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

Playing an approving refrain

A Chorus of Disapproval


The Crescent Theatre


ANY doubts that this was a Stage2 production were dispelled within seconds with a well drilled cast of 38 in the opening scene.

Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy was written for a cast of 13 – with an option of extras and in Stage2’s case, extra extras, and, as in all Stage2 productions, no one is allowed on stage to imitate scenery or statues. Props decorate, actors act.

So even when the cast numbers soar everyone on stage is an actor, animated, part of the action, a character in their own right.

We open at the end, so to speak, with a triumphal staging of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera by the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society and effusive praise for the star, Guy Jones, from the director, Dafydd ap Llewellyn, Welsh as leeks and daffodils and with all the tact of a stag in the mating season.

He is played in an unlikable, abrasive yet ultimatey sad way by Ethan Tarr who, unless he is Welsh of course, keeps up the accent splendidly. This is a man in an unhappy marriage full of self-importance and little else, a bully who talks of his career on the professional stage – mainly in Minehead. He is a man whose only rpassion is as the artistic director of an amateur operatic society where he is neither well liked nor well respected.

Then we have the other main character Guy, played in a gangly, personable fashion by Tom Baker. Guy is a widower looking for an interest who has just joined the society. He is also someone who does not like to say no, nor to upset anyone or feel he has let anyone down, hence we see him progress from the minor part of  Crook Finger’d Jack  to Matt Of The Mint when a cast member storms out after a dressing down at full blast by Dafydd. Guy is willing to help out whatever the reuest.


Before that part is learned he is promoted to Filch, which is a bribe if only Guy knew it, until he reaches the heady heights of Macheath, the star of the show – another casting made in search of a favour - again when another cast member drops out after yet another fight. Whatever you want Guy will do it.

Meanwhile we have more subplots than an EastEnders omnibus with Guy ending up in affairs with Hannah, Dafydd’s wife, who is played with measured charm by Helen Carter, and cast member Fay, a swinger and sex on legs played by Priya Edwards. Then there is little bit of chemistry bubbling away from Rebecca Huntley, up market wife of down market captain of industry Jarvis.

Rosie Nisbet gives us a very superior Rebecca while George Hannigan’s Jarvis is a man back in the times of cobbled streets an’ sendin’ lad down t’ ‘ill fer ‘t Hovis; muck and brass all over him which certainly stands him out from the crowd.

Fay meanwhile is married to Ian who gives up his part of Filch, and his wife, to Guy in return for a favour relating to some land. Jordan Taylor plays him with a slightly sinister air and his size gives him an air of constant threat.

Crispin, played by Dan Nash, is in a relationship with Linda, played with wronged innocence by Jess Caton, and is also in the bed of stage manager and landlord’s daughter Bridget, played with a mix of sex and violence by Sarah Quinn.

Whatever the hold of Dafydd it certainly reaches to Linda’s mum and dad, the mothering Enid, played by an always concerned Sarah Kemp and the ineffectual Ted, last in the queue when charisma was handed out, played by Andrew Brown.


Scene changes are accomplished by nine excellent singers who provide a Beggar’s Opera chorus to chivvy things along while there is a 21 strong chorus, the extra extras, who fill the stage to help create a busy production and all take part in an excellent finale to both play and opera.

With music must come a mention of Mr Ames, played by George Bandy who was not only a member of the cast but provided the piano accompaniment.

The play has echoes Noises Off but whereas Michael Frayn’s comedy of a play within a play stands alone A Chorus of Disapproval is enhanced by at least a passing acquaintance with The Beggar’s Opera as the plots intertwine.

Not that it does not stand alone with its strong story line of corruption with four  parties all trying to gain the advantage in the sale of land adjacent to the site of the multinational firm where Guy works and where rumours of expansion are in the air.

Guy’s perceived inside knowledge is the key for attempted bribery from both seller and prospective buyers. And of course there is the serial adultery and sexual proclivities within the cast.

There is some pure Ayckbourn such as when Guy at telling Hannah their relationship can’t continue while cuckolded Daffyd is lighting the set and shouting instructions to the technical crew, or the row in the teashop between Fay and Hannah over what turn out to be a pair of Dafydd’s underpants.

At two hours 35 minutes, including interval it is perhaps a tad long for the Crescent studio where the seats would never win a comfort award and perhaps there is a little too much shouting and high energy scenes and not enough balancing subtlety and gentleness, but overall this is another creditable production with trade-mark innovation from Stage2 and director Liz Light. As ever this excellent company are a pleasure to watch. To 11-01-13.

Roger Clarke

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