THE Tithe Barn Theatre was packed to the rafters as the Shiplake College drama and music departments teamed up to put on this engaging production.
With tickets in such high demand, two extra performances were added, yielding a tough schedule of six shows in four days. This did not put the actors off though and they performed with infectious energy and enthusiasm from beginning to end.
Shiplake’s stage adaptation of the 1976 musical gangster movie told the story of the rise of Bugsy Malone (Connor Cummings), a likeable boxing promoter down on his luck, and the battle for power between Fat Sam (Ruaridh Sheppard) and Dandy Dan (George Atkinson). Ruaridh did not let a broken leg incurred over Christmas hold him back, with the star in the cast ultimately proving to be the star of the cast.
The conflict was certainly not a traditional gang war. Instead of guns and ammo, splurge guns filled with shaving foam and custard pies were used as weapons. This created a hugely entertaining spectacle, and while the cast remained in character throughout with some impressive American accents, the enjoyment was clear to see on their faces.
Connor certainly won the hearts of the audience, but found winning the affections of Blousey Brown, played magnificently by Emily Holloway, a more difficult prospect. His quest was not helped by the meddling of Fat Sam’s girlfriend Tallulah, AKA sixth former Katie Webster, or his financial troubles. The latter led him into a sticky situation with Fat Sam, culminating with a dramatic car chase which had been filmed by Shiplake’s media studies department.
Directors Jenny Unwin and Sian Pearson adapted the storyline to utilise all available space in the Tithe Barn venue. Imaginative staging brought the audience very close to the action, creating a terrific atmosphere. Songs were accompanied by a live band, led by Louise Rapple on the piano. Soloists showed off their impressive vocal ranges, notably Niranjan Rajagopal (hilariously accompanied by lower school backing dancers) and Jordan Gibson playing caretaker Fizzy who wowed the crowd with a stonking rendition of Tomorrow.
All 88 cast members did themselves proud, including the entire lower school who demonstrated admirable versatility to depict down-and-out workers, dancers, barbers, boxers and butlers. The final scene was a chaotic melée of shaving foam, as the rival gangs converged to settle their differences.
Wednesday, January 15