A riot of fun on and off-stage

A Chorus of Disapproval, New Wolsey Theatre until February 28. Colchester Mercury Theatre - March 5 to 21. FOR anyone involved in amateur dramatics, the idiosycracies of this popular hobby are well known.

A Chorus of Disapproval, New Wolsey Theatre until February 28. Colchester Mercury Theatre - March 5 to 21.

FOR anyone involved in amateur dramatics, the idiosycracies of this popular hobby are well known.

For anyone who lends their support by going along to the shows, a completely different set of predictable quirks will have become familiar.

And in Alan Ayckbourn's A Chorus of Disapproval, both sides of the am-dram world are portrayed to hilarious perfection.

From the start, when the play sees the cast of Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society finishing the performance of their latest production, it was clear Ayckbourn had captured the habits of amateur theatricals brilliantly.

Maybe it was the over-blown curtain call - an annoying habit favoured by so many groups - or the sulking over costumes, the competition for top-billing or the less than productive rehearsals that portrayed am-dram groups so perfectly. Or maybe it was a bit of everything, but whatever it was, when Ayckbourn penned this play in 1984, he was clearly no stranger to the theatricals happening in rehearsal rooms throughout the country every week.

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The play sees quiet and unassuming widower Guy Jones decide to take up a theatrical hobby by auditioning for a production of The Beggar's Opera. But what he doesn't bargain for is power-hungry director Dafydd, a couple keen to enlist him into their 'swinging' circle and the endless competition amongst the cast.

Before he knows what's happening, Guy has gone from bit-part performer to star of the show - with a host of other demands being made of him off-stage too.

As Guy Jones, Julian Harries is absolutely superb, playing the mild-mannered, often confused character with perfect comedy timing. Backed up by Sion Tudor Owen as Dafydd and Katy Secombe as Dafydd's long-suffering wife, there are some exceptional performances in this production.

One thing New Wolsey creative director Peter Rowe always manages to do is find the under-stated nuances and human side to every story and this production is no exception - making this satirical comedy even more believable.

Excellent direction combined a cast of actors who all capture their characters with great aplomb have together made this production one which will make every amateur (and no doubt professional) performer squirm and everyone else laugh out loud.

HELEN JOHNS

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