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A Batch of Cumbers

On Thursday I saw Hamlet broadcast by National Theatre Live, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, at the Thornden Hall in Chandler’s Ford. It was the fifth acting role I have seen Cumberbatch in, and apart from writing my review about the play, Hamlet, I would also like to write about how actors are defined by the roles they play.

Thornden Hall ticket

I first became aware of Benedict Cumberbatch through Sherlock, of course. After that I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness, though I can’t remember much about the film as I’m not a Star Trek guy (give me Star Wars any day). Following on from Sherlock I saw the National Theatre Live version of Frankenstein last Halloween, again at Thornden Hall, then I saw the Imitation Game at the Hilt in Hiltingbury. Then on Thursday I watched the highly anticipating play, Hamlet. Read the rest of this entry

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Fawlty Towers theatre review

Tonight is the first showing of the Chameleon Theatre Company’s Fawlty Towers. I got to see it last night at a free “press screening” and a special night to entertain the elderly from our local nursing homes in Chandler’s Ford. Here is my review of the show. I will discuss the show in depth so watch it before reading on.

Basil (Dave Wilkins) was struggling to deal with guests at Fawlty Towers. Mr Walt (Stephen Fenerty; left) and Mr Hutchison (Wayne Bradshaw; right).

Basil (Dave Wilkins) was struggling to deal with guests at Fawlty Towers. Mr Walt (Stephen Fenerty; left) and Mr Hutchison (Wayne Bradshaw; right).

Based on the TV show (which I haven’t seen, yet), the show revolves around Basil Fawlty, an insane and easy-to-annoy hotel manager who hates his guests. He runs the hotel with his wife, Sybil, and Manuel, his waiter, along with other characters. Three episodes are adapted, so I will look at each one individually.

A Touch of Class

In this part, a rich and important person called Lord Melbury visits the hotel, so Basil has to be nice and incredibly polite to him. There are lots of running gags in this one, including a picture being hung up, Manuel’s inability to understand many English words, and a customer who never gets his order.

What makes this part funny is Basil’s inability to function normally. He moves guests out of their table to appease Lord Melbury (who really doesn’t care about Basil’s efforts) and tries to tell Manuel to fetch the wine list despite it being right in front of him. In short, Basil is a control freak, who completely loses it in several comedic scenes in all three sections. My favourite part of this particular section is the running gag of the picture being put up.

Danny (sitting) was after Lord Melbury (rehearsal image).

(Rehearsal image): Danny (sitting, played by Paul Jones) was after Lord Melbury. With Basil (Dave Wilkins) and Manuel (Terry James).

The Hotel Inspectors

This one is my favourite. Basil becomes paranoid about local hotel inspectors and comes under the assumption that Mr Hutchinson, a guest who he thoroughly dislikes, is one of them. Meanwhile a second guest, Mr Walt, is trying to have a normal stay, but is caught up in Basil’s schemes.

The best thing about this is the use of mistaken identity. It is hard to guess which guest is the inspector, and Basil tries to satisfy them both. A hilarious part involves Basil trying to open a wine bottle. It also doesn’t help Basil that mishaps keep happening to him, as his attempts to make the hotel look manageable fall flat. Mr Hutchinson is an incredibly obnoxious and vocal person, which forces Basil to try and silence him in case Mr Walt, who he assumes is a hotel inspector, sees, Basil does this by choking Mr Hutchinson unconscious, which is incredibly funny.

The moment Basil (played by Dave Wilkins) met the Hotel Inspectors.

The moment Basil (played by Dave Wilkins) met the Hotel Inspectors.

The other funny thing is the ending, when Basil thinks he’s won. This is hilarious given the previous events in the episode. I won’t give it away but it is very funny and somewhat satisfying.

Communication Problems

This episode revolves around Mrs Richards whose picky remarks (the room is cold, the bath is too small, the view is invisible and the radio doesn’t work) drive Basil insane. He is also trying to hide his horse betting win money from his wife; however, this plan fails when Mrs Richards complains her money is stolen.

Basil (Dave Wilkins) asked Manuel (Terry James) to help him bet on a horse without wanting Sybil to know.

Basil (Dave Wilkins) asked Manuel (Terry James) to help him bet on a horse without wanting Sybil to know.

The two plots in this work really well together, as they both merge together like any good comedy. This section features my favourite exchange of the whole show, between Basil and Mrs Richards, his guest. The scene is absolutely hilarious.

Mrs Richards (Liz Strevens) is very demanding. With Sybil (Marilyn Dunbar) and Basil (Dave Wilkins).

Mrs Richards (Liz Strevens; centre) was very demanding. With Sybil (Marilyn Dunbar) and Basil (Dave Wilkins).

Basil was distraught. Kerr (Nick Coleman) came to bring him good news.

Basil was distraught. Kerr (Nick Coleman) came to bring him good news.

Overall, this is a great show if you want a night out with lots of laughs. I now want to watch the original show and watch the other episodes of it. The comedy is similar to Monty Python, Blackadder and other British comedies. The use of language and character stereotypes are distinctly British, so if you like British comedies, like me, you’ll love this show.

Director of Fawlty Towers: Gillian Wilkins

The Ladykillers theatre review

On Saturday my parents and I forfeited Doctor Who (BLASPHEMY!!) to watch a local theatre performance by the Chameleon Theatre Company in Chandler’s Ford of Eastleigh. It was a performance of The Ladykillers and, as a favour for my mum (not that I’d usually do favours for her), I’ll review it.

The story revolves around five bank robbers consisting of ‘Professor’ Marcus, ‘Major’ Courtney, the comedic Mr Robinson, the dumb ex-boxer One-Round (aka Mr Lawson) and the gangster Louis. They go undercover to construct a plan to rob a security van, and set up base by living with Mrs Wilberforce, an old lady who the ‘Professor’ has tricked into thinking that they are innocent musicians who need complete concentration to work.

Are they true musicians? Funny scene from The Ladykillers by Chameleon Theatre Company in Chandler's Ford, Eastleigh.

Are they true musicians? Funny scene from The Ladykillers by Chameleon Theatre Company in Chandler’s Ford, Eastleigh.

The robbers all hate each other

The funniest part about all this is the fact that the five main robbers are all completely different and it’s obvious that many of them hate each other. Marcus, as the team leader, struggles the most to keep the team under control and to stop one of the others from revealing their true intentions. This leads to many hilarious moments including a scene where Marcus has to mime actions to Harry Robinson, only for Harry to mess it up completely. The scene in question has Harry trying to tell Mrs Wilberforce that he has a sick mum, and that she is blind and mad, not understanding Marcus. Marcus, understandably annoyed, places his face in his hands and Harry misinterprets this as Marcus trying to mime the fact that Harry’s mum constantly washes her face.

Professor Marcus is played by Matthew Meehan.

Professor Marcus is played by Matthew Meehan.

Harry himself is the joker of the pack, suffering from OCD, which creates a brilliant running gag of him frequently cleaning up the house. This is a complete contrast to Louis, an ultra serious criminal who is taking the whole situation too seriously and believes that Mrs Wilberforce will ruin the plan and that Marcus hasn’t planned it out (turns out he’s right). Despite this, Louis is absolutely terrified of old ladies, and with plenty of them in the story, it makes his life pretty miserable. The ‘General’ is the bumbling war veteran who is the first one to die. He tries to get away with the money by himself when the plan goes wrong and ends up on a train track. Well, in fact they all do, except for Mrs Wilberforce, who gets all the money in the end.

My favourite character, the very dumb One Round.

My favourite character, the very dumb One Round.

My favourite ‘dumb’ character

And that leaves One Round, easily my favourite character. The reason he’s my favourite is because I always like the dumb characters in these sort of things. His lack of understanding of the situation, his repetition of “Am I Mr Lawson?” and his protection of Mrs Wilberforce is just great, and he’s the only character in the whole play who actually changes as the story goes on. Mrs Wilberforce herself is hilarious, as she has no knowledge of the situation until One Round accidentally reveals that they have just robbed the bank. Oh yeah, and she has a diseased parrot called General Gordon.

The Ladykillers - Five robbers are grinning from the cupboard - "We are discussing (about the music / robbery)."

The Ladykillers – Five robbers are grinning from the cupboard – “We are discussing (about the music / robbery).”

There are lots of funny moments, so here are my top 5-

5. The aforementioned washing the face scene.

4. When they come back from the robbery and Louis is worried that one of them will betray the others. Suddenly Marcus came out of the toilet.

3. The discussion about which Friday the ‘musicians’ are meant to play.

2. Everything One Round says.

1. When they all hide in the cupboard when the policeman comes into the house, only for Mrs Wilberforce to open the door and they all stare at her, grinning.

 

The Ladykillers: hilarious.

The Ladykillers: hilarious.

Overall, this is a great play. If you missed it then it’s a shame but there are performances every few months at the Richie Memorial Centre in Chandler’s Ford.

Finally, did you know that in the original production of the play, Marcus was played by the 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi – the Doctor being a robber, where have I seen it before?

(Note: Image credit: All images are by Keith Taylor, a member of Winchester Photographic Society.)