SHOWCASE FESTIVAL 2010/2011
Little Waltham Drama Group
Little Waltham Memorial Hall
Date of Adjudication
Thursday 21st July 2011
Make Your Own Kind of Music
Jacky Pitwood and Wendy Shearman
Front of House.
What a very warm welcome we received from the front of house team, who showed us to our comfortable seats. We were offered interval drinks and introduced to the writers, who were proud and excited about the show they’d written to celebrate the group’s 40th anniversary. The hall was packed and there was a sense of eager anticipation, waiting for the show to begin.
The programme was well printed and very informative, with a full song list and four pages of facts about 1971.
A well thought out set, showing Caroline’s café, with a few tables strategically placed on stage. It was the little touches of set dressing that enhanced the scene – the posters, so evocative of the 70s, the graffiti on the wall, the tomato shaped sauce bottles, the dated décor. There were well-defined areas to both sides of the stage that enabled small scene changes. In act 2, the café was transformed with new tablecloths, posters of Rod Stewart and Marc Bolan and a jukebox.
Lighting and Sound
There were lots of variations used to highlight the songs, clever combinations of colour and mood enhancing effects. Blackouts were used to denote time passing and the follow spot was used to good effect. Sound cues were on time. There were microphones on stage, sometimes just left in place to help with the overall sound, sometimes used deliberately by some of the singers. At one point there was some kind of slide show or projection that seemed to go wrong. We saw a lot of text, which I’m sure wasn’t what was intended and I daresay that gave the lighting crew a nasty shock!
An interesting time, just out of the 60s and into the early 70s. There were all the fashion clothes, flared jeans, platform boots, mini skirts, tie dyed T shirts, flowing hippy dresses, lots of orange and brown outfits and yet, quite rightly, the older ladies were still fairly conservatively dressed. A lot of thought had obviously gone into reflecting the characters’ personalities through their costumes. Some of the wigs looked a little odd, but the overall effect added up to a colourful collection of 70s fashion.
Under the guidance of musical director Alex Lawrence, this five piece band played music of amazing diversity and played it so well that all the accompaniment sounded just right for each song – not easy when the music is from Neil Diamond to T Rex, Simon and Garfunkel to The Archies. There were over 40 tunes and each was played with sensitivity to the singers, never drowning their voices. Very well done.
The play opened with traffic sounds and plenty of bustling as the cast assembled for the opening number, some using entrances that led straight into the hall. The actors were well placed and the singing was lively and bright. Having people spread throughout the hall during some songs made us feel as though we were at the café and part of the action.
As someone who remembers the 70s (I left school the year this play was set) I appreciated all the period references – the new decimal money, Kattomeat, Green Shield stamps and clackers.
Babs. Jackie Crane
Initially I found her diction a little hard to understand and found the character slightly irritating, with her squeaky voice and ditsy manner but Babs grew on me as the play progressed and became one of those characters that the audience really cared about. Her failure to meet Mr Right was quite emotional and we were all delighted that she finally got her happy ending.
William. Andy Walker
As a shy young man, aching for a girlfriend, Andy’s first solo “Solitary Man” was very touching.
Caroline. Jenny Broadway
A strong performance from Jenny, mostly bustling around her café and fairly upbeat. She showed a range of emotions as she nearly lost her business and learned to rely on her friends. When she turned on the so-called friends who were spreading gossip about her, it was very moving. I felt that she looked very much like a young Joan Collins at the end of the play. She had a lovely singing voice, a good sense of comic timing, making this a very good performance.
Freedom. Sue Joyce
Made an immediate impression with great stage presence. She was the typical hippy, confident in herself and her beliefs, with an almost aggressive manner. As Rosemary, Sue could create a totally different character.
Shane. Mike Lee
Very confident, in his leather jacket, he owned the stage. He really got the ladies going and they couldn’t take their eyes off him! Mike had a very good voice and we especially liked “The Wanderer” and the more upbeat “Sugar, Sugar.”
Ruby. Sable Corrie
The elderly waitress, very much in the old retainer mode, Ruby was slightly dim but somehow a force to be reckoned with. Her hygiene was decidedly dodgy, she couldn’t get to grips with the new money and she was both funny and endearing.
Martie. Ken Little
He was a sight to behold, in his flares and platform shoes with an amazing curly wig. He entered through the audience allowing us to view the jewellery he had to sell, and instantly creating a good rapport with us. He was one of those lovable rogue characters, cheeky and endearing, most definitely “A Dedicated Follower of Fashion.”
Doris. Karen Wray
A forceful character, friendly with, yet often belittling Sadie. This was a strong performance from Karen.
Sadie. Julie Cole
A very natural performance, Sadie was always slightly in Doris’ shadow. I loved her flirting with Shane, bringing out a really girlie side to her character, and the tap dancing with an aching knee was competent and very funny.
Sharon. Sally Abrey
Sandra. Zoe Pearson
They represented the teenagers, with their transistor radio, short dresses and lively interest in boys. Sharon and Sandra were a good addition to the production. Zoe’s baton twirling skills really enhanced “The Bannerman.”
George. Brian Corrie.
Brain’s body language as the tramp was spot on. He came on while “Nowhere Man” was being sung and settled down to sleep in a recess in the brickwork outside the café. A very subtle, moving moment. Somehow he managed to convey despair and resignation as the poorly dressed down and out, complete with matted hair and beard, which made his transformation into the well dressed, clean shaven businessman, all the more remarkable.
We especially liked “The Sound of Silence” which he sang very well.
Eleanor. Nicola Ayris.
Nicola made her character rather a sad, lonely lady with a gentle personality.
This was our first visit to Little Waltham and it’s always interesting to see new groups.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable trip back to the 70s and a thought it was a lovely and inventive way for the group to celebrate 40 years of performances. The script had some comedy and some really moving moments too. The chorus members all created characters of their own and the ensemble numbers had some lovely harmonies. The stage is not large and a lot of thought went into placing the cast in good positions. The café regulars were always in character and a subtle part of the action, reacting or still as the scene demanded. The Salvation Army ladies were great fun and deliciously over the top and the aging hippy that drifted around was suitably spaced out. Some of the songs stood out. I have rarely heard “Did you Ever?” sung so suggestively! “The Seeker” was lit by torchlight, a good touch, making it very atmospheric.
Having only Val Doonican songs on the jukebox was a nicely comic touch, and “Sweet Caroline” when we were all encouraged to sing along and wave our arms in the air, was great fun. Sometimes the
plotlines were a bit thin, linking the songs together, but it works for Mamma Mia and Abba and it worked for Little Waltham! I’m sure Caroline Robinson’s name was specially chosen to set up two songs!
Once again, well done to everyone involved in this unique production.
Jane Rayner and Anne Sexton