Sunday 24 October 2010
Rebecca In The Scout Hut
It was much as expected. A full house (we don't get much in the way of entertainment on the estate since Fiery Dave and his souped-up wheel-spinning Subaru moved, thanks to the petition and umpteen Asbos, to East Kilbride), uncomfortable chairs pinched from the Mixed Infants, intermittent lighting, and a biting wind through the window that never got mended after the Brownies had a bit of a fracas during last Easter's performance of Riverdance. Still, we were all there, in the scout hut, more in hope than expectation (as always) and we weren't disappointed.
The am-drammers had copped out (in my opinion) on the settings and used the backdrops from last year's panto (Jack and the Beanstalk). Therefore, Manderley (interior and exterior) was the giant's castle, the South of France was the market square minus The Village Children but sadly still plus the painted-on cow, and the Gothic atmosphere (such as it was) was provided by the lights being turned on and off very quickly backstage. Well, until the moment they all fused, then - until they were fixed - it was down to three people with torches aided by several rows of the audience who, remembering that ill-fated coach trip to see Barry Manilow at Blenheim Palace, held their lighters aloft.
Avis from the Co-op was The Second Mrs de Winter. As Avis is 53 and - given her build and incipient moustache - had been the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, she wasn't that convincing as a frail and nervous child-bride, but her twin-set and tweed skirt were lovely. It was slightly disturbing that Maxim was played by Larry the postman. Now, there's nothing wrong with Larry and he can act his socks off when he puts his mind to it, but Avis is his mum - so you see the problem. We all tried to suspend disbelief and any squeamishness, but it tested even the most ardent theatre-goer at times.
The am-drammers are a small group, therefore there was the usual doubling-up of roles. Mrs Danvers (played with terrifying authenticity by the vicar's wife, leading us to discuss in the intermission - egg sandwiches with concrete crusts and polystyrene beakers of tepid tea - just exactly what home-life was like in the vicarage) was also Bee and, after lots of muttering and rustling and quick-changes of jacket/hat/beard in the wings, Sid Newman from the garden centre became Jack Favell,Frank Crawley, Frith and Giles. Any scenes that involved more than one of these characters were relegated to off-stage conversations aided and abetted by Gorgeous George (a nickname given with full rustic irony) from the garage who was the narrator. A narrator, we all felt, was essential, given the gaping gaps in the script.
Jasper (Avis's elderly Jack Russell was substituted for the springer spaniel of the original) made several impromptu appearances. Usually when he wasn't required. And eventually he went to sleep in the middle of the stage, snoring loudly, and no-one could shift him so everyone just stepped round him. Except Avis during one of her most wither-wringing scenes when she tripped over him and uttered a line of such eye-watering profanity that Dame Daphne must have groaned in her grave.
We were all, it must be said, really waiting for the burning of Manderley. It was well worth the wait. As we held our collective breath in a frenzy of anticipation, noises-off provided, by way of Gorgeous George rustling aluminium foil and blowing-across-the-tops-of-bottles (we could see this operation taking place so it did somewhat dilute the artistic tension), a lot of crackling and roaring, followed by the smoke machine, which was fairly impressive. I say only fairly as unfortunately the copious billows of thick grey vapour were caught in the draught from the Brownies broken window and rolled, like a Victorian pea-souper, away from Manderley/Giant's Castle and the stage generally and wafted across the audience. As the first four rows disappeared in the murk, everyone nostalgically agreed that it was just like being in the snug of the Weasel and Bucket before the smoking ban. Happy days!
Once the fog had cleared and someone had woken Jasper, and the vicar's wife (aka Mrs Danvers at that point) had stopped screaming, the am-drammers took their bows and got three curtain-calls (there weren't any curtains but you get the idea). Then we all tidied our chairs and beakers away, and as we filed outside into night the general consensus was that Rebecca in the Scout Hut had been a resounding success.
Their next production will be the Christmas panto of course (Goldilocks this year - we're all assuming Avis will be taking the title role and stretching the imagination even further and that possibly all three bears will be played by Larry) and then, frighteningly, they're going to be tackling Ben Hur.
I will be reviewing it here. Maybe...