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A Slice of Saturday Night

Date

11th July 2019

Society

Viva Theatre Company

Venue

Ross Peers Sports Centre

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Joshua Schumann

Musical Director

Joseph Hall

Choreographer

Jess Clifford

Report

Author: Jess Pether representing Julie Petrucci

Living in Brentwood, Essex, this is probably the furthest I’ve ever travelled to review a show. Which means I was extremely pleased when I realised this was going to be an outstanding performance! A Slice of Saturday Night is almost a sung-through musical but not quite. There are small snippets of dialogue here and there but mainly it is filled with 60s style pop tunes (all strangely familiar but not quite matching the pop songs they were clearly based on). This gives it a comfortable familiarity, as does the subject matter.

Two groups of teenagers, all around 17, head to the Club A-Go-Go on a typical Saturday night, where they proceed to eye each other up, snog (a word not used enough in my opinion), break up, make up and generally do what teenagers do. Especially if they’re drunk. Their antics clearly rang many bells with the audience who laughed and cheered throughout. A particularly clever song in the second half is Oh So Bad, when two of the lads are having a less-than-pleasant time in the toilets, seeing what they’ve drunk that night “in reverse”. One’s cry of “My face has all gone numb… I want me mum!” literally gave me flashbacks of my own experiences hugging various toilets. A musical I can relate to! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

This cast was one of the strongest I’ve ever seen perform an amateur show. Ranging from late teens to late twenties, there wasn’t one weak link, and the standard was extremely high. Penny, played by Dresden Goodwin, had fabulous facial expressions and characteristics. Although she didn’t get much to sing by herself, when performing in such a small space you can’t help but hear individuals, and her soprano harmony was beautiful. Zara Minns as Sue was very funny. In a long-term relationship with one of the guys, she’s treated badly but stays with him. As her friends try to get her to walk away from the egotistical Gary, she hilariously breathes deeply and makes lots of little squeaky noises whilst trying to stay in her seat. Zara’s singing voice was lovely too.

“Frigid” Bridget was played by Phoebe Noble and she was lucky enough to have probably the strongest character to play. A girl who never goes anywhere near the boys and likes sticking her fingers up in their faces, she was very funny. Another brilliant voice and great to watch. The cutest of the bunch of girls, Sharon, was played by Riley Williames. She falls for one of the boys and all the duets they sang were, really, wonderful. She had a nice vulnerable quality about her, as the “new girl” and someone falling in love. Kerry Hibbert took on a couple of roles throughout but the funniest was Shirl, a pregnant hippy who had a great duet to sing. As a group, these girls were a powerhouse of brilliant harmonies, funny one liners and believable characters.

The boys were also strong and hilarious to watch. Suave and good-looking Gary, played by Aaron Lord, was wearing a dark green velvet suit and was probably the boy who made me laugh the most. He had good swagger and great characterisation. Eddie was played by Dan Lane and was hard to miss in his bright cartoon jacket. He was challenged at the beginning of the show to somehow get Frigid Bridget to grab his crotch by the end of the night and the lengths he went to continually made me laugh out loud.

Olly Manley played Rick who becomes the object of the affections of new girl Sharon. He had a coyness about him that matched well with hers and he stood out to me as a strong dancer. Ben Clark seemed to have a similar role as Kerry Hibbert in that he played various parts throughout. Because of this, it must have been harder for them both to stand out, but they did it well. And finally, the man who holds our story together, Eric “Rubber Legs” Devine, the owner of the club, who was played by Joseph Beach. In a red jacket and bow tie, he was the right mix of smarmy and sophisticated and clearly had a ball taunting the teens throughout the show as he watched their flirting and failed attempts at love. All the boys also had great voices and as a cast, the complete set of characters produced an extremely strong sound throughout. The MD Joseph Hall should take credit for this too, as he obviously did a splendid job.

My favourite songs included Seventeen, sung by Rick, Sharon and Eric, Twiggy, which was beautifully sung by Sue and Eric’s Gonna Keep Doin’, performed by Eric, Gary and Rick. But in my opinion, there isn’t really a bad song in the whole show. They are all short enough to keep you interested and are lyrically very strong, and funny.

I thought the choreography by Jess Clifford was great and the small space was used well. There were a couple of repeated moves which stood out but perhaps this was done to link some of the songs. I also thought the direction (by Joshua Schumann) was impressive, again using the studio theatre to its full extent; I never felt that people were bunched together too much or on top of each other.

One thing I thought was extremely clever, and I’m guessing was done on purpose, is the matching of costumes between couples. Gary and Sue were both in shades of green/blue and Sharon and Rick both had on a mix of white, red and blue. It was then great to see the contrast between Bridget (in plain black and white) and Eddie who is pursuing her, who was in the most colourful jacket of the lot! I thought this was a nice touch. The costumes were all very good, with attention paid to small things like hair accessories and tights. The set was minimal but worked well and it was a good idea to use a small fold-out screen on each side when the toilets needed to be represented. The only prop I was unsure of was a rainbow sequinned mannequin which was brought on at the back. I was hopeful this was going to be used in some exciting way, but it simply sat there as decoration (I’m not sure such a thing would have been in a club?).

The show is short and was over by 9.15pm, but I could have watched for much longer. Everyone likes a feel-good, colourful and funny show, and this delivered on all fronts. Everyone involved should be really proud. I am extremely pleased I travelled so far to see you! Thank you for having me.