A Bunch of Amateurs

Date 22nd March 2022
Society Enville Street Dramatic Society
Venue Holy Trinity Church Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Wendy Hemming
Stage Manager Phil Johnson
Lights George Deeley
Sound Martin Francis
Written By Ian Hislop and Nick Newman


Author: Dave Brown

Thank you to Enville Street Dramatic Society for your kind invitation to see the opening night of the play A Bunch of Amateurs. The venue was Amblecote Holy Trinity Church Hall which had a fine atmosphere.  

A Bunch of Amateurs is a play written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman and adapted from the original 2008 film. It tells the story of an American Movie Star called Jefferson Steel, who comes to the town of Stratford expecting to be the leading star in a professional production of Shakespeare’s King Lear with The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Jefferson very quickly realises that it isn’t Stratford-Upon Avon but the other Stratford and that he isn’t going to perform in a professional production but an amateur one, with a bunch of amateurs! His agent had tricked him; although it wasn’t made entirely clear why, you could hazard a guess Jefferson could do with tasting a little humble pie. One of my favourite lines was when Jefferson asked for a rewrite of King Lear saying that “Shakespeare is too wordy” which just gives you a little insight into his arrogance.  

Directed by Wendy Hemming with Phil Johnson as Stage Manager and with light and sound by George Deeley and Martin Francis, this play has a nice little concept which potentially has the ingredients of a silly but warm comedy. I am a big fan of parallel stories and I was looking forward to how Enville Dramatic Society would tackle the idea of a play within a play with amateur actors playing amateur actors and how a professional movie star acts in an amateur Shakespeare production. Hope you are keeping up!?

The theme of redemption was nicely done and there were some nicely delivered heart-warming lines.  Unfortunately, the slow pace of the scene changes did not help the drive and energy at times. I also felt a little nervous energy tonight with some of the physicality of the characters and jokes lost in the delivery. The cast certainly did warm up towards the end of the first act and the second act started with promise. I truly felt that the cast showed amazing support to one another on stage and worked very hard. The dedication and passion truly shone through and this was poignant at times because it did touch upon the theme of the play, so in a unique indirect (and positive way) it had that parallel connection which made me smile.

Lee Morgan-Salcombe stole the show with his portrayal of Nigel (an eccentric lovey) with incredible diction and comic timing, Jessica Skidmore (who I had seen before in Brierley Hill’s production of Aladdin in January 2022) played Jefferson’s daughter, also called Jessica; she had a lovely stage presence and showed some versatility to her character. The American accents were convincing from both Jessica Skidmore and David Lavender who played Jefferson Steel; David kept his character consistently brash, unlikeable and selfish. Carey Esthorp, who played Dorothy seemed very natural with the perfect calming influence, Vicki Pritchard had some lovely moments of jealously playing the character of Mary with some good inner monologue which brought some dimension to her character, Lauren played by Sandra Harrold appeared to be enjoying herself very much and was always smiling and Chris Porter who played Denis owned the stage with a confident portrayal as the lines were delivered in a nice candid way.

The absolute dedication to the show and support from the cast and crew was very evident and this is something I always look for in a production; having that connection with each other on stage is infectious to an audience member and having such a commitment to the character was there in abundance.

Thank you so much once again for inviting me. I am looking forward to seeing your next show.