SUMMER LOVIN’ June 2014, our last show of this season, was a revue based on the many aspects of love, the good, the bad, the funny and the sometimes ugly.
The revue was a compilation of poems, songs, extracts from novels presented in an informal format.
The material drawn from many generations of work by writers who have explored the lighter, the joyous and the sometimes darker sides of ‘love’ was extremely well received by audience during its 3 night run, and is definitely a format we will want to revisit in the future. The show also saw the first appearance of our new tiered seating blocks which we have made for the space and is just another example of how we are constantly seeking to improve the experience for audiences attending our shows.
SUMMER LOVIN’ REVIEW:
Stage Left Theatre Workshop's fifth show played out on 20-22nd June in their resident space above The Organ Grinder in Loughborough. It's quirky slopiness and narrow steep stairs set the tone for a night of amateur dramatics and amateur theatre, but Stage Left’s work is anything but amateurish. The Summer Lovin' revue is funny, moving, charming and perceptive all at once. The revue itself comprises of forty one sketches split into two halves; a mixture of songs, poetry, drama, dance and British Sign Language including two pieces by Stage Left's very own James Williams.
The opening "Elephant Medley" involves the players in a rip roaring opening sing song, slows gradually over the next four numbers to "Blow the Wind Southerly" delivered with depth and intensity by Rhea Heath, rises again to a male-only version of the well known "A Hard Day's Night" before more prose and poetry surround "Mr Waldo's Song" delivered by Anthony Church leading to a false summit for the first half, Tom Lehrer's "Masochism Tango" sung by John Tillotson (now minus the fascinator sported for an earlier piece!) and danced by Lisa Wood and Kevin Biddlecombe complete with roses between their teeth. The sobering "Epitaph" by Lady Katherine Dyer, stepping stones to the innuendo-laden "I got it from Agnes" delivered by James Williams, the actual conclusion of the first half.
The interval provides opportunity to partake of the excellent cask ales and ciders available downstairs and also to attempt the quiz provided upon entry testing background knowledge of the pieces in the revue, their background and their links to popular culture. The second half opens with an extract from "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by Lisa Wood leading to the popular "Tell Me on a Sunday" and Auden's "Stop All the Clocks" revived in 90s hit "Four Weddings and a Funeral" before Daniela Butturazi takes to her knees, brush in hand in "Polly Garter's Song" from Under Milkwood striking the perfect balance between the upbeat and poignant. Rhea Heath lends her clipped tones perfectly to "Yes I'll Marry You" by Pam Ayres, served incredulously with a delicious hint of scorn and Cat Steven's ballad "Father & Son" is given a captivating new layer as it is translated into BSL by Kevin Biddlecombe. This immediately follows the first of James Williams work's two outings, "Office Love" then later "Tree Sexual"; on the surface a "nudge nudge wink wink" exploration of an unusual 'branch' of sexual preference, but looking closer a potential comment on a modern need for everything to have a name when sometimes love and sexuality need no identity, just to be left as they are.
There are two players noticeable by their lack of apparent participation, Jennifer Tillotson and Mahendra Mehta. This is remedied by JenniferTillotsons haunting delivery of Carol Ann Duffy's "Havisham" from her darkened corner where she has been operating the lights and Mehta getting his groove on with the rest of the cast as the second half reaches it's crescendo as it began with a show-ending rendition of "Summer Nights" from Grease. After the imaginary curtain descends the actors mingle with the audience, chat about the performance and are bathed in admiration and praise well deserved after an evening of "amateur" dramatics which has been anything but. "Summer Lovin'" offers the perfect mix of humour, intelligence and pathos to delve into the heart of any feeling person and is £5 and two hours of anybody's time well spent. The programme promises four further productions next season which I for one shall be anticipating eagerly.
I leave the reader and players of Stage Left with the elastically interpreted words of the Bard (his sonnets and comedies curiously absent from the line up);
"If music be the food of love, play on
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting
The appetite may sicken, and so die."
‘BRONTE’ by Polly Teale - March 2014 we performed this brilliant play about the legendary Bronte sisters from Haworth, authors of such classics as ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’. The play blends events from the sister’s lives with extracts from their novels.
‘Your four women were exceptional in their strength and conviction. The whole group worked so well together and brought to life a whole part of the Bronte world of which I was only superficially aware. I feel I need to find out more. What a superb location for the telling of such a story. Thank you all for such compelling interweaving of characters of fact and fiction.’
‘We really enjoyed the play and were bowled over by the impact, commitment, energy and the capacity of the cast to deliver at such a level over two or more hours . I thought all the performances were great with particular merit in each one and, one thing we've been talking about, is how you managed to coax such delivery from them - and especially the younger ones!!’
‘Really enjoyed it. Good to see that type of work being tackled, I also thought venue and design was very effective.’
‘Just returned from the Organ Grinder in Loughborough after watching a performance of ‘Bronte’ by Stage Left Theatre Workshop. The plot weaved in and out so superbly I was entranced by it from the outset. Well done!’
Last night was exceptional. In just over a year Stage Left Theatre Workshop has created a company to rival any other non-professional group. Some of the performances last night would have pleased any professional who gave them and any audience who saw them.
Anthony L. Church
Heart string pulling, gut wrenching, tear jerking, powerful, passionate and utterly brilliant performance from you all tonight!! ThankYou!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What a fab evening my friends and I had on Saturday at the Bronte play. None of us really knew what to expect but it far exceeded what we had imagined. The acting was brilliant and the links between the Brontes themselves and the characters from the books was perfect.
It was a really amazing night, and we hope to come along to more!
What a difficult, complex script for professionals to tackle, let alone a community theatre group. The group didn't let you or the play down. The commitment to each other and to the production was so strong that you felt they could tackle anything. Because they worked so well as a group, I'm loathe to dwell on individual performances. Indeed the strength of the production lies in thet total commitment made by everyone, even though there is a varied acting experience. The pace was terrific and maintained beginning to end. It is the intensity, relieved by some fun scenes, that carries the production. You begin to realise what it must have been like for these people to continually face each other.
I have to say that the staging encouraged this, with the audience on two sides and the actors able to forget about sight lines.
What an excellent theatre you have established. No doubt, it has its drawbacks, but from an outsider's viewpoint it is an imaginative use of space. I liked the feel of it. I don't know what lighting you have, but it worked well. Some of the lighting effects were magical. I really took to the light on the rich, chestnut coloured table, which was well used by the actors as a table and as a raised stage. All the group moved well in the space. I can just imagine what care you had to take to achieve this.
You have developed something very special with this theatre and group. From absolutely nothing.
Maurice Gilmour (Ex Drama Advisor - Leicestershire)
‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ - December 2013 we performed another version of this Charles Dicken’s classic with live music and the opportunity for audience to sing along to some suitably festive carols which have been incorporated into the performance. This was performed at the Organ Grinder on 3 nights with the Saturday performance being a BSL interpreted performance.
‘A Christmas Carol’ Reviews (19/20/21st December 2013)
Hi, just wanted to say well done to you all tonight, my family and I really enjoyed it and thought it was such a great performance. I cant wait to see it again with Sarah tomorrow.
"Thanks for getting our Christmas off to a flying start last night JT, great performance from all the Stage Left-ers !
Merry Christmas, from all the Firth family."
This show has to be revived and done again in the future......it deserves to be further expanded and be given another new ‘treatment’ when we ‘see another Christmas’. Well done to the excellent cast and the superb staging of the piece in its ‘traverse’ setting upstairs at the Organ Grinder, Loughborough. What is excellent about the show is its simplicity and its clear telling of the tale. This play could be performed in any community venue and the group are keen for it to be accessed in this way in future. The show is a non-stop hour of real pleasure!
‘A MAN OF HUMBLE BEGINNINGS’ October 2013 has been a tremendous success. The 2 performances at ‘Upstairs at the Western’ in Leicecster for the ‘Everybody’s Reading Festival’ were extremely well received by audiences + the after show discussion at the Thursday performance saw a large group of people chatting for over 30 minutes about Amos, the events covered in the play and more technical matters about how the group had put together this highly inventive ‘one-man show’.
Review of ‘A Man of Humble Beginnings’:
A review of A Man of Humble Beginnings
The mainstream media (‘our so-called serious local newspapers [and local radio station]‘) ignored the production last week; in spite of two releases. They obviously intend to continue the writing out of history of Amos Sherriff. They can try! We will continue to be little terriers snapping at their heels. Nevertheless, a friend of mine who uses the handle, Easy on the mayo sandwich boy, provided this small review, so many thanks to him.
AMOS SHERRIFF: PLAY TELLS A PIECE OF FORGOTTEN LEICESTER SOCIALIST HISTORY
A Man of Humble Beginnings charts the life of Leicester socialist, Amos Sherriff. Although originally written for four actors, it received its premiere as a one man show performed by its author, Tony Church, with recorded voices and photographs at the Upstairs at the Western theatre in the city on October 1st and 3rd.
The play appears to take place in the head of the dying character and uses his memories from the nineteenth to early twentieth century. During this time, Amos Sherriff learns as a young man to read and write (taught by a Salvation Army woman), leads an unemployed march of 400 men from Leicester to London and moves the motion to give Leicester its city status back.
Most poignantly, he reveals that brutal treatment of a fellow child worker (Amos started work in a brickworks when he was six) stirs the socialist conscience in him and makes him what he becomes, “Us ain’t meant to live like this.”
The production by Stage Left Theatre features a lectern at which Amos makes his public speeches and as it becomes clear that Amos sees little difference between his Christian and socialist views, this could also be representative of a pulpit.
Maybe the play should have had four actors, but Tony Church gives an enthralling performance as Amos Sherriff. There is immense power in the scenes with public speeches, but the Amos in private is also handled with aplomb. The development of Amos from what he describes as being from the gutter to accomplished working class politician is a credit to the writing and performance. The voices in his head work well and their pictorial representation adds to, rather than detracts from, this one man show.
Although the performances have only just ended, I hope that it is not long before the play is revived, as it is a good contribution to a small political theatre scene.
‘SEVEN SAMURAI & MASK PIECES’ @ Organ Grinder, L’boro on 28th & 29th June 2013.
The shows were well received by enthusiastic audiences on both nights. On the Saturday it was standing room only for the show!
12TH NIGHT (Fearon Hall, L’boro - Feb 2013)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Organ Grinder, L’boro - Dec 2012)
This was performed as a ‘one man show’ with interactive projected images and soundtrack.