Henley Players Pull Out All the Laughs in Am-Dram Comedy Show

A comedy play about a drama society performed by our local amateur dramatic group; the Henley Players had the audience laughing out loud in the production of A Bunch of Amateurs last week at The Kenton.

A Bunch of Amateurs follows an amateur dramatic group who are desperate to save their local theatre when they somehow get an American film star, Jefferson Steel to sign up to star in their production of King Lear.  Jefferson, signed up by his agent, thought he was going to perform the Shakespeare play in the famous Stratford-upon-Avon but ends up in Stratford St John, a sleepy village in Suffolk.

Jefferson, played brilliantly by Peter O’Sullivan holds his Hollywood/LA accent throughout.  After arriving in Stratford St John, realising it’s not the Stratford he thought it was he describes the theatre as “A pig s*** barn in the middle of nowhere.” As a mistaken A-list star by Mary (Rowena McMenamin) who throughout thinks he played leading parts in many box office hits, is besotted with him. Rowena’s facial expressions, actions and comic timing were very clever.

The star of the show for us with the best one-liners and double entendres was Denis the am-dram group’s bit-part actor played hilariously by Michael Mungarvan.  The funniest part involved him coming up with how King’s Lear eyes are gouged out and offering ingenious alternatives to Jefferson’s demands for a limousine, fresh flowers in his dressing room, mini-bar etc (no spoilers here).  We also loved his solutions to help Jefferson learn his lines.

Dorothy the troubled Director played by Pam Pitts-Simmons held her own throughout, delivering her long dialogues with ease and the awkward embrace and kiss with Jefferson which got cheers from the audience.

Steve Mappley’s rendition of the pompous Nigel the lawyer, embellishing even his everyday conversations with a Shakespearean flair, was a testament to his captivating stage presence delivering the lines of the larger-than-life character with gusto and pomp it deserved.

The ensemble’s hilarious struggles to juggle their day jobs with rehearsals were ingeniously woven into the storyline, underscored by the comical Skype appearance of one dedicated actor.

Jessica, Jefferson’s daughter played by Christie Southwick arrives from LA to stay with her Dad and ends up playing Cordelia in the play.  She cleverly switches from her hard-done by daughter with an LA accent to delivering Cordelia’s lines in Shakespearean English.  She’s involved in the dramatic ending which sees a new loving father-daughter relationship develop.

This production was the first for Julia Ashton who works on Henley Town Council in the Information Office.  She’s been a member of Henley Players for 3 years since she moved to the town.  Her direction, staging and use of props were clever and smooth, allowing the narrative to unfold with an effortless charm that kept the audience thoroughly engaged.

The Henley Players’ production of A Bunch of Amateurs is a testament to the enduring spirit of am-dram; blending uproarious comedy with heartfelt moments, leaving the audience enthralled and uplifted a true testament to the power of laughter and camaraderie.

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