John Slim puts the spotlight on amateur theatre...
A small group dedicated to raising the flag of fun will set out from Sutton Coldfield to deepest Walsall on Sunday on its first expedition beyond the walls of Highbury Little Theatre.
Punchline Productions, consisting of Highbury members, has emerged from an idea about which its chairman, Rob Phillips, has been thinking for several years. Its try-out at Highbury earlier this year was a satisfying success - and now the team is to visit its nearneighbours at the Grange Playhouse in Walsall.
Punchline's aim is to present laughter. On the bill of fare is a collection of original sketches - plus a brand-new 35-minute farce called Round the Table, which is the ace up Punchline's sleeve. It's about a young couple preparing to have his boss to dinner when everything goes pear-shaped with the arrival of a short-sighted neighbour and the husband's inebriated mother.
It has been written by Philip Cobbold, a pupil at Fairfax School, Sutton Coldfield, where Punchline member Brian Portsmouth teaches - and word has it that it's extremely funny. It was one of 25 plays by young people presented at Birmingham Repertory Theatre over the last three weeks under the Transmissions banner.
Brian Portsmouth cannot speak too highly of him. He says: "He's a very talented young man. And on the production side he is totally focused and meticulous in making sure everything is in its place."
Rob Phillips is raring to go. He says: "Everyone involved with Punchline is fully committed to the cause. We plan to invade as many theatres as possible over the next few months and I'm very grateful to the Grange for accommodating us on Sunday. We're looking forward to a great night."
Yes, it's that time of the year again - when directors up and down the country are impatiently waiting for people to return from holiday so that they can start rehearsing the pantomime.
Pantomime is the year's big money- spinner for many groups - but far too many of them decline to take it seriously enough to make a proper job of it. I tire of seeing what is clearly the second eleven going through the motions, with the funnyman forgetting his lines and hoping against hope that the audience will think this is as amusing as he pretends to find it.
Panto is usually a child's introduction to theatre. The fact that a child does not realise when it is rubbish is no excuse for insulting the intelligence of its parents by not pulling out the stops to create a good production.
Sixty youngsters from Wolverhampton are spending the week at Newhampton Arts Centre, Whitmore Reans, working with international drama tutors from Lithuania and France, plus local writers and professional designers and directors.
The object is to create a oneoff production of Trend, a new show that examines what it takes to become "cool" and how long you can last as the "next big thing".
Wolverhampton Central Youth Theatre and the city council's education department are combining forces for the project, which involves young people aged from 11 to 16.
The curtain goes up - and down - at the arts centre on Friday.
Worcester's Swan Theatre is planning an afternoon backstage tour on Wednesday, August 24.
Director Chris Jaeger and chief technician Jake Chambers will lead the party through areas that are not usually open to the public.
The cost is £5 (£4 concessions), to include a glass of wine or soft drink.
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