A Bunch of Amateurs

Date 6th July 2023
Society Portable Theatre Company
Venue Rothbury Jubilee Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Lynne Lambert
Written By Ian Hislop and Nick Newman


Author: Sue Wood

What a fabulous evening we were treated to when we had the privilege of seeing a play written for stage by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, competently performed by The Portable Theatre Company.

Referring to the stage design this production proves how a company can achieve so much with so little but clearly reflected the world of amateur dramatics; a village hall, in one scene only a couple of chairs and a table and in another Jefferson Steele receiving a massage on a therapist’s bed.  Stage props were minimal but tastefully achieved by Sally Black props manager. It was the actors themselves who commanded the stage and we heard every word they had to say.

Being a portable theatre company, the sound and lighting has to be installed at each venue. This worked faultlessly and there were stewards in the hall to ensure the safety of the audience throughout. Health and Safety was also reflected within the role of Dennis Dobbins played by Keith Shotton whose obsession with Health and Safety portrayed him as a person in a position of minor authority who invoked the letter of the law in order to avoid any action requiring initiative or cooperation. He was both convincing and extremely funny as the audience delighted in his "jobsworth" role. 

The dialogue between scenes was accompanied by music and various renderings of the Fool’s Song, the solos performed in tune and clearly heard.

Mark Stenton who played Jefferson Steele was mesmerising and completely owned the stage whenever he is on it. He convinced his audience that he was a Hollywood superstar who was wanting to relaunch his career playing Shakespeare’s King Lear with The Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford. Instead, he finds himself in the position of a fading Hollywood star with the bunch of amateurs.

Star of the show had to be Stuart Archer as Nigel Dewbury, who showed superb star quality of rivalry and arrogance toward Jefferson Steele without being offensive. His dual with Jefferson was authentic but also thoroughly entertaining. He carried the show, getting the audience on his side from the second he walked onto the stage.

Susannah Clapcott as Lauren Bell performed on Jefferson a massage that neither he or the audience will forget. It was funny, with inuendo, without be distasteful. The audience loved it and Claire Barber who played Mary Plunkett executed a reaction to “what she thought she saw” the therapist perform impeccably.

Congratulations to Diane Maughan who performed in her debut Leading Lady role and also to Eloise Barber, the youngest member of the cast, whose first performance this was in an adult  production. Following their success in this performance we look forward to seeing them on  stage again soon.

Overall, this was a fantastic play from The Portable Theatre Company. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and those in the audience I spoke with did too. Such a diverse and talented cast with each character clearly defined.

The only thing that saddened me was that the Play was a sell out in Rothbury. Due to this company being a portable society their equipment took over a large section of the hall meaning that seating numbers were reduced. I am not sure whether this could be improved, just a thought. Congratulations and well done to you all for a play I will remember as one of the best.