Tag Archives: Georgina White

Golden Oldies

FOREVER YOUNG

Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Wednesday 11th February, 2015

 

Set in the common room of a retirement home, this musical comedy adapted from the German original, has a cast of elderly characters, portrayed by much younger actors – a good thing: they move and act like old people but their singing voices retain the power of their comparative youth.

There is next to nothing in the way of plot and character development, and very little dialogue, come to think of it. Instead we spend a couple of hours in their company. There are periods of quiet, comic action and there are songs and plenty of them. In an eclectic song list that ranges from Joan Jett to Joan Baez, some lyrics take on additional significance. “The time to hesitate is through,” they sing during The Doors’ Light My Fire. Indeed.

The residents are patronised and coerced by Sister George (Georgina White) and here lies most of the show’s inherent conflict. On the whole though, they seem to rub along quite nicely – at one point a slow-moving (not slow-motion) slapstick spat breaks out, providing some measured, perhaps a little too slow, clowning.

Dale Superville is in fine fettle, with some physical shtick and a strong singing voice. His falsetto version of R E S P E C T goes down well, but his sweet duet of I Got You Babe with his sweetheart (Clara Darcy) is a highlight. Darcy goes on to give a plaintive rendition of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit which becomes embittered and stirring when the others join in. In fact, the ensemble singing is delightful, harmonised to perfection. Stefan Bednarczyk (who co-adapted the piece with director Giles Croft) proves himself a versatile pianist, covering a vast range of musical styles. The excellent Rebecca Little hurls invective to comic effect and, when her prosthetic leg comes off, launches into a wistful Barbie Girl.  The nostalgia factor is strong in this one. When the elderly are asked to sing songs of the old days, and they come out with 90s pop hits, you know you’re getting on.

It’s quite bonkers when you think about it but the spectre of mortality is waiting in the wings. Live life, the oldies urge us, and don’t let the bastards grind you down. This gets a cheer from the audience, comprised mainly of white-haired people (refreshing to be among the youngest present!), but for all its feel-good fun, it’s not as funny as it thinks it is. Perhaps something was lost in translation and the European humour doesn’t travel. The first half is too long and some business is drawn out too far. We don’t get to hear John Elkington’s Imagine after three or four false starts – a pity; he is in great voice (when he’s not falling off the stage or breaking wind).

It’s a pleasant couple of hours but it’s a packet of biscuits rather than a meal.

Tim Frater and John Elkington (Photo: Robert Day)

Tim Frater and John Elkington (Photo: Robert Day)

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Dream a Little Dream

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

Stafford Festival Shakespeare, Stafford Castle, Thursday 11th July, 2013

Using the remains of the castle as a backdrop, the stage nestles into the bailey’s slopes and dips with a simple evocation of the forest and the palace of Theseus.  Elegant pagodas are dotted around, the largest of which serves as a bandstand; as the audience arrive, the Mechanicals treat us to a light-hearted concert of Gilbert & Sullivan numbers.  The setting is Edwardian and a little bit colonial but director Peter Rowe doesn’t labour the point.  By keeping things simple, he allows the comedy of Shakespeare’s script to hold centrestage, proving you don’t need gimmicks and ‘clever’ reinterpretations to make a production accessible and effective.

Quite simply, it’s one of the funniest Dreams I’ve seen in a long while.

The ensemble of four young lovers is intensely presented.  Hilarious when they’re under the influence of Oberon’s love-juice (sic) and rowdy when their passions are aroused, this quartet demonstrate physical comedy that belies the elegance and formality of their period costumes.  Jennifer Greenwood is a fireball of a Hermia, contrasting with Georgina White’s neurotic Helena.  Eamonn O’Dwyer is a poised, slightly stuffy Demetrius but it is Craig Fletcher’s dashing Lysander who gets most of the laughs.

As you’d expect, the Mechanicals are delightful.  An affable bunch directed by Phylip Harries’s Quince, they prepare their production of Pyramus & Thisbe in the woods. Interestingly and very effectively, their version is a cod operetta, continuing the G & S motif.  It works brilliantly, thanks to Greg Palmer’s musical direction and composition.  James Haggie’s Thisbe is a scream, Paul Kissaun’s Lion is adorable (such a contrast between this actor’s Snug the joiner and his Egeus!) but of course, it is Bottom the weaver who dominates.  Eric Potts shows himself to be a wonderful Shakespearean clown, stepping outside his customary role as pantomime dame.  His Bottom is rounded, cheeky and pert.

Simone James is aloof as Hippolyta and graceful as Titania, followed by a troupe of fairies; the otherworldly aspects of the production are simply and stylishly achieved; the overall effect is magical.  Robert Fitch’s Oberon is more commanding than his Theseus, but then the fairy king has mischief to be done.  His servant Puck, for me, steals the show.  Lanre Malaolu gives an excitable Puck, a ball of pent-up energy, a nifty little mover with some fine comic playing.

A dream of a Dream, then.  Already I’m looking forward to hearing about next year’s production.

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Eric Potts and Phylip Harries indulge in some pre-show operetta


Explosion of Talent

BLONDE BOMBSHELLS OF 1943

New Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme, Friday 17th May, 2013

 

Alan Plater’s ‘play with music’ has all the hallmarks of his familiar TV works: sardonic North country humour, cheeky innuendo, sparking dialogue and likable characters.  The story concerns a day in the life of Betty, leader of a dance band, auditioning new players for a big gig later that night.  Because of the seductive techniques of American soldiers over here and over-sexed, Betty’s band, the Blonde Bombshells, has a faster turnover of members than the Sugababes.

The play begins with a prologue – a girl from today in hoodie and Converse tells us this is about a ‘hell of a day’ her grandmother spent during the war, a day in which she learned about love, betrayal, sex and a whole list of things, thereby cranking up our expectations.  It’s a way of framing the narrative as a story, perhaps a tall one, so we accept the conflation of events and the speed at which they happen.

The action takes place in a bombed-out rehearsal space.  The female ensemble, which increases one member at a time, is not only amusing in a deadpan, not quite Victoria Wood skit fashion, but they are all exceptional musicians, playing live.  It is the songs that lift the show – most of them familiar – out of the ordinary – or rather, I should say, the performance of them.  The melancholic trumpet playing (of Sarah Groarke’s Vera), for example, is a bittersweet counterpoint to the wisecracks and cheeriness of these wartime women.

First to audition is schoolgirl Liz (Carla Freeman) who plays a nifty clarinet and appears to become a virtuoso on the saxophone in the course of one day… Next up is the excellent Katharine Moraz as Lily, a nun with a nice line in cheeky George Formby songs.  These two characters are the innocents.  The third auditionee is a bit of a posh tart, Miranda, (Suzi Power) like a young Joan Collins but with a sultry singing voice.   These three are recruited by the worldly-wise Betty and rehearsals begin.

Along comes the only male in the cast, Chris Grahamson as a drummer with a secret – This leads to some rather low-key Some Like It Hot shenanigans and also teases out the darker side of the situation.

The play is short on dramatic tension but more than compensates with warmth, heart and humanity.  You simply enjoy being in the company of these characters and delight in their musicianship, whether you know the songs or not.  Director Kevin Shaw has adapted his Oldham Coliseum production to fit in the New Vic’s arena, which means the performers do a lot of rotating on the spot, but it works very well.  The singing is lovely, the playing divine.   Marianne Benedict is May, on piano – we don’t find out much about her but she can certainly tickle the ivories.  Natasha White is very funny as Grace on double bass, the most deadpan of the group, using jokes to plaster over her personal tragedy.  Georgina White presides as bandleader Betty, bossy but self-deprecating – she hints at personal sacrifice but keeps up morale, which is the aim of the game, after all.  But, in this thoroughly excellent troupe, the stand-outs for me are Katharine Moraz’s enthusiastic nun and Sarah Groarke’s Vera, for her earthy characterisation and her soul-searing trumpet.

You come away thoroughly entertained – this is not a show about the hardship of war, but it is touched upon.  You consider how people appreciated what they had back then and made the best of things, in the shadow of German bombers.  These days when we have everything and take it for granted, our humour is less generous in spirit and our attitudes complacent.  This show made me nostalgic for a time I didn’t live through and grateful for growing up in peace time.

Blonde-Bombshells