The reviews are in for our latest show, Ken Ludwig's 'Shakespeare in Hollywood', and it's been another hit!
Thank you for your friendly welcome, especially from Ritchard Tysoe and your Director Eve Berry; I appreciated the opportunity to have a chat with her about the production.
You set the scene right from the start by putting the audience in the correct time frame with some evocative period music from the 1930s and repeated the theme after the interval. It is always a nice idea to find suitable introductory music when performing a play – musicals of course usually have an overture.
It is always good to see a play as well performed as this one was and which is out of the usual mould but I felt that this was not an easy play to stage, starting as it does with scenes which only use the front part of the acting area which meant that you had curtains strategically placed to hide the full stage. In a larger venue with more facilities you could use draw cloths which I assume were not possible here?
The set design, by Martin Hailey, was fine – the forest edge was particularly well constructed and painted by your very talented team of builders and decorators. Judging from previous productions your scenic strengths seem to lie in complex box sets and this was very different.
The first thing that the audience usually looks at when they settle into their seats is the programme of course. A colourful one, in this instance edited by Ritch Tysoe, with interesting well set out pages is a bonus. Well done on this – photographs of past shows were included – a nice touch and it was good to see the advance publicity for your October production.
Sound – Gary Sims and Pete Humfryes – was also excellent. The thunder rumbling around whenever Oberon lost his temper was always accurate and the sound level just right.
Lighting – Vicki Foley – worked very well; you achieved a particularly good bright daytime effect as well as dimmer evening lighting. The storm effect with both thunder and lightning was well timed. Not a great deal for your SM, David Harnett, and his crew to do. I did wonder why Warner’s desk was left on stage when Puck and Oberon emerged from the forest though.
Lannie Staff’s props were on the whole excellent, in particular the film equipment, especially the camera mounted on its ‘dolly’. Was the desk telephone American – looked more British but I could be wrong.
Costumes were good too and Eve Berry, Tish Marshall, Lannie Staff and the cast are to be congratulated. One small point, the boots worn by Lydia when she first appeared were not really period but all the other footwear was good as were the costumes.
Everyone in the cast had obviously worked hard on getting their charactisations just right and this includes all those of you who walked on as a named film star of the period, those playing known characters, such as Louella Parsons, the Warner Brothers and censor Will Hays, as well as those who played actors who were in the real film such as Joe E Brown and Dick Powell. Accents were well maintained and you were all in character all the time.
The scenes with Jack, Harry, Sam and Albert Warner on the phone were well staged. Pete Stokes, Paul Brown, David Harnett and Peter Rose played the roles in a believable way, accents always present and correct, whilst Pete maintained his character of Jack Warner, a man in lust rather than love with Lydia I felt, very well.
Kath Gill as Louella Parsons maintained an excellent American accent throughout. Kath, you acted very well and exhibited a considerable amount of star struck breathlessness at the start. Very believable.
Julian Brockless as director Max Reinhardt also maintained his Germanic accent and acted well. Your asides to the audience worked very well too but take care not to let your voice drop at the end of sentences.
The very dim little gold-digger, Lydia Lansing, was well played by Phillipa Dadd. Your Southern Belle accent and approach worked very well in this play. How you kept a straight face when you uttered the immortal phrase about Shakespeare being a great American writer I do not know, especially as the audience, understandably, found this hilarious.
Holly Thomas gave us an excellent portrayal of the rather more intelligent starlet Olivia Darnell. I particularly liked your final scene with Oberon which was very well played by both of you. Jacob Everett’s performance as Dick Powell was good and you showed an impressive ability to pass out on stage in one fluid movement.
The two fairy characters, Tom Everitt as Oberon and Alison Hartnett as Puck were excellent. Tom’s expressive face was used to full effect as was Alison’s; the sunglasses jumping out the hamper trick was good and well rehearsed. You had a lot of Shakespearean-style dialogue too which you both uttered as though it was your everyday speech and your bewilderment at the antics of Hollywood in the mid 1930s was palpable..
Will Hays, played by Peter Rose, was very funny; your very serious, deadpan expressions added so much to the humour. Your accent, like everyone else’s was very well maintained. Luke Bond played Warner’s yes-man Daryl in a totally believable way; well done.
I had a most enjoyable evening, thank you for inviting me, and I look forward to your next production.
Judith Watsham Regional Rep NODA London 11 and 11A