Back to reviews


2015 saw a general rise in standards of amateur theatre overall – I love what I do, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Societies who make us so welcome, and for giving us such diverse productions to enjoy.  We see more plays than musicals in a year now for Luton News reviews, which gives me a lot more to think about, as my background is musicals!

Musical of the Year must go Wizard of Oz from the Griffins, there were so many good things about this production, that on balance it ticked all the boxes for me, particularly as it is not a show I particularly like.  A very close runner up is DAOS for Hairspray – everything worked so well and it was very well-cast.  The energy and attention to detail on stage and in the orchestra pit was very good.

I have four youth productions to consider, and of those I think Parkfields School must take the honours this year, their production of Beauty and the Beast was charming, and considering all the year pupils take part in some way either on stage or behind the scenes, it is a massive undertaking and one which really showed the dedication of everyone involved.  Stage 1, Colin Smith and TADS Teens all gave us good productions, which were very colourful and had some really good performances.  Such a joy to see wonderful young people giving their all.

Dramatic Play of the Year goes to Dunstable Rep for The Diary of Anne Frank – a thought-provoking, well-acted and superior technical production, a difficult subject that really filled in so many gaps in our knowledge.  My runners up by a whisker being A Few Good Men from Griffins – excellent acting from a cast of very diverse ages, so good to see the younger men really stepping up to the plate and delivering a hard-hitting production, and Neighbourhood Watch from St Andrew’s Players – a well-directed and well-acted play with some fine performances.

I liked the Rep’s production of September in the Rain, which wins my Comedy Play of the Year – a two-hander that gave me some of my best laughs of the year, along with excellent performances.  Run For Your Wife from TADS and Yes, Prime Minister from the Rep, ran a close second, with fun and farce aplenty!

My Young Performer of the Year is shared between Abi Houghton, a charming Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, with good all-round skills, and Unami Tenga for Lance Corporal Dawson in A Few Good Men, he kept his character the whole way through, and didn’t veer from his military bearing.  An excellent portrayal.  Two young men who also shone were Reece Bithrey and Tom Arnold, both in Beauty and the Beast – they achieved a good level of performance.

My MD of the Year goes to Charlotte Tabert for Wizard of Oz (Griffins), and Beth Thomas for Hairspray (DAOS).  They both achieved amazing things with their bands and the musical numbers in both shows.  Graham Thomson brought his experience to bear for the PBGS production of HMS Pinafore, which makes him a worthy runner up.

Best Actress in a Play goes to Liz Harvey as Amy in Neighbourhood Watch, a superb performance, shared with Stephanie Overington for her in-depth performance of Anne Frank – excellent.  I also enjoyed the performances of Julie Hanns as Gerda and Rona Cracknell as Lucy, both in The Hollow, along with both Megan Clarke as Sybil and Leanne Lyndsey White as Amanda in Private Lives for the Rep, diverse but well-studied portrayals.

Best Actor in a Play is Tim Hayden who had two brilliant performances as Captain Markinson in A Few Good Men and also Martin Massie in Neighbourhood Watch, both very complex men, superbly played by Tim.  I was also impressed by Carl Connelly as Lieutenant Kaffee in A Few Good Men – a very telling performance, and Jaymes Sygrove in Private Lives for the Rep – a high quality portrayal.

Best Performance in a Musical goes to Lucy O’Hare for Tracy in Hairspray for DAOS and Nico Bamford for the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz – both gave very different performances that were so good in their own ways.

I have a new category this year, and that is Best Couple in a Play – which is shared by Jenna Ryder-Oliver and Joe Butcher for September in the Rain, and Susan Young and Alan Goss as Otto and Edith Frank in Anne Frank – both for the Rep.  Both couples created such wonderful relationships.

Best Couple in a Musical must go to Graham Breeze as Captain Corcoran and Paula Fraser as Josephine in HMS Pinafore for PBGS.  They complemented each other so well, both in singing and acting the parts.

Pantomime is always a good money spinner for Societies – I thoroughly enjoyed Griffins production of Sleeping Beauty which was technically very good, and Stage 1 always make me feel so happy with their lovely pantomimes where every young performer gets their chance in the limelight, with Stage 1 taking the honours for Best Panto for 2015.  Phoenix Players also gave us a bright, funny traditional Aladdin.  

Best Technical Achievement on all levels goes to the Griffins, for converting Venue 360 into a theatre, with so many good points – which must have been a very big undertaking for the Society, and which has obviously worked as they are doing it all again next year for their panto’s.  Just shows what can be done! - although as with all big projects undertaken there is a cost to it, and one which I hope will be worth all the hard work once again.  Technically the Rep always give us excellent sets too.

Director of the Year goes to Angela Goss for the Diary of Anne Frank – her insight and attention to detail, made this play outstanding.  Worthy of a mention is Richard Alexander for A Few Good Men, a difficult subject matter, well directed, and Alistair Brown for Hairspray.  It was also lovely to see Frances Hall directing Neighbourhood Watch for St Andrews, in what was a very good production.

Choreographically Ashley Mead shone for me with his Hairspray numbers – very well-conceived and performed.

Once again, can I thank everyone for their attention to detail in such innovative and technically brilliant productions, and to the actors who give us beautiful performances almost on a professional level which makes our local amateur theatre such a joy.

I still get asked how to get those precious bums on seats, and there is no real answer – but to all of you reading this who go and support local theatre, please, please make the effort to fit in one or two extra shows next year, to ensure our local Societies continue to thrive, as they are putting their all into their productions and need your continued support.

For a full version of this review, please go to my website at www.n-ovation.co.uk and you can also see reviews of all the shows I go to.

Nova Horley

Review of the year 2015

Luton News

By Nova Horley


Back to reviews