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Silchester Players, Of Coarse

7th to 8th and 14th to 15th October 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Just bad enough to be good

Silchester Players, Of Coarse, at Silchester village hall, on Friday, October 7, Saturday, October 8, Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15

Nobody captures the essence of the ham actor like Michael Green. In his book The Art of Coarse Acting and a series of associated plays, he highlights the heroic qualities of those amateur performers who soldier on with desperate optimism while the production gradually falls apart around them.

Silchester Players provided a delightful evening's entertainment last week with three of the coarse acting classics, under the apt title Silchester Players, Of Coarse.

In the first of the trio, Oedocles King of Thebes, we encountered the tragic tale of the testosterone-driven ruler who takes advantage of the fair Ovary in the shrubbery, only to meet a fitting revenge at the hands of his victim - with the help of a sacred pair of garden shears. Alan Moorehouse as Oedocles and Mandy Larby as Ovary both brought plenty of comic tragedy to their roles, but it was the chorus, led by the over-zealous Priestess with halitosis (Caroline Statham), who really stole the show with their ear-splitting wailing, appalling timing and a wild determination to beat the king's corpse into submission with branches, literally leaving the poor actor turning in the grave.

The group then turned their attention to pantomime, with Mr Green's coarse-acting version of Cinderella. This was every amdram group's picture of panto hell, with the most improbable ugly sisters imaginable (nicely-played by Nick Lock and Kevin Belcher), a good fairy (Jill Hutchins) who struggled in vain to fly serenely around the stage, and a Cinderella (a very strong performance from Ellie Cullen) who was plagued throughout by missing props and missed cues. Alan Moorehouse appeared again, this time as Buttons, whose puerile stand-up routine and constantly roaming accent made the other characters wince at every turn. Mandy Larby's panto-cat-with-attitude (complete with a bottle of lager) and Caroline Norton's distinctly unhelpful and obtrusive prompter added further to the mayhem.

The third playlet of the evening, Henry the Tenth (Part Seven), managed to include every excruciating moment from the worst amateur Shakespeare, from the chorus (Stephen Oliver) repeatedly drowned out by an over-enthusiastic drummer (Sarah Oliver), to the Herald (a fine performance from young Matthew Leung), beaten repeatedly for bearing bad news, to the hapless Baron Smethwick (Kevin Belcher) who could never remove his sword from the scabbard at the right moment. The affable Alan Moorehouse was once again centre-stage as Lord Uxbridge, accompanied by Keith Graham as a distinctly Richard the Third-like Lord Amersham and John Coffin as the King. The battle in the woods and the ensuing comic events surrounding the swearing in of the new king (a baby doll that very quickly lost its head!) were a joy to watch and had the audience in hysterics.

Silchester Plays, of Coarse was a real credit to directors Brian Gillett and Keith Graham. A special mention must also go to the sound man Tim Oliver, who managed to get all the sound effects just wrong enough throughout the evening.