On this Valentine’s Day where we celebrate being in love, we wanted to introduce you to our own Valentine, Sweetheart and Leading Lady Maid Marion – Played by Lizzie Harknett.
Lizzie came to watch her sister in last year’s BATS production of Cinderella, thoroughly enjoying the show and incredibly talented cast. After a few shoves in the direction of the auditions for Robin Hood from said sister, Lizzie found herself singing for the first time in over 13 years and much to her surprise she managed to land the role of Maid Marion!
Lizzie performed in many productions during her childhood but after school got caught up in the rat race of life, now working as a crime analyst. Lizzie has been a type 1 diabetic for 30 years, is a mother to her two year old daughter and is married to her childhood sweetheart.
Lizzie is quite overwhelmed to be playing a principal part but has loved developing the strong minded character of Marion, she really is a live wire! Being out of the house two evenings a week to rehearse has been quite a challenge but, being part of the BATS family and to do something for herself has been such a wonderful experience and she is very grateful to be involved.
Say Hello or rather ”BOOOOO” to the EVIL Sheriff of Nottingham played by Lucas Wilcox.
Lucas Wilcox is 15 and currently in his GCSE year studying at Samuel Whitbread Academy. This is Lucas’s 2nd Panto with BATS having joined in April 2017.
Lucas had a busy year of performing in 2018, playing leads in Tommy, Little Shop of Horrors and Cinderella and performing in EDSA’s West End Excess at the Gordon Craig theatre in Stevenage.
He also won the adjudicator awards at both the Welwyn Drama Festival and the Cambridge Drama Festival for his performances in an Original Play called The Cat Burglar with The Out Of Ideas Theatre Company.
Lucas has recently been accepted into Emil Dale Performing Arts Academy from September 2019, for A level college.
Lucas has loved being part of the BATS family over the last 2 years, he feels he has made some lifelong friends.
Lucas can’t wait for the summer when GCSE’s will be over!
THE 2018 NODA AWARDS for DISTRICT 2
Ampthill and Flitwick Drama Society for The Importance of Being Ernest
Biggleswade Amateur Theatre Society (BATS) for Steel Magnolias
Leighton Buzzard Drama Group for Natural Causes
Barton Players for Oliver
Bedford Marianettes for The Addams Family
Sharnbrook Mill Theatre Trust for Spamalot
Biggleswade Amateur Theatre Society (BATS) for Cinderella
Leighton Buzzard Drama Group for Aladdin
Maulden Players for Robin Hood
BEST YOUTH PRODUCTION (There were only two this year in our district, both from one school)
4Sixteen Theatre Company for A Midsummer Night’s Dream
4Sixteen Theatre Company for Singin’ in The Rain
BEST YOUNG PERFORMER
Bewlay Stanton of Sharnbrook Mill Theatre Trust for Patsy in Spamalot.
BEST TECHNICAL AWARD
Barton Players for ‘The imaginative lighting effects in Oliver’
Bedford Marianettes for ‘The costumes and make-up for the Addams Family especially the ancestors’
Stewartby Operatic Society for ‘The scenery for Rudigore particularly the portraits of the ancestors’
Cinderella: 2018 Panto:
Steel Magnolias – Sept 2018:
Robin Hood Feb 2019;
Noda Review – September 2018
Author: Richard Fitt
Just as every Cinema/theatregoer will have a favourite director or actor, so the same can be said of Amateur theatre; and as I have shared the stage with one of the actors I knew I would be in for an enjoyable evening.
BATS are currently a nomadic group, not having a permanent home. The last time I saw them was in a large school hall with a huge stage, This time I found myself in a small Methodist Church with a raised platform serving as the small stage to hold all the paraphernalia of a hairdressing saloon for their latest production, Steel Magnolias. The seating which was practically full was all flats so not many rows had a particularly clear view of said stage, which was a pity because they had gone to a lot of trouble to set the scene.
With that said the set and props Designers, Rusty and Melanie Wilcox had done an amazing job. Wash basins (sadly I’m told, the planned running water had to be abandoned owing to a pump malfunction, ladies I can tell you it made no difference to my enjoyment of the evening) Salon chairs, mirrors, sofa, shelves and all the paraphernalia needed to run Truvy’s Beauty Salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana, complete with well painted shop sign was intelligently placed on that tiny stage with enough space left for the actors to do their stuff. Nice work.
Lighting by Jonathon Wing lit the stage well and certainly helped create the steamy atmosphere of the deep south very well. However, it was obviously not easy in this makeshift theatre to just light the stage area and draw the audience in, as we found ourselves almost as well illuminated as the actors.
Sound by Tim Gardiner was excellent with the music and 80’s radio station particularly spot on and atmospheric. Not sure the gunshots were immediately and easily identified as gunshots though. Perhaps it was my new hearing aids!
The play is set in Chinquapin, Louisiana between 1982 and 1984 and takes place entirely in the beauty Salon of Truvy Jones played here by Kerry Hewish. It follows the same plot of the film minus the male characters; even though they are referred to from time to time. It opens with her hiring a young assistant, later to become a born-again Christian, Annelle Dupuy-Desoto (Erin Crockford) who has fallen on hard times after her husband has gone on the run from the police and left her penniless. Enter four regular customers, Clairee Belcher (Natashia Leftwich) the widow of the former Mayor, mother and daughter M’Lynn Eatenton (Melanie Wilcox) and Shelby Eatonton-Latcherie (Sarah Riley), a type one diabetic whose wedding day it is, to be joined later by the tour-deforce that is Ouiser Boudreaux (Kay Young), a belligerent but lovable, dominating, wealthy curmudgeon.
The action follows the lives of the 6 characters over the next two years as Shelby, against doctor’s advice become pregnant gives birth and how the tragic consequences of doing so affect all their lives.
This is a wordy play with relentless action and nonstop business and Director Melanie Wilcox did a top notch job of drilling her cast. I take my hat off to her for both taking on a major role and directing, not an easy task at the best of times! However, what she created was a top-quality team of actors playing off each other with real understanding. It really was like watching a group of people who had known each other for years and met regularly to indulge in the local gossip. They were all totally relaxed and comfortable in their own skins as well as with each other. It was an absolute joy to watch and what made the acting of the highest calibre was the way they were listening and reacting to each other all the time. A perfect example was Ouiser being told her hands were like steaks, across the salon she went and put some hand cream on all the while still listening to the conversation still going on. Seamless! It really was a master class of reactive acting. Also a special mention for both Truvy and Annelle who really did carry out hair styling on the other actors throughout the play. What was also excellent was although each actor played homage to their original they didn’t fall into the trap of trying to clone them, each actress made the part their own in a measured and intelligent way. The final scene after (spoiler alert) Shelby’s death was so charged with emotion and the tension was so palpable, at least two of the cast were actually crying, that the audience literally exploded with laughter when Clairee pulled the stunt of suggesting M’Lynn should hit Ouiser,. You are unlikely to see better acting than that. It was a top team all round and it was a real pity that this show a was (owing to licencing problems) only scheduled for two performances, it deserved to run for weeks!
I came with the expectation of being entertained and I was not disappointed in anyway.
NODA review of Biggleswade Amateur Theatre Society (BATS) ‘Cinderella’
Friday 2nd February – 2018 – 7:30pm
Stratton Upper School
Review by Leigh Smith
It was a nice return to Stratton Upper School for me as the last time I was there; I was nervously waiting in the wings to give my A‐level Music performance many years ago. The hall has an excellent proscenium arch stage and large auditorium area which for any company, must be hard to fill to capacity.
BATS create a high energy atmosphere in the auditorium upon the house being opened, with current ‘pop’ music playing over an excellent sound system. It certainly gets the kids and oldies alike pumped up and ready for the frolics of ‘pantoland’.
I always read the directors notes before a performance and seeing that the director’s chair was taken up by BATS stalwart Kay Young who was notching up her 10th panto directors credit with BATS – I felt sure that I was in safe hand and in for a good night.
Fairy Godmother (Maxine Connolly) kicks the show off with a band of fairy underlings who were all excellent in their individual line delivery and reacting to what was being said. Connnolly very much looked the part with an excellent costume and glitter seeming coming out of every pore which did look magical. I did struggle sometimes with her dialogue in terms of pace and would have liked to have heard more dynamic in her lines. That said, she had a lovely singing voice and suited her song
Cinderella was played by Emily Hewish. Miss Hewish approached the role in a very understated way which at first, I wasn’t sure of. However, as we continued along her story, it was actually a very lovely portrayal of the girl in rags, downtrodden with a heart of gold that is very unassuming. I particularly loved the scene with Buttons as he tries to bring the ball to Hardup Hall’s Kitchen. Emily showed grace and a emotional maturity which actually promoted the message that we don’t always get what we want and to be happy in life with what we have. Not the typical panto message, but it’s what hit me. Of course you have to also have someone who can transform from said girl in rags to beautiful princess and Emily certainly was the girl for the job. Well Done.
Buttons was perfectly played by 17 year old Max Gill who has West End theatre credits to his name which showed in abundance. This young man was confident, clear and completely believable in his love for Cinders. The moment Cinderella drops the bombshell that she really does love him….. ‘like a brother’ was comedy gold in his reaction and this was very much the tone he set for his whole performance. He had a fine singing voice taking the lead on the final number which is no easy task
singing a Queen number.
Prince Charming and Dandini played by Louise Connolly and Katy Gardiner respectively worked well as a pairing and you really felt that Charming knew he could rely on Dandini and that Dandini was his loyal aide and had his back so to speak.
Both looked the part and held the stage as they should. Sadly the sound gremlins were also having fun the night we came and Charming’s microphone was often
‘in and out’ making it hard to hear at times. What did strike me about the two ladies was just how perfect for pantomime they are. Connolly’s poise and grace was effortless and Gardiners smile is simply infectious. Even when not delivering lines, the art of re‐acting is not lost on these two who were excellent at it.
Enter the Ugly Sisters. Hyacinth and Lowercinth played by the returning Gareth Griffiths and quite possibly the youngest dame I have ever seen at 18 years, Ollie Elkin. Both of these experienced performers brought energy, comedy and colour to the stage with excellent costumes, wigs and sharp delivery of lines which kept the pace up when they were on stage.
What I would say is when playing such roles that are larger and louder than life, you must find the balance of just how much to put in to the mix which for the most part, these two did perfectly. There was just one or two moments when the staged chaos became reality when it was hard to follow where we should be. However, with that said, I do want to congratulate them both on their partnership. They were really fun to watch.
The Baron Chris Hall was suitably cast both in physicality and nature. He had the perfect spoken voice for the kindly father to Cinders and his warmth really came across. I did feel nervous for him however as I wasn’t sure he was overly secure in some of his lines but with a seasoned performer comes the ability to carry on
and pull things back round, which in panto is doable and some would argue integral to a good night out.
The Baroness played by Denice Watson had the perfect physicality for this part. She was suitably acid tongued and when scripted to be prickly and razor sharp delivered. However, what I would have like to have seen, was more ad‐libbed interaction with the audience telling them to shut up, be quiet etc when she entered the stage being booed. I am completely sure Denice could have pulled it off as mentioned above, nailed it within the confines of the script. I didn’t quite understand the makeup on
this character as she should have been a beautiful villain – think Cruella Deville as opposed to being to like the ugly sisters.
Rough and Ready – a right couple of Bankers……… BANKERS! were played by Kara Morallee and Charlotte Jakes. Stalwarts to BATS, they are no stranger to panto I’m sure and they certainly had the audience chuckling away. I liked their performance and if I could offer some constructive criticism, it is to not be afraid to stand still. When delivering jokes – which is all about timing, standing still to make it all about the punchline is imperative. I liked their chemistry though and the back and forth money scams were excellently done.
Madamme Olga was played by Kerry Hewish. Her portrayal of her character reminded me of Madamme Giry from Phantom Of The Opera. The stern dance mistress striking fear with the bang of her staff. I particularly like her infatuation of Anton Du Beke – very funny.
I must mention the group of Ballet dancers from Hitchin & Sandy Dance Academy, both the younger group and older group. So lovely to see and for some, what a great introduction to theatre. I must say how impressed I was with the point work from the older ballet girls – simply stunning. I loved it.
It’s also worth mentioning the dancing of the youngster in this production. BATS are very fortunate to have these young members and the moves these youngsters were busting out in their standalone sections in numbers were great. From double synchronised backflips across the stage to crabs and flips in to splits – these youngsters were excellent. Well done indeed.
My stand out performer without a shadow of a doubt was Lucas Wilcox. As Major Domo but more impressively as the Herald, this young man proved the he knows comedy. He was confident, bright, funny and simply perfect in his portrayal. I am very interested to know where this young man is performing next as I would like to see him in something other than a pantomime. He nailed the physical comedy, the audible comedy and was focused throughout. Well done young man.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I started the evening confident that I was in for a good night’s entertainment, and for the most part I was. However, there were a few things that sprung to mind after I left the venue that I though was a shame and would have made a good production a great production.
When you undertake a panto, it’s a given that there is a certain amount of ‘traditional business’ that simply has to happen. It’s formulaic and been handed down from production to production over the many years pantomime has been performed. I felt there were missed opportunities. For instance – it was relatively light on audience engagement – there could have been more ‘rehearsed ad-libs’ with the audience to get them going etc. I felt that maybe the position of the audience played a part in this as we were set quite far back as there was a kiddies area in the front with soft mats for them to sit.
I was also surprised that there was no community song. I understand that this may have been substituted for the excellent snowball fight between the split audience (which is a great idea and thoroughly enjoyed by all, in fact I think the adults got more into it than the kids!) but in my opinion a panto audience all love a sing song! Its the ideal time to get kids up on stage and make it really special for them to be under the lights etc. Perhaps the snowball fight could have been finished with community sing of a classic like ‘Let Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow’ for example.
I also note from the programme there was no Musical Director credited. Perhaps going forward, appoint someone to focus purely on the music and ensure that everyone is supported and confident in what they are doing and add a little vocal colour by way of simply but effective harmonies.
Lighting and sound were under the capable hands of Dave and Kate Malby. Lighting was simple but effective and in terms of the sound as I said above, unfortunately the crew was clearly struggling with gremlins which can happen to the best of them. However, those trouble aside it was good quality sound although the backing tracks could be louder to give more impact and energy to both cast and audience.
Stage Manager Melanie Wilcox and crew ensured good scene changes in a timely and efficient manner and never held the show up. The back cloths and set as a whole – completely fabricated and painted by Melanie Wilcox, Maxine Connolly, Jennie Martin, Lisa Beckett and Rusty were charming and well done.
Costumes by Natasha Leftwich were good and appropriate however I was slightly disappointed with Buttons’ costume, or more specifically the bottom half of his costume. To have the top half in full Buttons regalia to the bottom half of black skinny jeans and trainers was a little remiss in my opinion, especially when every other character was in full head to toe appropriate costume.
Makeup led by Judith Wakeling was colourful and well done.
Although I offer some form of constructive criticism at the end of this review, it was still an excellent effort from everyone involved. BATS as a group I feel, are a real inclusive community who outside of panto are open to trying new things and am confident this criticism is met in the spirit it is given ‐ in that we always want to strive to do the best we can.
Subsequently, I had chatted to director Kay Young and she had explained to me she had been quiet the busy bee with this production wearing many different hats and you really should be congratulated along with the team for what you achieved.
Ultimately, the measure of any show is the reaction of the audience and certainly on the night I went they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Introducing Paul Riddy who plays the character of Little Joan.
Paul is a newbie to BATS, but he has been treading the boards for more years than he cares to remember, having first performed with VAMPS of St Neots and St Neots Players in the early 70’s. For years he has been supported by his wife, Linda, someone who vowed she would never set foot on stage herself. Nowadays he spends more time watching her perform than he does performing himself. His daughter, Jess is his pride and joy. She is with Riverside Theatre Company and most definitely gets her singing ability from her Mum and not him! Paul has played a wide variety of roles in plays, musicals and pantomimes. His favourite role to date has to be that of Owen Newitt in the St Neots Players production of ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ a role for which he received a ‘best supporting actor’ award. However, the most pleasurable things about this particular role, were firstly that both Linda and Jess were on stage with him and secondly that he played opposite Kay Young as ‘The Vicar’, an experience he will never forget!
It was of course that stage partnership that led him to BATS and Paul would like to thank everyone for the warm welcome they have given him. He can’t wait to step on stage as ‘Little Joan’.