Category Archives: Past Productions

Blithe Spirit

Audiences moved by the spirit of comedy

The Academy Theatre in Gainford has been rocked with laughter once again by Gainford Drama Club’s 150th production – Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.  The play is a brave choice as it is a difficult play to pull off.  Not only do the leading actors have large parts to learn but they also have to maintain dialogue with characters that are invisible to others. Timing is so crucial when one of the threesome are not supposed to be there and this was pretty much spot on. Costumes as always were very good with the ghostly pale grey very effective.  An attractive set and period music set the scene with a good rhythm as the plot developed which became more comfortable as the play progressed.

Don’t Dress for Dinner

Well attended and well received play  (Northern Echo)

It was a “whirlwind farce of adultery and fine dining” for more than 750 theatre-goers as Gainford Drama Club staged its latest play.  Don’t Dress for Dinner by |Marc Camoletti, and adapted by Robin Hawdon, has been well received by audiences at the Academy Theatre, Gainford, over the last two weeks.Cast Photo

The play was a sequel to Camoletti’s populat play Boeing-Boeing, which reintroduced Robert and Bernard and relocated them to a weekend retreat outside Paris.

Director Lawrence Chandler, assisted by Fiona Minay, asembled the cast including Paul Richardson as the increasingly frantic husband, Bernard, while Jan Richardson-Wilde portrayed his mistified wife Jacqueline.

Sam Beamish-Young also made his debut with the club.


Gainford Drama Club’s autumn offering is a whirlwind farce of adultery and fine dining.

Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti (adapted by Robin Hawdon) has been well received by audiences at the Academy Theatre, Gainford over the last two weeks.  This sequel to Camoletti’s popular play Boeing-Boeing reintroduces Robert and Bernard and relocates them to a weekend retreat outside Paris.

DSCF3237Director Lawrence Chandler assisted by Fiona Minay assembled a talented cast that included Paul Richardson as the increasingly frantic husband, Bernard, whilst Jan Richardson-Wilde competently portrayed his mystified wife, Jacqueline. The cast deserve recognition for sustaining this high-energy French farce over ten performances including for the first time a matinee as well as an evening performance on the middle Saturday.

Bernard is anticipating an illicit weekend with his mistress Suzanne (played by Paris Lowcock) when Tom Brown enters the fray as the put-upon best friend, Robert Dubedat.  He is reluctantly persuaded into providing an alibi when Bernard’s wife unexpectedly cancels her visit to her mother in order to spend the weekend with her lover – Robert!  Further complications ensue when cook Suzette (Maria Lowcock) hired by Bernard to prepare a cordon bleu meal is mistaken by Robert for Bernard’s mistress, leaving the mistress to prepare the dinner.  Both men provoke some hearty laughter with their energetic attempts to distract Jacqueline while Robert devises ever more complicated aliases to prevent her from discovering the truth.  Add copious amounts of alcohol, several costume changes and increasing puzzlement from Bernard and Jacqueline and it doesn’t really matter if the audience can’t follow the machinations of the labyrinthine plot.

DSCF3257Sam Beamish-Young made his debut with the Club as a final complication to the evening’s antics arriving as the Suzette’s husband, George. Sami Nash of Vintage Tinsel deserves a mention for the hair styling with an outrageous Mohican for hard man George and progressively more dishevelled looks for Suzette and Suzanne.  Maria Lowcock’s matter-of-fact delivery and demands for more money every time the plot thickens delighted the audience.  Tom Brown received a well- deserved ovation for his deft handling of an outrageously complicated monologue.  Although the script is often silly and implausible, the cast works well together, allowing the audience to suspend disbelief and enjoy the visual and verbal gags. Overall a very entertaining evening.

Tonight at 8:30

GAINFORD Drama Club’s spring production was three of Noel Coward’s one act plays from the set of ten from ‘Tonight at 8.30.’ The three they selected to perform where ‘Hands Across the Sea,’ ‘Fumed Oak’ and ‘Still Life.’ First produced in 1935, they certainly still retain their charm, humour and relevance today. The stories are very different and range from the comedy of mistaken identity in ‘Hands across the Sea.’ ‘Fumed Oak’ saw us meet three generations of the Gow family as their domestic tribulations are revealed. ‘Still Life’ completed the evening with the most recognisable of the three as it was the basis for Brief Encounter. Producing these three plays must have brought many challenges not least with the set and the cast not only playing more than one part, but playing them in different stories. The versatile set was quickly transformed into the three settings and the cast were excellent in each play. A special mention must go to John Chadwick, who appeared in all three plays, and appeared to relish the very different roles each play brought him. If you haven’t yet seen the Gainford Drama Club they are a group of high quality with a unique theatre space.

An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband – Gainford Drama Club [Teesdale Mercury November 2013]

WHEN it comes to Oscar Wilde my knowledge goes from The Importance of Being Earnest to The Happy Prince and Other Tales for children. But thanks to Gainford Drama Club I have now been introduced to An Ideal Husband. It has been brilliantly adapted by Chairman, Director and Producer Joan Hillery Robinson which has created a thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.100_2511

From the curtain opening you know that a treat is in store as you are greeted with a visually stunning scene from the set to the costumes and the jewellery, which if you know the play does feature later in the story.
Although An Ideal Husband was first performed in 1895 the plot of political corruption and blackmail is timeless. The story revolves around Sir Robert Chiltern, Allan Jones, a respected politician whose marriage and career are threatened by attempts of blackmail by Mrs Cheveley, Jean McCann.100_2533

There are so many delightfully witty one liners, which are well delivered. It makes such a change to see a gentle comedy with an exciting plot so well performed. My favourite moments were the scenes between Lord Goring, Tom Brown and Mabel Chiltern, Emma Simpson. They were an absolute delight to watch and they certainly had some of the best lines between them. Emma Simpson had her characters mannerisms to perfection with a voice to match. This does not take away anything from the cast as a whole as the characterisation they produced was excellent and it was obvious they had put 110% into everything giving me the feeling that I really did spend an evening in the late 1800s.

An Ideal Husband was yet another brilliant production from Gainford Drama Club.

Murder in Play

Group plays to the audience [Teesdale Mercury April 2013]

Murder In Play Gainford Drama Club

MURDER in Play, as the title suggests, is a play within a play and is yet another stunning production from Gainford Drama Club.

The action takes place in rehearsals for Murder at Priorswell Manor and at first you may think you are in for an evening of completely over the lop characters until you realise that this is the play within the play.

The play though is a lot more .than Just a rehearsal for another play. It is about the people and their interactions in a theatre group.

The director Boris Smolensky tries to cope with his wife and his lover in the cast, as the egos of the cast shine through delightfully as they have obviously been performing together on various productions for a while.

Of course a murder is needed and as the play within the play goes through a few cast changes, the murder is unravelled with the help of the stage manager.

NewcomersIf all this sounds rather complicated, it wasn’t due to the excellent direction and acting.

I couldn’t pick out any individual performance they were all tremendous throughout.

If you didn’t manage to see Gainford Drama Club this time, I would highly recommend it for an evening of high quality entertainment.

A J Harrison

‘Allo ‘Allo

Gainford Drama Club has a reputation for staging high quality productions and their most recent offering ‘Allo ‘Allo was no exception.  The play, written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, is based on their hugely popular TV series, and follows the adventures of René, the hapless café owner in war-torn occupied France, as he and his wife, Edith, struggle to keep for themselves a priceless portrait stolen by the Nazis and endeavour to repatriate two British airmen with the help of the Resistance.Allo-Allo-3

This is a difficult play to stage even in a large theatre so to present this large cast play, eighteen players in total, with its frequent set changes on such a small stage proved quite a challenge, however, the scene changes were managed very smoothly by the airmen, played by Paul Richardson and John Robinson.  The role of René is pivotal and this was played very ably by John Chadwick.  Joan White as his wife Edith, was able to show her skill at singing and dancing during her cabaret performances which were clearly enjoyed by the audience and they were both well supported by waitresses Yvette and Mimi played by Maria Lowcock and Claire Bell. Special mention should be made of Maria’s performance as this was her acting debut and she shows much promise for the future.

It was good to see Paul Illingworth returning to the stage as the vain Capt. Alberto Bertorelli and his attempts to seduce Helga (Kate Nichols) in the back row of the cinema being thwarted by Herr Otto Flick (Tom Brown) disguised as an usherette provided one of the funniest scenes in the play.  Michelle ‘listen very carefully, I shall say this only once’ was played by Emma Simpson, making her debut on the Gainford stage, with a superb French accent which paralleled that of Crabtree (hilariously played by Allan Jones) the ‘poloceman’, who managed to keep up his “franglais” throughout the play – not an easy task.  Lawrence Chandler as Colonel Von Strohm, John Robinson as a very sinister looking General Von Schmelling, Michael Sillars as M. Leclerc and Chris Allock as Lieut. Gruber all gave accomplished performances in their supporting roles.  Lighting and sound effects were provided each night by John Lowery.

Allo-Allo-2The play was directed by Joan Hillery-Robinson, assisted by Ronnie Lowery and was a complete sell-out for the ten-night run which included a ‘charity’ night in support of Help For Heroes raising £1300 for the charity.

Laying the Ghost

Superman and friendly ghosts combine for slick and hilarious entertainment.
Gainford Drama Club is playing its latest production ‘Laying the Ghost’ by Simon Williams to packed houses.
Set in a retirement home for actors, the play opens on the eccentric Freda Deacon, played superbly by Veronica Lowery, as she talks to friendly ghosts.
The action centres on Margot Buchanan, played by Fiona Minay. As Margot celebrates her 70th birthday, she has three unwanted visitors who are all linked together starting with Sadie Croft, played by Anna Jones, her ex husband’s wife Lady Judy Buchanan, played by Iris Hillery, and to complete te line up, her ex husband Sir Leo Buchanan, played by Allan Jones.
The fast paced first half ends with the death of Sir Leo Buchanan, leading to some great comic scenes, as he can now only be seen by Freda. The cast is completed with Mrs Kidd,played by Kate Nichols and a Superman kissogram played by John Chadwick.
With so many one-liners in this play the timing has to be just right to make it work, thankfully the whole cast had this down to perfection to create an incredibly slick and hilarious night’s entertainment.
The play runs at the Academy Theatre in Gainford until Saturday. (Teesdale Mercury, 25 April 2012)

A Kick in the Baubles

A Kick in the Baubles by Gordon Steel is Gainford Drama Club’s seasonal offering and it certainly hits the spot as an antidote to Christmas.  Lawrence Chandler plays Frank, sharing with the audience his thoughts and feelings on Christmas as his harassed wife Jean (Jean McCann) insists on shopping at 5 am and monitors his consumption of the mince pies. It is Christmas Eve.  The in-laws are expected. In a distressingly accurate portrayal of Christmas preparations in a family recently hit by redundancy, the situations are completely recognisable and often hilarious. Jean’s sister, Doreen, ably played by Di Peat, arrives with her husband, the boastful, henpecked Harry (John Chadwick) to provoke Jean into competing with her sister’s snobbish one-upmanship.  There is tension and squabbling at every turn, laughter and sudden tenderness when the couple’s estranged daughter Milly (Imogen Richardson) appears unexpectedly.

The cast coped well with the scene change blackouts and the pacey dialogue.  There were some clever and well timed special effects with Frosty the Snowman and Santa.  Susannah Handley was outstanding in her cameo role as tarty neighbour Julie, proudly displaying her husband’s Christmas gift of a “boob-job” and teasing the older couples.  Paul Richardson created quite a sensation with his appearance as her karaoke-wielding neighbour, Gary, wearing his wife’s clothes in a parody of Freddie Mercury’s “I want to break free” accompanied by the audience’s gales of laughter.

Primarily a rib-tickling farce, the play had its poignant moments.  The relationship problems of spoilt Alex (Anna Jones) and that of Milly (Imogen Richardson) with boyfriend Darren (Tom Brown)  bring the outside world crashing into the domestic scene reminding us that at Christmas, families really DO matter.  The play was directed by Jan Richardson- Wilde, assisted by Ronnie Lowery and was a complete sell-out for the nine-night run. The next production will be staged in April.  To get involved or join the mailing list contact the Secretary, Mrs Ronnie Lowery on 01325 730190 (daytime only).

Outside Edge

Set entirely in and around a typical English cricket pavilion, this amateur production of Outside Edge brings together five unlikely members of a village cricket team and their partners on the Saturday of a big match. The play opens with Roger, the captain, ordering his dutiful wife Miriam around the club-house in preparation for the days match, interspersed with his catch-phrase, “Love you”!. Roger takes his job very seriously, but is having trouble assembling a team to play. As the action unfolds, the tense and humorous relationships between the characters become increasingly fraught, while team captain Roger, oblivious to the problems around him, struggles in vain to steer his players to victory.
Lawrence Chandler gave a strong and confident performance as the hapless captain Roger, while Fiona Minay as his long-suffering wife Miriam settled well into her demanding role.
Tom Brown, as Bob, was a suitably shifty philanderer, and Jan Richardson-Wilde gave a good performance as his wife Ginnie. Paul Richardson came across well as Dennis and Paul Illingworth brought out the character of the self-obsessed Alex, with Julie Smith as his abandoned girlfriend Sharon. Praise also to the direction of Pam Westgarth and Di Peat, the impressive cut-away set and the usual strong organisation front of house who combined to provide a fine evening’s entertainment.

Come On Jeeves

An evening of laughter (Teesdale Mercury)

THE Academy Theatre in Gainford is one of the hidden gems in our area and is the home of Gainford Drama Club. Their latest production is a play by P G Wodehouse and Guy Bolton featuring the well known butler Jeeves. On the night I was there the play got off to a great start as the curtain opened on the living room at Towcester Abbey. The set was applauded by the audience, which does not happen very often, and was certainly well deserved. It is not just the actors who have worked hard on this production The story follows Jeeves, John Chadwick, who is on loan to the Earl of Towcester, Thomas Brown. To cover his loses on the horses, the Earl has turned his hand to becoming a bookie with the help of Jeeves. Not everything runs smoothly, as you would expect as the Earl is tracked down by Captain Biggar, Michael Sillars, a furious punter who has not been paid. Add to the mix Lord and Lady Carmoyle, Allan Jones and Fiona Minay, who have arranged for a wealthy American, Mrs Spottsworth, Jean McCann, to view Towcester Abbey with a view to buying it and the Earl”s fiancée, Jill Wyvern, Susannah Carroll, who is becoming increasingly suspicious of the Earl”s actions, all the ingredients are there for a perfect farce. The performance flowed well with good characterisation from the cast, especially that of John Chadwick as Jeeves and Thomas Brown as the Earl, who worked well together providing many of the comic moments. Come On Jeeves can be seen at The Academy Theatre, Gainford until Saturday, December 4.