Thursday, 12 June 2014

Theatre 2014: Review Twenty

A Bunch of Amateurs, The Watermill Theatre, Bagnor (Newbury). May 2014.

After taking Mr Norfolkbookworm's aunt to Chichester last year she told us all about another beautiful theatre near to her house - The Watermill. After almost a year we found a play we all wanted to see and a date we could all make.

We had a wonderful evening, starting in the restaurant of the theatre having a delicious meal and then moved through the building, across the stream and past the watermill wheel into a fabulous little theatre.

A Bunch of Amateurs is all about a group of village players in Stratford St John who have dwindling funds and audience and as a result are in danger of closing for good.  They hit on the bright idea of inviting a celebrity to star in a performance of King Lear in the hope that this will turn them around.

This triggers a series of comedic events starting with the arrival of a fading American action hero actor who thinks he's been picked by the RSC to play at Stratford-upon-Avon.

It sounds dreadful, cliched and predictable and certainly the last two are fair comments BUT the script, the acting and the staging mean that it is wonderful and funny as well and certainly not dreadful.  The set fitted into the theatre's own decor brilliantly and until it was used I really did think that it was part of the general fixtures and fittings.

Professionals acting as amateurs and not over doing it seems a real skill and the cast managed this wonderfully, even though this was only the 3rd or 4th performance I noticed no hesitations or stumbles and yet the cast did seem a realistic bunch of amateurs. The script itself is very funny and this adaptation has been co-written by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman and is fully of points that are clearly dear to Hislop but are tempered by Newman's influence so that the play works rather than becoming a sounding board for Hislop's opinions.

This play runs until June 28th and if you can get to the venue and there are tickets I think it is brilliant and worth the effort.  I'd love to see it tour so more can have the fun we did but I think that it takes a professional cast to do it justice - too much of the irony would be lost if it wasn't and the fine line between comedy/farce and disaster could easily be crossed.

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