2009 had two live theatre shows, a day of arts and crafts, a Mamma Mia fancy dress night, and some literal slapsticks…
Rude Mechanicals’ Slapstick Workshop – 21 Feb 2009
Twenty-three villagers aged from 8 to 80 attended our Slapstick Workshop run by Pete Talbot of the Rude Mechanicals Theatre Company. Pete is the founder, writer, director and general inspiration of the company, and he is an expert in the techniques of commedia dell’arte used by the Rudes in their performances.
Pete trained in Italy where the techniques were first developed in the 16th Century, though they have been used in a wide a range of theatre traditions including Shakespeare, Moliere, 19th century Victorian melodrama, pantomime, and 20th Century comedy including Jacques Tati, Charlie Chaplin, Only Fools and Horses and Dad’s Army to name a few. He emphasised the importance of the body in expressing universal characters and emotions, particularly as commedia actors wear face masks.
We were given the chance to act out some of the stock characters of commedia including: Il Capitano (a bumptious, overbearing, braggart full of swagger but fundamentally weak, see Falstaff, Dell Boy, Capt Mainwaring); Amoretti (the young star-crossed, romantic lovers whose course never runs smoothly); Zanni (the lower orders, not very bright, highly sexed and out to get one over their masters); and Prima Donna (worldly wise, sexually knowing, she can see off any man with a tilt of the head and a flick of her skirt). There were some interesting interpretations of all these characters and much laughter and amusement.
These techniques could help amateur actors in preparing for a role, and also help audiences to have a better appreciation of the style and skill of the Rude Mechanicals.
Fundraising Quiz & Supper – 27 March 2009
The Village Hall was heaving and we couldn’t have squeezed an extra body in for our quiz night. As usual Christine and Tony devised a challenging and interesting set of questions on a range of topics while Eleanor once again produced a superb repast for our delight, to general acclaim all round.
The winning team was the Park View Terriers followed by the Universally Challenged and The Untouchables. A total of nearly £500 was raised, of which the raffle proceeds, plus the very generous donation of the winning team’s prize money, will enable us to send a cheque for about £200 to the Rude Mechanical Theatre Company’s appeal for a new touring lorry.
Many thanks to the AF organising team and all the participants. A great night and a great result.
Third Party Productions – Dr Faustus – 2 May 2009
Review by Ray Nard
We had friends staying with us over the Bank Holiday weekend who thought that we, the villagers of Crowhurst, had everything. Stunningly beautiful countryside, a great recreation ground, a good (open!) village pub and a tremendous community spirit.
But would there be anything extra that we, collectively as a village, would literally ‘sell our souls for’? A brand new state of the art village hall perhaps? A viable village store/post office? A complete halt to the proposed Link road? No more in-fill encroachment on the Crowhurst side of Queensway? Or more recently, the 4×4 idiots who are desecrating our verges with their off tracking being consumed in fire and brimstone? Wouldn’t it be wonderful?
Alas, all good things come with a price and this was the cornerstone of the dilemma that faced Dr. Faustus in Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus which was performed, to a full house, by the Third Party touring company in our old (but trustworthy) Village Hall. Anyone who saw Fair Maid of the West in the Village Hall last year will know that Third Party have a reputation for adapting classic plays to a simple, visceral form and Faustus, with its magical overtones and Marlowe’s rich text, was the perfect play for their style.
Basically, the story is about an insatiable intellectual who, having mastered all the academic disciplines of his age, turns to black magic and sells his soul to the Devil for twenty four years of magical power. Faustus is the big fish in the little sea of humanity and it bores him, but once the pact is signed he finds himself the minnow in a devilish ocean.
Third Party’s accessible drama worked remarkably well and the style, a mix of George Formby music, rough magic and comic asides, highlighted Marlowe’s text beautifully.
Nicholas Collett was a bumbling Dr. Faustus, bristling with the uselessness of knowledge and yet an easy dupe to the wiles of Anthony Gleave’s Mephistophilis. Gleave was a superb louche lounge lizard who didn’t seem to care if his contract was signed or not, yet his ambivalence was devilishly persuasive.
Lucifer was played by Shelley Atkinson, adding feminine wiles to the ultimate temptation.
The action was set in a dusty library and married the text with the theatrical illusions of light and magic (how did he stick that kitchen knife into his arm without causing a major injury?). There was also just the right balance of music and contemporary comedy, although I can’t imagine why Pete Woolley was singled out when Viagra was mentioned! And finally, when Faustus eventually has to face up to the consequences of his pact, he is confronted by a ventriloquist dummy of himself, ably and hilariously manipulated by Gleave (including the classic ‘don’t put me in the box’ routine).
Faustus is what rural touring should be! Well made, well directed and performed, but also creatively produced with real quirky surprises which both thrilled and engaged. This was an extremely entertaining piece of work, which may not have reached the spectacular heights of last year’s production, yet pushed boundaries with style and convention in the treatment of classical material without alienating the audience.
Perhaps a soul or two could be sacrificed to ensure we continue to get such high quality drama in the future!
– Ray Nard
(photo: Steve Ackerman)
The Rude Mechanicals – Mother Sweetapple – 17 July 2009
Review by Ray Nard
If I told you I saw an ashen faced clown strutting across the recreation ground on a stormy summers evening with an enormous cockerel codpiece strapped between his legs, then you would know that the unmissable Rude Mechanicals were back in the village, this time with their latest offering Mother Sweetapple.
This new play, written and directed as usual by the astonishing Pete Talbot, was a tender tale, a romantic comedy set in the sultry Tuscan landscape of the 14th century. It told of teenage love thwarted by stupid male chauvinism and then rediscovered in maturity (well relative maturity) many years later. It was a story of intrigue and attempted murder, of seduction and lycanthropy under a full (if soggy) moon and punctuated with the possibility of happiness – even for someone with extremely big feet!!!
The day itself had already been full of drama with the threat of yet another summer monsoon delaying a decision as to where the play would take place (the Village Hall was on standby for any serious deluge).
But the sight of our stalwart cricketers playing through the drizzle convinced everyone involved to go ahead on the green and once again the villagers of Crowhurst turned up in great numbers to support the Rudes. Those that were put off by the weather missed a treat and must try and catch them when they appear at Catsfield later in the year. It won’t be the same though because part of the pleasure is being with familiar faces and sharing local banter – even Councillor Standby’s jokes (although on this occasion he can be forgiven because he was celebrating his 70th birthday that evening).
The play itself was hilarious and bawdy, but poetic and challenging too. It was rough and ready stuff, yet its ambition was never in doubt and the relationship between the performers and audience was always a two-way street (ask the girls who had the aforementioned codpiece thrust in their faces!!).
There were some genuinely brilliant comic moments, especially from Iceland-born Rudes’ regular Pall Palsson, who played the codpiece-wielding Captain Grandegallo (that’s Italian for big ….. well, I think you get the picture). However, it would be unfair to single him out because there were superlative performances from all the multitalented cast
including Rudes’ novice, Andy Cresswell. The show was at its best when it acknowledged and played with its own commedia dell’arte theatrical form which many of the audience had an insight into at the Rudes’ workshop in the Village Hall earlier this year. What looks breathtakingly simple and at times quite crude is actually hugely sophisticated.
Mother Sweetapple was very funny, beautifully performed and a reminder to us all that this kind of underfunded, unsung outdoor theatre production, touring mostly village greens and playing fields like our Recreation Ground, is a crucial part of our theatrical ecology.
However, as someone who is rather partial to the odd piece of poultry, I won’t be looking at a chicken in the same way again!
– Ray Nard