I'll admit, I'm no critic when it comes to theatre, having attended only a handful of shows in my lifetime (including being involved in a school performance of ‘Oliver’ when I was 15 - assisting in the 'wardrobe' department), I find it a struggle to sit there and pick holes in performances driven by a cast of aspiring amateur actors.
Amateur Dramatics (or Am-Dram to those in the know) is a fickle business. You’d think that with the long hours spent memorising lines, countless dress rehearsals and giving up your social life for anything up to 6 months in advance of the actual performances, the queue outside the theatre on selection night would be rather thin….think again! I don’t have firm numbers but I was told that there were many who rolled up to auditions only to be told to ‘try again’ next time.
After burgers and beers, it was time to head off to Exeter Barnfield Theatre to take our seats and enjoy a performance of ‘9 to 5’ based on the book by Patricia Resnick and the 1980’s movie of the same name featuring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
Elaine Kingston (Violet), Josie Tapp (Doralee) and Kate Stockman (Judy) put on stellar performances as the leading ladies, particularly showcasing their skills during the dream sequences later in the show that saw each of them spread their wings and transform from their appointed characters into ‘triple threats’, proving that it’s not just the acting that you need to be able to nail to stand a chance of becoming a success on the am-dram circuit.
A play isn’t a play without an ‘evil witch’ or token ‘bad guy’ and the same goes for ‘9 to 5’. The boss of Consolidated Companies (Franklin Hart) played by Chris Royds came across wonderfully on stage acting out the part of the sleazy, sexist, arrogant, pompous, smarmy womanising bigot that his character demanded. It was a joy to see Royds directing his (unwanted) attentions to Doralee whilst she was halfway up the ladder in his office and also later on in the performance during the ridiculous dream sequences and latter kidnap scenes (I really did like his boxer shorts and cowboy boots ensemble).
Other noteworthy performances came from Samantha Ottaway (Roz) whose affections for Hart were displayed on stage in a scene resulting in her lying on his desk, spread-eagled in just her underwear, clutching his portrait against her bosom and Matt Ridley (Joe the accountant) whose perseverance finally paid off, managing to win the heart of Violet after she opened up to him about their plans to take Hart to the cleaners after irregularities were discovered in the company accounts.
The show wouldn’t have stood up without the support of the chorus and dancers who were incredible, from start to finish, they kept the entire theatre entertained and added the backbone to the show.
My expectations at the start were low, as it got into its groove, my perceptions altered and come the end, I struggled to believe that these were actually unpaid volunteer actors/actresses who were performing for the sheer love of their craft.
I think I speak for many when I say that Isobel Court (Director and Choreographer), Donna Bedwell (Assistant Director and Choreographer) and Alfie Pugh (Musical Director) should be proud of what they have achieved with ‘9 to 5’ and I personally look forward to future performances under their direction.
The show runs until Saturday 20th July at Exeter’s Barnfield Theatre, there are limited tickets available from the box office or via the website www.barnfieldtheatre.org.uk
Review by Steve Muscutt