Reviews


November 2017

The
Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society (alias KCA Players)


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This enthusiastic and hard-working company is always a cause of wonder, and their latest production met the standards we have come to expect of them. A murderer is at large in Checkmate Manor, doing in members of a family who have gathered for the reading of a will. Thanks to the skilled sleuthing of Inspector O’Reilly, the perpetrator is unmasked in the final dramatic scene. Or is (s)he?
The play was in the safe hands of four stalwarts of the company, each of whom played several parts, cleverly doing so without losing their own identity. It was a good idea of Mrs Cavendish, the wardrobe mistress, to provide such ill-fitting wigs that the characters could be separated by how badly the wigs fit. Praise for props ‘girl’ Valerie, too, for her shapely arm as she handed from the wings props that had not been brought on. She showed great presence of mind when a stage knife went missing and she provided an ironing board with which to complete the stabbing.
The enthusiasm of the cast was shown by the number of times they entered early, ingeniously balanced by the number of late entries. Their affection for the script led to the repetition of a large part of it.
The individual performances were notable. When the lighter provided on stage didn’t work, Thelma pretended to enjoy a cigarette so realistically that you could almost see the smoke rising from it. Beset by a minor hitch in the lighting and sound effects, Felicity quickly learnt to switch on a lamp by answering the ringing phone. When Audrey lost a contact lens, she delivered her lines from a kneeling position but with such aplomb, you would hardly have known there was a problem.
Mrs Reece not only took several roles but directed. Such was her dedication that she continued to do so from a prone position while playing a corpse. What, though, of Sylvia, one of the company’s stars, who was to have played the part of Inspector O’Reilly? Sadly, she was indisposed, and the stage manager, Gordon, manfully took on the role.
This theatre-goer for one cannot wait for this remarkable company’s next production, which the programme tells us is The Mikado. It will surely reach the standard of this memorable evening.

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Plays about plays, especially terrible ones, are a rich source of comedy: think of Noises Off, The Play That Goes Wrong and even A Midsummer Night’s Dream. David McGillivray and Walter Zerin Jnr have mined this seam to good effect with their five Farndale Avenue plays. One apparent advantage is that if anything really does go wrong, the audience will think it is part of the play (were Audrey and George pretending to ‘corpse’ or was it for real?), but it is actually quite difficult to act badly intentionally if you are blessed with the talent that this cast has.
The bouquets are shared out equally between Jane Wright (Mrs Reece), Carole Willison (Thelma), Helen Johns (Felicity), Sarah Vandervelde (Audrey) and Steve James (Gordon). They give subtle hints of the tensions between the cast as they drop briefly out of the characters they are playing in the murder mystery, and they skilfully negotiate a scene involving the shifting of chairs that must have been a nightmare to rehearse. If one scene stands out, though, it is the song and dance routine by Carole Willison and Steve James.
Steve Watton directs, and one imagines that rehearsals must have been enormous fun. Certainly a great sense of enjoyment comes across from the cast. Perhaps that is the main reason why it really is a memorable evening.

John Newth SceneOne Plus






June 2017


Theft

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On a particularly warm and sunny evening, a hardy few theatre-goers ventured to see this well-written play and sat fanning ourselves with programmes, leaflets, other people’s hands etc.
The story is that two middle-class couples have gone out to dinner and, upon returning to one of the couple’s homes where all are staying, find there has been a burglary. Things have been turned over and items stolen, but the safe left intact (along, curiously, with a large, centrally placed painting that draws the eyes and leaves one thinking ‘Why hasn’t that been pulled off the wall?’)
The couples, as characters, are a heady mix of middle-class insipidness and banality and need to be played as such, with the contrast with who they really are coming out as the situation demands. The householders, John and Barbara Miles (nice anger from Steve Watton and nice sobering up/bored housewife stuff from Helen Johns), find themselves exposed, with the former grabbing his pistol and charging around looking for the culprit. Their guests, Trevor and Jenny Farrington, find that they, too, are caught up in the robbery, losing personal items aplenty, some of which reveal the odd twist or two. David Wickham and Judy Harris carry these parts off nicely.
However, the stinger is that the robber is still in the house and, when apprehended and guarded, plays a whole host of manipulative coercions on his unwilling hosts, using things he has discovered about them from the items he has pilfered, along with his attention to the detail he hears as he goes along.
The burglar, Spriggs, is a pivotal role and a gift of a part. Mick Wright gives a good stab at it and has some laugh-out-loud moments, along with some well-played long speeches. This is particularly so in the second half, where, for all involved, the whole pace of the piece picked up nicely and started to gather some of the energy which was lacking in the first half. Opening night nerves may have been the cause for the prompts to be needed as much as they were, but a factor could have been the heat, which was just about bearable for the audience but must have been blistering and super-sweltering under the lights. So as the run progresses, given the life that stirred in the second half, this production will have all the momentum that the writing needs.
Finally, as always seems to be the case with KCA, the set deserves a big shout-out and was well deserving of the ripple of applause which greeted it at the opening of the curtain.


Chaz Davenport - SceneOne Plus


KCA Players obviously like the work of playwright Eric Chapell, as they have performed several of his plays in the recent past. The group always seems to do comedy plays very well, and this was yet another excellent example
Two couples and long term friends have been out for the evening and return home, to find the house has been burgled. As they check to see what is missing they find that the safe is surprisingly untouched. Eventually Spriggs, the robber, appears from his hiding place and is quickly discovered, but he proves to be a highly intelligent individual and initially tells them he is a police inspector.
The central character, Spriggs, was a gem of a part to play - very wordy. I thought that it was an excellent performance. As the plot weaved its way through its many scenarios, he reminded me of Inspector Columbo - every time we thought he was going off stage, he came back with a different line of thought and we all began wonder who amongst the group was the real thief.
The excellent cast made it a very enjoyable play with lots of laughter, as tales of deception, jealousy and infidelity were all revealed.
Credit must be given to the cast for managing to perform to such a high standard in the oppressive heat of the unusually warm summer evening. Even with several fans blowing throughout the hall and across the front of the stage they must have been wilting under the stage lights. A great performance.



Brian Oliver - National Operatic and Dramatic Association



March 2017

Snake In The Grass


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Like an ageing heavyweight journeyman boxer, this 61st offering from Sir Alan Ayckbourn is a bit tired, has only a slugger’s chance of being a contender and, you get the feeling, is probably only in it for the money.
Bearing this in mind, the performances generally work well. Younger sister Miriam Chester’s (Carole Willison) mutation from downtrodden ‘spinster of the parish’ to irrational psycho-bitch is effective. This performance leaves you in no doubt that there is a picnic somewhere out there with a whole Tupperware box of sandwiches unaccounted for. The forthrightness of elder sister Annabel Chester (Jane Wright) erodes effectively as the play progresses, this once-successful businesswoman becoming a gibbering shell of her former self. The final member of this triumvirate is Alice Moody (Annie Robertson), former nurse to the sisters’ recently deceased father. Although this role is a catalyst for the sisters’ initial unity, it also adds an incongruity to the plot, throwing up questions relating to genre identity.
Pace in the first half was good. Reactions within the dialogue bubbled along swimmingly and brought about touching elements of pathos. However, this slowed measurably in the second half with the introduction of two sizeable monologues that crunched through the gears without picking up where the first half left off. An awkward inactivity would have been improved by judicious editing of this slightly repetitive script.
The set is well conceived and cleverly put together. Attention to detail here is impressive.

Paul Nelson - Scene One





November 2016

Wife After Death




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How well do we know the people we think we know? Not very well, if you belie
ve this comedy by Eric Chappell, the author whose best-known work is Rising Damp. Like that TV show, Wife After Death has its moments of farce but relies for its laughs on a lot of very clever dialogue and smart one-liners from characters who are caricatures, but only to the point where they remain believable.
The central character spends the first act in a coffin and the second as a pile of ashes: the late comedian, David Thursby. Gathered to say goodbye to him are his wife, his scriptwriter and the wives of the last two. They each present a picture of the dear (?) departed and their relationship with him, but the arrival of an unexpected guest leads to revelations that those pictures range from the hypocritical to the delusional.
The major role is the scriptwriter, Harvey Barrett. To play this energetic, wise-cracking, irreverent, cynical, sometimes tactless character, Mick Wright discovers his inner David Jason: not a bad model, and it creates an outstanding performance. There is subtlety in the way that the confidence of the knockabout clown of act 1 is replaced by a touching vulnerability and a reluctance to face reality as the play progresses, but what emerges at the end is a more serene and more likeable figure.
Mick works particularly well with Sarah Vandervelde, playing his wife, Vi. Placid and apparently submissive even, she is in fact able to handle the mercurial Harvey quite easily but it would upset the equilibrium of their relationship if she made it too obvious. It is another first-rate performance that conveys the nuances of the character very well.
In the role of David’s widow, Laura, Judy Harris enjoys the chance to put on airs and graces and to make herself the centre of attention, and does so most effectively. As the agent, Kevin Prewitt, Steve James gives a very believable interpretation of a conventional person who is bewildered by the weird events unfolding around him and is largely unable to cope with them. His wife, Jane, is a fairly thankless role which consists mainly of conveying varying degrees of distress, but Jane Wright makes as much of it as anyone could. Denise King plays Kay, the late guest and figure from David’s past, with an impudent confidence and one can well see why he fell for her.
It is not a play that is going to win any prizes for its depth, but it is skilfully written and very competently directed by Steve Watton. 
On the opening night, a very appreciative audience was chortling from the start – some of the laughter being a little edgy when it was at jokes about death – and if there is a criticism of the first night, it is that some lines were lost because the actors did not always wait for the laughs. But the KCA Players do wonders with some fairly basic facilities at Kinson Community Centre, and this production keeps up their high standard.

John Newth - Scene One



June 2016

Summer End

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Set in the Summer End Retirement Home, the action of the play takes place in the room shared by Emily Baines and May Brewer.
From the start, this is a slick, well-rehearsed and solid performance. As soon as the curtains open, the energy on stage connects the audience to the characters, leaving us hanging on their every word. Emily Baines (Carole Willison) and May Brewer (Annie Robertson) are a pleasure to watch, having a true bond and looking extremely comfortable in their surroundings.
Emily tells us that she has ‘good days’ – and this was definitely one of them, with a character portrayal that is both hilarious and deep, reminding me slightly of a PC version of Catherine Tate's Nan. It is a performance worth every penny. Annie Robertson's character of May is also as solid as a rock, showing a large range from innocent and cheerful to stern and devious. These two performers are a brilliantly strong base for the story to be built around and nothing seems to faze them.
As the story moves on, we are introduced to Sally (Kathryn Lloyd), who doesn't leave you with any questions whether she really does enjoy working in a retirement home. Sally and Emily's relationship is brilliantly played out and completely believable. Mrs Diana Lang (Helen Johns) is a completely different personality to add to the mixing pot, having excellent managerial control and slight condescending authority. Finally, Emily's son, Alan Baines (Jeremy Smith) is cleverly portrayed and his struggles with his difficult mother come into their own as the plot thickens.
With no set changes, the lighting team did a great job of changing the atmosphere especially, with the moment of direct address by May concerning aliens.
When you are unaware of the influence of a director on the story, he or she has probably done a good job and in this case Steve Watton might not have existed for all I knew because all the characters’ movements and mannerisms are believable and truthful.
This is a brilliant evening that I would highly recommend to anyone who loves a deceptive murder-mystery alongside a really great workout for your laughter muscles.


Patrick Marsden - Scene One

(Click link to see entire review)


March 2016

Deliver Us From Evil



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“A rose may bloom in the desert..................It is not too difficult to predict how the plot is going to develop, so the fact that more than once, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickling is a tribute to the quality of the acting. The cast of seven work particularly well together and there is not a weak link among them. Each of them is asked to find different levels and facets within his or her character, and each of them does so entirely credibly.”

John Newth - SceneOne

(Click link to see entire review)




Nov 2015

Caramba’s Revenge

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Caramba's Revenge is a highly entertaining and ingenious black comedy. Four elderly ladies have been sharing their lives in Violet's rented house, pooling their pension books and sharing chores. After a mugging Violet dies, but Marge, Lottie and Doris omit to tell the authorities and leave Violet's body peacefully in the cemetery. However, Violet's granddaughter, Ronnie, arrives from Australia in search of her relative ... and, as they say in all good reviews, the plot thickens! 
From the opening tabs, the extremely well-cast actors engage the audience and almost sign us up, then and there, to their 'co-operative' lifestyle. The action of the play all takes place in the living-room of a modest terraced house in the late 1990s where the unveiling of their shenanigans is shared with the audience to rapturous applause and much laughter and merriment.
The four main characters – Lottie (Carole Willison), Doris (Lonnie Watson), Marge (Ann Coleman) and young Ronnie (Catherine Smith) – are engaging and show great comic timing and characterisation. Ronnie sustains her accent throughout and achieves a great generational contrast.
Cameo roles of Augustus Grubb (Steve James), Rose (Judy Harris) and Grace (Jane Wright) bring further intrigue to the developing plot. Well directed by Steve Watton, it was a very entertaining play and I would encourage you to go along and see this great production.
 

  • Sally Marsden Scene One


June 2015

Dead Guilty

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If you can remember the ending, theres nothing worse than watching a thriller that youve seen before. Ive sat through this Richard Harris play on at least two previous occasions, but since Im now at an age when Im hard-pressed to remember what I had for breakfast this morning I simply didnt have a clue of the dénouement and I was on the edge of my seat for almost all, and definitely the last ten minutes or so, of this exceptionally well-performed production. 

The plot centres round Julia Darrow, badly injured in a car crash that killed her lover. When his widow turns up at Julias flat all at first seems well, but things start to go missing or are broken, and it seems that Daily Male Gary may be jealous of this new friend who is monopolising Julia. What follows is the stuff of nightmares.

With the excellent combined talents of Jane Wright (Julia Darrow) and Helen Johns (Margaret Haddrell) in the lead roles, it was hardly any surprise that their performances were nothing less than outstanding, and I heard many of the lines as if for the first time.  Janes characterisation changed subtly and completely believably from that of a woman determined to overcome her obstacles and get on with her life to a complete wreck, resigned to whatever fate has in store. And lets just say that Helens portrayal of Margaret was so chillingly realistic that I would probably be terrified if I were ever to find myself in the same room as her.

It is generally not considered to be a good idea for a director to appear in his or her own production, but sometimes needs must and Steve Watton has not only come up with a fine, well-paced evening but also gives a super performance as Gary. Add to that a calm, measured portrayal of social worker Anne Bennett from Carole Willison and you have a production to be extremely proud of.

The set, props, costumes and sound/lighting effects are first class, and the stage crew do a sterling job of making the many small scene changes in double-quick time.



Linda Kirkman Scene One




March 2015

The Love Nest





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So good that the author Raymond Hopkins came to see it!!


November 2014

Day Of Reckoning



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There was absolutely nothing that I didn’t like about this production, from the deliberately tatty village hall set, excellent costumes, totally appropriate props and attention to detail, to the pace at which it was all taken – especial thanks to everyone for not speaking over laughter -  and of course the marvellous performances. - Linda Kirkman Scene One



June 2013

An evening of two one-act plays.

Yesterday Man

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Strictly Sex Factor On Ice

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“All in all it’s a real gem of an evening. If you like light drama and clever comedy there’s absolutely nowhere else to be this week.” - Alex Ansty Scene One
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June 2012

Nightmare - The Fright Of Your Life

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“This show is one they should be proud of. If you want to enjoy a night of something a little different from what’s on at other theatres at the moment, this is the one to go and watch” - Chris Vessey Scene One

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Love Begins At 50 A talented cast worked well together and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening - Lyn Richell Bournemouth Echo

Death Watch KCA Players always put on a good show and this was no exception - Lyn Richell Bournemouth Echo

Night Watch This production is incredibly well performed by its nine-strong cast and has the added benefit of an excellent set.” - Linda Kirkman Bournemouth Echo