John Slim reports from the world of amateur theatre...
There?s an inescapable upbeat air about Wallop Mrs Cox, the bouncy Brummie musical that is about to move beyond the city boundaries for the first time and burst upon the burghers of Solihull.
The show, launched at the Crescent Theatre in 2000 and subsequently twice professionally produced as a huge community musical at Birmingham Rep, will be at Solihull Library Theatre next month. Solihull Operatic Society has taken on the challenge of presenting the story of a fictitious family of Bullring traders from the early years of the last century to the present day.
Co-writer Euan Rose, who is directing, has updated the ending ? again ? to include the completed new Bullring, and designer Colin Judges has brought Selfridges and Nelson?s Column into the setting.
It has meant that the matriarchal Mrs Cox, who died at 94 in the Crescent Theatre production and at 97 in the show?s second outing at the Rep, now reaches 99 ? which Euan Rose reckons should be her limit.
But there is apparently no limit to the enthusiasm being experienced at the box office. Group secretary and pianist Jill Godsall says there are only a very small number of tickets unsold for the whole week.
?We have never sold so many so quickly. People are ringing up from all over the place. It?s been very encouraging, particularly as we had worries at the beginning. ?Up to October, we had only 18 people in the cast and it was very depressing. I was one who said we should scrap it and do My Fair Lady instead, but then we got Euan to produce it and from that moment it took off.
?It?s something different from the eternal Fiddler and Oklahoma! and finding new shows is difficult when you have up to 13 societies using the Library Theatre each year.?
Wallop is also different in that it is the first time that the group has had the scenery built for a show instead of hiring it in. Stage manager David Lines said, ?Even if the Rep had still had its sets, they would have been too big for the Library Theatre, so Colin Judges is building everything in Moseley.
?It?s a show with a lot of new challenges for us. There are a lot of sound effects and projection from the back, which we normally never use. We went into it with a bit of trepidation because we wondered whether it would travel from the centre of Birmingham to Solihull.
?We?ve just reached the nosleepfor-four-weeks time, but it?s going very well.?
Euan Rose, who co wrote the show with Laurie Hornsby, came in as director at the end of the year. He said, ?It?s a new experience for me because I have never done a show over such a long period but it?s nice to have my hands back on it.?
And hundreds of Solihull hands will be applauding it from April 25-30 with Northfield Operatic Society standing by to take it back to its birthplace at the Crescent Theatre from May 24-28.
After being an acting member of the Swan Theatre Amateur Company for most of the 1970s, Keith Bridgewater joined Evesham Arts Centre.
But he returned to the Swan last year to play the drunken photographer in When We Are Married. Now he is directing the group?s production of One of Us, the Robin Chapman story of the notorious spy scandal of 1951.
The play concerns Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and the disgraced art historian Anthony Blunt, and centres on Goronwy Rees, who has a crisis of conscience about whether to betray his friend Burgess or his country. It will be at the Swan Theatre, Worcester, from Wednesday to Saturday next week.
John Healey reckons that directing a play instead of appearing in it has a lot going for it. He says it means he does not have to learn a lot of lines or get involved in on-stage fights that are not good for him.
So there is a triple bonus for him right now, because he is directing not one but three plays by Jimmie Chinn, to be presented by Moorpool Players at the end of the month.
The Harborne group has chosen From Here to the Library, Pity about Kitty and In by the Half, which will be at Moorpool Hall from April 26-30. One reason for choosing them was the encouraging audience reaction to two of the Players? previous Chinn offerings, Sylvia?s Wedding and Too Long an Autumn.
It?s good to see Redditch Amateur Theatre Society ? RATS to its intimates ? launching a three-night run of Inspector Drake and the Time Machine tomorrow.
It is a sci-fi comedy by David Tristram, the very amusing Midlands playwright whose work is produced all over the world but seems to be strangely neglected in his own country.
The escapades of Inspector Drake and his dim-witted associate Sergeant Plod are encompassed in several Tristram plays and tend to emerge as a lunatic combination of the Goons and Inspector Clouseau. Properly done, they reduce audiences to tears.
The RATS production will be at St Luke?s Memorial Hall, Headless Cross, Redditch, until Saturday.
There?s a call for new members by BMOS Musical Theatre Productions, which is starting rehearsals for 42nd Street, due to open at the Hippodrome on July 5. Meanwhile BMOS Youtheatre will launch Guys and Dolls at the Old Rep on May 18.
Alan Hackett has more details on 07890 306318 or 0121 711 1384.
The return of Dr Who has been accompanied by the resurgence of the Daleks ? but I have only just discovered how close to home they have come.
There is one, I swear, on duty at the Palace Theatre, Redditch. My call to the box office was answered by a recorded, but civilized, voice asking me to wait until someone was available ? and then by slow, computerised, American tones that made it quite easy to imagine one of the doctor?s enemies had added answering the telephone to its other newly-acquired skill of stair-climbing.