What really impresses me about the Right Angle Theatre Company is that, production after production, they seem to be able to keep turning in an incredibly high standard of performance just when you think they might just be going a bit stale. So far this year I had seen two outstanding Youth productions, a very agreeable ‘Fawlty Towers’ and a breath-taking musical in the form of ‘Avenue Q’. So, since they picked up the Area 4 Pantomime award last year, things bode well for the 2013 offering of ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
As usual, the set was outstanding (Bob Ledger) and it wasn’t long before I saw that the costumes were too. I do have to say that the script by Julie Petrucci and Chris Shinn was not as funny as last years but, with so many great performers giving it everything, there was never going to be a shortage of laughs.
Wisbech pantomimes always have plenty of bodies on stage and the young chorus were enthusiastic and well-rehearsed. There were too many songs but that is nothing new with pantomime and most of the songs in this presentation were relevant and well delivered. Choreography by Katy Lilley ticked all the boxes and the complimentary lighting by Robert Williams did all that it needed to do.
Of the supporting cast there was a good showing from Edward Tranter and Jack Quinney as Guards, Gordon and Graham with Red Vaughan doubling nicely as Victor and Fairy Violet. There was plenty of top quality acting from Jenny Bryant as Queen Beryl, the excellent Jake Pearce as King Basil and Bethany Handley continues to go from strength to strength this time as the villain’s assistant, Spaldrick.
In the more significant parts, Joanne Johnson did everything right as a very macho Prince Valiant and Natalia Moment was completely delightful as main protagonist Princess Aurora just struggling a little with some of the singing. Danielle Beare seems to be landing bigger parts with each production and this time she was chief villain, Zelda Blackadder. She delivered a confident performance and it was only the audience participation parts that seemed to take her out of her comfort zone. No such trouble for Kevin Shippey as Dame Dotty, who really doesn’t need a script at all and probably hadn’t looked at this one before he produced another excellent characterisation. Likewise ‘chip-off-the-old-block’, Joshua Shippey, who didn’t have much to do this year but was a completely class act from start to finish.
I save the penultimate paragraph for the surprising Matthew Beare, whom I have never seen in such a prominent role as this before. As the Court Jester he shone out by supporting the comedy when others were delivering it and by producing his own beautifully paced delivery that really was wonderful to watch. He always did enough without stepping on anyone’s feet and completely endeared himself to me and the whole audience.
The two things I complain about most when reviewing pantomimes is the quality of the scripts and the audience participation. So many times I see characters come out to banter with the public without the least idea what they are going to do if they get a reaction. The various boys in this production never faltered and with all the classic pantomime ingredients this was a production to remember. My compliments to Director, Emlyn Moment for making me laugh till I cried and reminding me that Panto is still relevant and still funny!
Stephen P. E. Hayter
(Regional Representative NODA area 4 North)(Regional Representative NODA area 4 North)
RATz AVENUE Q
Director: Kevin Shippey
Vocal Coach: Lorraine Carver
Band Leader: Steve Simmonds
Date seen: Thursday October 3rd 2013
There is no doubt that The Right Angle Theatre Company (RATz) have put out some amazing shows in recent years. Ranging from Classic Pantomime, through plays and well into non mainstream musicals. I was therefore more than delighted to be returning to Wisbech for another title that I had never seen before although it is a production that has blasted a path right through traditional musical theatre taking Broadway and the West End by storm continuing to tour very successfully throughout the world.
Knowing a little of what I was in store for me I was surprised that there were no warnings (At least that I saw) on any publicity mentioning the fairly strong language, although having said that there is absolutely nothing offensive about this show but It is worth noting that two mature ladies in the row in front of me declared during the interval that it was “Not quite what I had expected”. The story is simple enough, a funny and often poignant mimicry of Sesame Street the evergreen US pseudo educational children’s programme and in that style most of the main characters were puppets. A fresh graduate arrives to rent a house on Avenue Q and meets a girl who is a monster and ….. you don’t really need to know any more.
I know I say this a lot but … Avenue Q truly was an ensemble piece with each performer required to offer a very high standard of technical acting as well as a strong characterisation through their characters puppet facade. Not an easy juggling act I can tell you. There wasn’t really a supporting cast but in the smaller roles Red Vaughn and Danielle Beare were wonderful as The Bad Idea Bears with Kevin Shippey and Lorraine Carver magnificent as the two thirds of the non-puppet characters Brian and Christmas Eve. Wonderful Emma Small was the third, as Avenue Q superintendent and ex-child star Garry Coleman (Don’t ask, it is too difficult to explain and makes no sense anyway !)
In the lead parts Josh Shippey was at his very best in the dual roles of Nicky and Trekkie Monster with fantastic vocal characterisations which left me speechless, save to wonder how he did it without losing his voice. Jake Pearce also turned in an outstanding performance as Rod with plenty of pathos along with the laughs. There were two great characterisations from Holly George as she gave us school ma’am cameo Mrs T and the bad girl on the block Lucy The Slut. The latter meeting with an unpleasant end.
In a Surreal piece of theatre that I thought would be high comedy there was an awful lot of soft stuff amongst the sexual innuendo and the penultimate paragraph goes jointly to Laura Jayne Shippey as Kate Monster and Billy Garner as new resident Princeton. Laura Jayne never disappoints in any role, but with Kate she demonstrated outstanding puppetry with occasional comedy and some remarkable pathos. Her rendition of There’s a Fine Fine Line must have had a lot of the audience in tears … I know I was very close ! Her sex scene with Princeton (The puppets not the actors) was not only a physical marathon but managed to embrace most of the Karma Sutra (At least the pages I an familiar with !) showing a versatility I have come to respect enormously. I swear that if you had told me that Billy Garner had just come from the Broadway cast to fill in for the night I would have believed you. The characterisation was perfection as was his singing voice and his puppetry. As a couple he and Laura Jayne were completely credible which gave added substance to the relationship and to the show.
Congratulations to Director Kevin Shippey for what must have been a complicated directorial job and I drove home from Wisbech thinking that I had never seen a professional production of Avenue Q, but what more could full time actors have possibly given that I hadn’t just witnessed ? Another remarkable set from Kerry Shippey, flawless musical delivery from Steve Simmonds and his five piece band and puppets that also looked like they also had just finished a Broadway run. However my overriding thought was simply this, although I normally choose an opening night performances and this was third night, I don’t think I have ever seen any amateur show that was as policed as The Right Angles Theatre Company’s performances of Avenue Q on that Thursday night …. Anywhere.
Damn you Kevin Shippey and your whole family, you just keep raising the bar ! Try and leave a little something for us mortals.
(Regional Representative NODA area 4 North)
RATz Summer Musical Challenge GREASE
Director: Emlyn Moment
Musical Director: Gabriel Fitzsimmons
Choreographer: Natalia Moment
Date seen: Friday August 23rd 2013
My first introduction to a RATz Youth production had been with last year’s outstanding presentation of Miss Saigon and let me tell you, that left me simply breathless. When the opportunity came to return for the “Summer Musical Challenge” I could not have been more excited. This boyish enthusiasm all the more focused by the title of the piece. “Grease” … what can I say? it was amateur theatre heaven.
If I understand it correctly (and I am not entirely sure I do) the RATz Summer Musical Challenge is where the great and the good of The Right Angle Theatre Company offer interested youngsters the chance to attend two weeks of intensive workshops leading up to a week of performances, an incredible opportunity extending to all the back stage functions as well as being in the spotlight. The cast of this production of Grease were clearly a mixed ability group presumably with a formal auditioning process taking up day one of the ten available. Looking out at the 47 or so enthusiastic faces putting heart and soul in the production I had the distinct feeling that they had taken on everybody who showed up, putting the best in the lead roles, a thought that only intensified the nobility of the achievement.
The story of Grease is so well known it would be insulting to anyone reading this review to go over it again… but just in case you have been in a coma since 1971 it goes a lot like this : Boy meets girl at the beach in America circa 1959, girl has to go with her parents to Australia. Girls plans change and boy unexpectedly meets girl again at Rydell high school where the politics and peer group pressures make things complicated for the developing romance. There are of course two versions of this production the original cruder more gritty stage production from 1971 and the U certificate version with the better songs that made it onto the big screen around 1978. This particular cut seemed to be a mash up of the two with none of the good stuff being left out.
I could just end this review here and say to simply get anything half decent ready for the stage in ten days is a massive achievement, but this production was a lot more than half decent so I will go on. The massive chorus never failed to please with plenty of bodies available at all times and without wishing to diminish the achievements of everyone else, I would just mention Ellie Salmon who was enormously watchable throughout.
Of the leads there were a variety of noteworthy performances, all good, but inevitably with this type of workshop production some looked more comfortable in the roles than others. It would be unfair to really pick out too many of the leads in such an ensemble piece but there were superb perfomances from Amber Castillo-Roman as Rizzo who put across nicely the strength and vulnerability of the character and making a good job of the show stopping “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”. As one of the older cast members Natalia Moment held everything together on stage as well as delivering a nice portrayal of the irrepressible Patty Simcox helped in no small part by Matt Dack as Eugene Florczyk. Jake Pearce impressed me last time out as the Engineer in Miss Saigon and was once again in top form as the very macho Danny Zuko with a great singing voice helping him to put cross perfectly all his songs especially the wonderful “Summer Nights”. I enjoyed Christopher Moment as T Bird Doody but even he was over shadowed by the incredibly hard working Edward O Connor as T Bird Roger who never reduced his pace from start to finish.
I have saved the penultimate paragraph for two performers, both female. Firstly Louise McGuirke as Marty who was outstanding, particularly in the first half and secondly the marvellous Danae Larham as repressed newcomer Sandy Dumbrowski (I didn’t know Sandy had a second name). I thought that “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was the take home song of the evening and hers the performance of the night.
I know that with Youth productions it’s supposed to be about the kids but, I think that Director Emlyn Moment should take a bow, along with the enormous team of technical and artistic backstagers who somehow managed to turn this huge mob into a fighting unit in two weeks. The energy and enthusiasm was electric and with only a few lost lines a magnificent achievement all round.
(Regional Representative NODA area 4 North)
RATz FAWLTY TOWERS
Director: Kevin Shippey
Date seen:Thursday June 13th 2013
“Allo Allo!”, “Are You Being Served”, “Blackadder”, “Dad’s Army” - the list of television spin offs doing the amateur circuit certainly is extensive. The commercial motivation for choosing one of these classics is obvious, as ticket sales on these titles seem generally good, but I still question slightly what the artistic draw might be. That said, I was excited at the prospect of a first look at the “Fawlty Towers” version that I had heard so much about.
A quick chat at the Box Office suggested that business has been a bit slow, but as I took my seat in the wonderful Angles Theatre there seemed to be very few spare seats available. The format was the same as most of the other titles afore-mentioned, with three episodes being covered. I had seen all of them which is not so surprising as this much loved John Cleese and Connie Booth evergreen consisted of only 12 episodes between 1975 and 1979. The first half was “The Psychiatrist” followed by “The Anniversary” with the second half entirely devoted to “The Germans” which (of course) contains some of the most quoted comedy lines in the history of the world!
RATz had put out it’s A team again and there were excellent supporting performances form Matthew Beare, Danielle Beare, Al Hanrahan, Julie Hanrahan, Cynthia Maxey, Lisa Melton and Rachel Shepherd who shared out all the incidental characters. Special mention for Natalia Moment who made a great job of everything she did together with Joshua Shippey (didn’t he used to be Josh?) as fanatical chef Terry.
On the periphery of the main cast, Colin Galbraith did a good job as the Major coming to the fore with an excellent discussion with the mouse head. Strangely, although Manuel was omnipresent in this production he had very few lines but those he had were delivered with some style by Emlyn Moment who had captured perfectly the physical characteristics and facial expressions of the character. Compliments also to Laura-Jayne Shippey whose Polly was extremely accurate, so much so that when she hit the accent (still of unknown origin) perfectly it made your hair bristle. She looked the part and gave a perfectly measured performance without ever going over the top.
Physically you may think that Kevin Shippey was not an obvious choice for the role of despotic hotelier Basil Fawlty, but with that moustache, and his hair as tidy as I have ever seen it combined with a proper shave (I didn’t know he owned a razor!) it was easy to forget he was not John Cleese. Either by accident or design it was only half-impression which I liked, but there is no doubt when he went into full Basil mode it was a pretty good likeness on all levels. Throughout the performance Mr Shippey never stopped for long enough for me even to consider whether he was saying the right lines or not but there were no prompts, no sticky moments and it all made sense (as far as Fawlty Towers ever did).
I save my penultimate paragraph for Lorraine Carver as the long-suffering Sybil Fawlty. The character was a little side-lined in the three scripts on offer this night, which is consistent with the televised versions, but it was a superb performance from start to finish with mimicry that was outstanding throughout. Facially she had Prunella Scales off-pat and it was difficult not to watch her most of the time she was on.
Congratulations to Director Kevin Shippey for a tidy piece of stage-craft nicely framed and well-presented although in the final analysis, the truly remarkable two-level set by Kerry Shippey amplified the quality of all that took place in, on, and around it.
Another brilliant production from the Wisbech RATz, who seem to be in unstoppable form.
(Regional Representative NODA area 4 North)
RATz Youth MISS SAIGON SCHOOLS EDITION
DIRECTOR: Emlyn Moment
Choreographer: Nathan White
Vocal Coach: Emma Small
Date seen: Tuesday April 2nd 2013
For a number of reasons, this was the first time I had found myself at A RATz Youth production and how exciting that it was also the first time I had seen this title. Since the show’s release for schools there have been many raised eyebrows regarding the content of the show and it’s suitability for junior performers. My eyebrows were certainly a little out of position as I took my seat at the wonderful Angles Theatre, but I should have guessed that Director Emlyn Moment and the collective genius of this outstanding society would know just how to handle it.
The aforementioned dubious content is frankly the whole show. The story is about a union of an American GI and a recently recruited prostitute in a very seedy brothel in the last weeks of the Vietnam war. They fall in love, but he is forced to leave without her and assuming she has died, marries, and begins a new life back home. Things start to unravel when his close friend identifies that not only is the girl still alive but there is a child. Throw in a psychopathic ex suitor and an unscrupulous entrepreneur and you have a show that makes Les Misérables look like a comedy.
In complete contrast to the subject matter everything about this show was classy. The set was perfect, with most of the scenery and pops moved by the cast members keeping the pace rattling along. A good job in a show that does go on a bit. Costumes were excellent and with the young girls in the brothel scenes I was especially impressed that you knew what they were, without their attire being in any way explicit. Lighting was atmospheric and when the helicopter passed overhead the sound of the blades and the thumping bass made my whole chest cavity vibrate.
It was a large and ludicrously enthusiastic cast who all seemed to know exactly what they were doing and did it without the hint of a prompt or even the smallest of uncertain pauses. This was youth drama at its best and the chorus were universally excellent in all the facets of performance. I was especially impressed by two of the American service men in the opening scene who did a slow motion lighting of a cigarette that was so realistic I found myself watching them and not the main characters. I could not be sure who they were from the cast list but they will know.
Of the leads I enjoyed Liam Nixon as Thuy, (the villain of the piece) and a very focused performance from young Phoenix Collins as Amerasian offspring Tam, who was not phased at all during the proceedings even when the gun was fired nearby. The part of best friend John is more important in this production that you might think and in that role Tom Penston had a mighty stage presence. His easy, relaxed style was perfect and although he struggled a little with the Bui-Doi number it took nothing away from his performance. Equally impressive was Eden Carver as the American wife Ellen who perfectly conveyed demure loyalty and jealous disappointment, most poignantly when she sang. I have seen Jake Pearce on this stage before and although it was a significantly smaller part back then, it was clear then that he was capable of much more. In the pivotal role of Engineer (Pimp and all around sleaze) he was perfect, taking big chunks of several songs. The comedy is extremely limited in this title and but he got all the laughs that were available.
If this was Rogers and Hammerstein I would probably describe them as “Star Crossed Lovers” but in a production that was as real as an operatic stage show can be it would be inappropriate, but the two romantic leads were both excellent. As vulnerable Kim, 12 year old Bethany Handley gave a performance that any twenty year old would have been pleased with. A lovely singing voice and not a hint of reticence at the physical bits in the script. The only time I was reminded that she was so young was when she was with her child and the relationship looked more sisterly that motherly but it was still an amazing characterisation.
I save my this paragraph for Ashly Kerkhof who I last saw in the RATz Musical “A Slice Of Saturday night” doing a pretty good supporting role. This time he was front and centre and was just fantastic throughout. He looked every inch the moral American soldier Chris, torn between the wife at home and the wife and child abroad and with a wonderful singing voice gave credibility to every note he sang. He was as confident in his characterisation as he was in his words and never faltered from the first bar to the last.
My hat is completely off to the incredible Emlyn Moment not just for delivering an inspiration piece of youth theatre to such a high standard, but for motivating the massed youth of Wisbech to reach such altitude. It all became abundantly clear at a point, not far from the interval when a loss of power cut the music and not one of the many young people on stage stopped singing. Not one of them looked around to see what they should do next or what the person next to them was going to do, they just kept going, and if Mr Moment had not stopped them, I believe they would have carried on to the interval. I don’t think there are many adult groups who would have handled it better!!
I also applaud the band, under the direction of Steve Simmonds who produced an incredible sound that complemented the singers and never dominated them. I must declare that I am not a massive fan of the operatic format and this show is so short of humour it would not be amongst my favourite titles but this production was an absolute triumph from start to finish.
There are times when a drive to Wisbech for any reason seems a long way but when the incentive is amateur theatre this good, hell I’d walk it! Bravo! Bravo!
(Regional Representative NODA area 4 North)
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