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

four cast

Jon Richardson a Marty, Christine Bland as Crematia, Sheila Parkes as Lady Graves and Joan Wall as June with the trappings of a séance at rehearsals . . .

 yes, there were rehearsals . . .

The Haunted Through Lounge and Recessed Dining Nook

 at Farndale Castle

Hall Green Little Theatre


The problem with reviewing any contribution to the panoply of theatrical endeavours by The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society is that they are not very good – in fact mediocre would be far beyond their modest, and that is being generous, capabilities.

It is not just what, by convention, one has to refer to as the acting, which in this case is little more than people wandering on stage, often at the wrong time, and saying things which may or may not be the right lines, but it is also the technicals, which you suspect are operated by descendants of Shakespeare’s rude mechanicals.

In the TFAHETGDS, as we call them for short, sound effects are on CD, but simple programming, such as pressing track 12 or whatever, is beyond the wit of the technical department, thus we have endless tracks of aircraft, sheep, dogs, poultry and so on before the correct effect booms out. Lighting is sort of on and off, but not necessarily in the right order, and as for the set . . .

Props are there although not always in the right place or on or indeed off stage at the right time; scenery is . . . well seen, even if not as described, while what passes as acting is either the most overcooked ham, or wooden enough to be an insult to even the most gnarled tree. Lines are missed, or wrong, muddled or said at the wrong time, while entrances and exits and which doorway to use, are all open to negotiation.

In short their plays are daft, glorious, eccentric fun - theatre at its painful worst with perfomances only worthy of half a star for their valuable role in providing shelter and warmth on a stormy night, but, worth many more for the sheer entertainment value they provide.

We open mid rehearsal with producer Emily Beaton trying to complete a final run through in the hope the audience won’t notice the cast arguing and floundering on stage. Then it’s on with the Motley.

There is a plot, but don’t bother trying to follow it. Suffice to say there is a spooky castle that is, or maybe isn’t haunted, where the youthful Marty and his young, teenage bride (ages as in script rather than casting – director Louise Price had to take whoever turned up) are eloping, but on a wet stormy night their car breaks down and they end up at (dramatic music) Farndale Castle.

Any similarity to the start to Rocky Horror is pure coincidence (unfortunately – instead of Time Warp we just get warped). Here we meet the evil(ish) maid Crematia, played quite beautifully badly by Felicity who looks remarkably like Christine Bland. Her boss is Lady Graves played with all the autocratic air of the Guild’s chairperson, Mrs Reece, by Sheila Parkes.

Mrs Reece lets us know in no uncertain terms what she thinks about the committee decision to now convey announcements only in the newsletter, rather than being announced by the chairperson – not part of the play . . . but it had to be said - she announced. 


Debbie Donnelly in doctor mode, granddaughter attached in sling, with Joan Wall's June having her . . .temperature(?) taken.

Marty is Gordon, or Jon Richardson as his friends know him. Gordon has stepped in instead of some woman or other so obviously wears a dress. She was playing a man, Gordon, sorry! So, we start with a quick change.

June is TFAHETGDS regular Thelma, played by Joan Wall with a mix of bolshy and argumentative when it came to the other cast, and a performance from the OTT school of drama when it came  to the audience.

Then there was Jasmine, played by Debbie Donnelly, who pops up as an Old Yokel, (still hanging on), Arnold Death, the doctor (sadly now deceased), Dr. Blood the neurologist (also sadly now deceased), and the Reverend Tombs (ditto).

The dead Rev had the distinction of being the only known corpse still able to rock the pram of his, or really her, granddaughter while undergoing decomposition.

Into the mix we have an orphanage where June was left as a child and a necklace left to her by her mother, stolen from her (when she remembers to put her hand over it to hide it hanging around her neck whenever the theft is mentioned) by an escaped inmate of a nearby facility for the criminally insane. He is a dangerous madman with the distinguishing feature of an arm very similar to a plastic skeletal claw for Halloween from Poundland.

At some point there is no one on stage and the lights come on, so we assumed that was some sort of interval and then at the end there are a lot of people dead, the secret of the cellar and the necklace has been revealed and . . . some other stuff. All the cast, dead and alive, appear and take a bow, and then we could go home.

This is the same team who ruined brought Chase me up Farndale Avenue, s’il vous plait to the stage in April this year and, if we are honest, they have not improved. They still give bad a bad name and are still great fun.

Anyone who has ever been on stage will know that to be as bad as this lot appear to be you have to be pretty good. It only works if timing is spot on, wrong lines delivered or fumbled correctly, and entrances and exits messed up with precision and all with sound and lights malfunction on cue. And this lot manage it magnificently.

It is just as hard to put on an intentionally bad production as it is to put on a good one, and this is gloriously bad, an evening of daft, hide away from it all humour and welcome escapism in these troubled times. So if you have recovered from April's French sojourn, this is a chance to confirm TFAHETGDS are nothing of not consistent.

And, a small point, although not aimed specifically at children, daftness is universal, so it can be seen as a family show, my two grandsons, eight and 12, both found it fun and enjoyed it.

TFAHETGDS will be endeavouring, fruitlessly, to get it at least within shouting distance of getting it right to 28-10-23

Roger Clarke


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