Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Newbury Dramatic Society - Curtain Up

17th to 20th November 2010.

This review is from the Newbury Weekly News.

The best laid plans...

Turn in to comically testing times when NDS transform a theatre

Newbury Dramatic Society: Curtain Up, at New Greenham Arts, from Wednesday, November 17 to Saturday, November 20

Curtain Up by Peter Quilter is the story of five women who inherit equal shares in a run-down theatre and set out to bring it back to life.

The five - the daughter, ex-wife, second wife, mother and secretary of deceased owner Michael - make unlikely business partners, and their efforts to overcome their personal differences, while battling to turn the theatre around, create the comic setting for the play.

As various fund-raising efforts fail to bring in the necessary funds, the women organise a special concert featuring a guest appearance from Liza Minnelli, but things don't go according to plan.

Newbury Dramatic Society tackled the comedy with enthusiasm and used the New Greenham Arts studio theatre to good effect, making subtle changes to the set through each scene to indicate the gradual transformation of the theatre.

The cast settled quickly into their respective roles, and the tensions between the characters were well handled from the start.

Jenna Sharpe was particularly strong as Michael's 'executive assistant' Sharon; her performance, brightly coloured appearance and mannerisms perfectly reflecting the well-meaning secretary's crazy lifestyle and aerobic excesses.

Suzy Hudson as Theresa skilfully captured the daughter's twee, amiable manner and Mandy Cole gave a confident performance as her mother Pam, expressing her anxiety at being thrown into a difficult and unfamiliar situation and her resentfulness at having to work with Michael's second wife Jackie. Pam's reluctant appearance 'on stage' as a substitute Liza Minnelli was particularly well handled.

Sarah Enticknap, as Theresa's grandmother Betty, had some very funny lines and delivered them with good comic timing, but her character's age and bearing seemed a little inconsistent at times.

Finally, Caroline Tripp as Jackie played her part with style and handled the tension and eventual reconciliation with Pam very sensitively.

I shouldn't forget Christian Hudson-Pearson, the multi-tasking prompt who appeared very briefly as Sharon's boyfriend Steve, disguised as a bear.

On the downside, I felt that Peter Quilter's script didn't quite live up to the promising plot, and at times the players seemed to battle with some awkwardly-written lines. Nevertheless, director Ian Martin's strong cast worked well together and the end result was engaging and enjoyable.

MARK LILLICROP