If you are involved in theatre, professional or amateur, it’s a fair bet that into each life some trousers fall.
The problem, posed to me by Margaret Withers, of Norbury Theatre, Droitwich, is how to ensure that they fall with maximum rapidity.
It’s one that she needs to be resolved in time for curtain up next Wednesday of Situation Comedy, by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke – the partnership responsible for TV classics such as George and Mildred, Man about the House and Robin’s Nest.
She told me: “Mike Jeffrey has to drop his trousers three times and Andy Brown once – and although they’ve been getting there they haven’t managed to do it as quickly as we would like, so we’re wondering whether there is a secret formula.”
My immediate reaction was to wonder what thoughts Rob Phillips, ace trouser-dropper at Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield, might have on a subject with which he has been on familiar terms for many years – and he promptly said that he did not think there was any specific technique involved, although, without having resorted to it himself, he did have a high regard for Velcro.
“Having the confidence to do it also makes it happen quicker”, he said. “I used to drop my trousers because I was that way inclined – although, really, I want to be known for my academic excellence.”
Yes, Rob, I’ll try to remember that.
Students of Birmingham School of Acting take on a typically impressive challenge tonight when they open their autumn season at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre with Christopher Fry’s translation of Jean Anouilh’s Ring Round the Moon.
They are rightly calling it a comedy of mistaken identity, manners, mannerisms and affairs of the heart – but wrongly calling it Ring Around the Moon in their publicity material. For Around, read Round.
Danièle Sanderson’s production runs until Saturday.
Running alongside it, in complete contrast is Lulu, Frank Wedekind’s look at the decline of a young woman who moves innocently from German and Parisian high society to the streets of Jack the Ripper’s London.
BSA will follow these productions with The American Clock, Arthur Miller’s semi-autobiographical story of a family in the depression – not this one, the 1930s one. Lisa Olsen’s production will run from Wednesday to Saturday next week.
Midland Opera Company, formerly Midland Music Makers, is promising an explosive performance of Bizet’s Carmen when it hits the stage of the Crescent Theatre next month.
Charged with fulfilling the claim are director Elisa Amesbury, musical director Phil Ypres-Smith, producer Rachel Skinner and Eric Wetherell, ex-BBC conductor, who has created a score specifically for Midland Opera’s orchestra, the Queens Park Sinfonia.
Sets are by Chloe Gamby, graduate in theatre design from Birmingham University, who has worked for Birmingham Royal Ballet and Covent Garden – and, in an excellent demonstration of co-operation, construction is in the hands of a team from Royal Sutton Opera, which was also responsible for the then Midland Music Makers’ A Masked Ball last year.
The show runs from November 4-8.
Sandra Haynes makes her directorial debut with Highbury Little Theatre’s Ladies’ Day, opening in the studio at the Sutton Coldfield venue on Monday next week.
She says it’s been enjoyable but tiring and she praises her core cast of Gwen Evans, Sheila Knapman, Celia Taylor and Hannah Sweetman for their depiction of a group of girls from the fish-filleting factory, let loose at Ladies’ Day at York, supported by Nigel Higgs and Oliver Leonard disguised as six different characters.
Amanda Whittington’s bitter-sweet comedy is clearly starting to make friends on the amateur circuit. I have seen two other productions in recent months. It runs at Highbury for the whole of next week.
Occupying the same calendar slot is David Hare’s The Breath of Life, which The Nonentities will present at the Rose Theatre, Kidderminster. Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith took the original roles in the story of two women who have loved the same man – one as his mistress, the other as his wife.
Taking up the challenge this time are Lynn Ravenhill and Pamela Meredith.
One of Noel Coward’s most popular plays was both blithe and brief while in the care of The Saracens Theatre Company. Blithe Spirit opened last Friday and closed after two further performances on Saturday.
I do admire groups who put so much effort into a production with such a short life. It is another manifestation of the commitment that people with day jobs constantly display towards amateur theatre.
In this connection, moreover, there’s an interesting note from the Moorpool Players, of Harborne: “All our members are volunteers, though when pressed into a particularly unpleasant task, some might argue about that status.”
This does beg the question, and I pose it as a total ignoramus: what is a particularly unpleasant task connected with one of Britain’s most popular hobbies? It is a hobby for which, as the Moorpool Players point out, there are no Oscars – just the reward of the pleasure its proponents hope to give to their audiences.
Reverting to The Saracens: they were originally based at King’s Norton but have now presented three shows at St David’s Church Hall in Shenley Green, Selly Oak.
* WHAT’S ON
Sylvia: Hall Green Little Theatre (to Saturday).
Valentino: Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth (to Saturday).
The Full Monty: Worcester Operatic & Dramatic Society, Swan Theatre, Worcester (to Saturday)..
Ring Round the Moon: Birmingham School of Acting, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
Lulu: Birmingham School of Acting, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (to Saturday).
The Beauty Queen of Leeane: Priory Theatre, Kenilworth (to Oct 25).
Hi-de-Hi!: Rowney Green Players, Palace Theatre, Redditch (to Oct 25).
Talking Heads: Sutton Arts Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (Oct 16-25).
The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband: Highbury Little Theatre, Sutton Coldfield (Oct 20-25).
The Mikado: Leamington Spa Opera Group, Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa (Oct 20-25).
The Breath of Life: The Nonentities, Rose Theatre, Kidderminster (Oct 20-25).
FAME: BMOS Musical Theatre Company, Old Rep (Oct 21-25).
Patience: Worcester Gilbert & Sullivan Society, Swan Theatre, Worcester Oct 21-25).
We Love You, Arthur: Circle Players, Aldridge Youth Theatre (Oct 21-25).
The American Clock: Birmingham School of Acting, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham (Oct 22-25).
Situation Comedy: Norbury Theatre, Droitwich (Nov 22-25).