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2008 Productions:-

Kindly Leave the Stage by John Chapman - directed by Gwen Peplow and Chris Wright

Critic's Comments

""AMUSINGLY written with some very good twists."
"A team play."
But the dinner party and the marital rift are just a front, and even the best made play can come off the rails - it just takes one buckled line.
The crew and the front of house team are in the pub next door, so the front tabs stay open to allow us to enjoy the spats and tantrums.
These luvvies are pros, we're told, and there were some convincing caricatures from Liz Curley as the ASM, and Daniel Curley as an ageing actor laddie, tottering to the footlights and giving us his famous Lear.
I enjoyed Paulette Harris's star-struck, stuttering St John Ambulance woman.
The two couples were Chris Webb and Joan Lanario, who was a formidable bourgeois guest in the play and a coarse Red Peppery leading lady once the gloves were off, and Angela Gee as the divine Sarah with Paul Dogra as the troubled Rupert, who overacted amusingly in the last few pages.
Other, better plays were never far from our mind - Noises Off, The Dresser, Private Lives, even Merry Wives with its famous buck basket.
The profession may be in dire straits, but at least most actors can still speak. And you cannot afford so many real prompts amongst the spoofs, or speak of dropped laughs and then see them slip through your own fingers - "He'd ignite!" was one glaring example.
Still, as they said, there were no four-letter words."
                        Michael Gray-Weekly News
"Introduction  This was our first visit to The Phoenix Theatre Company and we were made to feel very welcome.
"Kindly Leave the Stage" is a light frothy piece - its main purpose being to provide a vehicle for the actor playing Edward. Written for amateurs, its characters are nevertheless professional actors. We have been critical in our assessment, but we hope that our remarks will be viewed as an aid to improving what is obviously a thriving and enthusiastic group.
Front of House / Publicity  The venue is warm and comfortable, the front of house staff were friendly and helpful and the programme was colourful and informative.
Set Construction / Set Painting  A well constructed set with good furniture, but rather basic. Patterned walls help to give the impression of something more solid. The main picture reflected the lights and was a little distracting.
Stage Management  No apparent hitches backstage. An efficient prompt. I did think the curtain was late at the start of both acts. Or was this deliberate?
Lighting Design and Operation  The stage was well lit with no dark patches. However we would recommend that when possible portable lights be obtained to back light the stage thus removing the shadows and the rather flat effect of solely lighting from the front.
Sound Design and Operation  There was music before each act. However, it was very quiet and faded out long before the action started, leaving the audience in a dark silence.
Costumes  Mostly appropriately chosen although we did wonder why the style of Rupert's costume was so different from that of either his stage wife or his 'real' wife. We thought Madge's wig was rather ageing (we spotted the actress after the show and she looked much better without it). Angela's outfit was hilarious, although I must admit I have never seen a prompt wearing anything but black.
Props  Suitable props - nothing jarred and all seemed to be easy for the actors to use.
Cast  Apart from the occasional prompt (which I must admit added to the confusion of the plot) the cast seemed assured, enthusiastic and committed. They all worked hard and kept the pace going well.
Chris Webb as Charles - A nice easy manner, he always kept in character, had good diction and stage presence. His obvious affection and admiration of Edward was sincere.
Joan Lanario as Madge - A confident performance with well judged volume, However, we were not really sure why she chose her "actor" voice. Most professional actors speak with received pronunciation and it would have made more sense to reverse them. I did think some of her dialogue with Rupert should have bee more casually "thrown away" to give a little variety to what was a very repetitive script.
Angela Gee as Sarah - Her "character" part was nice and bitchy and she was believable as the fed up wife. Her "actor" part was not nearly so meaty and most of the time she had to sit around and watch the action. She did not seem altogether comfortable in her interaction with Rupert and the embrace looked false. There did not seem nearly as much truth in the delivery of the actor. But she has good diction and kept the action going well.
Paul Dogra as Rupert - A very personable young man who looks good and moves well on stage. The part called for some versatility - one minute the bored husband and the next the enraged husband, baying for blood. I would like to have seen more variety in body language and voice to portray the two distinct characters - I wasn't totally convinced by either of them. And I could not always make out what he was saying. However, he was working with a very poor script and ridiculous plot and I would like to see him in a better vehicle.
Helen Langley as Mrs Cullen - As the mother she was able - as the actress she was riveting. She, of all the cast, made me believe she was in the profession. She was a joy to watch especially when merely reacting to what was going on around her. She was helped with probably the best lines in the play, or maybe she just made them work for her. Well done.
Liz Curley as Angela - A nice cameo part, played for laughs. I do wonder whether we could have seen something nearer to the natural style adopted by the other actors, however, she was funny and rather endearing.
Paulette Harris as Nurse - Another nice cameo role and the same applies. She did upstage the action somewhat and some of her business jarred against the playing of the others. However, the audience loved her.
Daniel Curley as Edward - A wonderful entrance and here we had the "actor's" voice. He was totally believable as the old ham actor His reaction to the nurse was beautifully worked, as was his drunken confusion. A little more variety in his movements when delivery the Lear speeches would have made this performance even better.
Direction  The script was very weak - the plot goes nowhere and there is a lot of repetition. A frivolous piece needs strong direction with some pacing leading up to climaxes. The end of each act achieved this, but there was too much sameness in the rest. In particular, the interaction between Rupert and Madge was repetitive and lacked variety. I felt that a lot of her lines could have been "thrown away" instead of always being confrontational. Some of the moves were clumsy and some of the blocking masked actors. But the cast worked well together, for which the directors should take some credit.
Conclusion  Most of the criticisms of this play can be laid squarely at the feet of the playwright. This was our first visit to the Phoenix Theatre Company and we look forward to further visits and better scripts.
Thank you for inviting us."
                 Sara Green-North Essex Theatre Guild
"Pundits say that "life imitates art" but in this play life intrudes into art (the play) and then life and art become thoroughly intermingled. This is especially true when the superb Daniel Curley, only semi-conscious in his drunkenness, has bursts of extreme lucidity as verbal cues trigger solilioquies from Shakespearean roles he has played in the past. The basic premise for the play is that Rupert, an actor (we never discover his real name when not playing an actor) accuses Charles of having an affair with his wife, Madge, who also happens to be an actress in the same play as Charles and his real wife Sarah. So far so good but the accusation comes during the live performance of a play in which these amateur actors playing professional actors are taking part. The transition from play within a play to real life accusations unfolding onstage while the audience is unwittingly acting an audience, is slightly uneasy for it take a few lines to realize what is happening.  However, Rupert's uncomfortable performance leading up to his accusation makes sense with hindsight since he was clearly brooding on the suspicion that his wife was carrying on an adulterous relationship in the dressing room. Thereafter and throughout most of Act One there is just one long argument between all parties involved while the gloom is relieved by acutely observed commentary from Helen Langley as Mrs Cullen and very strong cameo appearances from Liz Curley as the stagestruck prompt and Paulette Harris, who played an unself-conscious nurse with a stage presence as large as Benny Hill. This is not to say that the acting is poor; far from it, Joan Lanario's transformation from West End to East End was good and I particularly liked Chris Webb's reluctant and somewhat cowardly Lothario.  Act 2 is when everyone came alive since Daniel Curley's Edward injected pace, comedy (best drunk I have seen in a long time) and energy into the entire cast. The subsequent blending of real life with original play, sometimes to protect Edward from reality, was seamless and very funny, relieving the audience from the turgidity of Act One. Here was an interesting idea for a play that came off in the end but took its time doing so. It may be that first night nerves slowed the pace and stopped the natural ebb and flow. I also noticed a few basic blocking errors when Nurse and Rupert stood in front of Mrs Cullen and Sarah, a shame since facial expressions from both were worth watching. Set was solid albeit reasonably basic and lighting, sound, audibility were all good. This was an enjoyable evening although the play seemed tough to bring to life in Act One."           
     Stewart Adkins-National Operatic and Dramatic Association

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