Club nights and fading days

Satin and steel

Tom Roberts as Vince Steel and Kilke John as Teena Satin. Pictures: Jamie Sadd

VINCE is an aging club singer who still dreams of hitting the big time, Teena is a Polish karaoke enthusiast with a voice that could just be Vince’s ticket to stardom.

And it is into the glamourless world of run down working men’s clubs, changing among beer crates, that Satin ‘n’ Steel are launched in Amanda Whittingham’s bittersweet comedy from 2005.

It is a mix of cabaret and comedy in the world of chicken in a basket, with a side order of pathos, rather than a musical although it is packed with the songs that echo from the stages of clubs up and down the land, the anthems for wannabe Sinatras and Streisands with songs such as Daydream Believer, The Wind Beneath My Wings, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, Time After Time, I Will Survive and Johnny B Goode.

With Vince’s contacts and clubwise nous Satin ‘n’ teenaSteel rapidly move up the clubland circuit, romance blossoms and the future is bright, but lurking beneath the surface is a dark secret which is set to explode.

The play but is it is the first production of Roberts and John, a collaboration between Tom Roberts (Emmerdale, Doctors, 2point4 Children) as Vince, and Kilke John (Crazy For You, A Christmas Carol) as Teena.

Kilke is an established musical theatre performer in her native Holland, her father was well known Dutch composer John Van Buren, and is now making a name for herself in a new country and a new language 

Country style Satin

Tom, who reviews for Behind The Arras, first appeared in the two hander in 2007 in a Lichfield Garrick Rep production -  Tom is  the Rep producer  - but Whittingham has updated and reworked the piece, with new references and some new songs specifically for this new touring production, giving it her seal of approval when she watched the final dress rehearsal.

For example, instead of being an overlooker in a lingerie factory, a home bred lass in a Northern mining area, Teena is of Polish origin, having arrived here as a little girl, meaning Teena has a slight East European accent, which Kilke has in her repertoire unlike the more abstruse dialect of a lass from up t’North. A small but significant change which helps retain the piece’s authenticity

The play previewed in Hull, appropriately enough in a club setting, before heading off to Wakefield where it has been met by good reviews validating Tom’s faith in the play

He has been looking to perform the play again for eight years but the opportunity has never arisen until now - and his own production company with Kilke. He said: “As a first tour for two actors it seemed the right kind of play. We wanted to be in it and it was the right kind of play for us castingwise and agewise. It is the same sort of difference between us and the characters, and cost was also a factor in that we don’t have to pay other actors.

“It sets well with Vince being hard bitten, a bit faded who has been going round for a few years who sees thisVince protégé as his passport to renewed fame, it’s a star is born setting up t’North.

“These clubs do exist, no so much around London, the Labour clubs, Legions and welfare clubs, the era of The Comedians and Bernard Manning.”

It is a world which might be shrinking, dying in many areas but which still exists and even thrives in working class stongholds although as Vince says in the play: ”Working men? There are no working men any more, there is no work!”

Hitting the highs with Steel

With Satin ‘n’ Steel already on the road Roberts and John are already looking at their next projects, with a shortlist of possible plays and ongoing discussions on a co-production with Birmingham and Midland theatres after revealing that the cost of staging the first production has relied on the support and generosity of friends and relatives.

“We are going to do Satin ‘n’ Steel again in autumn or next spring because we have the set and everything so we will rerun that. After I think we would concentrate on the production side. It is a lot doing both and you are not free to do other stuff.

“Co-production is the way forward though and we are looking into that. It has been a big learning curve, it is fascinating and we are enjoying it.”

The play is directed by Gareth Tudor Price, former artistic director of Hull Trucking Company, who has directed Rep productions at the Garrick with design by John Brooking, who like Tudor Price has been involved in past Garrick Rep productions, while the musical arrangements are by Greg Arrowsmith.

The play tours goes to Cheltenham April 1and 2, Scarborough , Middlesbrough, Helmsley, Barnsley, Richmond, Howden, Beverley, Horsham, Durham, Briddlington and Chesterfield.

It is at Lichfield Garrick on April 21-25 – its longest run of the tour.

Roger Clarke

Tour details http://robertsandjohn.uk/productions/ 

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