Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Full Monty

Phoenix Ensemble - Beenleigh

Friday 15th November, 2013

As Kate Peters would say: if it’s a bad final rehearsal, it’ll probably be a bad performance!” Well I’m only guessing that the Phoenix Ensemble have enjoyed some pretty good rehearsals of late because their performance is something all together wonderful.

We are all familiar, of course, with the now classic 1997 movie of the same name: a touching yet funny tale of six men made redundant after the closure of a mine in Northern England. Well it took the Americans to commercialise the piece, add a musical score and adapt the story for the stage. Now set in Buffalo NY, the musical version of The Full Monty opened on Broadway in 2000 to rave reviews. Whilst I am not always a fan of the “Americanisation” of a great story, this one seems to have worked as the pivotal characters remain, on the whole, unchanged. The fear and insecurity they face and later the camaraderie they embrace remains the same … just the accents are different.

This was my first visit to the “tin shed” in Beenleigh and what a wonderful little theatre it is. Set within the Beenleigh Show Grounds, this is a real “community theatre” – a close-knit company who clearly enjoys working together and is not afraid of putting in the hard work required to stage a show such as this. I have to say, I really enjoyed it.

Director Tracey Hutley has created some lovely moments within her blocking and in the way she has used a very cleverly designed set to move us from one location to the next. The large cast is tightly rehearsed and the normally private emotions these men are feeling are, at times, quite palpable. Whilst I felt the occasional, potentially important line was swallowed, mumbled or just lost in the accent, the principal performances are overall, outstanding. Stephen Dorrington is simply superb as the young dad, Jerry with far more to loose than his dignity. I really enjoyed Mr Dorrington’s performance – his background in ballroom dancing clearly made for his light, almost Puck- like step on stage. That combined with a strong voice and a charming vulnerability made his character portrayal so warm and believable. Speaking of voices, I must mention Adam Bartlett in the role of “mummy’s boy” Malcolm. What a superb set of pipes this man has – Mummy’s last goodbye is a beautifully moving scene.

The rest of the gents, Jason Lawson, Kevin Doyle, Tyler Stevens and Simon Ahhim all deserve a note of congratulations for not only spending much of the second act in their undies but again for the raw “realness” they brought to their characters. Then there is the afore-mentioned Kate Peters in the cameo role of Jeanette, the rehearsal pianist: simply hilarious! With the “Hollywood hair” jammed under a knitted beanie and a collection of nylon track-suits and souvenir t-shirts that would make any energetic Florida retiree proud, Ms Peters gives us a delightfully amusing interpretation of all “has-been” entertainers come repetiteurs everywhere.

It is apparent by the opening number that the choreography by Heather Scott is going to be a triumph … and one is not let down. The live six-piece band under the combined direction of Casy Chadwick and Nick Ng is tight and makes a pretty impressive sound for a small ensemble tucked away in a corner.

As I mentioned earlier, the set by the Director, Luke Hutley and Andrew Lea is a masterpiece of design and is beautifully finished by Mr Lea, Morgan Garrity and Ray Aubrey. Every mobile element serves multiple purposes and the industrial look places the play perfectly. There’s even a car – a real car with functioning head lights, a steering wheel on the left hand side and an American licence plate (it’s all in the detail!)

While I found the oversized headset mics a bit of an ugly distraction, I appreciate the need for them to be there (I just wish they could have found a smaller, more discreet model). Technically, however, the show is strong and Wayne Rudolph’s lighting is well considered and brings the stage beautifully to life.

This is a great script – tick. It has a lovely score – tick. And it is impressively staged and played by this devoted company of theatre-lovers - Tick! I really enjoyed The Full Monty at Phoenix … I look forward to my next adventure to Beenleigh.

No comments:

Post a Comment