Amateur hour Fool and his funny steal the show in slick production
DON’T be fooled by the title, this tale of amateur actors pretending to be another group of amateur actors is anything but a masterclass in shoddy acting.
Written by Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, it is a hilarious fish-out-of-water tale of faded American action hero Jefferson Steele.
He accidentally agrees to appear in an amateur production of King Lear in the village of Stratford-st-john, mistakenly thinking he would be performing in Stratford-upon-avon in an attempt to revive his flagging career.
The fascination of this play is how the story arc of the actors, especially Steele, tracks a similar course to the characters they are playing.
But you don’t need to know Shakespeare to enjoy this production by Cheltenham Operatic and Dramatic Society.
They have brought the play to life with enthusiasm and some genuine laugh-out-loud moments that had the appreciative opening night audience in hysterics.
Grant Heymer plays a convincing Steele, an ever-strong presence on stage, constantly baffled by the ways of Suffolk folk.
Siobhan Cran as his daughter Jessica sees him for who he really is – a bully and a bad father, mirroring the role of Lear’s daughter Cordelia.
And Judi Walton is director Dorothy who treats Steele with a firm, maternal hand guiding him on his own emotional journey.
Nick Mazonowicz plays puff-chested solicitor Nigel with joyous pomposity, constantly itching to play the role of Lear himself while Joy-amy Wigman is a delight as starstruck B&B owner Mary, desperate to get a bit of Steele action.
Lucy Hill brings youthful energy to the role of Lauren, publicist for the local brewing company and Nick Guy is a wonderfully quirky Dennis, the local odd job man.
As in King Lear, it is the fool who speaks the most reason amongst the madness.
In this play there are two fools, Robbie Gardner and Oli Ryder as the stage crew, who, frankly, steal the show with their own back story which was full of surprises.
There were a few opening night rough edges.
Some of the actors need to project more and a few lines fluffed or lost.
But credit also must be given for the special effects with explosions and indoor rain which really added to the drama.
A professionally produced show from a very talented bunch of amateurs.
Grant Heymer and Siobhan Cran