Curtain Up

Date 27th April 2022
Society The Carlton Little Theatre
Venue Little Theatre Birkenhead
Type of Production Comedy
Director Elaine Davie
Choreographer Diane Price
Producer Elaine Davie
Written By Peter Quilter

Report

Author: Joanne Rymer

Director Eliane Davie does very well with his small talented all female cast in this lesser known comedy from the pen of Peter Quilter about a group of women who are left a derelict theatre in a will by its previous owner  Mike and must overcome difficulties, and their differences to make their inheritance work .

The curtain opens on a well-designed theatre foyer. Well done the set build team, Les, Steve, Liz and Pam who caught the era of the derelict theatre well. We are then introduced to the five beneficiaries; plus a bright yellow bear suit donated by Jackie, who also carries in the urn containing Mike’s ashes. She wants him to experience the theatre being brought back to its former glory. Quirkily Theresa has provided cuppa soup on their arrival, giving the ladies a choice of with or without croutons culminating in a very funny interactive farce like scene. The audience loved it.

The women are Mikes daughter Theresa, his ex-wife Pam, his mother in law Betty, his former PA Sharon and, finally, Jackie his lover and the woman he left his wife for, and subsequently married. The five women are divided in a number of ways as to what they should do with the theatre, and disagree about whether to sell it or to restore it to its former glory and make a going concern of it. They hit upon the idea of inviting one of the most famous singers in the world, Lisa Minnelli, to do a performance at the theatre where she had had appeared previously in its heyday, hoping to raise much needed funds and save the theatre. They are stunned when she agrees to perform and not charge for her appearance, could the theatre really be saved.

 As preparations are well under way they are struck with a hammer blow as Lisa falls ill and cannot appear. When their planned performance appears to be danger of collapse they persuade Pam, an amateur singer, to dress up as a lookalike Lisa Minnelli hoping that the audience will be hoodwinked into believing that Pam is Miss Minnelli. Appearing in a magnificent sparkling red dress, fake tan and questionable black wig; Pam not only she loses her voice, but loses the plot, throwing up into her handbag on stage amid demands for their money back from the audience, which will potentially ruin the theatre and their dreams.  This is a terrific comic performance from Liz Youster.

This comedy is about the interaction between the five leading ladies, and their friendly, and sometimes volatile, relationships. Not surprisingly the main fireworks are between Pam, Liz Youster, the ex-wife, and Jackie his widow. Pam is very embittered and takes out her frustrations and barely concealed anger on Jackie, played by Carlton newcomer Liz Gould, which results in some very funny, direct and acid like barbed remarks, mainly aimed at Jackie’s extravagant lifestyle choices criticising her purchase of expensive designer paint!!   Betty, played for major laughs by Linda O’Brien, is the batty mother in law who is very well meaning but more of a hindrance to their theatre plans than a help. Holly Trentham is a joy as chirpy permanent dieter Sharan who fills the stage with liveliness and vivacity, obsessed with Steve and sex and keeping fit. A great ensemble keep fit sequence is splendidly choreographed by Diane Price a great job. On reinstating the old performer’s posters to pride of place on the wall in the empty foyer, the signature song accompanied each highlighted poster: Gracie Fields, George Formby and Frankie Vaughan. This was a lovely touch, praise to Brian Williams & Marc Smith.

Finally there is Mike and Pam’s daughter Theresa, played with impressive enthusiasm and humour by Fiona Williams who, despite being the youngest of the five ladies is clearly the most sensible and has the best business acumen. It is Theresa who opens the play, and with the exception of the finale dance reprise, it is she who closes it, with an honest, wistful and utterly convincing promise to the theatre and her father that, in spite of the fundraising concert failing, they would all be back to fulfil his wishes. It is Theresa who tells us about her childhood memories shared with her father in the stalls and backstage, and the impact of those on her as an adult, an accomplished performance here from Fiona.

There are many opportunities for laugh-out-loud moments in this very entertaining play, delivered with great success by this talented society. The duo Betty& Sharon running the raffle was terrific; especially as the urn containing Mike’s ashes was given away as a prize. We also see the relationships of the five women start to change, especially Pam & Jackie, who start to appreciate each other’s point of view.  One of the biggest giggles comes from the regular appearance of the director to inform us of how much time has elapsed. This was inspirational, a highlight for me,

With the minimum of staging and a talented enthusiastic cast, this was a great evening’s entertainment. Just a quick mention to Christine Smith (prompt) for her persistence & patience, not all actors remember their lines or cues, (you know who you are).

Thank you for inviting me. I hope to see you all soon.

 

 

Joanne Rymer

NODA

District 4