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The Creature Creeps

This Gothic comedy was penned back in '77 by Jack Sharkey, onetime jokes editor of Playboy.
“Dreadful is a relative term”, and his often clever spoof of the Transylvanian genre has many witty touches, and is amusingly self-referential. But it runs out of comedy steam a little towards the end, as the characters sit around listening to explanations of what's been afoot.
Director Kenton Church [who also dresses up to play the various Shtunken brothers] has assembled an excellent cast, including some stalwarts and several new faces. The range of accents is breathtaking. We're in the Carpathians, I think, but there are Americans, including the daughter of the Home Counties Baroness and her Mad Scientist spouse.
The piece really needs brazen, bold performances, and some actors achieve this better than others here. Peter White is excellent as the deformed Mord, as is Sylvia Lanz as the prim Teutonic housekeeper, knocking back tots of schnapps.
John Peregrine is the mysterious von Blitzen, with Rita Ronn as an imposing grande dame [beautifully turned out, as are many of the women characters]. The youthful US contingent is well handled by Sarah Trippett-Jones, Heather Lucas and James Oakley.
The sound effects [phonograph horns high on the castle walls] are brilliantly done in the manner of steam radio, and the set, with its tiny fenestrals affording a glimpse of figures on the stairs, magically makes this tiny stage into a cavernous baronial hall.

Michael Gray’s review from his Arts Blog


Building Blocks

Without doubt, this is one of the best performances by Little Baddow Drama Club that I have seen. The play is a comedy by Bob Larbey and perfectly captures all the horrors and frustrations of having building work done in your home, something that most of us can relate to. Of course, this subject supplies all the ingredients for a clever writer to produce a piece of work guaranteed to hit the spot with an audience, as long as the performers understand how to play it. In this production the interpretation was right on the button, by a director and cast who empathised completely with the characters. From start to finish they managed to capture the whole building experience without ever resorting to overplaying the parts or caricaturing the individuals, an admirable restraint by all concerned where to go over the top would have been so easy to do. There wasn’t a weak actor in this excellent production, everybody deserves a mention here and fortunately with a small cast, I have space to do them all justice.

The two builders, who were the ever-present labourers and a buffer between the contractor and the couple having the work done, were played by James Oakley and John Maybe. These work mates were well matched and shared a believable camaraderie in their attempts to keep both sides happy, whilst enjoying some banter between themselves. We have all met workmen like this, they were instantly identifiable, a fine piece of character portrayal by them both. Jon Peregrine played David, their boss. We have all met him before too in some guise or other, the boss of the outfit who came up with one excuse after another for not fulfilling his promises, in the hope that this would give him a quiet life whilst at the same time diffusing the developing mistrust between him and his clients. Essentially a likeable personality, doomed to disappoint by trying to keep all the balls in the air at once. John was perfect for this role. The other tradesman on hand was Brian the carpenter, played convincingly by Mike Gordon. I have not seen this actor perform before and instantly liked his delivery of dialogue and expressive eyes, another good comedy actor who looked totally at home on the stage. The hapless young couple employing this gang, were Sara Thompson as Mary and Martin Lucas as her husband, Jim. What a pair of innocent novices they were and so endearing in their gullibility. They became so stressed as the action progressed that by the end of act one I was feeling quite stressed for them too! These parts were not easy to play, they had to pitch their characters just right in order to seem nice people without making themselves look like fools. The fact that they achieved this effortlessly is a testament to their good acting and excellent direction. I enjoyed previous performances by Martin and in my opinion he has quality comic timing. Another excellent example of good casting, they were made for each other. So, all in all a fine cast and a funny play, the icing on the cake being the speed and delivery of dialogue from everybody, which was natural and confident.

Finally I really must mention the set, what a great piece of scenery! Congratulations to all those concerned in the design and construction. Next production is in November and I do urge you to go along and see what they can do, always something different on offer and always worth the visit.

Review by Cheryl Rogers


Murder Play

Murder Play

Murder Mystery Evenings are everywhere these days: on trains, in hotels, at stately homes …

Not surprisingly, Little Baddow's first foray into this popular genre is a cut above the usual cardboard Christie/Cluedo offering. Brian J Burton's play, while not Priestley, or even Francis Durbridge, does have some clever twists in its fifty minutes, and it is performed, without a hint of tongue-in-cheek irony, by an accomplished cast, directed by Lindsay Lloyd.

Caroline Ogden is superb as the cool, calculating wife, who, she confesses up-front, has done away with her husband, on the sofa, with a hat-pin. Supper guests John Peregrine and Vicky Tropman, not without murder motives themselves, become cleverly manipulated accessories after the fact. Ken Rolf is the Cornish bookseller; his sole contribution before the interval an "old-fashioned look" directed at his scheming spouse …

Discussion ensues over the canapés, the audience tables encouraged to provide their own resolution to the plot – Friday night's suggestions included Max Clifford, Fifty Shades and sapphism, though not all at once.

The swift dénouement – everything wrapped up in five minutes – is skilfully handled; while every member of the capacity audience had differing views on the motives and morals of the characters, we all agreed that this format [murder mystery in the round with food and drink] was a welcome addition to Little Baddow's repertoire.

Written by Michael Gray


Lord Arthur Saville's Crime

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime

Another classic drama from Little Baddow, with the admirable production values we have come to expect at the Memorial Hall.

The Grosvenor Square drawing-room is skilfully suggested in a set which is solid, convincing and beautifully dressed. The characters are generally well costumed, too, with some stunning outfits for the Aunts.

This adaptation of a short story is not The Importance, of course, though we are reminded of it in the opening moments, when Arthur is overheard at the piano by his manservant. These two roles were excellently played by Martin Lucas, nice but dim, with expressive features and body language, and James Oakley, erudite and unflappable, with scene-stealing sideburns.
Sarah Trippett-Jones gave us a lively, flirty Sybil, and there was strong character work in support from repertory actors Paul Randall – a saturnine palmist – and Ken Rolf – the doddery Dean of Paddington.Grandes dames aplenty, including an imperious Vicky Tropman and Gill Peregrine as an annoying Aunt. Not forgetting Jake Hawkes as the incompetent anarchist.

John Peregrine's enjoyable production showed commendable attention to detail – the scene changes covered by Ibert, and the clever curtain call.
Written by Michael Gray


Rebecca

Rebecca

Ah, Rebecca. Great book, Great Film. I’ve never seen the play performed before and wondered how it would translate to the stage without the majesty of an actual country house as the setting for mannerly, the home of Maxim de Winter and where he bring his new young bride just a year after the death of his first wife – Rebecca, of the title. In fact it worked very well.

Where to begin? There are so many excellent characters in this story and from the opening scene were straight away introduced to two of them. Catherine Bailey who played Beatrice Lacey, the sister of Maxim de Winter, capitalized on all the extrovert opportunities of this role and was a pleasure to watch every time she appeared. Her husband (Joe Kennedy) made a fine foil for her and they were well cast as a married couple. Trevor Edwards as Frank Crawley, had the task of setting the scene and linking the story lines with explanation. An actor like this, with clear dialogue, was a helpful character when telling a complex tale in a couple of hours. Then there was the rather intense personality of Max De Winter played by Darren Matthews, Who managed to convey the aloof qualities required. Together with amused tolerance of his young bride. Sara Thompson played the new wife and was spot on with her characterization. She looked perfect for the role, her costume and hair being just right for the period and portraying the young bride as anybody already familiar with this story, would expect. She is a good actress and made an excellent Mrs De Winter.

Now to the villain of the piece- the sinister Mrs Danvers. Always a favourite with the audience, Vicky Tropman proved yet again what a fine actress she is. It is a great temptation to ‘go over the top’ with this difficult role so it was to her great credit that she gave the character just the right amount of evil. I particularly enjoyed the slightly deranged agitation she showed during the final scenes, whilst quietly looking through the late Mrs De Winter’s diary as the other characters on stage played out the story.

A splendid performance. The final scene of the fire consuming Manderley, was exceptional for a small stage, with clever lighting, effects of flames and well judged billowing of smoke as the fire spread. Congratulations to the cast, their director Lindsay Lloyd and those who designed the set, it all resulted in a very successful production.
Written by Cheryl Rogers