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Monday, October 29, 2007

It's the hottest ticket in town...

Yours for a fiver.
Well, it's the hottest ticket in Brantham. Mainly because I stole it.

Anyhoo, I'm back from the Essex/Suffolk border (I still don't know which side of it Brantham Village Hall is on), I've networked with some of the leading lights of amateur theatre, and I've learnt that Ledgers can be improved with a bit of music and a dance routine. I've also witnessed an outrageous act of theft by Lisa, but I said I wouldn't mention that.

NCP Car ParkWe made it up to Chelmsford on Saturday afternoon with Lisa snoring around the M25, and her mother and I chatting about the weather whilst sitting in the traffic jam on the right (it's so handy when the BBC provide photos of your journey for you). Once at my parents' house, My Mum let us eat cake, while I watched Lisa's mother win £22 on a horse called Crime Scene. That name would seem quite appropriate six hours later when Lisa's light-fingered tendencies came to the fore, but as I say, I won't be mentioning that.

At 6pm the five of us piled into two cars, having established that no one wanted to squeeze into the back of one with me, and we headed up the A12 to Brantham. Having located the village hall in the dark, I chose a convenient parking place next to a fire exit, and we made our way around to the front of the hall where I found my Dad trying to break into a glass-cased noticeboard to steal a piece of paper with my name on it. Fortunately he failed. He should have asked Lisa for advice. She's the expert on theft.

Once inside, I met Angie Heath, leading light of the Brantham Amateur Theatrical Society, director of numerous plays, and sole organiser of the 19th Brantham Play Festival. Although at the time I didn't know who she was. Angie liked the look of me enough, however, to hand over two free tickets and a free programme, before turning down my Mum's request for another four programmes, on the grounds that they might run out. We eventually compromised on two. I thought Lisa might steal the others, but she didn't.

Ledgers, now in its second glorious year.Ledgers was one of two plays being performed that evening (the other seven were on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, so I missed seeing Wivenhoe Youth Theatre in Bed together), and featured the same cast as last year, but with a different director. According to the programme, there was no one in charge of lighting or sound, so it's a miracle it wasn't performed in silence and darkness, but hey, at least Alma Bowen was on time.

Taking over the director's chair this time around was Val Eldridge who, as mentioned last November, is chairwoman of the East Bergholt Dramatic Society. Val's fingerprints were noticeable in a number of places, most notably in the new intro and outro music ('Suicide is Painless' and 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'), the smartening up of Robyn and Malcolm, and in a number of nice touches, particularly this bit...

Eyes Wide Shut
... which will mean nothing to anyone who hasn't seen the play. I also liked Pete's new John Travolta impression in the bit where he says "I, for one, can do without Malcolm's version of 'Staying Alive'".

Anyhoo, Keith, Karen and Roy all did fine jobs (and I'm not just saying that because Roy gave me a royalty cheque in the interval), and as the metaphorical curtain came down, Lisa's mother turned to me and said it had all been "quite good". I wasn't sure how to take that. Personally I was very pleased, although I felt that some sections of the audience could have done with a warm-up man.

As for 'Semblence of Madness', it was a bit like following 'Only Fools and Horses' with 'King Lear', but it featured three tour de force acting performances which made me wish I was a casting director for a west end theatre company. It just goes to show what you can do with three spotlights, a couple of chairs and a lot of talent. By the end, Lisa said she was genuinely disturbed. Although she might just have been using that as an excuse for her future crimes.

'Ledgers' and 'Semblence of Madness' were the festival's last two plays, and after a brief interval, during which I won a Chocolate Orange in the raffle, the trophies were handed out for the weekend's best performances. This year's adjudicator was Kerry King from the Headgate Theatre in Colchester. Kerry has an M.A. in Contemporary Theatre, and presumably knows what she's talking about, so when she stood up and praised Ledgers for having "a clever script", I was tempted to kiss the woman. Unfortunately, despite announcing that the author had grown up in Essex and suffered from "mental depression" (as opposed to the physical depression you get from being run over by a steamroller), Kerry didn't seem to realise I was in the audience. Even when I heckled her from the front row. So I decided to just let her get on with handing out the awards.

All three actresses from 'Semblence of Madness' came away victorious, and I like to think Ledgers can claim one third of the Best Director trophy, as Val Eldridge won that for her work on three of this year's plays.

Having tried to get the back of my head into a photo for the East Anglian Daily Times, I then chatted to Keith Raby about my complete failure to write any plays in the last two years, before moving on to Angie Heath who told me about her new youth theatre group, and asked if I could write a play for seven girls and one boy. I said "Um..." while I tried to imagine how Be Worth It could work with a cast of under-18s.

Stopping for a brief word with Roy Bramwell, I then made my way back to the entrance, where Lisa and my Mum were busy looking at this...

Hot Property
I joined them in admiring the display of photographs, and complimenting the artistic creativity which had gone into it, after which someone said "I wonder if we'd be allowed to take it home..?". I replied that maybe we should find someone to ask, and turned back towards the hall to look for a figure of authority who might be able to give us permission...

... at which point I heard the sound of drawing pins being hastily removed, and turned to see a mysterious figure in black, running out of the door with a photo display under her coat. I won't name names, but the person responsible knows who she is. And she snored most of the way home too.


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