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Drawing of notebook and pen

3 October 2018: A Bunch of AmateursA caricature of a king's head

This evening my wife and I went to a performance by our local amateur dramatic company, the Chelmsford Theatre Workshop. The heading above does not refer to our view of them but to the title of the play they put on, a comedy by Nick Newman and Ian Hislop.

In it Jefferson Steele, a fading American star of Hollywood action movies, is booked by his agent to play King Lear in Stratford. When he arrives he discovers that, instead of being in Stratford-upon-Avon, the play is to take place in a sleepy village called Stratford somewhere in Suffolk and that, instead of acting alongside the Royal Shakespeare Company, he is performing with the local amateur dramatic society. Instead of staying at a luxury hotel he has been given a room in the local B&B and instead of being given a limousine he is expected to walk from there to the theatre. Worst of all, he is required to learn all his lines!

The comedy comes from Jefferson’s reaction to the situation and his interaction with the amateurs he is to work with, including the insufferably pompous Nigel, the besotted Mary and the somewhat ditsy Lauren, the Public Relations Manager of the play’s sponsors, the local brewery company, a position she only holds because she is the wife of the owner. There is also some very nice interplay between Jefferson and his estranged daughter Jessica, who turns up from America early in the proceedings and, to her father’s annoyance, eventually finds herself in the role of Cordelia.

I won’t give any more away, except to say that Jefferson does become something of a hero towards the end and is reconciled to his daughter. There are a lot of misunderstandings and twists along the way.

The (entirely amateur) cast really got into their characters and put across the comedy well. Towards the end we saw brief snippets of the characters acting in King Lear in a perfectly serious way, which revealed that the actors were excellent at straight acting as well. It turned out that three of our friends were also in the audience tonight; we all agreed that it was great fun.