A simply spiffing night out with the Boyfriend is without fault
Published at 09:08, Monday, 29 August 2011
IT’S so much nicer in Nice, don’t you know?– especially when transported there on a first class ticket by Green Shoe.
Sitting in the full house of Wylam Institute there was a great buzz of anticipation. How could last year’s brilliant performance of Andy Capp possibly be equalled or indeed capped? (Do go easy on the puns, mother).
Being of the digital media generation, the Green Shoe actors were able to set the scene by treating us to an exquisite short film, a black and white silent to take us back almost 100 years to the Roaring 20s and the French Riviera – the inspiration for Sandy Wilson’s beloved musical The Boyfriend.
On stage at Madame Dubonnet’s Finishing School where English girls (delightfully acted, danced and sung by Rachael Shaw-Kew, Kat Conaty, Becky Wood, Kat Lamb, Charlotte Robson, Harriet Rees and Georgia Nicholson) were sent by their frightfully rich parents to learn how to become terribly well behaved young ladies in preparation for the life to which they intended to become accustomed.
The set, designed and painted by Sarah Furniss and Jo Quilliam, was simple but very effective with black Art Deco designs in the form of palm trees and bi-planes, painted onto on a white background with stripes for all the major stage props.
As the first scene opened, this was complemented by the black and white of the French maid outfit of Hortense (Olivia Wright) as she spat into a glass to polish it – typical of the subtle and effective humour that was peppered throughout the play.
The girls of the school are full of chat and excitement about tonight’s fancy dress ball and who will popular rich girl Polly Browne be accompanying? Polly clasps an envelope but is giving nothing away. It’s only when she is alone with Madame Dubonnet that the truth is revealed. Polly has written the letter to herself – she is forbidden from taking a boyfriend by her awfully wealthy widowed father who fears that any suitors would only be after young Polly’s inheritance.
And now said father was on his way to Nice, by jove!
When Polly receives her fancy dress outfit from a rather shy delivery boy, she pretends that she is merely an employee of the school; this puts Tony at his ease and he asks her to accompany him to the ball.
Of course the audience recognise this “love at first sight” and if after overcoming everything that stands in the way of true love we didn’t see them at least half way up the aisle by the end of the play then we might feel very cheated and ask for our money back.
However, it’s not only the destination but the way of travelling that’s important and for that journey Green Shoe gave a captivating and energetic performance, consciously hamming it up as a nod to the genre and leading to great comic effect.
They enthralled the entire audience and judging by comments on that new-fangled social media network, this was repeated on successive nights.
Lucy Hudson and Stu Rutherford were perfectly matched as coy couple Polly and Tony for whom the course of events was never going to run smooth.
And the narrative would not be complete without numerous sub-plots involving different couples in various stages of proposal to be concluded with a unanimous “oui” as the clock struck midnight at the end of the ball.
We have zee naughty leetle Frenchmen played by Sam Quilliam, Patrick Sergei Quilliam, Tom Geary and Ben Dancer. They were dans les bathing costumes, making us laugh with le posturing et le strutting at le kissing one another on les cheeks (moi moi) and giving chase to les belles girls anglaises du Madame Dubonnet’s Ecole de Finishing.
But headstrong pupil Maisie (some awfully good acting by Rachael Shaw-Kew) has another suitor, American rich kid Bobby van Husen tremendously caricatured by one of the younger members of the cast, Will Rees.
Charles Craven was stern father (Percival Browne) whose heart was in dire need of a touch of defrosting by headmistress Madame Dubonnet (Sara Huddleston). Both actors played their roles very convincingly with Sara Huddleston and also French maid and confidante Hortense (Olivia Wright) maintaining a credible accent throughout.
Weaving in and out of the romantic trysts was a cameo by Charlotte Robson and Iain Hartley of the dominant, sneering Lady Hilda Brocklehurst and her hen-pecked husband, Hubert, looking for their estranged son Tony (the lovesick delivery boy).
But Lord Brocklehust is also a lecherous (and rheumatic) cad who engages in a most charming flirtatious song and dance routine with pupil Dulcie.
After a refreshing cup of Quilliam’s Specialty Tea with a slice of yummy gateau de banane, we also enjoyed “le plage” (or should that be la plage?) another short black and white silent movie to lead us in to Act 2. This one was filmed on location on the French Rivieria with healthy dose of slapstick and flying ice cream.
Amongst the many other highlights were the sunburnt Gentleman Sunbather (Sean Gallen), Specialty Dancers Pepe and Lolita (Sam Quiiliam and birthday girl Faye Gallen) and the colourful spectacle of the fancy dress ball with Polly Browne’s Pierrot ballet set performed by Lucy Hudson who choreographed the rest of the production with impeccable timing and warmth culminating of course with the Charleston. The choreography and movement was accompanied by a fine band of musicians led by Steve Quilliam and some superb renditions organised by Kat Conaty.
The Boyfriend was very different in style from last year’s Andy Capp but matched it in terms of energy and sheer professionalism not just in performance but also in set, costumes, lighting (Mark Jones and Ben Squire) and all brought together magnificently by Director Jo Quilliam.
I’m afraid I really can’t raise any criticism, old bean. Everything was thought of, even down to cushions on seats for the audience. Perhaps the raffle could have been drawn in French? Numero deux, six, neuf sur le blanc? Une bouteille de vin rouge ou du smelly bath salts, monsieur?
All in all, a most spiffing production – looking forward to next year’s already. Toodlepip!
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk