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A Chorus of Disapproval
by Alan Acykbourn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synospis

The play takes place in 1985 and is centred around the Pendon Light Operatic Society (PALOS) rehearsals for John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. A widower, Guy Jones, joins the company and rapidly progresses through its ranks to play the lead in the final production. The story follows Guy as he encounters the various members of the society who all seem to have their own secret agenda to which Guy is naively oblivious. The play is juxtaposed with songs and scenes from The Beggar’s Opera.

Cast

Guy Jones........................................David Reed

Dafydd ap Llewellyn...................Chris Millington

Hannah Llewellyn..............................Elaine Elliot

Bridget Baines.................Suzanne Macpherson

Mrs Ames..................................Desney Candor

Mr Ames.........................................John Candor

Enid Washbrook...............................Rose Floyd

Rebecca Huntley-Pike................Melissa Quinn

Fay Hubbard...................................Lucy Ashton

Ian Hubbard.......................................Lee Ocsko

Jarvis Huntley-Pike..................Sean Wilkinson

Ted Washbrook...............................Simon Billig

Crispin Usher....................................Dave Perry

Linda Washbrook.......................Johanna Grace

Davina Taylor.............................Alison Roberts

Raymond........................................Bob Pamplin

Cafe Manager......................................June Gray

Members of the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society...
Ellie Dennis, Ellen Madhani, Tanya Macpherson Directed by Michael Philips

Production Credits

Sound and lights.........................................David Mason

assisted by.......................................................Rick Pascoe

Costumes................................................Christine Fryers

Stage Manager.....................................Tony Mohammad

assisted by.......Phyl Baker, Jane Ellison, Richard Baker

Publicity.......................................................Terry Perkins

Dances arranged by..................................... Jacky Logan

Set constucted by..........Dave Mason and Bob Pamplin

Front of House... Bob Pamplin, Emma Pamplin, Doreen Friend, Eilis Rafferty

 

Reviews

John Gay's satirical piece The Beggar's Opera features a highwayman called Macheath as its central character. With marriage, intrigue and subterfuge as the key ingredients of the plot, is Macheath really the hero or anti-hero? Contemporary playwright Alan Ayckbourn considered this dilemma and the opera’s libertarian values as an interesting analogy for his highly acclaimed 1980s comedy A Chorus of Disapproval. With its sub-plot about an amateur operatic group staging a far from trouble-free adaptation of Gay's Augustan drama, Ayckbourn's play turns into an amusing study of middle class attitudes, family values and the ever present lure of adultery.

In A Chorus of Disapproval, we meet one Guy Jones, a seemingly innocent and inexplicably naive widower, who decides to combat his loneliness by joining the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society (PALOS for short). The mainspring of the group is Dafydd ap Llewellyn. Fiercely proud of his Welsh upbringing, he is also the driving force behind the staging of The Beggar's Opera. "I'm absolutely convinced that this show (is) as entertaining and as vital as it was then", he explains unapologetically to anyone who’ll listen.

Dafydd, as Guy soon discovers, wields a position of absolute power in PALOS, a group comprised of the usual Ayckbourn stock characters. "I wish to God they were professionals", he confides in Guy at one point. "Then I could sack them." By contrast, Guy is absurdly shy, yet soon finds himself the object of flattering attention from the female members of PALOS, including Dafydd’s own wife Hannah; the sexy and promiscuous Fay Hubbard; and the flirtatious Rebecca Huntley-Pike. Simultaneously, Guy's importance to the production of The Beggar's Opera quickly catapults him from a simple walk-on part as the villain 'Crook-Finger'd Jack' to the lead role.

A Chorus of Disapproval opens with a period costume, rip-roaring song and dance number straight out of Gay's populist opera, followed by Dafydd thanking Guy for 'stepping in' and saving the show. Then in flashback we discover how it all began and whether Guy was in fact deserving of Dafydd’s unstinting praise. Is he the hero or the anti-hero?

In this Global Theatre Production, Chris Millington is superb in the role of Dafydd. His lyrical and totally convincing Welsh accent conjures up fond memories of a cosy fireside tea in the company of 'Dai the Station' and 'Evans the Song'. And the scene in which he bursts into a Welsh rendition of All Through the Night (Ar hyd y nos) is heartfelt and poignant. As always, with this extremely talented actor, Chris slips back and forth between the comedy and drama with eloquent flourish.

'Light baritone' Guy Jones is in equally safe hands with actor David Reed. Like his chief co-star, here again is a performer who can effortlessly flesh out any character he plays and in A Chorus of Disapproval switches brilliantly between the innocent Guy and his alter ego Macheath.

Both are, of course, the lynchpin to the play's success and so it’s vitally important that we the audience can empathise with their human frailties. In this production both actors excel with a brilliant mix of humour and pathos. Chris Millington successfully captures Dafydd's restless spirit. David Reed, on the other hand, throws much light on Guy's tortured soul.

Thanks to a subtle and emotive performance from Elaine Elliott as Hannah, we soon realise that all is not rosy in the 'wings' at PALOS. "I call her my Swiss Army Wife." Dafydd jokes, blissfully unaware that she has amorous intentions towards Guy. Their meeting is nicely underplayed, and puts you in mind of a similar scene that occurred between frustrated housewife Belinda and playwright Clive, in Alan Ayckbourn’s wonderfully witty play Season's Greetings.

But Hannah has a rival for Guy's affections in the shape of the promiscuous Fay Hubbard. Lucy Ashton gives a marvellously lascivious performance as Fay and her fight with Hannah over a pair of rather snazzy looking boxer shorts in the starchy atmosphere of a Lyons Corner House-type café is hilarious. Fay’s husband Ian is played with a great deal of charisma by Lee Ocsko; an accomplished actor with a tremendous stage presence. Together with David Reed, Ashton and Ocsko's partner-swapping party is one of the funniest scenes in the first act.

Suzanne Macpherson brilliantly brings the dominant stage manager Bridget Baines to life. "We couldn’t function at all without Bridget," opines Dafydd. The daughter of the "cantankerous" landlord of the local watering hole where the group drinks after rehearsals, Bridget is already bedding the young and hostile Crispin Usher, much to the chagrin of eager young actress and rival for his love, Linda Washbrook. The arrogant Crispin is a memorable performance thanks to actor Dave Perry. He and Johanna Grace, the actress playing Linda, are definitely 'leading light' material.

Key among the supporting roles are the Huntley-Pike's. Jarvis is the stereotypical knowing Northerner, whose constant references to Guy as a Scotsman is a nice piece of recurring humour, while his wife Rebecca is both confident and conniving. Both these characters benefit from the meticulous detail brought to the roles by actors Sean Wilkinson and Melissa Quinn.

Davina Taylor is played by Alison Roberts, an actress wonderfully adept at both drama and comedy, while Rose Floyd and Simon Billig are Enid and Ted Washbrook respectively. The occasional 'victims' of Dafydd’s wrath they are also the unfortunate parents of Johanna Grace’s delightfully gloomy Linda. Actress June Gray also lends her considerable expertise to the show, along with Bob Pamplin.

Global Productions' A Chorus of Disapproval is a treat for both the eye and the funny bone. Director Michael Philips must be congratulated on choosing actors that work so splendidly as both an ensemble cast and in individual roles. Under Michael's guidance, the opening and closing dance number is both catchy and toe-tapping with some stylish choreography by Jacky Logan. There’s sterling support from Dave Mason, whose lighting is used to hilarious, but ultimately poignant effect in the scene in which Dafydd grapples with lighting cues, while Guy and Hannah noisily debate their illicit love affair while dodging the glare of the spotlights.

Costumes are contemporary – well 1980s – but the sumptuous look of the staged 18th century opera sequences are an explosion of colour and design thanks to the costumes created by Christine Fryers, with some assistance from Christine Holliss. Last, but certainly not least, is the excellent musical accompaniment chosen by Michael Philips and provided by the skilled playing of Desney and John Candor.

This production was a huge success at the Harlow Playhouse earlier this month and there's no doubt that the demand for tickets will be just as high when it opens at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall on July 6th. © Richard Holliss

 


A Chorus of Disapproval – Review
Global Theatre Company
reviewed by Jenni Balow

Sir Alan Ayckbourn had been directing plays for many years before he hit on the idea of writing a comedy about the entertainment to be had behind the scenes of a typical amateur dramatic company – and it was met by a chorus of approval from both actors and the audience.

A Chorus of Disapproval was first presented in Scarborough in 1984, was quickly transferred to the National Theatre in London, filmed four years later, and picked up many top awards along the way.

It is now a favourite with am-dram groups around the world, giving actors the chance to play out what comes naturally, both on and off stage, brilliantly funny on the surface, with darker issues beneath.

It is a natural choice for the Essex based Global Productions and director Michael Philips, who often specialise in contemporary drama. And this group of actors embrace the script with enthusiasm.

The play within a play is concerned with rehearsals and casting for The Beggar’s Opera which is being presented by a light operatic society where the actors have an established pecking order and their own agendas both backstage and up front.

But the arrival of a diffident newcomer and widower Guy Jones (David Reed) sets up a new dynamic within the group when the play’s earnest director Dafydd (Chris Millington) takes him under his Welsh wing and gives him a bit part.

Guy is tense and determined, with knees pressed tightly together, but several of the women in the cast give him the once-over and reckon they need to change that persona – and he is only too happy to respond.

A sub-plot involves a land acquisition, and he becomes unwittingly involved at the excellently played hands of go-getting Ian (Lee Ocsko) and his willing wife Fay (Lucy Ashton).

In the meantime the finely cast Dafydd is getting increasingly frustrated with the slow progress of rehearsals, after 10 days, they are still on page 15 of the script, while his Swiss Army wife “no man should be without one” Hannah (Elaine Elliott) is seeking consolation from Guy.

All this is not improving the temper of the dragon-like stage manager Bridget (Suzanne Macpherson) who roars her disdain along with know-it-all cast member Rebecca (Melissa Quinn) before it all ends in tears.

Music director and on-stage pianist is Ruby Ames, playing alongside clarinetist Bob Ames, with costumes designed and made by Chrissy Fryers for this fun production that wins approval all round.