A BUNCH OF AMATEURS
by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman from a story by Jonathan Gershfield and John Ross..
Watermill Theatre Bagnor Newbury RG20 8AE To 28 June 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm except 28 June at 1.30pm & 6.30pm.
Audio-described 21 June 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1.30pm).
BSL Signed 7 June 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01635 46044.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 May.
Familiar ingredients whipped to a fine comic frenzy at the Watermill.
At last – the one you’ve not been waiting for. The play of the film of the story, which was by two other blokes.
If you had been waiting, would it have been worth it? A Bunch of Amateurs asks you to believe six impossible things – improbable fictions anyway – before being truly settled in your seat. That a once-major Hollywood star would be inveigled by his agent into performing King Lear, and when he discovers the Stratford he’s been sent to is a Suffolk village with a non-professional theatre group as near extinction as his career, he’s forced to stay by his own pronouncements on the value of theatre.
Then, that his star-struck landlady, one of the thesps, would misremember every film he’s not been in, or be unaware her celebrity guest has returned to his room injured and walk in without knocking upon what looks like the sexual shenanigans for which he is notorious.
Often enough, Amateurs is built on clichés. But the chortle factor is set high. The writers, and director Caroline Leslie, just about keep improbabilities at bay by heartily ploughing-on with the humour. Script and production know when to spell-out and when to imply.
And the production takes every opportunity without over-playing its hand, while designer Tom Rogers creates a spacious barn of a theatre, his efficient solution to scenes set elsewhere involving fold-out inserts, their movement covered by snatches of verse from Lear’s Fool, set with attractive swirling accompaniments by composer Paul Herbert.
Chiefly, there’s the all-round magnificent cast. An energetic Mitchell Mullen keeps visiting star Steel’s self-absorption funny (the script finding multiple opportunities), Jackie Morrison gives local director Dorothy unforced yet sharp intelligence, while Eleanor Brown arrives just in time to save the plot as Steel’s disaffected daughter.
Damian Myerscough’s technician, thriving on machines and eye-gouging tricks, is supremely comic as he suggests a sentence in a glance, while Sarah Moyle gives a comic gem of a performance, smiling or tripping across the stage to be obliging, till her anger’s aroused, when she shows hell hath no fury like an adoring fan who feels spurned.
Lauren Bell: Emily Bowker.
Jessica Steel: Eleanor Brown.
Nigel Dewbury: Michael Hadley.
Dorothy Nettle: Jackie Morrison.
Mary Plunkett: Sarah Moyle.
Jefferson Steel: Mitchell Mullen.
Denis Dobbins: Damian Myerscough.
Community Ensemble: John Barker, Georgia Bradley, Ckaire Dyson, Melissa Hughes, Michael John Huxtable, Holly Lucas, Miranda Porter, Charlotte Shanahan, Ferel Smith, Craig Stainthorp, Tom Tempest, Peter Terry, Suzanne Thompson, Ranko Vrcelj, Bridget Walker, Dylan Yates.
Director: Caroline Leslie.
Designer: Tom Rogers.
Lighting: Tim Lutkin.
Sound: Neil Starke.
Music: Paul Herbert.
Assistant director: Neil Bull.