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CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL - NOVEMBER 2021

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Director - Suzanne Hall

Musical Director - Peter Theobald

Choreographer - Molly Moffitt-McGrath

By Alan Ayckbourn

Winchester Theatre Royal 10th - 13th November 2021

Cast:

Guy Jones - James Ashby

Dafydd ap Llewellyn - Adrian Hickford

Hannah Llewellyn - Annie Tatnall

Ian Hubbard - Rob Preston

Fay Hubbard - Katie Hickson

Jarvis Huntley-Pike - Max Bullough

Rebecca Huntley-Pike - Juliet Surridge

Ted Washbrook - Simon Meanwell-Ralph

Enid Washbrook - Christina Pye

Linda Washbrook - Kimberley James

Bridget Baines - Cressida Bullough

Crispin Usher - Henry Cox

Mr Ames - Peter Theobald

Sandra the Choreographer - Olivia Conroy

Rachel the Beggar and Lighting - Shannon Cronin

Margaret the Secretary - Caroline Fletcher

Tina the Props Lady and Beggar - Gina Thorley

Charity Collection
Chesil Theatre - Winchester Dramatic Society
Sponsorship
Chorus of Disapproval was kindly sponsored by:
Portcullis Construction Ltd

REVIEWS

NODA

Its always a pleasure being invited to report on Winchester Operatic and Musical Society shows, but this was the first play I have been too, all the others I have reported on were musicals and Operettas. I was not disappointed.

A simple and yet effective set brought to life with the movement of various props and flys made this a very slick production. The music, provided by Peter Theobald and his band was clear and very audible, despite being "hidden" behind a cloth in front of them - we knew they were there, but it was great to acknowledge them at the curtain calls. Slick choreography, fantastic singing and great character acting with clear and unrushed diction made following the play easy. Notable performances from Adrian Hickford as the society's Welsh and neurotic leader (its Daffyd...), Annie Tatnel as his beleaguered and meek wife Hannah, Cressida Bullough as the loud mouth, stroppy but totally believable society secretary and Kate Hickson, as the siren who wanted her hands on the men (along with her husband, Rob Preston) all played their roles superbly, and the rest of the cast of characters all did their part to follow the lead performances.

In an age where plays are sometimes modernized for modernizing sake, Suzanne Hall did a great job of sticking to Alan Ayckbourn's original script and extracting every ounce of humour there. Well done to everyone, this was an absolute pleasure to come and see, first rate, you never let me or your audience down.

Mark Allen

WINCHESTER TODAY

Sir Alan Aykbourn, master of dark wit, provides the script for the welcome return of Winchester Musical and Opera Society to the Theatre Royal Winchester.  But this is no ordinary Ayckbourn comedy; its plot is intertwined inextricably with John Gay’s early 18th century opera, ‘The Beggar’s Opera’.  Indeed the plots tend to mirror each other as the play progresses.

Poor old recently-widowed Guy Jones joins Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society (of mixed ability, class/backgrounds and temperament) in an attempt to get out more following his wife’s death and is welcomed on board as a very minor member of the chorus.

The resident King of Operatic Drama, Dafydd ap Llewellyn, greets him with bonhomie, an audition that he performs himself, so carried away is he with his own importance and skill, and after the obligatory post-rehearsal drink in the local introduces Guy to his dutiful but rather frustrated wife, Hannah.

 

That’s where the problems really start: as the unfortunate hero gradually steals more and more limelight by being offered bigger and bigger roles, so his popularity with the cast and crew diminishes until he ends up with the lead role but no friends.

James Ashby as Guy, Adrian Hickford as booming Welsh baritone Dafydd (not David!) and Annie Tatnall as his meek wife Hannah all excel in their respective roles. Totally believable, top drawer, flawless performances from the front row, ably supported by the whole ensemble.  Notable stand-out is Katie Hickson as Fay Hubbard (into wife swaps and foursomes) who flaunts herself wonderfully at our hero; he unfortunately laps it up and finds himself with not one, but two extracurricular lovers and in the epicentre of a complicated, messy set of relationships as the play, and ‘The Beggar’s Opera’, progress.

It never ceases to amaze me what talent this group has, not just for their musicality which is awesome but their acting ability too. No weak links, characters all well formed as Sir A would wish for, and a tribute to the director, Suzanne Hall, who has obviously worked hard on the integrity of the script and on making the most of the way this author is at his funniest when the plot takes a dark turn.

Special mention for Peter ‘Theo’ Theobold who not only has a cameo role as the ‘opera’s musical director Mr Ames, but as the main show’s MD has taken the songs as prescribed in the script, added instrumental arrangements taken from the 1928 piano score by Frederick Austin and added embellishments such as Purcells’ ‘Lillibolero’ to the mix.

The emphasis on the musical element is more noticeable with this particular production, which is not really surprising as WMOS are predominantly a musical society.  If you’ve got those skills on board, why not use them to their full extent?

And use them they do with some delightful melodious singing as the operatic pieces often cover for smooth scene changes.  The six-strong band neatly secreted behind the backdrop are invisible to the audience (there is no orchestra pit) until the final curtain call when they take their well-earned bows.  Unfortunately the backdrop slightly muffles the music but it’s a very small point.

Lighting and sound by Tony Lawther is moody and effective and the set, by WMOS’s resident designer Liz Petley-Jones is simplistically perfect as always.

Portable flats and components transform the stage into various scenes from the opera’s stage, through rehearsal rooms (nice touches with the radiators, fire extinguishers and fluorescent lights), local pub, Dafydd’s living room to the Hubbard’s brilliant gordy 1970/80s living room cocktail bar.

Attention to set and costume detail takes us effortlessly back to the 1980s which is when the play is set. 

Obviously some dialogue and situations are a little dated now as it is very much a period piece and is rightly played as such.

I’m sure some groups might be tempted to bring it up to date but I think that would be a mistake, in the same way as Mike Leigh’s ‘Abigail’s Party’ would be wrong if it were set in any other time than the 1970s.

Indeed, the choice of production is an interesting one as it continues to broaden the repertoire of WMOS as they stretch their wings even further and further.

Ayckbourn comedies are not the usual choice of production for a musical and operatic society but obviously this one, with its relatively large musical content and cast suits very well.

Interestingly, President Iain Steel writes in the programme: “In May 2022 we return to a WMOS speciality, the full scale musical, as we perform the comical, toe-tapping classic of ‘Me and My Girl’ including a full orchestra and an all singing and dancing cast.”

David Cradduck

Winchester Today

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