The Keeley Plate 2018
The Keeley Plate committee were so happy to get together recently to discuss another truly exceptional year for our Youth Theatre. The quality we’ve seen confirms there really is no “them and us” when it comes to what our young ones bring to the stage, every play in the season has equal value. If you miss one you miss out!
As always we consider all qualifying plays from the last AGM until now, that is from Streetcar to now. The qualifying plays were Mugged, Taking Breath, Splendour, The Scary Secrets of Septimus Sloane, Rules For Living, The Ash Girl and The Diary of Anne Frank. So that’s the whole of this season so far!
We were delighted to see so many Youth Theatre members in so called ‘Adult Plays’. Cast your mind back to how Katie Bignell held her own in the four-hander that was Splendour – by all accounts a technically challenging play. We also saw Maria Gallagher in Rules for Living and Henry Barriball, Rowan Brown and Vicki Bailey in The Diary of Anne Frank.
We always look forward to the first plays of the season to see what our older youth have in store for us. Jonathan Neary was so memorable and Ben Jeffreys surprised us with a fresh new character. Toby Maynard and Tara Baker stood out too. Emily Foster, Alfie Earl Day and Kate Batcheler were Taking Breath away from audiences and Gemma Bottomley is one to watch. We hope to see more of you next season.
With such a large cast in Septimus the wonderful singing of Maria Gallagher, Tara Baker and Olivia Thynne enabled them to stand out. As did Rowan Brown and Bradley Adams.
When we started to think about the Ash Girl we were singling out name after name after name until we realised we had gone through the whole cast. When analysing it we discerned that it was the groups that worked together so well. The ‘Sins’, the little animals, the sisters and step mother, the Royals, it was such a brilliant play, dark and different, they played it so sensitively, the Chipstead Players are lucky to have them all among our ranks. Then of course in Anne Frank we had stand out performances from Henry Barriball, Vicky Bailey and Rowan Brown.
When thinking about awarding the Keeley Plate four people stood out to us.
Henry Barriball – The lethargic slothworm who really made the most of his amusing lines in The Ash Girl, but it was his role as Peter in The Diary of Anne Frank where he stood out. The play covers a number of years and it required him to show us character development as his outlook changed over time. A difficult role.
Rowan Brown – has such confidence, and she gives the audience confidence, it’s like we feel we’re in safe hands. In Septimus she showed that she truly understood her lines. In the Ash Girl and Anne Frank (two title roles) she had a deep rooted connection to what she was talking about and was emotionally intelligent.
Maria Gallagher – was strong throughout the season, had good stage presence, sang with confidence and really took charge in Septimus. And in Rules For Living she enters the stage at an intense moment and holds her own with a powerful monologue amid the carnage.
Vicky Bailey – has been a mature presence throughout the season, but particularly impressed us in Anne Frank. The role required an understated performance which can be a real challenge, she was the perfect foil to the boisterous Anne. Vicki showed great attention to detail, poise and gracefulness.
We wanted to mention you four in particular and are delighted to award the Keeley Plate this year to – Rowan Brown.
Auditions for Wendy and Peter Pan are being held in the evenings of 18th and 20th September. Follow the link for more information. Also note, read through is Wednesday 29th August at 8pm at Main Hall, Coulsdon Community Centre
Auditions for The Ladykillers are being held in the evenings of 7th and 8th October. Follow the link for more information and here for the respective audition pieces. Also note, read through is Tuesday 25th September 7.30pm at the Courtyard Theatre.
Time of My Life – Review
By Theo Spring 14th July 2018
The Italian restaurant setting, designed by Sarah Chadwick, where all the Stratton family events and problems were revealed, was most convincing. One of its notable achievements were the very functional and perfectly working swing doors out to the kitchen – a feather in the cap of Andy Pitman and his construction crew.
First performed in 1992, playwright Alan Ayckbourn enlarged on an idea used in one of his previous short plays – Between Mouthfuls – from his 1974 Confusions quintet. Its restaurant setting hosted couples with varying problems which were only overheard by the waiter as he drew near to their table, and it all took place on the same evening. In Time Of My Life, there are three tables and three time zones; the present, the past and the future, cleverly allowing the audience to know what was coming whilst listening to table talk set in the past.
It is Laura’s 54th birthday and her husband, two sons, her daughter-in-law and a girlfriend celebrate in Essa de Calvi, the restaurant they have patronised over many years. As it is ‘the present’ the characterisations show no signs of the way they will change and what they were before this party. It is Phillipa Lucas as Stephanie, the daughter-in-law, who evolves from mouse at the party to masterful, and it is only discovering later what she will eventually become that gives appreciation of her initial shyness. Her husband is the brash eldest son Glyn who works with his father and is a womaniser.
Philip Brooks gave Glyn the pathos of believing his mother did not love him at all and sincerity when pacifying his wife that all was well with their marriage. Bumptious and self-centered he is not even that thrilled to learn his second child is on the way. Younger son Adam is his mother’s favourite and, with his girlfriend Maureen, provides much of the comedy. Joe Ackerman and Debs Brooks play the pair – he a little shy and reluctant and she a blousy hairdresser who does her best to conform to what she believes are his and his family’s ideals. Her costumes and wigs were a triumph of contrast and I loved the bright colours worn for her blind date which, she believed, were ‘dressing down’. The three wardrobe mistresses responsible for the many changes of costumes – Lorraine Bygraves, Margaret Ramsdale and Margaret Palmer certainly had their work cut out.
The restaurant’s tables are the centrally placed large one for the main party and two smaller ones placed downstage. It is at these, at different times, where the happenings in the lives of both Adam and Maureen, downstage left and Glyn and Stephanie, downstage right, were revealed.
Paying the bill for the party, father Gerry tries to keep everyone happy, pandering to his wife so she enjoys her celebration and initially keeping quiet about his business worries. Mel Morgan transforms Gerry’s personality through the evening being mine host and a furious cuckolded husband are just a few required of his character. The programme notes reveal him to have designed the amazing set for Chipstead’s The Diary of Anne Frank so, obviously, a man of much talent. Playing the birthday ‘girl’ Laura, Kate Perry exudes the matriarch who is in charge overall. A snob, she dislikes the ‘common’ girlfriend Maureen along with the gift of earrings given to her by Stephanie. Effusive in her praise for the jewellery, she manages to make it clear she hates them. On stage at the central table for most of the play, it is evident who has caused the considerable dysfunctionality of the family.
Most Italian restaurants have a ‘character’ either in the kitchen or as a waiter. Noel Harris brought huge comedy playing four of the staff who had come and gone over the period of the play. His cod Italian accent got laughs as did his body language when a waiter. His quick changes kept the pace going and helped root the scene in its time zone.
As Calvinu, the owner of the restaurant and long-time friend of the Strattons, Don Hindle presided in avuncular fashion, treating Gerry and Laura to the alcoholic beverage that caused revealing mayhem.
Director Eve Manghani’s ability to assist the cast to establish such different personae in the different time frames enhanced a production which was, although a little long, certainly very much enjoyed.
The Diary of Anne Frank – Review
By Theo Spring – 21st May 2018
It was bound to be emotional considering the subject but directors Sharon Laws and Rick Thompsett brought out so much more, considerably aided by a talented cast and the two playwrights, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, who envisaged the years eight people spent in hiding, including two young people growing up, and the overall fear of discovery which pervaded their lives.
Mel Morgan’s set design was a triumph and interestingly gave the Franks more central living space than in the real Amsterdam hideaway. Cleverly crafted to incorporate some privacy vital to anyone so closely confined it incorporated two on-stage loft rooms – the large one for the Van Daan’s and the much smaller one for Peter Van Daan.
The play starts at the end – the time when Otto Frank as sole survivor of the death camps, returns to the hidden annex with Miep who had helped them physically and mentally sustain in their hideaway. The diary is found and the tale winds back to the time of their arrival. Nick Foster excelled as Anna’s father Otto – the generous, calm, understanding man who masterminded the plan, keeping spirits up, observing Hanukkah so emotionally and helping to continue Anne and Peter’s education. Anne’s pin-up film star photographs he brought to the warehouse in advance are, truly, still there, on the annexe wall today.
His wife, Edith, so ably portrayed by Jo Cullen, sorted practicalities – the food, the cooking. Her own emotion at Anna’s rejection of her was palpable as was her concern to make the other ‘guests’ feel welcome.
The guests themselves, the Van Daans, John Shepherd and Krissi Perry, enacted their selfishness, their obvious fear and their determination that they should have perhaps more than their fair share of any food being divided up. Krissi Perry made much of Mrs Van Daan’s love of her fur coat whilst John Shepherd revealed Mr Van Daan’s utterly mean streak, creeping down from his loft room to stead bread to try and assuage his hunger.
The addition of the self-centred Mr Dussel into annex life required more changes and patience, particularly for Anne who was forced to share her room with him. Mike Strong gave Dussel both gruffness and intolerance, underlining the difficulties of living at such close quarters.
Victoria Bailey added gentleness and support as Anne’s sister Margot. Anne’s diary does record her as being not always sweetness and light, but here we see her better, helpful side. Arriving at the annex as a 16 year-old, Henry Barriball’s Peter Van Daan was self-sufficient, polite and slightly introvert, coming into his own towards the end of the play when they were a little older and he and Anne are finally able to talk freely to one another about their fears and their feelings.
And so to Rowan Brown as Anne. She took the character through a hopeful, bright, forward-looking child of 13 to a young lady with plans and dreams for her future, all as told to ‘Kitty’, her diary. To play such an iconic character who is so well known by so many is a huge ask but Rowan managed to get under Anne’s skin and into her head, shining in moments such as her nightmares, her teasing, her gift-giving at Hanukkah and sharing her ideas for her future with Peter. An electric performance.
Siobhan James, the every-cheerful and helpful Miep, brought, literally, a breath of the outside world into the annex when she visited and Paul Valleau added empathy and sometimes concern as Kraler who ran the office below the secret annex.
Debra Elsdon as wardobe mistress had sought out clothing of the right era to add more realism to the tale, allowing for all the on-set changing which the cast achieved so well.
The whole production encompassed emotion and realism, with the beautiful theme music, played throughout, adding to the ethos.
When the fatal day came when they were discovered and everyone, with their meagre belongings, left the stage, the initial silence in the audience gave homage, not only to the cast, crew and directors, but also to the story itself, which, being true, deserved such acclaim.
The Ash Girl – Review
By Theo Spring
What an interesting take on a well-known fairy tale this was – and what a beautiful set the Youth Theatre had in which to enchant and entertain.
Add to the Ash Girl’s woes (aka Cinderella) the complications of dealing with the soul-stealing desires of Sadness so enigmatically played by Lauren Woods, and the seven deadly sins in the form of bugs and animals – all of whom were determined to thwart both her and humanity with threats to bring about their respective downfall.
The bones of the tale are kept in Timerlake Wertenbaker’s allegorical version and thus we meet Ash’s stepsisters Ruth and Judith, with Olivia Thynne and Sofia Nicodemo bringing them maliciously and spitefully to life, whilst still staying obedient to the edicts of their equally wicked mother – Emilia Aris exuding selfishness and self-love.
The object of their malice, the Ash Girl, characterised and delivered with consummate acting skills by Rowan Brown who was barely off the stage, rose from her veiled hiding amongst the ashes to the knowledge that questions of love, hope and happiness must be answered by skills learnt through life’s experiences when often silence is the best response.
Charming and Dandini are reinvented as Prince Amir – exiled from his home and the country he loves, and Paul, yet another greedy character. Dominic Semwenga created a charming prince – serious, empathetic, earnest and almost persuaded by both his mother and Paul to just marry for fortune – any of the girls at the top of the ball’s invitation list would do. Ellie McConnell as his mother Princess Zehra created a sound maternal image whilst James Ali’s Paul hoped for fame and fortune for himself.
The troupe of ‘sins’ had worked hard not only on their considerable lines, full of long words, but on their body language too. Unmistakably indolent, Henry Barriball’s Slothworm delivered his lines lethargically, from a somnambulant position and Charlie McCarthy’s Gluttontoad was food-obsessed and eating constantly. We met Angerbird with Connor Cecil furious and resentful and Kieran O’Brien who, as Lust, tackled Ash’s father, (Sam Willmott), maybe as a reprimand for his thoughtless new marriage.
Aiding both Mother, Ruth and Judith to go to extreme lengths to achieve the wealth and fame marriage to a prince would achieve, Dan Fisher-Jaine encouraged them to think of gold, jewels, fine cloths and easy living as Greedmonkey and Oliver Horle, enticed more as Envysnake. Jack McCarthy’s Pridefly underlined that which comes before a fall, perhaps influencing the painful mutilation of the stepsisters’ feet – all to fit into that slipper – at any cost.
Connie Williams was the beautifully dressed, but rather ditsy fairy, forgetful but kind, who stepped dramatically out of a long mirror to encourage Ashy to battle her inner demons and think positively. This resulted in a coup of a transformation scene to close Act 1 with another grand dress which lit up with lights threaded through it, looking dramatic as the lights faded.
Ash did, however, have friends to look out for her. Otter, transformed into a coachman, until midnight that is, with Ethan Simmons making him caring and concerned. Then there was Owl, hooting a warning that midnight was near – Eddie McConnell as another worried friend.
Fairy magic transformed Ash’s small silver walnut shell into her coach, with friendly mice as footmen – well, one preferred to be a dragon actually, but whatever! The well-schooled mice were Lorenzo and Emily Brunellesi.
Performed against a stark background designed by Linda Hornzee-Jones, of raised white platforms at different heights with alcoves at the rear – one each for a deadly sin, the whole production was enhanced by coloured lighting designed by Brian List and eerie mood music which enriched the unrolling of the tale.
Costumes by Rosie Bottomley and Anne Franks set the story in an historic era, with those for the deadly sins, plain but well envisaged.
The care and attention to detail created an excellent production in the hands of director Ian Brown and his assistant Ben Jeffreys, which could not have been achieved, however, without the dedication and enthusiasm of an excellent cast and the support of the adults backstage. Were stars applicable here, it would certainly gain 5 out of 5.
Rules for Living – Review
Reviewed by Theo Spring
Bedlam, sheer bedlam sums up this tortuous tale of a dysfunctional family Christmas where each character has their own agenda and, as it turns out, their own rules.
The undoubted skills of each member of the cast to create roles of such diversity, each enacted within personalities that were as strong as the cognac saved to flame the Christmas pudding.
Playwright Sam Holcroft encompassed a requirement to be able to let the audience in on idiosyncrasies of the cast. Through the technical wizardry of Stephen Thurlow a large screen revealed, from amongst other foibles, that Matt lied when he was sitting down and eating and that Mum Edith cleaned everything, including her husband’s bald head, in order to keep calm and not lose her rag.
The family set-up is of Edith’s two sons Matthew and Adam returning to the family home for Christmas Day lunch. Adam with his wife Sheena and gluten-free requiring daughter Emma, and Matthew with his girlfriend Carrie who, it turned out, had had to invite herself, which must have spoken volumes but not to her. The boy’s dad, Francis, is to return home from hospital to spend the day in his own home.
Lauren Milson and Michael Rahman as Carrie and Matt were perceived at the start as idyllic lovebirds. Required to effervesce almost throughout the play, Lauren ‘s Carrie was bright, sparkly and funny as well as able to use the character’s musical stage ability to reveal, through dance, her growing realisation that Matt is in love with his sister-in-law Sheena. Michael is constantly avowing platitudes, always delivered sitting down and eating and so his fabrications are divulged to the audience. Both comedy and tragedy are revealed by both characters and their delivery was remarkable.
A cornucopia of accents is required by Adam and here Lewis Wilmott excelled. His ‘rule’ is to use them to when mocking which, as he frequently did, many different voices were required. He slid easily into these and created a many-faceted and definitely screwed-up son. His neurosis was partly brought on by a demanding father and partly by his now obviously failing marriage. Sharon Laws as wife Sheena, obsessed with wrapping their daughter in cotton wool, brought huge reality to her vociferous arguing, getting louder and harsher with each glass of wine – far exceeding her plan for ‘just one with lunch maybe’. The spats with her husband spoke of disturbing reality as did the efforts of her mother-in-law Edith to smooth everything over and keep the party calm. Ignoring the deep cracks appearing in her family’s relationships, Jan Robinson as Edith cajoled, commanded and oiled, never giving up and never admitting how ill her husband was after his stroke. Her efforts to make everything happy in the face of chaos added both comedy and pathos.
Arriving, once his family’s characters were well established, Geoff Thorn as Francis managed to convey his domineering and lecherous character from his wheelchair with one hand immobile – quite an achievement.
Spoken of throughout the play but appearing only briefly at the end, Maria Gallagher in her first proper adult production, made her mark well as daughter Emma.
The messy and chaotic ‘finale’ to the piece was performed with no holes barred.
Set in the wonderfully recreated kitchen and lounge area of the family home, Alan Croft’s design and the Chipstead Construction Crew brought total reality to the lunch and its ongoing preparations. Christmas was much in evidence. The tree with erratic lights speaking volumes of the fateful events to come and the cards around the walls. Lunch was real with props by Mags Alexander and Marie Ricôt who aided more to the reality of the setting.
Blessed with a cast able to turn the production more into a realistic documentary than a play and a crew who created such an accurate setting, director Grace Hopkins provided rewarding entertainment for an audience who had defeated the winter snow to attend.
The Scary Secrets Of Septimus Sloane – Review
Reviewed by Theo Spring
Flagged as a musical melodrama, this delightfully light and amusing production might also have been termed a thriller or a whodunit, have a mystic theme, be a comedy or even a pantomime, such are its many theatrical facets.Ideas are ‘lifted’, amongst others, from William Shakespeare; Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray; from the rooms and weapons of the parlour game of Cluedo and the success of Blithe Spirit’s Madam Arcati to materialise the recently departed. The cast was a successful amalgamation of members of Chipstead’s Youth Theatre and the adult players and brought song, dance, mystery and a ubiquitous ‘body’ who had a starring role.
Septimus Sloane, played in a gentle avuncular fashion by Phil Wright, has seven daughters, a wife who disappeared seven years ago and has now been officially pronounced dead, and a fiancée keen to get her hands on the Sloane fortune. All seven girls created very individual characters and there were some clear and tuneful vocals using new words to existing tunes, set to precise choreography by Kirsty Hudson. As the mainstays of the play it seems invidious not to name them all so Tara Baker was the lovelorn Daisy, Rowan Brown the sensible Susan, Maria Gallagher the scheming Sabrina, Victoria Bailey the disbelieving Samantha, Ella Bowers the thoughtful Sasha and Edelia Stones and Olivia Thynne as the young Stephanie and Sharon. Their simple matching dresses with a different colour cardigan for each of them helped to identify their ‘body’ which wore the cardigan and also helped us, as the audience, to identify who had been killed (no longer wearing the cardigan) and who hadn’t (still wearing one).
Staff at Sloane Manor included one of the enigmatic twin butlers, given an appropriate obsequiousness by Nick Gane; Meryl Jones, an efficient Joyce Bricks as Septimus’ PA, an eavesdropping gardener Willie Growmore to whom Jon Laws brought excellent face-acting and the three below stairs staff. Cooking chicken soup on a wonderfully replicated Aga, Elayne Teague gave Beryl Close a grand accent. Debs Brooks as the housekeeper Olive was the Shakespearian witch who quoted “Double, double toil and trouble, Fire burn, and caldron bubble” over the stirred cauldron and whose thumbs were able to twitch at approaching evil, and Vicky van Manen did a grand metamorphosis from old to young as Old Rene.
There were five baddies to add to the plot. In fine singing voice and evil cackle, Rick Thompsett created Dr Darius Du Bad, with his sycophantic side-kick Craven Coward so amusingly played by Joe Ackermann. Then there were the three hoodlums Hughie, Llewy and Chewy – Connor Cecil, Sam Willmott and Sofia Nicodemo respectively, who doubled as the three clowns Bozo, Crusty and Coco – managing to keep their roles very different depending on whether they were being good or bad. Finally, we have the legals and the law, represented here by the other half of love-lorn Daisy, Bradley Adams as Melvin Close the lawyer and the comedy duo of Don Hindle as Inspector Little and Phil Brooks as PC Plenty, with the strong singing voice and great timing. And what was the cause of all the concern over money and murders? Septimus’ plan to marry his assistant Dr Sally Forth to whom Sharon Laws brought charm, intrigue and a certain amount of scheming. On-stage musicians were under the baton of MD Philippa Lucas and the two Directors making sense of a considerable amount of mayhem were Siobhan James and Peter van Manen.
The fun evening invited audience reactions – groans at some of the puns – and we even had our photograph taken – one for someone’s album!
Reviewed By Theo Spring
This modern, striking play must surely be an actor’s nightmare. Each scene opens in exactly the same way, with glass being swept up from the carpet with a dustpan and brush, but then the dialogue changes. Sometimes with subtlety and sometimes pointed up, but full marks to the cast for unhesitatingly knowing which scene they were in and never confusing them.
Full marks to the cast also for their interpretations of four very diverse women. Set in the ‘splendour’ of a dictator’s city home, in a set designed by David Franks and oozing wealth and status thanks to Anne Franks’ set dressing and furniture, the four await the arrival of the dictator’s husband. Bearing a similarity to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, he never comes, yet he is always expected, on his way or delayed for this and that reason, at least so says his wife Micheleine, but is she imparting the truth of her telephone calls to his office? Kirsty Cunnington was every inch the elegant well-heeled (and high heeled) wife. Loyal, used to the best and constantly trying to smooth over her husband’s non-appearance to fulfil an appointment to have his portrait taken, on camera, by a British photojournalist. This key characterisation was reminiscent of the proverbial swan – all calm above water but paddling frantically underneath as, in Micheleine’s case, her world gradually fell apart as it slowly becomes apparent that a civil war is being fought beyond the safety of the residence.
A war, however, is not exclusively outside the walls as Micheleine’s constantly acknowledged best friend is revealed through the scenes to dislike her intensely and here Jane Foster as Genevieve uses not only her words but her body language too, to indicate her feelings as she moves between friendship and animosity. It is Genevieve who, with a small grasp of the language of the country, is suspicious and soon outspoken about the interpreter’s often completely false interpretations, leading to mistrust. Katie Bignell is the kleptomaniac interpreter Gilma, using her sleight of hand and a copious shoulder bag to secrete her booty, seeming to delight in the mayhem, confusion and hurt her words are causing.
Mugged & Taking Breath Reviews.
Reviewed By Lauren Milsom & Noel Harris
A well observed and sensitively written double bill performed by our talented youth theatre. Two plays which appear very different but have common themes of friendship and bravery. Most significantly both show how easily our perceptions of truth and reality can be changed or subverted.
The stage was stunningly set with a minimalist design of a giant tree centre stage, providing the perfect backdrop for the park setting in the first play, then becoming the centrepiece of the action in the second.
MUGGED by Andrew Payne
The play opens with perfectly paced energy from Jonathan Neary (Dig) and Toby Maynard (Marky) whose witty banter quickly establish their easy friendship and shared status as the nerdy underdogs in their social sphere, whilst introducing us to their daily dilemma of choosing a route to school. The reason for their quandary soon becomes clear with the arrival of their classmates, Leon (played with arrogant aggression by Ben Jeffreys), Tayl, (a confident debut by Oliver Griffin) and girlfriends Soph (a well-deserved major role for Maria Gallagher) and Mel (Tara Baker in another strong debut role). Their entry on the scene establishes they are not friends with the other two but use brute force and aggression to dominate them in standard pack hierarchy.
One common fear unites them all: the muggers positioned in the park playground most mornings – directly in their path to school. Whether to take the long route round to avoid them or run the gauntlet is evidently a daily decision.
With time running short the girls and Marky attempt the direct route, but quickly retreat when Soph’s phone is stolen by the most menacing mugger. This turn of events shows the characters’ behaviour under stress, with Leon’s brutish bravado crumbling at the possibility of confrontation.
Marky, recognising the lead mugger (“his mum lives next door to my mum”) naively believes he can reason with him and bravely returns to the playground alone in hopes of retrieving the mobile. The horror of the subsequent knife attack on Marky is effectively played out on the faces of the watching classmates.
Thus the teens are plunged into a murder enquiry and high profile media reporting, stylishly represented by the two news anchors Sofia Nicodemo and Olunibe Morgan, and on-the-scene reporter Bradley Adams. Early in the play the author has established that each character has something to hide, and from here on the audience witness the corruption of a seemingly simple case, when the witnesses all convince each other they have more to lose by telling the truth to the police than they have to gain. Thus police assumptions and media bias present a horribly skewed picture of the tragic event as a gang related incident with Marky branded a knife-wielding delinquent equally to blame for the skirmish.
Onlookers and gawkers are used to great effect here, revelling in the media attention to lend credence to Marky’s character assassination, and perpetuate a lazily constructed stereotype of a troubled teen deserving all he got.
Dig, Marky’s only true friend, watches this scenario unfold with horror, and after much soul searching decides to tell the truth to the police. Armed with fresh evidence, the hypocrisy of the media is sharply highlighted with a dramatic about turn in their description of Marky’s character, depicting him, just as inaccurately, as a champion of justice; a flawlessly gifted high achiever popular with everyone. His teachers, family and classmates avidly latch on to this fictitious social hero the media have created and whose funeral they all attend. Once again it falls to Dig to cut through the hype, remembering the true character of the friend only he knew well and who only he, amongst the crowd, truly grieves for. Jonathan Neary’s thoughtful and sincere delivery of these final lines showed us a glimpse of the depth of feeling this talented actor can deliver and provided a touching ending the audience will long remember.
TAKING BREATH by Sarah Daniels
The stunning centrepiece tree, designed and constructed by Nick Gane, comes into its own in this second play of the night, as the focus for an ecological demonstration played out among its branches.
The play opens on three set pieces
- The turbulent relationship between two sister dealing with their grandmother’s death
- A band of Eco-warriors trying to save a tree “the lungs of the planet” from destruction
- A young man lying comatose in a hospital bed, his worried family at his side
Three separate scenarios all intrinsically linked.
In Taking Breath five young people spend a night on a tree platform to prevent the destruction of the trees and some houses. One of the protesters, Elliott, tries to leave the tree, falls and is left unconscious. As he is lying there, he encounters Lucy, a servant who in 1913 worked in one of the houses that is to be demolished. The dramatic thread weaves backwards and forwards in time. In the opening scene, we learn that Elliott has been in a coma for a week. We then have scenes on the tree platform interspersed with Lucy telling Elliott about the suffragettes, how she was sexually harassed, how she had tried to frighten off the son of the house by telling him she had a boyfriend. Finally we have scenes in the hospital where Alana and Steve meet and we see them on the tree platform. Through her great-grandmother’s courage in adversity Alana finds peace with herself and strength to move on.
“Sometimes in life, the most courageous thing is to keep breathing.”
From the outset, Emily Foster pulled no punches as the aggressive, troubled Alana, older sister to the quiet, bookish Gemma (Gemma Bottomley). Alfie Earl Day gave a mature performance as Eco warrior / time-traveller Elliot taking the incredible developments in his life in his stride.
Monty Camisa Bundy, Ella Bowers, Kate Batcheler and Henry Barriball, fellow eco-warriors provided more light relief with well delivered comic earnestness.
Katie Bignell brought great energy to Lucy the suffragette, whilst Luke Steel and Victoria Bailey showed good emotional depth as Elliot’s concerned family.
Both plays were directed with great insight and sensitivity by directors Nick and Jane Foster, who produced well-paced, believable and mature performances from an excellent ensemble cast. Congratulations to all cast & crew on bringing these high quality productions to the Courtyard Theatre.
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)
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.