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Silchester Players - Old Time Music Hall

15th to 16th and 22nd to 23rd October 2004.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

It’s the way they tell ’em

Silchester Players: Old Time Music Hall, on Friday, October 15, Saturday, October 16, Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23

Silchester Village Hall was transformed into a ‘cavern of conviviality’ last week, as the resident players presented their Old Time Musical Hall, directed by Stephen and Beryl Oliver.

Music Hall, like pantomime, is one of those peculiarly British theatrical traditions. First and foremost, it relies heavily on audience rapport and participation, and for this you need a good strong chairman with an engaging personality. Ian Hartwell settled easily into this role, with his customary selection of hyperbolic introductions to the various artists and some well chosen one-liners.

The Ladies of the Chorus opened and closed each half of the show with colourful costumes and tight choreography by Trevor Dobson and Sarah Oliver, encouraging the audience to join in with classic favourites such as All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor and Don’t Dilly Dally On The Way.

The programme included a range of comic scenes and individuals songs – some familiar and some less so. The first act opened with a hilarious rendering of There’s A Little Yellow Idol, with the hapless reciter (Brian Gillett) constantly interrupted by two military gentlemen in the audience (Keith Graham and John Coffin) who had their own spin on the story.

Keith also showed his comic talents (along with Mandy Larby, Lyn Davies, and Caroline Norton) in Bacchanalia, a sobering tale about the perils of home-made wine, while Brain Gillett teamed up with Kevin Belcher and Midge Bancroft to give us a very different perspective on marriage, through the eyes of a preying mantis.

Sarah Oliver was in fine voice with a delightful little number entitled Did Your First Wife Ever Do That?, while Tony Oliver gave a hearty performance of the Music Hall favourite If It Wasn’t For The Houses In Between and Flanders and Swann’s little gem Have Some Madeira M’dear.

Kevin Belcher and Jill Hutchins both showed their versatility in a number of solo items – Kevin as a robotic circus act with a saucy monologue, and Jill as a superannuated fairy and an impressively flexible eastern dancer. Janet Taylor also revealed a fine voice and excellent comic timing in The Heir’s Return and Stately As A Galleon.

No Music Hall is complete without a melodrama, and John Coffen, Nick Lock, Brian Gillett, and Jo Nobbs brought us The Drunkard's Dilemma – with a shameless uncle, dark villain, damsel in distress and passing hero all eliciting the appropriate boos and cheers from the audience.

As usual at Silchester, the cast were clearly enjoying every minute, and their enthusiasm was infectious. We all left with a smile on our face, and that’s what Old Time Music Hall is all about.