Last Tango in Little Grimley and Joining the Club

Date 19th March 2022
Society Charlemont Dramatic Society
Venue West Bromwich Community Hall, Gayton Road
Type of Production Play
Director David Hill and Chad Dent
Stage Manager Craig Hill

Report

Author: Dave Brown

I had a wonderful evening watching the very talented members of Charlemont Dramatic Society (CADS) perform. The evening was filled with a genuine warmth and community spirit and it was a true pleasure to be part of the audience to watch some brilliant acting with a well-chosen and well-written double bill.

The writer of this double bill is a comic playwright called David Tristram, who was brought up in the Black Country (Quarry Bank) and went to school in Dudley. Amongst his many comedic plays and books, he also directed the film about local “celebrity” Doreen Tipton. “It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it!”

Act One was a play called Last Tango in Little Grimley. Directed by David Hill with sound and lights by Craig Hill and Sara Hill. This was about a local amateur drama society with only 4 members.  After a committee meeting, a decision to go down in history (and to pay off their debts) led to a vote to advertise a play that will sell tickets, and what is the one word that sells tickets? “Sex!

Falsely advertised to get the audience in with the real plan to “surprise them with a good farce” seemed to be innocent enough until drastic measures were called for when the character of Margaret (Sylvia Hill) felt she had little choice but to rescue the play, resulting in a few marriage proposals afterwards.

It was wonderfully written, acted and honest. The set design was simple and there was no major distraction, which I enjoyed as the pure focus was on each member of the cast and how they worked together. The venue of West Bromwich Community Hall actually was a perfect setting for this play and helped the mood. However, a testament to the acting ability of the 4 cast members who drove the play at a nice pace, with experienced comedy timing and delivery, but with a natural ability which showed excellent team work.

This was a very focused performance all round. Richard Mayes who played the character Gordon was perfectly cast, he delivered a dry and candid approach which worked on so many levels. Sylvia Hill played the character of Margaret; she had a nice stage presence but she also gave so much to her surroundings and others. Tammy Stevenson who played the character of Joyce had a nice innocence to her and again had a natural ability with some nice reactions. Ryan Corey played the character of Bernard with an occasional grimace and a confident portrayal.

My thoughts kept coming back to the character of Bernard. I asked myself the question, why would Bernard be in a drama group if all he did was complain about the amount of work he had to do? I think the answer is simple. What all characters had in common was not only a love for something (despite the moaning) it was mainly being part of a proud community and the genuine feeling of helping each other out, which is not so far from the truth.

Act Two was a play called Joining the Club. Directed by Chad Dent with sound and lights by Craig Hill and Sara Hill. Joining the Club tells the story of a young couple Jenny (Amy Whistance) and Tom (Richard Corrado). Jenny is successful in her job and Tom is not happy in his. The suggestion of a couple who maybe at one point in their life may have had a bit more fun together rather than falling into the routine of working, with little else to look forward to, apart from a glass of whisky on a Friday night. 

Tom hasn’t been happy in his job for a while, one day he finally has enough courage (or he snaps) to resign from his job in a spontaneous outburst which involves insulting his boss. Tom is convinced his colleagues are receiving special treatment and promotions because they are in the “Baby Club”. Tom then comes home to the news that Jenny is pregnant and Jenny wants to give up work to be a Mom which initially fills Tom with anxiety.

Jenny completing the pregnancy test at the start of the play was genuinely tense, again a testament to the wonderful acting of Amy Whistance who had the audience waiting in anticipation for the pregnancy test result. Tom’s shock with “suddenly” becoming a father and then the worry of how he may struggle to contribute financially in providing for the baby was played by Richard with an intensity but a genuine concern. Jenny’s switch from a focus on her successful job (to which she loves) to being a Mom was a complete natural instinct and totally believable.

Tom felt he had little choice and called back his boss, he was painfully close to begging for his job back, but then Jenny grabbed the phone and burnt that bridge once and for all! The love shone through at that moment and the unity of both Jenny and Tom with a strong devotion to making it work as a Mom and Dad was the perfect ending.

Amy and Richard worked so well together and reacted well to so many different emotions. So many very fine acting moments. The best moments involved the hard-hitting dialogue alongside where it was compelling to watch for all the uncomfortable wrong reasons. 

The cast and crew, including sound and lights, props, stage management and set construction mustn’t be forgotten. Thank you also for the warm welcome from David Payne who was working front of house this evening. Overall, the evening was very enjoyable, CADS tonight made the evening a proud and welcoming one. CADS showed me a community who obviously love doing what they do.