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


hrim review

Denise Phillips as Joyce, Nick Whitehouse as Gordon, Rob Phillips as Bernard and Kelly Tye as Margaret

Lockdown in Little Grimley

Highbury Theatre Centre


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theatre . . . along come Little Grimley Amateur Dramatic Society.

For those unfamiliar with the work of the company, its competence could not be assessed on the normal scale of 1 to ten for the simple reason such a scale only deals in positive integers.

They are to amateur dramatics what Ann Widdecombe is to ballet dancing and as for a production in lockdown . . . an audience at 50 per cent capacity, socially distanced or not, would be a considerable increase on their usual numbers.

Still, indefatigable troupers that they are, it will, unfortunately, take more than a mere pandemic to keep them down, as we can see from this latest chapter of their colourful history from the pen of their chronicler, David Tristram.

Once more the society, membership four, sets out to overcome adversity. (The smart money is on adversity, by the way . . . just saying . . .) with society chairman, Gordon, announcing he was going to write a play with a sure-fire selling point guaranteed to pack bums on seats! Get ready for it . . . all the proceeds would go to the NHS.

Now, to be honest, on Little Grimley's past record, there is probably more chance of the NHS getting the £350 million a week promised on the infamous bus than any cash appearing from a society that sees success as a production not losing as much as the last one, but the thought is there.

So once more we are reunited with Gordon, played with a droll, matter-of-factness by Nick Whitehouse. Gordon runs the society with a fist of . . . well, lets just say he runs the society, and he is always the leading man in any production. His selection is from a somewhat limited pool of contenders as the only other man is Bernard, played by Rob Phillips, and he prefers to play roles which are on stage as little as possible, never being the ideal, and preferably with no lines. He is a gruff, down to earth bloke, happy to call a spade a spade, and has a penchant for toilet rolls.

It seems one of the main reasons Bernard is in the society is to get away from his wife, unlike Rob, who finds his wife, Denise, playing Joyce. Joyce is not one of nature’s most gifted intellectuals, which she puts down to having dyslexia in one eye, but she does seem to be somewhat expert on the size of mammalian genitalia . . . everyone needs a hobby, I suppose.

She is quiet, hands out packs of banana cake at the drop of a hat, and you suspect is never quite up to speed about what is going on. She finds scripts a bit of a challenge, not just the words, but the whole concept seems to tax her grey matter, and to describe her acting as wooden would be an insult to every tree on earth – she also seems to have a soft spot for Bernard  - and a novel mask which seems to be designed to stop the larger varieties of virus. It is a lovely, stand-out performance from Denise.

Every leading man needs a leading lady, and the diva in this case is Margaret, played by Kelly Tye. You suspect that she sees herself as somewhat . . . well all right . . . she sees herself as definitely way above the rest of the society in terms of her Thespian abilities and probably much else - she even has a more upmarket, designer mask. No matter what the production she expects, nay, demands to be the star. Her soft spot for Bernard, by the way, is where she would like to hit him. The two seems to enjoy sniping at each other.

The result is a lovely, gloriously funny play - and don't we all need a good laugh - with four characters who seemingly have nothing more in common than being members of this woeful band. We have the bickering, disparaging comments, snide remarks and, if you look hard, a sort of underlying affection which becomes even more apparent when the dramatic society is faced with a real drama.

The play was pencilled in for last December and work started in September and then came Lockdown II.

 Rob Phillips had rounded up the original cast who had appeared in three of David Tristram’s Little Grimley plays way back in 2007.

We remember their brilliant idea to combat falling numbers on and off stage with sex, resulting in their salacious Last Tango in Little Grimley, and sex also played its part in their Christmas offering of Last Panto in Little Grimley and who could forget, no matter who hard they tried, their attempt at an award-winning musical to challenge a new rival amateur company in The Fat Lady Sings in Little Grimley.

This latest in the saga is set in Lockdown I and we have social distancing, checked with a tape measure, no touching, no toilet rolls – remember the good old days of empty shelves – and Tristram’s script manages to walk a fine line between out and out comedy – apparently a Blue Whale is probably the only creature which could have sex during lockdown – and making a point without resorting to preaching about the devastating effect this pandemic, and the limited levels of support, have had on theatre and the arts in general.

Rich Tye’s direction brought out the fun and a poignant ending brought home the message. Theatre is stirring again. The arts will have casualties, there will be inevitable losses, but it will survive.

Finally, the other stars of this excellently acted and produced show were the front of house staff. A one way system was in operation, masks were worn, social distancing was well organised in allocated seating and even leaving the theatre was well controlled. The result was a friendly environment that left you feeling comfortable and safe which is all you can ask in these dark days. Theatre is back.  To 03-07-21.

Roger Clarke


(Tickets are currently sold out)


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