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2016 was a year when  I thought the standard of productions stabilised – no great increase in the level of performance and productions, but all Societies held the rise achieved in 2015, making it another year when we saw many and diverse productions to keep us happy!  I would like to thank all the Societies we visit for their hospitality, it is always a pleasure to catch up with like-minded colleagues!

It is always hard to single out winners of all the categories, but it is something I enjoy doing and which I know people look forward to!

Musical of the Year must go to the DAOS production of Legally Blonde, a well-cast energetic and vibrant production that, despite a few technical problems, really was a feel good sort of show, with some excellent performances.  My runner-up (and it was a close run thing) is Pump Boys and Dinettes from St Andrew’s Players.  A very different production, showing that even if it’s a small cast and minimal set, the performances can shine through and give us a super production.

We were a bit short on Youth Productions in the area, however I loved En Pointe Academy’s production of Alice in Wonderland which showcased all types of dance within the story, and appealed to me both production-wise and aesthetically, so they are my winner in this category.  Parkfields School production of High School Musical also ticked all the boxes, with the whole final year taking part in some way with such enthusiasm, no mean feat for the directors!

For me there were three stand out Plays this year – Journey’s End from Dunstable Rep, Romeo & Juliet from TADS and Stones in His Pockets from Griffin Players – all worthy of a mention, as they all touched and had an effect on me in different ways.  Journey’s End probably wins out, a heart-wrenching, well-acted and well-directed piece – an excellent production all round, but very closely followed by Romeo & Juliet, overall a fine production with good performances, that really brought the play to life, and almost rivalled by Stones in His Pockets a two-hander. I thoroughly enjoyed the play, the way it was acted, and the technical side was well achieved.  

My Pantomime of the Year goes to Griffin Players for their production of Dick and His Pussy – which also doubles for my Comedy Production of the Year.  I know I probably shouldn’t be confessing to enjoying the sometimes basic humour and downright vulgarity of the show, but it was accompanied by some excellent music and very clever writing by Richard Lovelock.  Equally enjoyable, and at the complete other end of the scale was Stage 1, who delighted with their pantomime, an annual pleasure for me, it’s always uplifting to watch the youngsters give their all with such energy and enjoyment.

MD of the Year is shared between Chris Young for Legally Blonde, and James Driver for Dick and His Pussy.  Both productions benefitted greatly from the experience and expertise of these two men, who know how to get the best from their cast, with James choosing some great music.  Charlotte Tabert also chose suitable music for Griffins family pantomime Jack & the Beanstalk, and got some good sounds from the cast.

My young performer of the year goes to Isabelle Lepore for her portrayal of Eva in Kindertransport for Dunstable Rep, who covered the emotions required of the part, and was always inside her character, although it was a close run thing with Lucy Farrar for her portrayal of Robin Hood for Stage 1, Lucy is a good performer, sings very nicely, and I enjoy how she interprets a role.  A special mention to Georgia Sweeney, who played the Little Girl in 6 Characters in Search of an Author - she kept her composure throughout, acting playing in the lake and then drowning very well for someone so young.

Best Actress in a Play is Joanne Croft as Bella Manningham in Gaslight - she started off looking and sounding so normal, then gradually degenerated to a character of menace.  Very well done.  Jenna Ryder-Oliver’s portrayal of Dolly in One Man Two Guv’nors also impressed, she gave the blowsy, brash character real meaning and intent.

Best Actor in a Play is a difficult one, as there are so many men who have given us excellent performances this year, but for me this is shared between Anthony Bird as Captain Stanhope in Journey’s End, an excellent characterisation showing how the responsibility affected him, and Alan Clarke as Lieutenant Osborne, who always gets under the skin of any character - a very real and often emotional portrayal from both men.  I loved their relationship.

Best Performance in a Musical goes to Helen Harris as Elle in Legally Blonde for DAOS, a very accomplished performance in a light and frothy piece, I also enjoyed Lucy O’Hare as Paulette in the same production, she gave us an excellent comedic performance.

Best Comedy Performance goes to Luke Murphy who came up trumps as Alfie, the waiter with a pacemaker in One Man Two Guv’nors for the Rep, followed closely by Alex Wheeler for his unfettered portrayal of Carlos in Legally Blonde for DAOS and Lorna Trapp as Blunderbore in Jack and the Beanstalk for Griffin Players.

Best Couple in a Play goes to John O’Leary and Alex C Brewer in Stones in His Pockets for Griffin Players – they created so many different relationships and characters, which really amazed me.  Another couple that provided good contrasts and relationships were Angela Goss as Lil and Sue Young as Evelyn in Kindertransport for Dunstable Rep – both ladies really know their craft and complemented each other in their understanding of the roles.

Best Duo/Trio in a Musical are Lucy O’Hare and James Halling for Legally Blonde, both giving their parts such detail and fun, very well-played. Their number Ireland was excellent. The runners up in this category are Gordon Hodges,

Stephen Hoath and Joe Emler as Hilarion, Florian and Cyril in Princess Ida for Putteridge Bury G&S Society, for Gordon’s very lively portrayal and singing extremely well, with expressive elements and good phrasing, Stephen’s interpretation and singing, along with Joe’s enthusiasm and energy.

For Choreography – my Award goes to Lynette Driver for Legally Blonde – Lynette always uses slightly quirky movements and steps, which makes a number very interesting and unusual, which is good to see.

Best Director must go to Sue Sachon for Romeo & Juliet for TADS, she always makes Shakespeare so much more enjoyable and easy to understand.  Sue had a good cast who took on her enthusiasm, and made it a memorable production.  Angela Goss also needs a mention for Legally Blonde from DAOS, a good cast that Angela could bring her directing skills to bear with.  I also liked Bekka Prideaux’s direction for Griffin Players Stones in His Pockets, not an easy piece.

My Technical Award this year goes to Dunstable Rep for Journey’s End - the set, designed by Alan Goss was excellent – a real feeling of the desolation and cramped facilities experienced.  I loved the attention to detail e.g. the effect when the roof caved in, plus excellent lighting effects from Fred Rayment, including the mortar lights in the sky over the dugout.  The cenotaph projected onto the stage, and the cast standing silently in tribute was a very moving finale.

Also worthy of a mention were two sets from TADS productions, the first for After Midnight & Before Dawn where compact staging kept the action well within vision, it represented a cell, and was very evocative, with straw on the floor, and excellent lighting. The music and sound effects also added to the haunting feel of the piece.  The second for Romeo & Juliet where the theatre was transformed to a street in Verona – designed by David Sachon and painted by Andrew Naish.

My thanks go to all the Societies who host us, we appreciate their time, and continue to enjoy their shows as much as ever.  The technical aspects are always good, sometimes outstanding, which always enhances a production.

Now we have reached the end of 2016 I would like to ask all you lovely people who are reading this to continue to support local theatre, to ensure our Societies flourish, as they are always dependent on their audience to fund their production, which we would be all the poorer for if they ceased.

So, as the curtain comes down on 2016, I wish you all the joys of the season followed by a happy, healthy and successful 2017.

Review of the year 2016

Luton News

By Nova Horley


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