Monday, 7 December 2015

Imperial Productions' Trial by Jury: a personal review

Never mind the gaps

I’m busy making what I think will be the first panel for our 2016 Reg Varney exhibition at Fairlynch Museum. It’s a selection of the people associated with the Budleigh area who, as I put it, ‘have given pleasure to millions, with their contribution to theatre, cinema or the media.’ Here it is. It’s still only a draft, with corrections to be made and gaps to be filled. Please let me know if I’ve missed anyone out.

The panel is likely to be a permanent exhibit in Fairlynch Museum, to show how the area has been blessed with quite a number of entertainers, writers and artists who’ve kept us entertained. That includes the various drama clubs and societies, not forgetting the wonderful Imperial Productions who have been entertaining Budleigh audiences for so many years.

No, not a dance troupe!

But it was not an entertaining image that I saw on the front page of last Saturday’s Times newspaper. I thought at first I was seeing the photo of an All Blacks haka performance, so grimly martial and determined did this band of young men appear. 

But no, they turned out to be Isis fighters performing for the camera, and now, apparently, invading Afghanistan, intent on their usual activities of slaughter and intimidation.

Depressing. The masks they were wearing reminded me of Darth Vader’s robots: inhuman, humourless and life-denying.

Entertainment was badly needed. My friend Annie and I had booked tickets for Imperial Productions’ matinée performance of Trial By Jury. It was a perfect remedy. A wonderful afternoon of joyful and lively theatre gave laughter and life back to the world.

Songs of Love from the Imperial programme

For a start, love - not hate - was the theme of the first half of the show.

I was never really into Cole Porter, Irving Berlin & co – but now that I’m researching Reg Varney’s involvement in showbiz of the 1940s and 50s many of those vaguely remembered tunes seem to be floating back into my head. As my friend Annie admitted, she found during the afternoon that she could remember all the lyrics of these celebrated works.   

The second half of the afternoon was based on what happens when love goes wrong, but was just as entertaining. This version of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical-comedy had been updated to feature celebrity footballers and their WAGs – ‘wives and girl-friends’ – for those of my not so updated readers.

Now maybe I’ve been coarsened by my recent watching of clips of On the Buses and The Rag Trade. I realized that last Saturday I was laughing at quite a lot of smut and political incorrectness. 

And I reckon that I was missing masses of the jokes, feeling at the time that the actors could have enunciated more clearly - although that’s what my elderly deaf mother would have said. But I heard more than enough to enjoy.  

G&S with footballers & WAGs

I’m pretty sure that today’s feminists would have taken a dim view of the ‘thwarted WAG’ character Angie Sullivan ‘The Claimant’ (Rebekah Engeler) and ‘innocent rose of a girl’ who ends up in one scene sitting on Mr Justice Soxon’s (Simon Jones) lap. The  judge’s line - ‘as she only cares for wealth I shall marry her myself’ - would have made a few lips purse.  

And cockney love-rat and Chelsea football player Eddie Gilbert (Robert Felstead) aka ‘The Defendant’, with his view that girls like ‘muscular thighs and wealth’ would have been booed off stage in some theatres.

Did I really hear Mr Justice Soxon call bridesmaid and ex-WAG Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (Alicia Kearns) Miss Fellatio-Verucca when he couldn’t quite remember her name?

Yes, not all that different from the On the Buses type humour that makes the high brows shudder and cringe. The brilliant version of the G&S classic ‘Three Little Maids’ reminded me of the laddishness of The Rag Trade’s character shop steward Paddy played by Miriam Karlin and her female workmates at Fenner Fashions.

It was a privilege to enjoy Imperial Productions’ spectacle of this young band of players celebrating love and life in all its aspects, with smart choreography  and excellent musical direction by Brian Steel, the whole wittily put together by writer and director Alaric Barrie. No joyless dance of death here, as in the deserts and mountains of Syria, Iraq and now Afghanistan.

Annie and I must sign up for the Imperial Productions’ Patrons Scheme. The next Budleigh show is Oklahoma, from 26-30 July 2016, in the Public Hall. For more information about Imperial Productions see    

No comments:

Post a Comment