience will have been touched in some way by the “cheating, sly, conniving, silent, bloody” disease which cancer is, deepened this sense of sharing in what the Girls began. The standard of the performance was exceptionally high. All the technical side of things – the lines, the moves, the lighting, the stage setting and re-setting - was perfect. But the performance was so good I did not think about this until afterwards. During the show we saw a group of actors unfolding the real story for us. From the inside. We shared the humour, the fear of cancer, the ridiculous situations and the poignancy. We held our breath when the photos were being taken and we applauded as the money rolled in. Whether we were applauding the real story or the play I do not know. The two became one. To pick out individuals would be as inappropriate in this case as it would have been to suggest one of the real Calendar Girls was more important than the others. It was the quality of the ensemble which made the performance work. And by ensemble I mean the whole team, including direction and production. It truly was a beautiful evening. If you missed it, reserve your tickets for the second week of the run. You will not regret it. John Anderson

The Cracked Pot – Spring 2012

This was a fascinating play set in the 1800's and written by Blake Morrison who originally came from Skipton. Set in Skipton it tells of the trial of a young man accused of breaking his future mother-in-law's favourite jug.The judge in charge of this trial is under pressure as a visiting magistrate from Manchester sits in on the action. These two parts were skillfully played and showed the contrast between the sombre magistrate and the drunken philandering judge. They were well supported by a talented cast who had all coped well with learning a very complex script. Thank you for providing a Tykes Glossary in the programme to help us with the Yorkshire dialect! The clever use of floor area and stage for the different sets worked very well and the supper provided at the interval added to the atmosphere. A number of the audience had dresssed for the occasion and hats and shawls were provided for anyone who needed them. All this made for an atmospheric amusing and enjoyable evening. Pam Booth, National Operatic & Dramatic Association Grassington Players took to the stage for three nights last week performing Blake Morrison’s “The Cracked Pot”. The comedy, set in an early nineteenth century Court House in Skipton, opens with the central character Judge Adam (Mark Bamforth) emerging from his slumbers battered and bruised to be advised by his Clerk Mr Bright (Leslie Kerkham) that a High Court Judge from Manchester is about to visit for a sort of impromptu Ofsted inspection. The arrival of the Judge in time for a Court case in which two families are disputing the circumstances surrounding the breaking of a pot jug provides the opportunity for the truth about Judge Adams’ battered appearance to be established. This was a thoroughly enjoyable production, Jane Ellison-Bates who has emerged in recent years as a very talented Director, captured the atmosphere of a dingy Court House with a set that made use of both the stage and the hall floor, characters coming in from behind the audience giving one the feeling of being part of the action. Mark Bamforth’s performance as the wily Judge Adam was in my opinion outstanding, capturing the essence of the character in every facet of the performance. There were strong performances from Andrew Jackson (Judge Walter) and Leslie Kerkham which made for some memorable comic exchanges throughout. The litigants, headed by the excellent Paula Vickers as Martha the aggrieved owner of the broken jug, also included two young actors Will Davidson (Leslie) and Catherine Wynn (Eve) who gave very creditable debut performances, on occasions both struggled with voice projection from the stage but must take great credit for their contributions to this production. Nice cameo performances from Lorraine Paylor (Meg), Edwin Williams (Tommy) and Sue Clement (Aunt Bridget) added to the quality of the entertainment. Additional clever touches to this production included the provision of paupers fare (bread, cheese and apple) served to the audience in the interval and a glossary of tyke dialect words used in the play, contained in the programme. Finally, the skills of the make up team in producing the most convincing “injuries” to the bald pate of Judge Adam were, in my view, along with a number of aspects of this production, to a professional standard. Andrew Armstrong (reproduced from The Craven Herald)

Slim Chance Autumn 2011

It's good to welcome Grassington Players back to NODA. As this was a one act play the first half of the evening was given up to two monologues written by local playwright Keith Bromley. These amusing speeches, the first about a hopeful spinster, the second a hard working mum, were both well performed. A strong cast had been assembled to portray the members of a not too successful Slimming Club and they definitely got as much humour as they could out of this one act play. There was a good range of characters and not even the fact that one of the cast had her leg in pot could dampen their enthusiasm. The Octagon Theatre is the ideal venue for a one act play and the acting area was well suited to the theme of the play. There was no need for scenery and props were kept to a minimum. A most enjoyable performance from a great team of ladies.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime

Grassington Players’ latest production owes its origins to a short story written by Oscar Wilde, the stage play is the creation of Constance Cox. As with much of Wilde’s material he turns his considerable wit to the foibles of late Victorian aristocratic society. The central character Lord Arthur Savile, a somewhat dim witted individual well played by John Whyte in what is quite a demanding role, plans to marry his fiancée Sybil Merton but his plans are turned upside down when he encounters Podgers, a Cheiromantist (palm reader) who informs the gullible peer that he will commit murder in the future. Lord Arthur then determines that he must therefore commit this murder before his marriage. The comedic plot takes us from one attempt to another as he, aided by his Butler Baines and the ludicrous German anarchist Herr Winkelkopf, fails with increasing levels of incompetence. A strong and experienced cast did justice to this production, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Joan Busfield-Whitaker as Lord Arthur’s Aunt Clementina and Brian Wilks as the long serving Butler who delivered some great one liners. It was good to see a debutant amongst this experienced cast, Paul Batty as the devious Podgers who is revealed in the denouement as a confidence trickster. The cast generally kept the comedic pace required of this production throughout, a testament to the directing skills of Beryl Bamforth. The production itself made full use of the Grassington Town Hall main stage and the production team of Mary Wilkinson and Sue Clement and their assistants can take great pride in the quality of the set and costumes that were an integral part of this production. Credit should also go to the technical team who were required to produce an exploding umbrella and an onstage smoking bomb, both of which were well timed and convincingly executed. This can be taken as another significant success in the long and distinguished history of this local amateur theatre group.