Category Archives: Recent Productions

Review: Farce is just the tonic for cold winter blues

Teesdale Mercury

LAUGHTER is the best medicine and something members of the Gainford Drama Club cast were able to dole out in spades when they performed their latest production, the classic comedy caper, Lend Me A Tenor, at the village’s Academy Theatre.
The 1986 Ken Ludwig play is an old-fashioned farce, filled with layer upon layer of misunderstandings, mistaken identities, sexual innuendo and unexpected plot twists.
The action takes place in two rooms of a Cleveland hotel suite booked for superstar Italian opera singer Tito Merelli, played by Ian Hanmer, who is booked to play one night only at the opera company.
His late arrival and subsequent reluctance to rehearse is cause for consternation for opera company manager, Saunders, played by Alistair Burns, who superbly channelled Basil Fawlty, and whose dislike for The Bellhop, Bethany Lewis-Burrows, was reminiscent to scenes from Fawlty Towers.

A Kick In The Baubles

Originally written by Gordon Steel for the Hull Truck theatre company A Kick in the Baubles is an edgy piece, combining the family chaos of Season’s Greetings with the dramatic discomfort of Abigail’s Party. There is humour, mixed in with a fair amount of tension and unease before an ending focused on reconciliation – something of a relief bearing in mind what has gone on before.

It’s Christmas in the Bailey household. They are just managing following Frank’s recent redundancy, but, as usual, Jean (Jo Longstaff) wants to make it memorable Christmas, while Frank (Keith Irons) frets about the cost, the fuss and the guests he would prefer not to see. One of these is Jean’s bigoted and rather grumpy sister Doreen (Michelle Hope), who is accompanied by her materialistic and lecherous businessman husband, Harry (Ian Hanmer). Dropping in uninvited are neighbours Gary (Alistair Burn) –  who sees himself as something of a karaoke king – and his rather too uninhibited wife Julie (Emma Simpson). Alex (Lissy Rawlings), Doreen and Harry’s daughter, calls to report the end of her romance and the subsequent making up. Finally, Milly Bailey (also played by Lissy Rawlings) and boyfriend Darren (Nick Raper) pay a surprise visit.

Party Piece – Getting in the party spirit

Gainford Drama Club selected Party Piece to celebrate 70 years of the amateur dramatics club, and you have to admire the sheer work-rate and athleticism of the cast in this Richard Harris comedy which is riddled with chaotic situations.

At times the humour is farcical and takes some swallowing.  The story is built round a doctor and his wife staging a fancy dress house-warming party-barbecue in the back garden of their home.

The Accrington Pals

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War Gainford Drama Club performed ‘The Accrington Pals’ – an excellent choice to commemorate and remember all those who lost their lives in that most devastating of military campaigns. So many of the young men sent to fight who lost their lives on the first day of the Somme conflict were from the ‘Pals’ regiments and the play shows the build up to war and the effect that the war had on the loved ones left behind.

‘The Accrington Pals’ is a story about the relationships between the men and their loved ones, but also between the Pals and between the Lancashire women left behind as their menfolk went off to war. It also explores the madness of the industrialised slaughter of the Great War and as such, it was an interesting choice of drama to mark the 100th anniversary. The commitment from all concerned with the production gave this a powerful and emotional theatrical statement.

The Ladykillers

The classic 1955 black comedy film, The Ladykillers, was adapted for the stage by Graham Linehan (co-creator of Father Ted) in 2011.  It may or may not be the greatest of the Ealing comedies, but it is certainly the one that immediately suggests itself as theatrical. The story remains the same – a group of crooks pose as musicians while planning to rob a security van. Their plotting takes place under the nose of their kindly, if eccentric, landlady Mrs Wilberforce. Her trusting nature seems initially to be a help, but her strong moral compass eventually proves something of a hindrance!

Not Now Darling

Not Now Darling is a traditional farce with all the regular hallmarks – people hiding in cupboards, spouses coming and going continuously and a wealth of mistaken identities and innuendo.

Firmly based in the 1960s, the script by Ray Clooney and John Chapman reminds one of the “Are You Being Served” comedy of the 1970, to which John Chapman was also a contributor. The extremely funny and very snappy script, gave an excellent cast every opportunity to shine, which they seized with both hands.

And Then There Were None

Ten strangers are summoned for a long weekend to the remote Soldier Island off the coast of Devon, under variously different pretexts.

Characters arrive individually and in pairs, having travelled to the island to see Mr and Mrs Owens; the hosts of this group holiday excursion. They are assisted Fred Narracott(Chris Allcock) the boatman, who appears briefly in the first act, complete with wellies and Cornish accent.

Only the maid Mrs Rogers (Catherine Wilkinson), and daughter and cook Ethel (Melissa Rawlings), are there to greet them. They too are waiting on the missing couple.

There is no way for any of them to leave the island, so they set about trying to determine who their mysterious hidden host might be and where he might be hiding. As stories are shared one becomes aware that no character has ever met the Owens’ and the confusion as to why they are there and who they all are, begins.

Spring and Port Wine

Spring and Port Wine is a domestic drama, set in the late 1960s, which centres on the attempts of Rafe Crompton (Allan Jones) to hold his family together by being a strict disciplinarian. He wants to retain old-fashioned values while his children, noticing that outside the world is changing rapidly, are intent on rebellion.

Rafe is a domineering, Bible-quoting tyrant who must have the truth whatever the consequences familiar to older members of the audience must have seen glimpses of their own father or grandfather; Jo Longstaff is delightful as his wife Daisy who uses all the wiles at her disposal to try to keep the family together, including fiddling the weekly household accounts when anyone is desperate for money.

Will You Still Love Me In The Morning?

Gainford Drama Club’s spring production of the Brian Clemens and Dennis Spooner farce was certainly one to remember. From the first night to the final performance the company was almost word-perfect and handled the fast-paced, sometimes frenetic action with aplomb.  The audience were chuckling from start to finish.  The play was well-directed by Lawrence Chandler, assisted by Maria Lowcock.

Peregrine Thelma Celia Jeremy

The plot is simple enough. Jeremy and Celia Winthrop return from their honeymoon a week early when their Spanish hotel isn’t up to scratch. Unfortunately Winthrop, looking for promotion, has handed over the keys of his cottage to his two bosses, and both decide to take him up on the offer. Even more unfortunately, both men are having affairs with the other one’s wife.  Mayhem ensues as the Winthrops try to keep the couples apart. The actors built the pace superbly with immaculate timing and mounting puzzlement at the situation.

The Game’s Afoot

(or Holmes for the Holidays)


Gainford Drama Club’s production of Ken Ludwig’s “The Game’s Afoot” (or Holmes For The Holidays) is part mystery, part melodrama, part comedy, part farce as well as good, well-crafted entertainment. You certainly need a scorecard to keep track of who is dead, could be dead or someone wants dead. Is it Colonel Mustard in the drawing room with a knife?  Maybe!
The play testifies to the enduring popularity of the world’s first consulting detective, however, the story does not feature Sherlock Holmes himself, instead it portrays the actor William Gillette, whose productions did much to cement the Holmes character, which we know and love, in the minds of the public, introducing the pipe, cape and deerstalker.