The Keeley Plate 2017
The Keeley Plate is an award for the most promising performance by a member of the Youth Theatre in the season, and what a season we’ve had.
The Keeley Plate committee considers plays from the last AGM until now. That’s from Dial M for Murder ’til now. The qualifying plays, where youth theatre members were represented, were Hospital Food, A Handbag, Twelfth Night, Satchwell Road Can Take It, Collaborators and A Doll’s House. Only 50% of those were Youth Theatre plays. It was wonderful to see Youth Theatre members having a full share in three so-called adult plays, very much to be encouraged. The Keeley Plate Committee, made up of Grace Hopkins, Vicky Van Mannen and me (Michael Rahman) along with valued feedback from directors and others considered 39 youth theatre members, across 55 different roles. What did we find? Camaraderie in shaved heads, bravery with iambic pentameter, a movie and a sequel.
We’ll start with some new faces. The first time on stage, back stage – their first stage with The Courtyard Theatre – can be daunting to the young, so we were so impressed to see Rowan Brown and Kieron O’Brien in Satchwell Road Can Take It. So confident, good diction, they let their faces be seen. We look forward to seeing more of you.
Moving on to those faithful ones who have returned to this stage. We’ve come to know them over the last few years and have seen wonderful progression this year particularly from Edie Nelson, Jonathan Neary, Simon Perry, Zoe Kirk, Monty Camisa-Bundy, Emily Foster and Vicky Bailey. We’re so excited to think of what their continued progression will mean for us, the audience, in the coming season.
Then we think of those we’ve seen from their childhood to their near adulthood. We think of Katie Bignell, Ethan Elsdon and Ben Jeffries, none of whom have confined themselves solely to youth theatre plays over the years (Skellig, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Crucible). We really have valued your performances over the years and truly appreciate the hard work and dedication you have brought to the stage. You’re probably on the verge of leaving the youth theatre. Please don’t forget us. How we truly value men and women in their ’20’s. Hard to cast right? Sometimes we lose our youth theatre members but there’s so many opportunities for exciting plays in the future if we know the likes of you will be available to be cast.
We must remember the two films which formed a part of Satchwell Road Can Take it. Not least of all for the acting styles needed for this different medium, but also the involvement of our youth in the making of it too. How forward looking that was. The Chipstead Players are brave; it forms part of our reputation, and how encouraging it was to see our youth theatre embrace innovation and new ideas. Laugh out loud funny it was too!
When thinking of awarding the Keeley Plate four people stood out to us.
Jonathan Neary – He appeared in the Satchwell Road film, tackled the iambics in Twelfth Night, but most memorable for his impressive character switch in A Handbag earning spontaneous applause mid-scene.
Vicky Bailey – She really did impress in Twelfth Night. To convey multiple identities and character while spouting a whole glut of poetry is skilful indeed.
Ethan Elsdon – He portrayed true maturity in Hospital Food, acting in a challenging role. Along with others he bravely shaved his head, raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust in the process. He took the role to the Leatherhead Festival. He then had a good stab at Shakespeare and the film in Satchwell. A memorable year.
Monty Camisa-Bundy – He appeared in A Handbag but we agreed that his comic performance in Twelfth Night was a revelation. Put him next to our seasoned Mike Strong in scene after scene and you forget there’s an age difference, truly hilarious. Do more comedies please!
We wanted to mention you four in particular and are delighted to award the Keeley Plate this year to – Jonathan Neary.
(We were thrilled that Hope Elsdon, the holder of the plate over the last year, was on stage to present the award to Jonathan in person. It was also so good to see a number of Youth Theatre members present at the AGM)
We warmly welcome members and non-members to audition or work backstage. Please click on the image below for further details of a read-through and the auditions.
A Streetcar Named Desire Review.
Reviewed By Theo Spring – The Croydon Advertiser.
Without exaggeration, I was completely bowled over by this production which was extraordinarily good.
David Franks’ set design brought an instant touch of the architecture of New Orleans with its beautifully achieved fancy scroll work which topped the Kowalski apartment and joined it cleverly to Hubbell’s, depicted as living above them. The whole layout had been carefully thought through, with its invisible but solid walls, an intimate outdoor area and its internal rooms. A major achievement.
The acting skills for the role of Blanche DuBois are so heavily demanding in interpreting an emotional, flighty, disorientated and lost character that amateur groups rarely present the production. Here, however, Siobhan Ames created a Blanche imbued with a history of lies, subterfuge, wheedling and affection, who carried the weight of the script and delivered the role in a faultless southern drawl – her performance was spellbinding.
Not only did the Players find such a leading lady, but cemented the production with a first rate cast who delivered their characters with equal ability Angharad Mair Davies as Stella strongly brought out her divided loyalties of love for her sister Blanche and her husband Stanley, adding frailty and despair to the play’s emotional turmoil.
Anger and distrust were brought to the mix by Noel Harris whose Stanley was demanding and explosive, seeing through Blanche’s deceptions and wanting her to leave, going where he cared not. It is on the ability of these three characters that the success of the play rests but those in the smaller roles were equally able and contributed to its strength. Lewis Wilmott conveyed the hope and almost child-like character of ‘Mitch’ who fluctuates between the spruced-up beau bringing Blanche flowers to the urgent and angry man on hearing the truth about Blanche’s past. A chameleon delivery.
The almost unbearable heat is ever present during the play, endorsed by the men’s sweat-dampened vests. Blanche’s constant companion is a white perfumed hanky – artfully used to convey the heat and much more. This same heat frays tempers too, with neighbours Krissi Perry and Geoff Thorn as Eunice and Steve Hubbell loudly squabbling but happily making up too. Richard Haslam as Pablo makes the fourth in the crucial men’s poker game where alcohol and the heat create volatility. Joseph Ackerman faces Blanche’s seductive wiles when trying to collect a newspaper subscription and Lauren Milsom has two cameos as Rose and the nurse. Michael Rahman is the doctor who, as Blanche is finally institutionalised, realises that she will struggle against a straight jacket but could be wooed to submit quietly by a small bunch of flowers and a courteous invitation.
Costumes by Anne Franks and Rosalind Hayes added much to the vision of the 1940s era and under the expert direction of Julie Cumbo, the cast moved fluidly around the set, bringing a natural air to this famous play with its torrid overtones.
This very talented cast, directed with such in-depth understanding of the play by Julie Cumbo brought a truly West End worthy drama to The Courtyard.
The Collaborators Review
Reviewed By Theo Spring – The Croydon Advertiser.
Billed as a comedy, this ingenious play set in Moscow in 1938 asked much of its director and cast to bring out said comedy in such a dark period of Russian history.
Much contributed to achieving the success of the production, starting with the photographs projected onto the screen before the tale commenced – imparting both political information as well as the poverty of many of the people.
Linda Hornzee-Jones was responsible for the imaginative and multi-tasking set with its huge heating pipes bringing together the apartment of Russian playwright Mikhail Bulgakov and his wife Yelena and a variety of rooms in the Kremlin. Such was the effectiveness of this design that there was no doubt, for the audience, as to where each part of the action was taking place.
Hypothetically, The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (the NKVD) commanded Bulgakov to write a play about Stalin’s early years, under threat of Bulgakov’s recently successful play about Moliere being banned. A strange phone call finds the author and the tyrant meeting in the bowels of the Kremlin where it soon transpires that Stalin will write the play and Bulgakov will sign off some off a considerable amount of Stalin’s paperwork – which evokes catastrophic results.
A constant on the stage, David Kay excellently portrayed the gamut of emotions required of Bulgakov, and was the central pin around which the play revolved. Taking Stalin’s personae and managing to be close to him in looks, Mike Strong brought the dictator to believable life, thus creating an all-important double act between the two with Jo Cullen as Yelana adding a vital and impressive third side to the triangle.
The play is peopled with characters from the lives of both Bulgakov and Stalin. Alfie Earl Day brings in both comedy and calamity as Sergei, the young man assigned to live in a cupboard in the Bulgkov apartment, Nick Foster exudes menace as Vladimir of the NKVD, as does Jeremy Taylor as Stepan of the NKVD who is even more intimidating in his hardly-speaking role.
Glyn Jones as the writer Grigory, empathises with Bulgakov and is a good friend to him and the Bulgakov apartment also houses Vasilly (Colin Edgerton) Praskovya (Julie Cumbo) and Anna (Sandie Kirk). The doctor to whom Mikhail turns in his sickness has many of the play’s comic lines with John Shepherd relishing the doctor’s achieved success in his search for an actress he fancied. Phillipa Lucas adds a lively wife for Vladimir and a downtrodden cleaner to the production and further members of the cast portray actors, masked characters, a driver and more.
Chipstead’s achievement at finding the 17 commendable actors required for this production is laudable, as is the trio of wardrobe mistresses for their contribution. The all-important lighting and sound are in the hands of Jonathan Laverock, James Willis and Mel Morgan and the whole production, with its macabre overtones, was brought to excellent fruition by the director, Maggie May.
Hospital Food – fund raising total
So the two amazing youth theatre productions are over and the funds raised from Hospital Food is a few pence short of £2200, with donations still coming in. What a fantastic amount raised for a very worthy cause. Thank you to everyone who came to watch both moving plays, for all the generous donations from so many people and especially to Ethan, Ben, Alfie and Luke who are now looking forward to a new hair style!
Hospital Food & Handbag
Reviewed By Theo Spring – The Croydon Advertiser.
These two one-act plays, although diverse, both tackled uncomfortable subjects and both were delivered by two separate stellar casts.
Written by Eugene O’Hare, Hospital Food is set in the cancer ward set aside for teenagers in various stages of their treatment and the first thing to underline is, that such was their dedication to the theme of the play, that four of the young men volunteered to have their heads shaved to add to the painful realism.
Within the day room where no adults or medics intruded the teenagers were free to share their secrets and their fears and it was Gus who revealed he planned to disengage himself from his chemotherapy drip and escape. This news affects the group in different ways and the conversation between Gus, so very effectively played by Ben Jeffreys, and his best friend Josh, given emotion and concern by Ethan Elsdon, brought out their feelings for both their situation and their friendship.
Most of the girls wore head bandages indicating their hair loss and Edie Nelson as Layna was also attached to her chemo stand. Her attempts to talk Gus out of his plans gave vibes of her own love for him, although Alfie Earl Day as Sol, the more philosophical of the group, had stolen a vital key to assist the getaway. Adding to the ‘should Gus go or stay’ discussion, Emily Foster as Elsie, and Kate Batcheler as Karis helped to bring out more details of how they were coping with their illness as did Joe played by Luke Steele. Bradley Adams brought the least intelligent member of the group to life as Reece and Elodie Guyon-Pelfrene brought a poignancy to the part of Sadie, dealing with the reality of her diagnosis.
To have comprehended the difficulties faced by the characters they played and brought insight into both the dilemma and the illness with which their characters were doing battle brought a striking piece of theatre to the stage.
A Handbag by Anthony Horowitz looked as if it might provide a little light relief as we watched a stilted rehearsal for the Importance of Being Earnest where cues are missed and the play’s director tries to keep calm. However, this is no ordinary group but incarcerated young offenders, convicted of murder, who tread carefully to hide under their new identities but who sometimes slip to reveal their past.
Rehearsing as Lady Bracknell, Zoe Kirk delivered the ‘handbag’ speech in monotone, as did Monty Camisa-Bundy who, playing both the director and Jack, delivered a three-dimensional character – the third one allowing insights into why he was under lock and key. The play starts and culminates with this well-known exchange but in the interim we meet Allan, playing Algernon, his too early entrance causing considerable discussion and allowing Simon Perry in the role to deliver both comedy and annoyance.
Idiosyncratically, Specs who has a stammer, is the prompt with Jonathan Neary changing miraculously from a shaking wreck to an orator as he is able, stammer free, to elucidate on some of the text and comically, to audience applause, plays four of the play’s characters to illustrate his point. Laurence Read as Kinsey shows the lack of understanding his character has of how his life ahead might be and Katie Bignell as the foul-mouthed astringent Irene reveals her frustration and anger, rebelling on her life – as it was and as it is now.
Both plays were sensitively and intuitively directed by Sandie Kirk with skill and an understanding of both her cast and the subjects.
Hospital Food – Head Shaving.
As many of you know four gallant members of the male cast ( Ben Jeffreys, Ethan Elsdon, Luke Steele and Alfie Earl Day) bravely agreed to shave their heads for the part but also to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The shaving ceremony took place last Saturday at the theatre and what a blast it was, largely thanks to the large number of supporters who turned up to cheer them on. So now they have their new look and have raised over £1300 for charity, its now time to get your tickets and appreciate great acting from all the cast.