‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ is a drama about Welsh village life with a good helping of comedy added. Written by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, it was his twentieth play. ‘A Chorus of Disapproval’ is based around a community theatre group who are putting on John Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’. Premiering in 1984 at Scarborough in the North of England, it earned Ayckbourn three major British theatre awards and became one of his most successful plays.
This 2-hour production is being performed by the Darlington Theatre Player at the comfortable and welcoming Marloo Theatre, 20 Marloo Road just off Greenmount Hill near Midland. The show is on at 7.30 pm every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until 27th July.
The scene: Modern day in a small Welsh village.
The sets: were highly mobile units on castors, that were designed by Luke Miller and built by the cast and crew (along with Gillian Clark and Caitlyn Turner).
The opening scaffold was a massive 3 metres high and 4 metres wide construction of weathered timber with gallows at the top.
The Llewellyn’s’ sitting room had the seating and tables all attached to the walls and door. This allowed very quick scene changes. On the walls was a collection of small ink prints. The walls were pale apple green and the window was covered by curtains. On the rear of this construction was the Hubbards’ front hall. The white lace curtain covered the white window frame. The pictures on the wall were … well … I am too young to know what they were of, but it was part of the Hubbard’s hobby.
Even the piano was attached to the piano stool so that Ann could be wheeled in and out without her missing a note.
The town pub had a well-stocked bar counter with backlit shelves that were the full width of the stage. There was a selection of high bar stools.
The props were once again the task of the resourceful Lesley Sutton.
The clever lighting design was by Shelly Miller, then rigged and operated by Lachlan Kessey and Bailey Fellows.
The quality sound was operated by Jonathan Masterson.
The stage manager, Sage Lockyer and her backstage crew (Shelly Miller, Jade Gurney, Chelsea Cook, Benedict Chau and Ray Egan) performed most efficient scene changes. The wheels and castors used, despite the often-huge weight being carried, seemed to flow effortlessly.
The curtains open to show the last few seconds of a community theatre’s version of ‘The Beggar’s Opera’. It is a discordant cacophonous ending to a poorly produced show, that many of the cast were reluctant to perform in.
We flash back several weeks and find a young widower, Guy Jones (Guy Jackson) arriving at a chaotic rehearsal of the local amateur operatic society. After a tragic few months, this extremely nervous accountant has come to the remote Welsh village to start a new life with the Town Council.
The production’s director is a dodgy lawyer, with a passion for the theatre, Dafydd ap Llewellyn (Mike Moshos). He always has a smile, but it is insincere and often his bad temper has the company revolting against him. He welcomes guy and offers him a very minor part.
Guy soon finds that many of the women in the Operatic Society are bored with their husbands, especially the sophisticated but sex-starved Fay Hubbard (Kelly Blee – hilarious, dangerous!), wife of Ian (Benedict Chau) who owns a building firm. Dafydd’s wife, Hannah (Steph Hickey) welcomes the lonely newcomer to the fold.
The bar owner’s tough daughter, Bridget Baines (Suzy June Wakeling) is the stage manager and prompt who will take no nonsense, especially from soppy Linda Washbrook (Jordan D’Arcy). Linda’s parents are in the Society, but mainly to promote their daughter’s talents. Linda’s father, Ted (Ryan Perrin) is enthusiastic but pure ham! Whilst Enid (Rachel Vonk), is Linda’s her overprotective mother.
The rehearsals continue with the shy tolerant piano player, Mrs Ames (Ann Cahill) being wheeled in and out as required. The haughty-taught Rebecca Huntley-Pike (Taneal Thompson) is furious that her talent is not being recognised. Rebecca’s husband, a mad but harmless down to earth Yorkshireman, Jarvis Huntley-Pike (Ray Egan) befriends Guy.
It is not long before Guy is being offered a better part, with substance – this causes friction with Crispin Usher (Kieren Elliott) tough, hostile youth who originally had the major part of MacHeath.
The modern and period costumes were the hard but fine work of Marjorie DeCaux and her assistant Lynda Stubbs, who also looked after the wigs and hairstyling.
First time director Luke Miller, after a couple of decades of proving his talent as an actor, has shone as the director of this play. The play has a few unlikeable characters in it which make it hard to direct. Just as the team are building up a few laughs, the unusual script can take a cold or sad twist. However, the cast really got behind the show, packed it with drive and energy. Luke has Shelly Miller as his experienced assistant director.
There are many fine singers, who at times must try hard to be off key as the Society is definitely second rate. Kieren and Steph are particularly melodic.
Mike Moshos has completely captured the complex nature of Llewelyn. He is a bully, a charmer, a conman and a caring husband. Mike kept the pace moving along, had tremendous vocal control and authority. Well done. Mike also learnt a very acceptable Welsh accent that he maintained well throughout the play, impressive – often actors let accents slip after the first scene. Congratulations on the pronunciation of Llewellyn, not quite there. Starts ‘clue’ which you got as the sound for double-L, but as there is a further double-L in the name, the end should be ‘ech-lyn’, i.e. Clue-ech-lyn. I am open to correction. Guy was delightful as the petrified newcomer being hunted by women after new meat.
A huge amount of work has gone into this show and the cast really put their hearts into it. Great fun.