The Algarveans’ latest production of “A Bunch of Amateurs” played to packed houses last weekend. The experienced, imaginative and talented director Paul Kloegman and a very strong cast brought Nick Hislop and Nick Newman’s superb comic script adaptation of the film to life in Lagoa Auditorium with wonderful characterisations.
Opening idiosyncratically with a large lantern rising from the stage to the title music from “The Phantom of the Opera”, the laughter began!
The main action takes place in the theatre-barn of a small Suffolk village called Stratford as Jefferson Steel, a Hollywood actor, arrives thinking to resurrect his failing career by taking on the role of King Lear in the birthplace of the Bard. He is the token celebrity needed by the “bunch of amateurs” to save their local theatre from closure and get the sponsorship they need!
Frank Remiatte portrays Jefferson Steel with ease – a tall order – the part requiring him to metamorphose from ‘selfish and arrogant’ to ‘genuine and caring’ as he reconciles with his estranged daughter confidently played by Ria Cowley. He also has to show his initial inability to read Shakespeare and progress to delivering an accomplished King Lear by the end. Perhaps Jefferson’s biggest challenge is the clash of egos with Nigel, the self-acclaimed leading man of the am dram group, flamboyantly and pompously played by Tony Sanders with consummate comic timing.
Dorothy is the company’s director and lynch pin of her group – she doesn’t suffer fools gladly and soon works Jefferson round. Deborah Kloegman is an accomplished actress and like her character she steers the play too. She subtly allows her character to soften and reveal the contrast between herself and Steel.
Mary, excellently performed by Tracey Christiansen, runs the local B&B – Steel’s lodgings. Star-struck and ever-hopeful, Tracey expertly gushes until her illusion is shattered during the hysterical “massage scene” with physiotherapist Lauren, played by a very glamorous Angela Theobold. Tracey has one of the best comic moments of the play when she plays the ‘woman scorned’ by Jefferson’s ‘betrayal’ – the audience were in stitches! Her interpretation was convincing though her costumes were perhaps too pretty for the character.
Carl Wilson in the part of Dennis, the odd job man, doubling as Steel’s minder, carries on as smoothly as his mobility scooter – “the limo”! This is Carl’s second appearance with The Algarveans and shows his great comic talent.
The minimalist set was pleasing and allowed the audience to concentrate on the actors. Creating the atmosphere of a small village theatre, it did at times limit the movement of the cast causing a few dips in pace – in contrast to the rest of the play which romped along at a great lick.
At the end, Jefferson asks the bunch of amateurs “Why do you do it?” Judging from the looks on their faces – obviously having great fun on stage – and the fabulous audience reaction, there’s his answer! The Algarveans’ director, cast and crew once more pulled off a night of first-class entertainment!
Review by MELANIE WINSTANLEY