Last Tango in Little Grimley & Lockdown in Little Grimley
|Date||27th November 2021|
|Society||Waddington Dramatic Society|
|Venue||Waddington Village Hall|
|Type of Production||Play|
Author: Jules Jones
Thank you all for making me very welcome at your production. The warm welcome by Julie and David was especially appreciated as we had driven a long way through Storm Arwen. I must add that Waddington Village Hall is a little challenging to find as a first-timer to the area, perhaps a road sign might have been useful. Plus being winter the car park was pitch black and with no signage on the actual building, we were not sure we were in the right place. But your front-of-house team, Kyla Bailey and Jo Kerr, (according to the program), and others sold refreshments and raffle tickets with smiles and good hospitality in the reception area.
The solid-looking set was very good. Very tall flats decorated to resemble a village hall interior, complete with a window, notice board, and even a QR sign which when used told you were in Little Grimley. The notice board was populated with posters relevant to the play and changed for the second act. Excellent attention to detail. All in all, a very comfortable space for the actors to perform.
I really enjoyed the preamble as the audience were treated to the caretakers setting up the hall for a meeting of the Little Grimley Amateur Dramatic Societies meeting. Kev Full and Robert Graham played these specially written roles well. The tension between them and their funny antics had the audience chuckling before the play even started. Later, the dancing, dressing up and by-play between them was brilliant.
Last Tango in Little Grimley where membership of the local amateur drama society has dwindled to four. Time for dramatic action. There's only one thing that sells tickets these days - sex. But how will the locals react to the promise of a sizzling sex comedy? Gordon decides to put on his own play based on the antics of Little Grimley residents. This fast-paced comedy of an Am-Dram in trouble is one of many hilarious plays written by David Tristram. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theatre . . . along come Little Grimley Amateur Dramatic Society. In Lockdown in Little Grimley, Gordon calls an emergency meeting, complete with social distancing, to discuss his idea for their next production when restrictions ease - a touching love story set in a hospital, with all profits destined for the NHS. But based on their previous efforts, will the NHS actually end up worse off?
Both acts combined to make one gloriously funny play - and don't we all need a good laugh - with four characters who seemingly have nothing more in common than being members of this woeful band. We have the bickering, disparaging comments, snide remarks and if you look hard, a sort of underlying affection which becomes even more apparent when the dramatic society is faced with a real drama.
Gordon played by Neil Markland, a dry, matter-of-fact man who runs the society with a fist of . . . well, let’s just say he runs the society. Neils’ quick wit and comic timing had everyone laughing out loud. I felt he demonstrated a range of emotions and was particularly good when he had to show respect and kindness to the other characters. Margaret’s face was a picture when his comic thrusting had us all laughing, it is during moments of physicality that Neil enjoyed his biggest laughs.
Every leading man needs a leading lady, and the diva, in this case, is Margaret, played by Maria Wagstaff. You suspect that she sees herself as somewhat above the rest of the society in terms of her thespian abilities and probably everything else - she even has a more upmarket, designer mask. No matter what the production, she demands to be the star. The tension between Gordon and Margaret was really funny, (very believable) the two seem to enjoy sniping at each other and the chemistry on stage was all very well balanced. Margaret’s dismay and snobbish behaviour towards Bernard were very entertaining.
Joyce, played by Joan King, is not one of nature’s most gifted intellectuals, which she puts down to having dyslexia in one eye, but she does seem to be somewhat expert on the size of mammalian genitalia (everyone needs a hobby, I suppose). She is quiet, hands out pieces of banana cake at the drop of a hat, and you suspect is never quite up to speed about what is going on. She finds scripts a bit of a challenge, not just the words, but the whole concept seems to tax her grey matter. Unlike Joan, her acting is wooden and laboured but she has a soft spot for Bernard - and a novel mask that seems to be designed to stop the larger varieties of virus. It was a lovely, stand-out performance from Joan.
Gordon is always the leading man in any production, the only other man is Bernard, played by Mike Povey, and Bernard prefers to play roles that are on stage as little as possible and preferably with no lines. He is a gruff, down-to-earth bloke, happy to call a spade a spade, and has a penchant for toilet rolls. Mikes’ acting was wonderful, his attention for detail, his sure-footed competent movement, his dramatic illness, and subsequent embarrassing explanation played out very well. He had the sympathies of the audience right from the start.
I could hear most of the dialogue, most of the time. David and Julie admitted this was the first time that pick-up microphones had been used. A technical issue I’m sure, as I could hear everyone if they were directly under the mic. Only Maria lacked volume. I would always say that over-reliance on amplification rather than the actors' voice projection is a matter of balance, something to address in future productions.
High attention to detail was evident in the costumes and props, Joyce’s LGADS t-shirt and bag, the newspaper with headlines, Bernards work bag, and the changes to the actor’s attire to reflect having been in lockdown for some time. I loved the entrance music and the dynamic of the Little Grimley Amateur Dramatic Society members coming on to the stage through the audience. Robert Steadman’s music was used with kind permission.
The lighting was very good; a well-lit stage is always my preference, with no dingy corners, or shadows. Slick changes were managed by David and enhanced the play throughout.
One major annoyance was the raffle after the interval. It was a bit of a song and dance and not in a good way. The process slowed the whole evening down and took longer than the actual interval. Please in the future, don’t turn your audience’s attention from the play. Either draw and call the numbers more quickly, don’t wait for the prize to be collected before pulling the next, or draw the raffle during the performance and allow your audience to collect their prizes at the end.
Julie’s direction brought out the fun and a poignant ending brought home the message. Theatre is stirring again. The arts will have casualties, there will be inevitable losses, but it will survive. Julie also produced the program which was colourful and had all the relevant information along with the dates and title of next year’s production.
Overall, a very enjoyable evening’s entertainment. I look forward to seeing you all next year. Well done.