A Chorus of Disapproval
Recipe for a modern comedy:
A dark comedy with many great songs, but it is not a musical - it is a very funny play about an amateur society rehearsing its latest offering. The group is thrown into disarray when an innocent abroad comes to audition for ‘crook fingered jack’. Life imitates art as he makes friends and enemies of them all in a riot of sex, death and theatrical frenzy.
A Chorus of Disapproval. Sat 8th April. General Admission
It’s Alan Ayckbourn so you just know it will have crazy characters, bizarre monologues & much hilarity. But this one has extra punch: a wacky Welshman who holds things together by the skin of his teeth just.
The story involves the hapless young Guy Jones (Luke Reeves in fine form as the painfully sweet generically-named newcomer). Guy joins an amateur musical society only to end up bedding two of the cast, spearheading a dodgy property deal, and rising up ranks to starring role due to various catastrophes & nervous breakdowns - how jolly! To add to the fun, the action on stage is mirrored in the company’s lusty production of The Beggar’s Opera where the dashing highwayman Macheath consorts with the fair Polly Peachum & the fair Lucy Lockit. The show is dotted with songs from the opera beautifully performed by all - an added bonus!
The clever set allows the action to shift from backstage to onstage to the pub; while catwalks allow characters to storm on and storm off (and there’s a lot of that!). Simple screening evokes Fay & Ian’s swingin’ pad (played to the hilt by a slinky Julie Dimond and a moody Jerome Studdy)which certainly ‘swings’ on a Friday night. Fay’s rapturous reaction to Guy’s thoughts on ‘veal’ & talk of his ‘friend’ is hilarious!
Other top comic moments include Guy’s audition where Dafydd is overwhelmed by All through the Night; Jarvis’ dotty monologue about boots; and a scene between Guy and the luscious Rebecca (Ella Arendelle) where Guy seems set for yet another simmering seductionbut all she wants - at least for the moment - is money.
Luke Reeves’ Guy is an endearing mix of good-manners and a seeming inability to say ‘no’ to anyone or anything. Kurtis Wakefield nails it as the blustering, fiery, passionate, pig-headed director Dafydd fab Welsh accent! Minor quibble: some scenes were less audible then others.
Maria Hemphill charms as the downtrodden Hannah who becomes increasingly self-assertive as events unfurl, although they don’t unfurl quite as she would like. Ted (Danny Bolt) is suitably ‘arty’ and pouty; bad boy Crispin (Andrew Cougle) is suitably sleazy & menacing; while Keith McIlroy is a gem as the rather loopy Jarvis, wandering around listening to "Vanishing Sounds of Britain" and insisting (incorrectly) that Guy is Scottish. All cast particularly the voracious Bridget (Mickey Rose) attack their roles with gusto.
Loads of fun for everyone.
Wendy Lewis, TheareBlog
Factory Space Theatre’s A Chorus of Disapproval by Alan Ayckbourn |
Immersing oneself in the Factory Space Theatre’s A Chorus of Disapproval by Alan Ayckbourn, you’ll find it is a mise en abyme. First performed in 1984, A Chorus of Disapproval may well be as timeless as the original source material, John Gay’s comic The Beggar’s Opera of 1728.
A Chorus of Disapproval begins at the end of an amateur theatre group’s production of The Beggar’s Opera, and ends with the same scene, but with a macabre twist. A noose. In The Beggars Opera highwayman Macheath is saved from the gallows, after a career as a thief, a philanderer and a deceitful friend, and with that metaphor, audiences understand that all endings can be changed. A Chorus of Disapproval is a mirror of The Beggars Opera with its requisite eighteenth century happy ending to the relief of the audience.
Indeed, both plays help audiences make sense of all the information and issues important to audiences in 1728, 1984 and 2017. Whether Libertines or capitalists, Locke or multiculturalism, A Chorus of Disapproval humorously helps you ‘see things’, to gain understanding, whilst being entertained.
Luke Reeves plays Guy Jones, the hero of Aychbourn’s play. Reeves has Guy appearing as a unassuming man, quietly living since the loss of this wife and joining a theatre group for company and yet there is something else too. Guy is not an innocent nor is he intentionally deceiving, it is worse than that. Guy does nothing, he doesn’t take sides, he doesn’t repent, he doesn’t live by the rules, and yet he is one of them. Guy like Macheath in The Beggars Opera gave a false impression to his ‘friends’, whilst travelling from one relationship to another, as confidant, lover and informer. When the final scene is repeated two hours later, the audience and the players are embracing Guy as a hero. Guy has escaped the noose, thanks to the pardon by the playwright, just as Gay pardoned Macheath and as expected by the original London audiences. Kurtis Wakefield plays Dafydd A. P. Llewellyn, director of The Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society (PALOS) performance, solicitor, husband and father. Wakefield plays Dafydd sympathetically, a Welsh soul in an Englishman’s world, married to capable Hannah from Middlesex his ‘Swiss Army Wife’. The irony is apparently not loss in Wakefileld’s portrayal of an expressive Dafydd. The bullying, the outbursts of anger, the creativity and his friendship with Guy are brilliantly played. Maria Hemphill is classically trained and a fine operatic singer and fortunately for the audience, plays Hannah Llewellyn and Polly Peachum of the The Beggars Opera. Hemphill is convincing as poor Hannah, a wife who ‘expects to be unnoticed and undervalued’. Hemphill brought Hannah to life, giving the audience the impression that Hannah had always been stronger than Dafydd, Guy or even her mother-in-law; she’d just used that strength for her family and let Dafydd, the rugby player and solicitor, take charge. Hemphill gives the impression that Hannah is on a journey now and that the past three months of PALOS intrigue have given Hannah hope, confidence and a future.
In a play where there is a great deal of emotion, there is also a great deal of sex. The wonderful Crispin; a tough talking, sexed up character is played by Andrew Cougle. Cougle seems to have taken on the role with gusto. Roughhousing, cheering on wrestling doxy’s, an altercation with Dafydd and more sex. Cougle moved well on stage, playing the tough Crispin who at times was as tempting as the devil and as unpredictable. The comic moments only reminded the audience this is not someone you’d want to date your daughter. But Crispin probably will.
Roz Riley successfully directs another comedy with a talented cast in a multi-layered play of past and present characters and their times. The layering gives us just enough of Ayckbourn’s characters for us to want to know more. The private lives of the PALOS amateurs’ mirrors the original characters of The Beggar’s Opera and the audience is acutely aware of the mirroring and, the themes of manipulation, sex, politics and survival. With a minimalist stage setting, the actors were able to move over several stages and even transverse the pit. Is it illusion or imagination that the well designed set gives the audience the impression they too are in the crowds watching The Beggar’s Opera, in a busy tavern, rehearsing in a theatre, visiting Llewellyn’s home. A Chorus of Disapproval is a significant play to direct, and Riley is able to entertain, inform and leave the audience wanting more. Congratulations
Relle Evans, freelance reviewer
Audience comments |
Really strong leads in the actors that played Guy and Daffyd. Also Micky Rose was amazing with her comic timing as always! Super! RhiR
|A Chorus of Disapproval   photographed by John Reeves|