Our House NODA Review
National Operatic & Dramatic Association London Region
Society : Marlow Amateur Operatic Society
Production : OUR HOUSE
Date : Saturday 16th March 2013
Venue : Shelley Theatre, Court Garden, Marlow
Report by : Gordon Bird, NODA Representative, Area 14
I was pleased to be invited to see Marlow Amateur Operatic Society’s Our House. The original show opened on the West End at the Cambridge Theatre and is based on the words and music from Madness songs and the book by Tim Firth. I first saw this musical towards the end of its London run and was not particularly impressed as it looked laboured and tired.
Therefore it is a testament to MAOS for producing a far better impression on me, mainly due to some fine individual performances, a simple but effective set and an energetic, well rehearsed chorus.
JOE (JOHN SMIT)
This is huge part that not only had to sing and dance but also portray two different characters of Joe – good Joe who goes to correction centre and accepts his punishment (perhaps with a little naivety!) and bad Joe who gives “Reecey” a run for his money in the sleazy, self-centred, self obsessed persona. And when not on stage, the role required a massive 31 costume changes (some being very quick indeed). John coped with all of this admirably. There was a clear distinction between the two Joes. John’s singing was clear, precise and relaxed. His movement look natural and dances well rehearsed. He had wonderful facial expressions and natural mannerisms that helped a believable performance. And the 31 changes were managed without a hitch (well at least to me, cannot comment if anything happened backstage!). Well done on an excellent performance.
SARAH (HEATHER MORGAN)
The role of Sarah is completely different to Heather’s last appearance I witnessed for MAOS, that of Nikki in Bad Girls. Her performance was a stack contrast as the purer Sarah (and Joe’s living conscience). Heather has a lovely singing voice that was evident throughout but particularly in “It Must Be Love” with Joe and “NW5” with Dad.
EMMO (PATCH CLEAVER)
LEWIS (ANDY BUSTIN)
I note that this was Andy’s first appearance on stage since he was five and on this performance I hope that it will not be so long before he reappears on stage. He looked relaxed and had an excellent rapport with Emmo. Both Patch and Andy characterisations were perfect and looked like they knew all the dance moves (and this was a busy dancing show too!). I did feel that some of Andy’s dialogue was rushed, making it quite difficult to hear, but other than that small point, this was a very good performance. They certainly received a number of laughs from the audience (at the appropriate moments) thanks to some good comic timing. Congratulations on a good performance and look forward to seeing more of you in future.
BILLIE (KAREN HEMINGWAY)
ANGIE (SAMANTHA CLEAVER)
These two characters always appeared as a pair so seems fitting that I review them together. They both had good characters and managed to extract all the necessary humour from the script. Working as a couple, they had a very good understanding and rapport that added to their performance.
KATH (SHIRLEY JENKINS-PANDYA)
Shirley gave an impressive performance as Joe’s mother showing some wonderful facial expressions and lovely, clear singing voice. “Magistrate’s Court” and “One Better Day” were both impressively sung. This was clearly a very good performance from an experienced performer.
JOE’S DAD (ANDY DEACON)
Andy produced a strong performance as Joe’s Dad. This was quite a difficult part to play, as being “dead” for the majority of the show, he could not interact with anyone else. Andy overcame this be ensuring that he reacted to what was being said/sung whilst he was on stage, even if other characters could not react to his involvement. It required good expressions and mannerisms as well concentration which Andy duly delivered. Well done.
REECEY (LAWRENCE GILLMAN)
What a lovely part! From Lawrence’s first entrance we knew exactly what sort of character Reecey is and it was excellently sustained throughout the show. This sort of role could be so easily been overplayed but Lawrence portrayed the part perfectly. His singing voice was very well delivered during Shut Up. Well done!
MR PRESSMAN/MR JESMOND (RICHARD DEACON)
This was a fairly small role as the entrepreneur Mr Pressman that owned the construction company working on the re-development but Richard made most of his part and portrayed a believable character.
CHORUS (RICHIE BECKFORD, KERRY CLARKE, RACHEL DIXON, NATALIE EAGLING, STEVE HOBBS, SUE JACKSON-COOK, SJ JAMES, ALYS MATTHEWS, LUCY NEWELL & JASON TURNER)
The chorus worked very well as a unit, playing some of the smaller roles as well. Their dancing was very good – and I was very impressed with the energy that the ensemble had. It was apparent that everyone enjoyed their performance and this spilt onto the audience.
DIRECTOR (MARK BOLKONSKY)
Mark can be congratulated on a successful production. The cast know exactly what was required of them, the characters were all believable, and there was a good sense of team spirit amongst the ensemble. Cast clearly knew their entrances and exits, all of which were smoothly achieved. There were some nice touches of humour – with some good casting of Emmo & Lewis and Billie and Angie. I enjoyed the mobile phone ringing tone for Reecey – a nice touch that was exactly right for the character. It always helps the production when you have strong, experienced leads and it certainly shows in this production as the parts of Sarah, Joe, Kath, Joe’s Dad and Reecey were very well cast.
CHOREOGRAPHY (SAMANTHA CLEAVER)
The choreography for this show was certainly energetic and I was amazed that everyone kept up. The opening number, Our House, created the mood straight away and produced good, interesting movement, covering all of the stage. There was nice contrast too – the dancing and movement in particular for “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day/Sun and the Rain” by the prisoners showed very good characterisation within the dance.
MUSICAL DIRECTOR (ELISA STOTT)
The singing from all cast and chorus was first-rate and Elisa obviously had given good clear direction as each song was very well delivered. The small orchestra performed with excellent control from Elisa, keeping the balance well with the singers.
ORCHESTRA (ELISA JANE STOTT, CHRISTEN VAN DEN BERGHE, ELIZABETH EASTON, MARC RYZER, OLLY SEBER, ANDREW SMITH, TONY DODDS & TOMMY BATES)
I was pleased that the orchestra “pit” had been moved to down stage right, meaning that it did not obscure the stage. The sound was not jeopardised by the change and with the skills of the sound technicians and sensitivity of the musical director, meant the orchestra sound was balanced very well with the singers on stage. The orchestra produced a lovely round sound.
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR/STAGE MANAGER (RAYMOND MEDHURST)
The stage was very well run with good, quick scene changes (achieved by the good design of the portable white flats). Stage crew clearly knew what they were doing and all the changes were smoothly and quickly applied. Sound and lighting cues seemed to be delivered accurately (other than one possible late lighting cue (see lighting)). The lighting and sound was very well designed and helped with the overall success of the production.
A simple two free standing flats on wheels, each painted white and with a white door, were well constructed and imaginatively moved to suggest different locations. The fact that they were on wheels I though they may spin round to reveal a different scene so was disappointed that they only had the one “face”. I noted that the car was hired and worked well for the scenes they were needed. The back cyclorama was used for some projected images and back lighting that enhanced the staging. Evidently there is not too much space backstage and in the wings and it was a shame that the black tabs used to hide the wings were moved unintentionally a couple of times by those leaving or entering the stage. Securing these tabs may have resolved this slight sighting issue.
LIGHTING & EFFECTS DESIGN (RKHD LIGHTING)
There were some imaginative lighting effects – mainly blue on the cyclorama and on the stage but there were subtle changes with purple onto the white flats and doors and good use of red flickering lights for the fire.
LIGHTING PROGRAMMER AND DESK OPERATOR (TOM SIMS)
On the whole, the busy lighting cues were well executed although I was little perplexed that during “Baggy Trousers” (I think it was) Reecey and Joe were in darkness for quite a while, with only the blue backdrop lit, before the lights eventually came up. Not sure if this was a late cue or a deliberate effect but the problem was that we could not see the two characters during part of the song. But considering this was busy show for cues, this was the only noticeable glitch and was impressed with the smoothness of operation and the imagination of design.
SOUND DESIGN AND OPERATION (STEPHAN MEDHURST)
I am pleased that the issues that I encountered on my last visit for Bad Girls had, on the whole, been resolved. The balance between the band and performers was a lot better and there did not seem to be any issues with the radio microphones. The sound effects were good (and I particularly liked the ring tone, which made me laugh!).
COSTUMES (LUCY NEWELL, KATIE MITCHELL & PHIL COUCH)
There was a lovely range of costumes for this show. The track suit and dark suit for Joe worked well and the other parts were appropriately attired. The bridesmaids costumes were perfect for their characters. Other character parts were also fittingly dressed.
PROPERTIES (MADELEINE BLAKE)
The properties looked appropriate to the show and to their relevant scenes.
The makeup looked appropriate under the lighting and saw everyone’s faces.
This twenty four page programme was very good value for £1. There were some good and interesting bios with pictures, messages from the chairman and president, a brief synopsis and list of musical numbers that were very useful. The artwork was simple but effective and found it easy to read. I was disappointed that other than a small image under the acknowledgement and supporters article, there was no mention of NODA and the services it offers.
Front of House
On a busy evening, the front of house team worked very well and still found time to socialise with my partner and myself, ensuring that we had our tickets, programme and interval drinks. A huge thanks to Jo and Simon who were perfect, sociable and informative hosts.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Our House, a performance that was so much more enjoyable than my previous experience. I am looking forward to seeing the next performance by MAOS in September.
NODA Regional representative
London Region, District 14