Unpaid thespians finding themselves involved with The Witches of Eastwick have also found themselves on the end of a wire for the flying scenes. Barnum demands unicycling, juggling and high-wire walking.

And now there's Buddy, to be launched as the regional amateur premiere at the Lichfield Garrick by Sutton Coldfield Musical Theatre Company next month and requiring awhole host of musical skills from those brave enough to take part.

Cast members have committed themselves to three rehearsals a week as they face the musical challenges that are unavoidable in the story of Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

Dan Anketell, who is 21, will be playing guitar in his first leading role as the tragic singer/songwriter Buddy Holly, killed in an air crash in 1959 at the age of 22. The Crickets are reincarnated by James Pugh (drums), Matt Greenhill (guitar) and Ed Hill - who has had to teach himself the double bass.

Other cast members will also be playing their own instruments. Paula Waldron is on piano, Kim Grewal on violin and Sarah Turrell on guitar, doing justice to great numbers such as Peggy Sue.

Buddy, directed by Lynne Hill, will be at the Lichfield Garrick from June 10-14.


Iwas suitably bemused on arriving at the Sutton Arts Theatre box office last week, for the first night of the Agatha Christie thriller, The Hollow,when Iwas presented with a hand-written note - and a plastic bag wrapped round something roughly the size and shape of ahand grenade.

Box Office invited me to present both to the bar. The note declared, "1 x lemon. . . with compliments of Sutton Arts" and was signed by Frances Richmond-Ward, press officer for the Sutton Coldfield group.

It was the latest chapter in the Saga of the Lemon, which has been hovering in the background of my relationship with Sutton Arts for several years - ever since I asked for a gin-and-tonic and discovered that the bar did not do lemons.

The next stage came when aproduction actually involved what purported to be gins-and-tonics on stage. The drinks were make-believe, but they were accompanied by real lemons -and an enterprising member of the volunteer bar staff pinched aslice on my behalf.

So Thursday's development carried the story adelightful stage further - and the script of The Hollow completed my enjoyment when one of the characters, in a brief debate about drink, said, with transparent uncertainty, "Gin and something."

Iresisted the urge to rise from my seat in row Iwith acry of, "The answer's a lemon!"


Chairman, co-producer and leading man Peter Walker confided in his programme notes for last week's production of Mack and Mabel by Northfield Musical Theatre Company that some members were beginning to wonder whether the show carried a jinx.

And that was before, on Wednesday night, in his role as Mack Sennett, founder in 1912 of the Keystone production company that launched the Keystone Cops onto the world's cinema screens, he sat on his canvas director's chair, causing it to collapse and throw him onto the floor.

It seems that membership of the group has been falling as dramatically as Peter did, and there were four dropouts from the show caused by knee and foot operations and chickenpox - apart from which, musical director Lucy Swift spent some time in hospital .

Fortunately, although Aine Doyle, playing Ella, was in an accident with a bus, she was able to continue in the role.

Peter Walker, moreover, appeared to have survived his chair unscathed, having been appropriately applauded when he picked himself off the floor. And he chivvied achuckle out of an appreciative audience later on, when he tapped his desk before sitting on it and made a show of uncertainty before committing himself to another chair.

It all made the group's 80th anniversary production one to be remembered for unexpected reasons.


How dare people have surnames that don't conform to the norm?

Richard Rodgers, the man who gave the music to South Pacific, frequently loses his d. The latest occasion came with Lichfield Operatic Society's very smart programme for last week's production at the Lichfield Garrick, which got it wrong - twice - on the cover.


Please welcome a new theatre group that has arrived on the Birmingham scene with a particularly modest name.

The Really Good Theatre Company - with actors, directors and technicians all under the age of 20 - makes its bow from Wednesday to Saturday next week at the Crescent Theatre with Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.

It has been formed by Yolanda Kettle, following four years with that sometimes magical city youth company, Stage 2. She has now waved the magic wand to form Really Good in conjunction with 19-year-old entrepreneur Michael Haydon, who has added it to the other registered limited companies that are also under his belt.

A little further ahead in Yolanda's diary is a visit to China for seven weeks as Portia in the National Youth Theatre production of The Merchant of Venice.

She says this will include performing in a 3,000-seat stadium in Beijing and a temporary clash with the Olympics, which will be offering aspot of competition from August 8-24. Michael will run Really Good in her absence.

Yolanda's roles with Stage 2 have included that of Ann Putnam in The Crucible and she was assistant director for Much Ado About Nothing.

She is now running Stage 1, formed last autumn for seven-to-eight-year-olds as an additional opportunity for youngsters and a feeder for the senior company.

And how did her new group's name come about? She says, "It's a bit of a laugh, re-ally. We sat around for hours, trying to find a name and couldn't come up with one."


Wind in the Willows, Priory Theatre, Kenilworth (to Saturday).

Neville's Island, Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Cold[fb01]eld (to Saturday).

The Hollow, Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Cold[fb01]eld (to Saturday).

The Seven-Year Itch, Grange Players, Grange Playhouse, Walsall (to Saturday).

White Horse Inn, Bromsgrove Operatic Society, Artrix, Bromsgrove (to Saturday).

The Pirates of Penzance, Stourport Choral & Operatic Society, Stourport Civic Hall (to Saturday).

The Assassin, MDCC Theatre Company, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday). Breath of Spring, Billesley Players, Dovehouse Theatre, Solihull (May 16 & 17).

Audience with Murder, Coleshill Drama Group, Coleshill Town Hall (May 21-24).

Blithe Spirit, Really Good Theatre Company, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (May 21-24). The Full Monty, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (May 23 & 24; & 27-31).