Am­a­teur hour Fool and his funny steal the show in slick pro­duc­tion

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - By BEN LOWATER

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.

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Grant Heymer and Siob­han Cran

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