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A Bunch of Amateurs

by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop

Dates 28 Feb to 4 March 2023

Directed by Rob Dixon

 

Summary

This play is about a local drama group that is struggling, so hires in a Hollywood Star. But the star thinks he is performing at the RSC - not WBDS! The drama group are struggling with audiences, lighting systems and dramas between members. The group decide to perform King Lear, who is an aging monarch who becomes destitute and insane. Written by two of the writers of Spitting Image and other comedy classics, this is a laugh a minute production. Hopefully due to the script not the quality of performance.


CAST

Dorothy - Kristina Russell

Mary - Christine Thomas

Denis - Luke Bratton

Nigel - Tim Farrow

Jefferson - Bill Niven

Lauren - Emily Martin

Jessica - Katie Minns


CREW

Director - Rob Dixon

Production Manager - Lynn Burges

Stage Manager - Rosie Farrow

Set Construction Manager - Ritchie Sharpe

Lighting Ops - Dom Gaskell

Lighting Design - Jerome Foley and John Fletcher

Sound Design and Ops - Calum Sharp

Props - Jo Sharpe, Charlie Willcox and Jan Dizon

ASM - Charlie Willcox

Costume - Kathryn Tuddenham


Licence: This amateur production of “A Bunch of Amateurs” is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd. on behalf of Samuel French Ltd. www.concordtheatricals.co.uk


Programme:

programme ABA for website and QR and mailing
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REVIEWS


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Taking place in the quaint, and charming Studio Theatre, the West Bridgford Dramatic Society delivered a standout performance of Ian Hislop’s ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’. Paying homage to the work and struggles of amateur dramatic societies, the cast really threw themselves into the performance. Showcasing the farcical nature of a famous Hollywood actor being parachuted in to save a struggling local theatre, classic misunderstandings and comedic beats had the audience in fits from the beginning.

Special mention must be given to lead Actor, Bill Niven whose arrogant American Superstar, Jefferson Steel provided a hilarious juxtaposition to the local ‘bunch of amateurs’. Although as the play progressed, we got to see a deeper and more caring side to his movie star persona. Tim Farrow’s Nigel was also played to perfection with a suitable level of pomposity fitting for the role of the overshadowed secondary lead. The cast had great chemistry and transitioned well between Shakespearean acting and their roles as dedicated performers.

we got to see a deeper and more caring side to his movie star persona

Performing a play within a play is always an interesting challenge for any cast and ‘Bunch of Amateurs’ essential gave us two plays in one. With the final scenes giving a faithful snapshot recreation of King Lear.

Overall the play was a hoot from start to finish, with a brilliant cast, plenty of comedic moments, yet also with a tender throughline that grounded the play and made you root for all the characters from start to finish.

A Bunch of Amateurs plays at the Studio Theatre from Tuesday 28th of February to Saturday 4th of March 2023.


Thanks to Kev Castle


“A Bunch Of Amateurs” by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop. West Bridgford Dramatic Society The Studio Theatre, West Bridgford.

A washed-up Hollywood star, Jefferson Steel, is flown to England to play the title role in King Lear at "Stratford" believing he will be appearing onstage at the legendary Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Instead he finds he has signed on with the "Stratford Players" in the Suffolk village of Stratford St John. He arrives in England with his career deteriorating and having problems with his daughter who is an aspiring actress on the fringes of the New York theatre. The local villagers are over the moon to have such a “star” playing with them.

Will the arrogant Steele knuckle down to his latest role, or will he forever play the Hollywood star?

Kristina Russell (Dorothy Nettle) returns to the stage after a short break. Dorothy's part in King Lear is as the Director as well as The Fool. You can see the furrowed brow of frustration on the Director's face as she tries to keep everyone happy in what seems a pretty desperate situation. Hopefully Kristina will not leave it too long before she treads the boards again.

Christine Thomas (Mary Plunkett) makes her WBDS debut as Mary, who in turn plays Regan. There's a touch of the Liz Smiths about Christine, or maybe about Mary; it's often difficult to separate the two when an actor plays an actor playing a role in a play within a play.

Tim Farrow (Nigel Dewbury), and Dewbury is playing The Duke Of Kent. In the bio in the programme, it states that this is Tim's first attempt at anything to do with Shakespeare. With his stage presence and commanding voice, I think that Tim should consider performing more Shakespeare because when he quoted the lines from King Lear, he captivated me successfully. In this play I enjoyed the strong leading character role greatly.

Luke Bratton (Denis Dobbins) plays the health and safety manager for the drama society in this play. Denis plays the Duke of Gloucester with The Stratford Players. Apart from the very natural style of acting Luke has, what I also noticed was that in every change of scene, there was a change of costume. This may not seem a big deal but so many times I've seen, especially with a quick succession of scene changes, a character wearing the same top for example. Every scene change bought a different T Shirt, or shirt, bringing reality to the fore. It's the little things that I appreciate, as well as Luke's fluid acting style.

Bill Niven (Jefferson Steel) makes his debut with the society and Jefferson is taking the lead role in King Lear. Bill plays a typically selfish American with no time for manners, and displays an appalling lack of class, considering himself too big for this lowly setting. Where has this actor been hiding and why have I not seen him on a local stage until now? The accent was wonderful, not over the top, unlike the ego of Steel, and reminded me of the vocal style of Jerry Springer, making him sound all the more like a natural Yank. Can't wait to see what comes next for Bill.

Emily Martin (Lauren Bell) also makes her debut for WBDS, and her first time back on stage since the pandemic. Lauren plays Goneril in the play within a play. Emily has performed the real thing; Shakespeare that is, but also shows that she can handle comedy as well. It's lovely to see so many new faces on one stage, and people with so much talent.

Katie Minns (Jessica Steel) is yet another WBDS debutee, and also an actor who has returned to the stage after a long break from the stage. Jessica plays the role of Cordelia. Again, a comfortable and natural performer, and for one who has no history of performing Shakespeare, the lines from King Lear just rolled off her tongue. Kate also doubled up by playing the reporter at the start when she was interviewing Steel.

Calum Sharp voiced the journalists late on in the play, hounding Steel from behind closed doors.

Directed by Robert Dixon, this is one of those plays that should be performed more than it is because it's such fun and is almost a mickey take, as well as showing the trials and tribulations of local drama groups. Wonderfully pacy and every bit of comedy in the script has been wrung out on stage and presented by this very talented cast. Plus there have been so very inspired casting, especially with so many new faces.

The sound design and operation are by Calum Sharp. Timing is the key and Calum is the key-holder.

The lighting design is by Jeremy Foley and John Fletcher and operated by Dom Gaskell. Working hand in hand with Calum in the lighting department, there were slow fades which allowed scene changes to be carried out, plus Shakespearian quotes to distract from these changes. No smoke and mirrors, just sound and lighting working in perfect harmony.

The set, by the way, at first sight looks simple, and then we have foldaways to encompass another setting. With the addition of a massage table, we were transported to another scene, and with the presentation of King Lear comes more scene props. An example of how well chosen and placed props can change everything.

It's been too long since I've seen this play, and this production confirmed just why I love a well written comedy play within a play, play. For those who already have tickets for this piece of theatre, you're in for a brilliantly funny evening.

"A Bunch Of Amateurs" will be at The Studio Theatre in West Bridgford until Saturday 4 March. A bunch of amateurs, West Bridgford Dramatic Society, are certainly not.


And East Midlands Theatre review here


By Phil Lowe 4th March


As a homage to amateur dramatics, A Bunch of Amateurs, written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, works especially and lovingly well when performed by erm a bunch of amateurs. This is definitely the case in a current production by West Bridgford Dramatic Society.



My first visit to the purpose built studio theatre in West Bridgford Nottingham provides for a matinee performance that is the perfect theatrical recipe for the chills outside as the group offer a very warm welcome. A full house of cosy punters are ready to enjoy a fair few laughs and a bit of drama and some Shakespeare thrown in at The Studio Theatre on Stamford Road West Bridgford.

A Bunch of Amateurs is well constructed play for a relatively small company and, as witnessed in this fine production that is tightly directed by Rob Dixon, there’s no huge need for big scene changes or expensive sets. The company do have to be good at convincing us of their roles and relationships though and the cast of seven plus live and recorded voices are both likable and convincing and, as an audience, we easily relax into their company and their stories.

The cast are as follows; Kristina Russell (Dorothy Nettle), Christine Thomas ((Mary Plunkett), Tim Farrow (Nigel Dewbury), Luke Bratton (Denis Dobbins), Bill Niven (Jefferson Steel), Emily Martin (Lauren Bell), Katie Minns ((Jessica Steel).

Niven is compelling and acerbic as silver-wigged and past his sell by date US action film actor Jefferson Steel. He has us convinced of his journey from embittered actor out of his depth amongst English amateurs in Stratford in Suffolk not Upon Avon. Farrow steals the show as the comically snobbish Nigel who is determined to play King Lear against all odds. Playing the female leads are Russell as Dorothy Nettle and Thomas as Mary Plunkett. Both put in warm naturalistic performances which convey a real Suffolk amateur theatre community without us needing to witness a room full of people as was seen in the popular film version of the same title.

The play has its final performance tonight and has sold out during the whole run which is a great testament to the power of amateur theatre done very well to highly amused and appreciative audiences. The West Bridgford Dramatic Society perform three plays a year and this reviewer will certainly be back for the next one at this bijou theatre at the end of a country lane yet not that far from the centre of West Bridgford.


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