Thursday 4th April to Saturday 6th April, then Wednesday 10th April to Saturday 13th April 2019
Directed by Tasmin Halford
Jefferson Steele is a fading Hollywood star. When he finds out his agent has landed him the title role in King Lear over in the UK, he believes he will be making his big comeback performing for the RSC. So he is somewhat dismayed when he arrives in England to discover that he has in fact joined 'The Stratford Players', a small local amateur dramatics company, fighting to save their theatre from closure.
Hilarity ensues as the worlds of Hollywood and Amateur dramatics collide. As Jefferson's ego, vanity and insecurities are pushed to the limit by the over enthusiastic thespians, he is about to be taken on a journey he never could've imagined.
As part of Bench's 50th Birthday year, join us as we celebrate all things AmDram with the play described as 'A love letter to the world of Amateur Dramatics'.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Jefferson Steel||Mark Wakeman|
|Dorothy Nettle||Angie McKeown|
|Mary Plunkett||Sue Dawes|
|Nigel Dewbury||Alan Welton|
|Denis Dobbins||Jeff Bone|
|Jessica Steel||Leila Millson|
|Lauren Ball||Suzy Gains|
|Journalists||Members of the cast and crew|
|Producers||Jaspar Utley, Mark Wakeman|
|Stage Manager||Jacquie Penrose, Zac Cuthbertson|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Archie McKeown|
|Lighting Design||Thomas Hall|
|Lighting Operation||Craig Parker|
|Sound Design||Howard Alston|
|Sound Operation||Emma Kaas Andersen|
|Flyer Design||Dan Finch|
|Set Design||David Penrose|
|Set Construction||David Penrose and Company|
|Prop Design and Construction||Julie Wood|
|Front of House||Megan Green|
|Live Music||Composed and sung by Archie McKeown|
The principal negative about the evening is the script. Adapted from a screenplay, it still feels filmic - but the theatre is unable to cut between locations and different times in the way a film can and so some scene endings feel odd. The plot, too, is fairly uninspiring - fading Hollywood actor with majorly bad attitude finds himself hoodwinked into playing King Lear in an amateur production and learns how to be human again because of the lovely, honest, hard-working people around him.
So far, so blah. But first-time director, Tasmin Halford, has drawn some fine performances from her cast. Top marks must go to Mark Wakeman as the Hollywood import, Jefferson Steel.
Mr Wakeman has been very inappropriately cast - and he plays this to its magnificent hilt. He even manages to make the saccharine ending bearable with the strength of his performance. There is lovely work, too, from Angie McKeown as Dorothy who is the hapless director trying to corral the ego that is Jefferson. As a counter to Wakeman's wonderfully big performance, McKeown's is small and controlled and she gives some magnificent comic delivery.
Leila Millson as Steel's daughter, Jessica, gives the most grounded and truthful performance.
Also great support comes from Sue Dawes, Alan Welton, Jeff Bone and Suzy Gains - and some excellent vocals from Archie McKeown. Played on a simple, effective set this production proves to be a great evening's entertainment. Both Bench Theatre and director Halford should be happy amateurs indeed.
James George, Portsmouth News, April 5th