25 WEEKS TO GO
To be decided (TBC)
25 - 27 Oct 2017
Show: Murder In Play
Reviewer: John Chilvers
A play within a play .....................and a murder in the play within the play. No, Jubilee Players did not treat their audience to a performance of Hamlet and, in a splendid evening’s entertainment, their latest production Murder in Play certainly provided rather more laughs than the inhabitants of Elsinore Castle.
To seek to describe the plot of this piece would require a review of a word length well beyond expected parameters, so to summarise: it is complex. As the characters move rapidly between their assumed identities and their ‘real’ selves and a murder becomes the central theme of both ‘plays’, the parallels between the ‘actors’ and the ‘Act-ors’ become increasingly evident. What matters? “The show must go on.”
And it does, at a rattling good pace which the director – of Jubilee Players, that is – Rosalind Chamberlin has demanded from her performers. The one character who is not required to slip in and out of role is the ‘director’ – the wonderfully named, Boris Smolensky – who is played with convincing assurance by Paul Skippings. He holds the play together while his lecherous intentions make a full contribution to the ‘play’ falling apart.
Seven faces of Luvviedom are amusingly represented by the other characters/Act-ors: Mr Papadopoulos (Neil Phillips) careworn, alcoholic and constantly anecdotally reminiscing about his time with Larry/Johnny/Edith; Lady Dorothy Cholmondley (Sue Furness) self-obsessed, scheming and, by the end of Act 1, dead; Major Rodney Purbright (Neil Sumser-Lupson) shell-shocked in character, lovelorn in ‘life’; Lady Virginia Cholmondeley (Michelle Jay) “it’s difficult for me to play a stupid character” - cue: knowing looks from her fellow thespians: Mrs Puttock (Libby Henshaw) acidly protecting her embarrassing secret; Triggs (Hannah Cunningham) bemoaning her three years in drama school in order to man a drinks’ trolley but perkily assertive when the subject of Boris’s advances; stage manager Pat (Sue Phillips) put-upon in Act I and, even more irritable in Act II when pressed into service on stage.
With considerable skill, all performers breathed energy into their stock characters. The play is cleverly written but needs lively interpretation to sustain its momentum. A limp production would give the audience time to reflect on the absurdity of it all; in this production, the audience is carried along on a wave of absurdity. Quite understandably, actors always thoroughly enjoying playing Act-ors and the whole cast revelled in this opportunity.
Jubilee Players have built themselves a strong reputation for entertaining productions and their regular followers can look forward to future performances with the assurance that
The play's the thing,
Wherein we’ll fun to loyal audience bring
As ever, Jubilee Players live up to their promise.
Show: Over My Dead Body
Reviewer: John Chilvers
For their autumn production, Jubilee Players selected Derek Benfield’s light comedy, Over my Dead Body. Those with long memories may recall the writer as playing the character Walter Greenhalgh in Coronation Street in the 1960s but in his later life - he died in 2009 – he gained considerable success as a playwright and Over my Dead Body has become popular with both drama groups and audiences.
It’s easy to see why. For performers, there are six meaty roles which must be fun to play while, as an evening’s entertainment, the sharp dialogue and steadily developing plot provide the audience with both humour and intrigue. There are points where there is a slowing up of the incisive one-liners, which mark the opening section of the play but, by this time, the attention of the audience is absorbed in trying to make sense of the ‘guilty secret’ which underpins the story.
The central character – Gerald – hopes to spend the rest of his days alone with his memories following his wife's recent death but he reckons without her ‘forward planning’, which results in a series of unexpected arrivals of friends and relations to offer their unwelcome support.
All six members of the cast revelled in their roles. Neil Philips excelled as Gerald: perplexed, irritated but far too well-mannered to firmly tell his guests to leave. He tries but fails, most spectacularly when faced by his battle-axe sister-in-law, who brushes off the fact that she missed her sister’s funeral as she ‘got the date wrong’ but railroads Gerald into meekly accepting her intention to move in. This part was performed with aplomb by Cynthia Gosling in a She Who Must Be Obeyed style; few roles - other, perhaps, than Lady Bracknell – would be better suited to her considerable talents.
The four supporting roles effectively complemented the two main characters in fine performances: by: Rosalind Chamberlain as Gerald’s well-meaning daughter; Neil Sumser-Lupson as her inquisitive, but not particularly bright, husband; Sue Phillips as the perky old friend; Alice Skippings as the attractive young cleaning lady with designs on easing Gerald’s twilight years.
This was Paul Skippings’ first venture into the direction of a full-length play; he is to be congratulated. His experienced cast maintained a good pace throughout while still allowing the audience to enjoy the chuckle moments in another very entertaining evening at the Tithe Barn.
Show: Night Must Fall
Reviewer: J Chilvers
For their summer production, The Jubilee Players chose to revive Emlyn Williams’ 1930s psychological thriller ‘Night Must Fall’; it was a good choice.
It is an unusual thriller in that the outcome is anticipated in the Prologue when a stern voice-over – solemnly delivered by the Lord Chief Justice (Brian Lloyd) – confirms the death sentence for a heinous crime and, from an early stage in the piece, there is little doubt about ‘Who dunnit.’
Despite this, the tension is sustained through to the arrest of the murderer in the final scene by the interplay of the characters as they respond to events. For this to work effectively, each character must be played with great skill as they are drawn into a complex web of relationships which revolve around a cantankerous aunt, her frustrated niece and a sinister Welshman who has insinuated himself into their household. In different ways, all are manipulative but we are left in no doubt about who is really in control of the strings.
Cynthia Gosling (Mrs Bramson), Michelle Jay (Olivia Grayne) and Ray Tempesta (Dan) must be congratulated on their outstanding performances. The parts are meaty - of the kind that allows their full range of skills of voice, timing and movement to be employed – but, in the many extended scenes, all did full justice to their roles.
Moreover, for the play to ‘work’, it is equally important that the supporting roles are played with precision. As the main characters interweave, the pompous house guest (Paul Skippings), gossiping housekeeper (Sue Furness), scatty maid (Hannah Cunningham) and jolly district nurse (Sue Blackburn) not only provide a comic backdrop to the main plot but, through their reactions to the discovery of a dead body in the woods, bring the focus ever more closely on the oleaginous Dan, his past, his motives and his intentions.
The cast was completed by the persistent police inspector (Neil Phillips) whose repeated visits to the house draw concerned responses from all except Dan whose brazen self-belief begins to suggest a severely disordered personality. This is then further revealed in a powerful scene with Olivia in which he reveals that he is playing a role in which he is terrified by a "a pair of eyes staring at me”; the eyes are his own. The deepening relationship between the couple adds a further twist to the taut plot.
Libby Henshaw’s direction ensured subtle changes of pace, which are essential for events to unravel in a way that raises the tension to an ever higher level but when Dan commits his second murder, no one is surprised. Throughout, the audience ‘know’ what is going to happen and the quiet arrest of Dan comes as a relief to all, not least to Dan himself.
It is a demanding play to perform; many thanks to The Jubilee Players for a splendid evening’s entertainment.
Show: Humpty Dumpty
Some things have ‘Made in England’ written all over them! Blackpool Rock, Morris Dancers, Mary Berry, a steamin’ cup of English Breakfast tea…and, right up there with the best of British… Norfolk’s very own Jubilee Players!
The historical, 17th century Horstead Tithe Barn provides the perfect backdrop for this annual, light hearted thespian dose of old English pantomine’ King Charles 2nd could never have imagined that panto’s own dithering King Egbert (AKA Graham Brakenbury) would, some 400 years later, be mustering his troops, led by the larger than life Dame Trudy Frewty and her (rather dashing!) son Freddy Frewty to rescue the beautiful Princess Petal from the evil grasp of Witch Wellygogs! This years panto, Humpty Dumpty, provided a veritable smorgasbord (or should we say ‘afternoon tea’) of cheery songs, heroic endeavours and hilarious one liners!
Savouring every moment of her perfectly evil performance, Cynthia Gosling as Witch Wellygogs, was thwarted by the charismatic ‘principle boy’ Lorenzo, (the ever smiling, Abbie Chamberlin) who releases Humpty Dumpty himself from the cursed egg! 12 year old Elliot Tempesta as Humpty provided an energetic, infectiously optimistic and totally delightful performance that left us all in awe! What a genuine talent.
We did wonder how anyone could make ‘Humpty Dumpty’ last more than 5 minutes but The Jubilee Players really did put on a ‘smashingly’ good performance. Great costumes, egg-cellent lighting and pitch perfect music (Move over Ed Sherran, make way for Ed Osborne!). The whole cast appeared to be enjoying themselves in this well directed production. Well done to all involved! Looking forward to next year already!