Last night I sat down in the village hall with a pint in one hand and a pencil in the other, having been given the honour of writing the review just moments before. Thanks Woody! A chalice so poisoned it’s up for inclusion in the International Bill of Human Rights.
A skim of the programme let me know what I was letting myself in for – a litany of Pirton Player aristocracy, from Fausset’s to Welch’s and everybody in between. Time to settle in for PP’s 49th major show night...
Ok, so it’s impossible to name-check each and every contributor in this short piece, such was the number of those committed to making so many people laugh for 2 hours. Suffice to say, that the evening would not have happened without 28 cast members, over 20 backstage crew, front of house and bar, 13 Sketch Directors, 2 Show Directors (Loretta Concannon and David Woodward) and a Partridge in a Pirton Pear Tree. Numerous people doubled, tripled, quadrupled or in David Woodward’s case octupled (if that’s a word) across roles too. They are the ones with the heaviest bar bills and the glazed looks of people normally preserved for those with newborns, gout or wonga.com debt.
This is a review. No it isn’t. Yes it is...Penny Picken, Lucinda Rowe and Janet Eccles threw in a reprise of Python’s argument sketch with aplomb. Frankly it could have been filmed and put on BBC2 at 930pm. Michael Tackley’s singing ‘Have some Madeira my dear’ was surely his finest singing performance in Pirton Players colours. Graham Gibbs made a perfect super-imposed Monk to Peter Harding’s Godly inquisition. Penny and Ed Picken’s mediaeval duet ending in Ed’s request for Penny to raise her portcullis to let him come in, was a multi-layered and subtle performance; and Ed’s legs in tights were worth the entry fee alone. A reprise of Paul Kerswill’s 2003 Oliver, when he played Fagin so brilliantly, was a highlight, as he ‘reviewed the situation’. Four Yorkshiremen in Graham Gibbs, Tom Gammel, Peter Donovan and Stuart Alexander was another fantastic Python tribute. Woody’s (Show Director) doubling up as Dudley Moore’s unidexter/one-legged hopping Tarzan auditionee to Stuart Alexander’s Peter Cook was another fitting tribute to national comic genius; as was Valmai Guess’ and Clifton Hughes’ nod to Dave Allen’s ‘Fire’s gone out’ sketch – a one line sketch - personally had me in tears as it had done in the taster evening a couple of years ago. Lorna Sexton reminded us, in an alluring, dulcet, Plaid Cymru accent via the medium of poetry, that her ‘husband knows it all’. Naturally... A great turn Lorna, well done.
The evening also brought us a touch of Riverdance as Woody and Trevor Clark confessed to having ‘rhythm’, subsequently breaking into the Irish jig – I’m not kidding, I’m not making this up, that actually happened. Tremendous! A re-written (by Mark Sadler) version of The Two Ronnie’s Mastermind sketch raised the bar still higher, along with Mark’s take on the late great Mel Smith’s Natural History Professor having civilised a gorilla named ‘Gerald’, a simian semblance played by Stuart Alexander – a natural monkey.
The tributes weren’t limited to TV greats. One of the most raucous moments of the evening was a nod to the Group’s very first show back in 1995 – the laughing policemen sketch – with face painted stomachs and large helmets over their heads... You had to see it. Repeating this sketch 20 years on, reflected what Pirton Players is and has been all about. A superb salute to the back-catalogue of 49 shows – the blood, sweat, camaraderie, tears and tantrums of so many thousands of hours of rehearsals and show-time. Great stuff.
However, the Everest moment for me on the night, and for many others (I know, I asked, the privilege of this journalistic duty), was the final sketch, directed by Susie Welch, perhaps fittingly, given that it was she and her husband Geoff who were the Founders of the Group in the first place all those years ago – “If I was not upon this stage”. Describing this skit in written form doesn’t do justice to the choreography, costume, timing and hilarity that this song delivered. Well done to its protagonists; Paul Kerswill, Sue Kennedy, Dimos Mouskavios, Sophie Davies, Ed Picken, Lucinda Rowe and Tom Gammell. It was a very fitting finale, bringing the house down. An evening which gave such polished salute to many of the country’s finest comedians, reprised some of the Group’s finest moments too and entertained us all to the bottom of our pencil cases.
Here’s to our 21st year Pirton Players! And our 50th show in the autumn, Kiss Me Kate. [Review by: Toad (AKA Adam Nicoll)]
Audio Visuals - Mark Sadler
Bar Manager - Ed Picken
Costumes - Valmai Guess
Front of House - Barbara Robertson
Front of House - Margaret Johnson
Front of House - Rebecca Turner
Front of House - Victoria Turner
Make-up - Fran Manning
Make-up - Lucinda Rowe
Make-up - Victoria Turner
Pianist - Clifton Hughes
Posters & Programme - Roger Burton
Producer - Stella Turner
Props - Stella Turner
Rehearsal Pianist - Bette Woodward
Rehearsal Pianist - Margaret Johnson
Set Construction - Graham Gibbs
Set Painting - Stella Turner
Set Painting - Victoria Turner
Sound & Technical - Clive Griffin
Stage Crew - Joe Emler
Stage Crew - Paul Kerswill
Stage Manager - Viv Tyler
Technical Lighting - Peter Johnson
Tickets & Box Offce - Stella Turner
Choreography - Trevor Clark