Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


curtain cast

Judith Taylor (left) as Betty, Samantha Lawson as Theresa, Ros Davies as Sharon, Louise Price as Pam and Helen Johnson as Jackie, limbering up(ish) for action

Curtain Up

Hall Green Little Theatre


What a line-up in store at Hall Green with a raffle from a broken bingo ball machine, a comedian no one has heard of, a turn from the local dance academy and a magician who does children’s parties, and travels by bus with his glamorous assistant – oh and, not forgetting Liza, with a zee, Minnelli topping the bill for free.

At least that was what was advertised and even planned, a charity fundraiser with a superstar who once appeared there in the theatre's heyday when the world was a younger place, It was all going splendidly until . . . do you remember the bit about the best laid schemes o' mice an' men? Well the awry bit arrived with a bang.

But that was to come. It all started when Michael shuffled off his mortal coil and left the dilapidated theatre he had inherited from an uncle to the five women in his life; it was a theatre he had not had the chance to even visit before his demise, which is perhaps just as well as it could have killed him off earlier. 

Whether this was a gift out of affection and love, or a final bit of a laugh was undecided. You see the five women in question were his daughter, Theresa, played with a conciliatory confidence by Samantha Lawson, and his secretary, sorry, executive assistant Sharon, played with her usual, larger than life enthusiasm by Ros Davies and his mother, Betty, played by Judith Taylor, who’s hearing . . . and mind . . . is suspect, oh and she is a person whose knowledge of life has never managed to include the word tact.

So far so good, so on to the dodgy bit with a fifth each to his ex-wife Pam, a rather defeatist and rather unenthusiastic partner in the enterprise, played by Louise Price, and a fifth to his new wife Jackie, the woman he walked out on Pam to shack up with, played by Helen Johnson. Jackie is blonde, leggy . . . and perhaps can boast a few less miles on the clock.

While Jackie is walking around with Michael in an urn, Pam is walking around with a seething dislike bordering on hatred for Jackie and a resentment for her ex-husband. So that all augers well for this five-woman partnership.

That is the opening of Peter Quilter’s comedy as the five women enter the run down, dilapidated theatre which appears to be past the stage to even be condemned.

And that is the challenge, to save Michael’s theatre, which slowly becomes the quest to save their own theatre.

There are some very funny lines and great comic performances from the dipsy Betty to Sharon and her dieting, a technique which seems to involve a lot of eating, and her boyfriend, Steve, who has vomit tattooed on his forehead – not Vimto as Betty thinks – and serves at Her Majesty’s pleasure on a regular basis.

There is Theresa offering hot drinks – as long as you want chicken soup or vegetable with croutons, both with sell by dates that outlive most of the population – and bemoaning her lack of boyfriend, while manfully trying to diffuse every argument and instil boundless enthusiasm, and who could forget Jackie, with her man in an urn, and penchant for interior design and aerobics.

Then there is Pam, our unlookalike Liza Minnelli with a spray of fake tan which would have looked fine . . . if Liza Minnelli had happened to be Jamaican.

It is a lovely piece of nonsense on a brilliant set from Edward James Stokes, with its faded scarlet and gold draped walls, battered signs and roped off staircase to the circle. You could almost smell the greasepaint and hear echoes of the crowd.

The second act is a complete change around as, rather like Noises Off, we face the proscenium and see the stage of the run down dump.

Director Jean Wilde has kept a good pace, with some lovely touches, such as centring the mike stand, and the introduction of a Cabaret song and dance number took the curtain call a new level.

Quilter is better known for the superb End of the Rainbow and Glorious! and I must admit this was the first time I had seen this play, but it did tickle me with some of its daft moments. It is a play that makes no demands, there is no hidden meaning, no message, it is just a gentle comedy with laugh out loud moments and a guarantee you will go home with a smile on your face – and you might even decide to listen to Liza with a zee for real. To 21-09-19

Roger Clarke


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