A Chorus of Disapproval
Paul Johnson | 08 Jun 2018 12:14pm
Photo: Chris Patmore
South London Theatre has been through a massive upheaval over the past couple of years. Sardines readers will remember that in order to survive the society, whose home is based at the Grade 2 listed Old Fire Station (horse-drawn!) in London’s West Norwood, was forced to move out of the 19th Century building while a major restoration project was initiated with the help of Heritage Lottery Funding.
Well, this week I was lucky enough to attend the fifth production since SLT moved back into its revamped and highly impressive theatre space – which is now also a community heritage site. As someone who spent many an evening watching shows and plays at SLT’s ‘old’ Bell Theatre (main) and Prompt Corner (studio), you would hardly recognise the place now; there’s even a modern lift servicing the whole building.
The venue’s new versatile, intimate 100-seat auditorium is currently playing host to Alan Ayckbourn’s 1984 am-dram masterpiece, A Chorus of Disapproval… a title many of us have either seen of been part of over the years. Made into a star-studded film in 1989 by Michael Winner and featuring a who’s who of British acting talent such as Anthony Hopkins, Jeremy Irons, Jenny Seagrove, Prunella Scales and Richard Briars to name just a few, Ayckbourn’s play is a fond (if not slightly exaggerated) snapshot of the goings-on in amateur theatre societies all over the country.
Guy Jones is a recent widower who decides to try out for Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society and their upcoming production of The Beggars’ Opera. The naive – and much-needed – male performer is an instant hit with the group’s highly dedicated director, Dafydd ap Llewellyn, as well as most of the society’s middle-aged, married women. Through one way or another, including several intimate encounters, Guy finds himself being promoted from a one-line role to the lead part of Macheath, where somehow, by the time of the run, he seems to have upset virtually everyone.
SLT’s production is very funny and well-cast throughout with emphasis on vividly bringing Ayckbourn’s characters to life. Unfortunately, the singing (throughout the play we hear excerpts from various rehearsals as well as some of the final production) isn’t up to much more than ressembling something of a cats’ chorus, which is a little surprising as the fictitious society is after all supposed to be an ‘operatic’ one – so surely, there would have been a number of strong singers within its membership! As it isn’t obvious to tell whether or not the cast have been directed to deliberately sing under-par it’s impossible to throw too much judgement but I did find myself feeling rather sorry for PALOS’s fictitious paying customers.
Away from the music, I adore how director Lisa Thomas has squeezed every ounce of comedy from her cast and Ayckbourn’s very funny script. In an ensemble-heavy play, top marks must go right across the board but with special plaudits to Jason Salmon’s remarkable portrayal of proud Welshman Dafydd ap Llewellyn; Adam Crook’s unfortunate innocent Guy (he just needs to learn to say ‘no’); Siobhán Campbell’s terrifying Bridget (her constant mocking of and eventual fight with Kelly-Kim Cranstoun as Linda is beautifully done); Penny Thomas as swinging wife, Fay (always partial to a bit of VEAL); and Ian Cuthbert as cuddly-but-can’t-act-for-toffee Ted Washbrook, who Dafydd hilariously upsets in one of his passionate rants.
It’s all great fun and is playing until Saturday, 9th June at The Old Fire Station in West Norwood. More at www.southlondontheatre.co.uk/a-chorus-of-disapproval
Photo: Chris Patmore
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- : 07/06/2018