Friday, 19 October 2018

Behind the scenes at the panto

ALAN Marshall’s play Up the Beanstalk Again takes place in a theatre where the annual Christmas pantomime

ALAN Marshall’s play Up the Beanstalk Again takes place in a theatre where the annual Christmas pantomime is being performed.

The action takes place in the dressing room of Laurence, a former classical actor who has now, in his later years, been reduced to playing pantomime dames.

He is in a complicated relationship with Angela, his dresser, who is a lifelong friend and a former actress.

The plot has little to do with the pantomime characters but concentrates on the complicated life of Laurence and the toll is has taken on him.

His mother, whose love Laurence desired, was a severe disciplinarian and money-grabber and made his young years very unhappy.

He became homosexual and later adopted a lifestyle which rarely separated his real life from that of his theatrical characters.

The psychological effects of his upbringing and his style of living are beginning to seriously affect his personality. After many years as a top flight actor he has descended to playing pantomime dames and is deeply worried about his future.

His attitude is causing his fellow actors to dislike him and criticise his acting ability. This causes him even more concern and he becomes dependent upon Angela for assistance and sympathy. She is, he thinks, his steadfast friend and he has plans for them to spend their later life together.

Angela is a former actress who worked with and loved Laurence in the past but she has developed a strong dislike of his psychopathic personality. She regrets having given up her acting career to become Laurence’s dresser and has developed a relationship with Harry, the stage door keeper, with whom she plans to leave the theatre and open a costume hire business.

Pat and Eric, who between them play Daisy the pantomime cow, are sympathetic friends of Angela upon whom she unloads some of her troubles.

Jack, of beanstalk fame, causes Laurence much agony and jealousy because of his attempts to get to Hollywood and earn a big reputation and even bigger salary.

Laurence is played by Ian Miles who skilfully portrays a man who is controlled by his strange thoughts. Special credit must go to Ian for his performance as an actor who has forgotten his lines and his actions — not easy when actors are well trained not to do these things.

Helen Goodwin plays Angela with great feeling. She is also very effective when dressing Laurence, serving his drinks and controlling his bad temper. A creditable performance.

Cathy and Tom Brabben who play Pat and Eric perform well as the cow and as Angela’s friends. James Peedell, who plays Harry, and Alastair Reed, as Jack, fit well into their characters — as does Charlotte Broadbent, who plays the helpful assistant stage manager.

Chiltern Players maintained their reputation for building excellent sets, and the sound and lighting were well up to standard.

Congratulations to the players and to the director, Maggie Stokes, for a good performance of a difficult play.

Review: Bill Port

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