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Sex and the Village

Date

5th November 2013

Society

Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society

Venue

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Lou Petch

Musical Director

Simon Pearce

Choreographer

Jackie Strahm

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

There can be nothing more exciting than being invited to a “red carpet event” for the world premiere of a brand new musical.  The atmosphere, to coin a phrase, was electric.  Theatre goers in dinner jackets and glittering dresses excitedly pouring into the foyer, photographers snapping everyone who walked over the red carpet, plus a warm welcome. Fantastic. And all happening, not in London, but at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds where a brand new musical comedy by Rebecca Applin and Susannah Pearse was having its world premiere.

Following a competition in 2012 Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society won the opportunity to premiere Sex and the Village . Since then they have worked in partnership with Perfect Pitch (a company dedicated to the development of new British musicals) and the writers to bring this new musical to the stage.   Written specifically for amateur musical groups it is quintessentially British and the roles cover a wide range of ages.

The story is seen through the eyes of Chloe Potts as she shares her blog about life in a small English village.  The basis of the plot is the villagers’ efforts to stop a large supermarket chain from building a store right in the centre of the village on an open green space.  In true musical style the plot is fairly predictable from early on but is none the worse for that. In fact, when the villagers win out and the man from the supermarket gets his just deserts the audience were booing and cheering so much fun was it.  The joy of this show however is the great music.  Some of it quite challenging, but lovely solo numbers together with full on production numbers such as The Light of Love, to pick just one, which was excellent.

The nine principal roles were well played, particularly Laura Barnard as Chloe and Charles Brindley, as Chloe’s would-be boyfriend Robert, who were both impressive.  Chris Strahm (Reverend Green), Polly Carnegie (Miss Shickle), Emily Mizen (Donna), Adam Stewart (Oscar) and Derek Bourke (Ken) all gave a good showing. However, the “stars” of the show for me were Miss Kitty and Miss Susan Jennings, the sisters who run the village post office/shop, superbly played by Kate Steggles and Fiona Barker - a true double act if ever I saw one. They both had good voices too which was a bonus and What Will I Do Without You?, where they were joined by Reverend Green and Robert, was lovely.  The script gives much opportunity for some nice cameo roles and an enormous amount of scope for little village vignettes.  

The show offers a great deal of scope to an imaginative director and Lou Petch has set a good standard to be followed.  Nifty footwork choreographed by Jackie Strahm kept the company energised and Musical Director Simon Pearce did a fine job with the new and unfamiliar music.  Overall the show was well staged and everything came across very well.  

This review would not be complete without an accolade for the set design of James Lewis and Rebecca Glover.  The numerous settings required were dealt with most ingeniously.  Every single piece on stage worked in two or three different ways and it was fascinating to watch the efficient stage crew morphing one set into another.

I am not sure about the title, although the strap line is “...it’s more village than sex if I’m honest”: but the show is great fun and the music is excellent.  Challenging for the singers but pleasant and easy on the ear.  

This was a great evening; congratulations to BSEAODS and to Perfect Pitch and the writers.  I have no doubt there will be many more productions of this show around the country before very long.  It was a privilege and a pleasure to be among the first to see it.