A Bunch of Amateurs

28 March 2022

A bunch of Amateurs

Keen to boost his flagging career, fading Hollywood action hero Jefferson Steele arrives in England to play King Lear in Stratford – only to find that this is not the birthplace of the Bard, but a sleepy Suffolk village. And instead of Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench, the cast are a bunch of amateurs trying to save their theatre from developers. Jefferson’s monstrous ego, vanity and insecurity are tested to the limit by the enthusiastic am-dram thespians. As acting worlds collide and Jefferson’s career implodes, he discovers some truths about himself – along with his inner Lear!

A Bunch of Amateurs Review by Noda

Society: St Peter Players
Production: A Bunch of Amateurs
Date: 29 March 2019
Report By: Judith Watsham

Thank you for your friendly welcome to your latest production. 

An excellent set as usual, this time designed by your very good director Ruth Corner and built by your SM and his assistant, Alan and Graham Caesar-Gordon along with some of the cast.  Good use of your available area too with the entrance to the Barn Theatre, which looked particularly realistic, and the B & B rooms set front of the tabs. 

I really liked the way you added to your set on stage at every scene change too – all the little touches as The Stratford Players constructed their set for King Lear.  Ruth is a very experienced and excellent director and brought so much of her talent to this play.

Les Brewer, as always, exhibited a sure touch with the lighting, always tricky to adjust when you are using a gauze to mask scene changes, and the spot on musician Joe Dumont was well placed.

Sound effects, Ollie Bentley were good, especially the airport background noises.

Liz Peskin and Ruth Corner did a good job on the wardrobe and I liked the fact that the cast changed elements of their garb (for instance Nigel’s bow ties) to indicate a change of day.  It is the little touches like this that make all the difference, so very well done.

Joan Carr and Janeta Kling, as well as providing some excellent props, also played the two small roles of reporters – nice to see your acting talents ladies!

Jo Sutton’s programme design was good and, most importantly, easy to read in the semi dark – good photos too.

I really enjoyed your performances although I felt the play lacked a bit of pace – this was largely due to the length of the musical interludes from the excellent Joe Dumont but I realise that the time required to alter the set probably influenced this.  The ‘cod’ Shakespearean songs owed something to Blackadder and were well performed and very funny at times.

Nic Barton as the fading Hollywood star Jefferson Steele was very good.  A well sustained American accent gave way to serious Shakespearian tones when playing King Lear.  However, I also felt that you were a little too young to be a really believable – no credit in the programme for make up so I assume you all did your own?  Perhaps rather more grey in your hair, Nic, and a few age lines might have been an idea?  However, you developed an excellent contrast between your spoilt Hollywood Star persona which morphed well into a realistic King Lear.

Tina Barclay shone as Dorothy Nettle and exhibited really good timing.  Good reactions always too Tina to everyone else on stage.

Liz Peskin played Mary Plunkett in her own inimitable fashion.  Your facial expresssions are always so good Liz and those you displayed when you saw, and misunderstood, the physiotherapy scene were priceless.  Your sense of comedic timing was, as always, an object lesson in just how to play comedy. 

The rather unpleasant leading light of the Stratford Players, Nigel Dewbury, was very well played by Martin Sutton – also with excellent facial expressions and well timed asides.

Handyman Denis Dobbins was portrayed by Steve Cubbage.  I loved your demonstrations regarding the ways you devised to cover one of the big problems when staging King Lear – Gloucester’s blinding! 

Jefferson’s daughter, Jessica, was delightfully played by Charlotte Walker.  There was one small problem though Jessica, your hair masked your face and affected your vocal projection to a certain extent.  Did you consider clipping your hair back at the sides?  Just a thought!

Lucy Shirley was an excellent Lauren Bell – very funny performance when astride Jefferson Steele as his physiotherapist too!

A very enjoyable evening for which I thank you all.

Judith Watsham

Regional Rep NODA London 11 and 11A