Blurring the lines – professionals playing amateurs: Imagine the scene, you’re an awkward widower who is trying to get some sort of social life, and you join the local operatic society. You can sort of sing, are instantly accepted and it immediately turns out everyone in the company, including the director, are a bit mad. They drag you into their world and involve you in their drama, and before you know it, the centre of the drama off-stage happens to be you. Guy Jones, our sort of hero, starts the show as the ensemble takes their bows from a successful show, before everyone leaves him behind. Rewind to three months earlier, and we follow Guy in his path from awkward ensemble member to local hero – sort of.
I have seen many strong, professional performances in the London West End over the last few years of living in London, and have marvelled countless times over tight choreography and masterful singing. A Chorus Of Disapproval, directed by Trevor Nunn and performed by a splendid ensemble cast led by Rob Brydon as the temperamental director Daffyd ap Llewellyn, puts the experience on its head.
Instead of finely tuned performances, the actors successfully portray the imperfections of an amateur production, with fumbling dance moves, wooden acting and singing that doesn’t quite manage to do more than shriek at the top notes. But this only applies to when they are performing as the characters would when they are trying to act.
Outside of the rehearsals themselves, the characters were believable and enjoyable to watch. For instance, we have the swinging couple Fay and Ian Hubbard (Daisy Beaumont and Paul Thornley – most recently seen in London Road) who invited Guy to bring a “friend” over for what was clearly intended as a partner swap, culminating in a conversation between Fay and Guy where he is talking about veal (as in the food) and she thinks he’s describing an exotic sex act she is unfamiliar with.
While the standout performance was Rob Brydon, helped by having much more material to work with than the rest of the cast, the entire ensemble were a joy to watch, with a highlight being Georgia Brown as the aggressive young stage manager Bridget Baines.
Fair is fair, the plot is rather thin, and it doesn’t really go anywhere satisfying in the end. I don’t entirely understand the motives of Guy Jones and he comes across as a bit of a weak character who you don’t have very much respect for. He doesn’t particularly grow or learn anything, and so our hero’s journey left me feeling a bit unfulfilled. At the same time, I found I didn’t mind. It’s hardly a piece that makes you think, nor does it move you emotionally. But as an affectionate homage to amateur theatre groups, it works. The jokes were good and well executed and it never felt like amateur dramatics were ridiculed, far from it. There’s nothing wrong with simply having a good time, and tonight’s performance had the audience in stitches.
Review by Tori Jo Lau
Content updated 1st May 2014