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I was a little perturbed about the concept of the show – a musical about the Bryant & May factory staff, the illness caused by their exposure to phosphorus, and their struggle for equality, aided by Annie Besant.  But what I saw was a gritty, believable production, showing us the struggles of the working population in 1888, with some good old East End knees-up type music, interspersed with meaningful numbers, all of which was delivered beautifully by the cast.

The set was minimal but nicely thought out and constructed, giving the cast room to move freely, and incorporating different levels for visual interest.  The props were also good and in keeping with the period, which all helped with the authentic feel.  

I liked the lighting, it enhanced the various moods encompassed in the piece, and helped create a lot of the feel of the times.  The start to Waiting was very atmospheric too.  Sound was also good throughout.

St Andrew’s Church is a lovely venue to stage such productions, as the atmosphere of the church helps with the atmosphere generally.

Costumes were all very suitable for the period, with the workers clothes contrasting nicely with the more opulent wear of Annie Besant and George Bernard Shaw.  

The choreography was good, I particularly liked Mind you Bert, and the finale, which incorporated the bows.  We’re Gonna Show ‘Em was very forceful, which was great for the music.  Everything appeared to work well, and was suitable for the cast and the music, so it all looked natural, but was interesting.  La Di Dah was a very rousing chorus.

Musically very good, even with a change of MD along the way, I was impressed with the general standard of everyone, and the band accompanied well.  I really liked the change of tempo between the verse and chorus in Mind you Bert, and there were some nice harmonies along the way.

Act 2 Scene 7 was a lovely moment between Joe and Kate.

Jo Yirrell created a lovely character as Kate, the leader of the strike who was befriended by Annie Besant, and encouraged by her to do something about her lot in life.  Emotionally and musically Jo was both charming and tough, and showed a caring side when confronted by the other girls and their problems, and then her indecision about whether to go to America with Joe or not (which in the end turned out to not be needed).

Michelle Arnold created a lovely foil to Kate, as Annie Besant, and also showed a certain deference to George Bernard Shaw, who was very nicely played by Malcolm Farrar.  We got the feeling of the friendship between the two, who looked perhaps to each other for reassurance and advice.  A nice pairing, ably assisted by Frances Hall who played Annie’s assistant Paula.  I got the feeling of a warm friendly lady who looked after her employer very well.

Allanah Rogers was a lovely Polly, showing all the confidence of a teenage girl, whilst not being sure what the next day would bring.  Sang and acted very well, I think this is probably the best thing I have seen Allanah do.

Mrs Purkiss gave Tracey Chatterley the chance to craft a motherly yet firm woman, wanting the best for her daughter and herself.  I really felt for them when Winnie lost her baby.  Keri Marie Barnett was a new face to me, and I liked what she did with the part.

Valerie Mills was the ascerbic Old Min, a part which really suited her, with Sharon Robinson as Maggie, again plenty for Sharon to get her teeth into, well-acted.

I liked Evie Wright’s rather sly Jessie, trying to win Joe’s affections away from Kate, a good characterisation.

Karen Franks as Dot showed the two sides of life with her relative acceptance of the work, and then her anguish when she was hurt.  

As the only child in the cast I thought Charlotte Lovelock gave a very well-crafted performance as Louie, she really held her own with the adults, and again it was probably the best portrayal I have seen from her to date – well done!

Then we come to the men, not often that in general they took a back seat to the strong ladies, but they all had their own characters and didn’t disappoint.

Reece Lowen was a good Foreman Mynel, only appearing at the beginning, but a good strong portrayal of an unforgiving man, intent only on getting the work done.  Reece then took on the role of Tom, a nicer more jolly part altogether.

Terry Mills was Mr Potter, who cast doom and gloom with his predictions, a nice part.

Bert and Perce two of the dockers were played convincingly by Unami Tenga and Scott Newman respectively, helping keep the balance between male and female very well.

I liked Joe Hawkins as Joe, Kate’s boyfriend, he created some lovely moments with Kate, and although I haven’t heard him sing before he showed a very pleasant voice.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production, which I must admit I was not expecting to do, I liked the characters created by the cast, the musical numbers which were catchy and the thought-provoking premise of equality for women in a very unequal age.  Well done everyone, a good evenings entertainment.

St. Andrew’s Players


review date: 19th May 2018 - St Andrew’s Church

    Director: Malcolm Farrar Choreographer: Sarah Albert

MD’s: Emily Wright and Richard Cowling

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