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

Newbury Dramatic Society - World Première

6th July 2001.

By Charles Mander.

  • Abingdon Festival (ODNTF) in June and Hungerford festival in July.

  • Friday 6th July at the Mencap Hall, Enborne Road, Newbury.

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Over the top, with gusto

World Première by Charles Mander: Newbury Dramatic Society, at West Berkshire Mencap Centre, Newbury on Friday 6th July

If you go to an amateur drama festival, there’s a good chance that you’ll see at least one play about an amateur dramatic group making a mess of putting on a play. Why do amateur groups like these plays so much? Probably because it’s a way of saying, “We’re better than this”, but also because they are a lot of fun to do.

Newbury Dramatic Society chose World Première by Charles Mander, and they’ve taken it to three local festivals in the last month, ending up with a non-festival performance in Newbury in aid of Mencap. It’s the story of a group who are gathering for their technical rehearsal in a village hall, and it covers all the stereotypes associated with amateur dramatics: the bitchiness, the jealousy, the snobbery, the histrionics, the lecherous leading man, and of course the incompetence.

The play is an invitation to go over the top, and the cast did this with gusto. Particularly outrageous were Alistair Parry, as Stuart, the leading man, and Sarah Deal as the director’s drunken wife Ruth. Both of these had very expressive faces and made the most of the farcical opportunities in the play. Daphne Outwin played Val, the apologetic and put-upon prompt; this was a really good comic performance as she accepted her lowly role with some bewilderment. Mike Cole was good as Gordon, the harassed director, as was Rebecca Girdler as the man-eating leading lady. Gareth Warne played the battered rambler (I liked his hoarse croaks of “pills!”, or was it “Pils!” in an attempt to join the others in the pub?) and Jenny Coomer wielded a mean hockey stick as the Mothers’ Union rep.

In a farce like this, the pace needs to be very fast. This can only happen if the cast are confident with their words; this cast certainly were, and the pace was just right.

I had heard negative reports about this production from the Wallingford Festival. The performance I saw was polished, well acted and very funny, and a credit to director Alan Davidson.


There's another review under HADCAF.