Orphan Belle and the Last Circus

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NODA Said:

ALVECHURCH DRAMATIC SOCIETY
ORPHAN BELLE AND THE LAST CIRCUS
ALVECHURCH VILLAGE HALL
WRITERS: PAUL CHAMBERLAIN AND CHRIS DAVIES
DIRECTOR: CHRIS DAVIES
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: PAUL CHAMBERLAIN
28th NOVEMBER 2014

This was very much a home grown production and congratulations to writers Chris Davies and Paul Chamberlain for a witty, clever and at times highly topical script. The topicality inspiringly creating many of the characters. It was a genius stroke to name the smarmy nasty banker and central character ‘Bent Barclay’ played by Chris himself as it was to refer to his henchman as ‘Cammo’ and Ozbo’

The storyline featured a youthful desire by orphan ‘Belle Bottoms’ to run off and join a circus, aided and abetted by her orphan chums and a helpful ghostly clown. Inspired by a music box she makes a break for it ultimately realising her dream to be a circus performer, but with a relationship twist at the end.

All the ingredients of pantoland were in evidence in a show which was a little lengthy though oozed with overt characters, some in outrageous costumes and incorporated the inevitable comedic, political and innuendo based one liners. Though very clever for all that.

From the outset the cast of brilliantly conceived characters emerged, each with their own indiosycrancies. It is not possible to mention all individually though some do deserve a mention for their ability to deliver the clever script and for a sheer crazy desire to entertain.

‘Belle’ played by Gemma Batty acted and sung her way through the story. ‘Mr Grimwhip’ and ‘Mrs Grimwhip’ (Alan Clarke & Susan Resuggan) – audience instruction here -“Yes Mr/Mrs. Grimwhip”, ‘Elvira’ the bearded lady in vivid green played by Fiona Holmes with a superb accent. ‘Clown Spirit’ Kelly Harrington larger than life gaining ultimately the red nose sought after from the start. ‘Ringling Rose’ and ‘Scarlet Rose’ were played respectively by Paul Birch and Jo Bestwick. ‘Scarlet’ vocally strong and wearing a stunning red costume.

‘Ivor Liftoff’, yes a weightlifter, and in the role of ‘Gordon the Gorilla’ a magnificently costumed character were played by Martyn Read and Tony Godfrey respectively. Sarah Batstone as ‘Jobsworth’ played her part to perfection as the officious inspector from Off Circ, popping up through the show to rattle off volumes of paragraphs and sub clauses to which the department insisted all circus content must comply. As ‘Cammo’ and ‘Ozbo’ the two toffs, Naomi Yendell and Leah Yendell dressed in schoolboy blazers were excellent

‘Mrs Gollop’ (Adam Brown) in most vivid yellow and green making her own recipe of gruel with the special obnoxious ingredients for the orphans, ‘Rupert Barclay’ (Martin Salter), ‘Mrs Sludge’ (Pauline Chadaway), in a memorable couple of scenes akin to “two soups” Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques, ‘Vacant Plot’, wonderful name for a mind reader (Adrian Perry). And ‘Butterfingers’ (Steve Siddle) with a contrived juggling scene and ‘Mabel Stark’ (Helen Tuite) gave strong support. As did Chris Tomlin as ‘The Great Bazooka’ fired from an on stage cannon in a clever scene ostensibly “landing” in a net at the back of the hall

Scenery and a number of efficient scene changes included The Orphanage Kitchen, A spooky graveyard, Bent Barclay’s mansion, and of the inside and outside the Big Top. Props were authentic demonstrating innovation and imagination. A multiplicity of vibrant costumes, enhanced by effective lighting, sound and other effects just added to audience appeal. Rice, for example being showered on the audience depicting rain drops. Just one of a number of stage effects designed and delivered by members of this local group

The legendary panto bag containing certain props (oh yes they did) for audience participation by direction of the cast were a nice touch. A three piece combo provided pleasing musical accompiament ending with a rousing ‘Enjoy Yourself it’s later than you think’. We all did and it was, but great entertainment for all.

Thank you Alvechurch for inviting us.