These Days

Date 13th May 2016
Society Woodfield Entertainers
Venue Ashtead Peace Memorial Hall
Type of Production Revue style
Director Neil Edwards
Musical Director Elaine Denny
Choreographer Neil, Denise, George, Elaine, Carolyn and Amalee

Report

Author: Jon Fox

The first-time Writer and Director of this revue style show, Neil Edwards, dreamt up this idea which is based upon the supposed Golden Wedding anniversary of Felicity and Rupert Smyth.   He wisely used the stage apron for their nostalgic reminiscences with them seated on a wooden bench below a streetlamp on "Memory Lane". Their photo album and memory box completed the scene (with a monitor displaying their photographs for all to see). Meanwhile, the company played out their memories on stage in word, mime and song.

Loraine Ratcliff, as Felicity, brought an easy charm and assurance in her reminiscences, whilst Graham Thorburn (wearing a whitish-grey wig) was a sure foil as the affable Rupert, despite one or two prompts. That both Loraine and Graham were too young to play mid-seventies was quickly forgotten once underway. I did feel, though, that a long-married couple would have actually sat rather closer together than was the case here, but otherwise their acting and body language was good apart from an occasional slight slowness in linking up cues, by Graham.

An elegantly dressed Sara Brammall opened the revue section of the evening with a moving and melodic rendition of "Memory".

This was followed by a highly amusing sketch featuring Sophie (group leader) - Mel Schmidt, Karen - Jenny Gamache, Dave - Laurence Bolton, Judy - Hannah Chapman and Mabel (cleaning lady) - Judy Abbott in a meeting together with four imaginary friends. This was very slick with marvellous timing and an unexpected twist to end the sketch.

Following this was "Like A Virgin" sung by Cara Turner with support from Amalee Gamache and Claire Webb. The boyfriend (face unseen) was Kenny Menet-Hawkins. This was well enough done but was not outstanding.

The next, and a very well acted sketch, was set in a commuter train carriage where the only male commuter, Daniel Shepherd, was supposedly manipulated by an invisible man (offstage voice of Simon Gadd). Magnificently well done contortions and hysterically funny! Daniel's tall, lean frame enabled the "punishment" he was receiving to appear even more amusing in a "John Cleese - Silly Walks" way. Other players in this scene were Narrator - Denise Hillier and other commuters: George Margetts, Alison Kiddell and Sara. Their horrified reactions made this scene even funnier.

Next we were treated to a company number set in Club Tropicana, complete with inflatable palm tree. Singer Kenny, with dance support from Elaine Denny, Jenny, Hannah, Laurence, Denise, Alison, Judy, Mel, Carolyn Edwards, Cara and Sara (in a wet suit!). This was most enjoyable and colourful with a slick dance routine and high energy, though the singing was not special.

Another extremely funny sketch followed with Rupert (Neil Edwards) endeavouring to translate the interviewer's words into "Sign Language" with painful results for the interviewer (George)

The interviewee was Gill (Amalee). The only time Rupert was not flailing around clobbering the interviewer was when he was "in the lift" (he stood to attention!).

We then had a wedding scene with a pleasant and catchy rendition of "You are my Destiny", sung by Denise with backing singers Mel and Sara. The married couple were Carolyn and Daniel and members of the cast joined them.

Next up was a highly effective comic scene with a young nursery teacher, Claire, unable to recite the alphabet beyond ABC to her pupils. Head teacher Elaine angrily tried to show her how to impart it to the (invisible) children.

Remembering the kids at secondary school featured a well choreographed dance routine with Simon and Daniel providing the singing of the song by Madness, "Baggy Trousers". The cast were dressed as schoolchildren with Elaine as Headmistress. The actions were well observed.

After a pleasant interval where we were treated to a tasty and well organised supper at tables, we began the second half with a most pleasing rendition of "Love Shine a Light" sung by Mel with backing singers Elaine, Amalee and Saral. Very enjoyable.

An adult educational English class followed comprising five people each with a quirk or fixation for different ways of speech and ways of expression:  Ann - Sara (grammar), Karen - Elaine (exclamation mark), Mary - George (spelling), Lee - (emphasis) and Jodie (very small vocabulary). This was a very clever and well put-together sketch.

Hannah backed by Jive Dancers Neil and Alison, Laurence and Mel, with other dancers and backing singers - Jenny, Amalee, Claire, Lissea Jordan sang "Lipstick on your collar". This Connie Francis classic mid-life crisis song took me and my generation back to our youth! One of the better songs of the evening.

Denise as Question Master and Cara as Anne the contestant owe this successful sketch based on "Mastermind", answering the question before last, to the amazing "Two Ronnies". Their timing did full credit to these two masters and no higher praise is possible.

The Bryan Adams classic "Heaven" was sung by Jenny with bar lady - Cara - supported by  Hannah, George, Alison, Mel, Claire, Carolyn Edwards and Lissea. A pleasant rendition.

Undoubtedly the sketch of the evening, and how could it not be with five Brad Pitt(?) lookalikes dressed in black shorts and white singlets, was the Olympics Synchronised Swimming event.   All the male "swimmers" - Neil, Laurence, Simon, Daniel, Kenny - made this glorious sketch a hoot from beginning to end and well worth a gold medal. The unseen tarpaulin holders were Judy and Cara.

Undeterred by the hilarity of the previous item, Amalee then sang "How Long Will I Love You" with dancers Denise and Carolyn.She sang this soulfully and movingly.

"Bingo" PC-style then followed. As someone who has in his misspent youth been a bingo caller, I was tickled pink by the absurdities used here -  political correctness gone mad. A rattling good sketch - these were the players:- Bingo caller - Simon with players Sara, Jenny, George, Daniel and Judy plus Elaine.

We began to round off the evening with a medley of five rock classics by the company. This was the penultimate item and made a memorable and rocking end to the evening. The finale was "These days" by Take That and we go home with many happy memories of a hugely enjoyable evening!

Costumes, supplied by the cast, were, on the whole, suitable and looked good.

There was a team of people who had choreographed, most effectively: Neil, Denise, George, Elaine, Carolyn and Amalee.

Writer/Director Neil Edwards and Musical Director Elaine Denny had clearly worked the company very hard and there was energy, enthusiasm and much superb timing in comic sketches by almost everyone and this evening can only be pronounced a great success.