F.A.H.E.T.G.D.S. Production of Macbeth

October 2007

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Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of Macbeth - by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jnr.
Performed - Wed 24th October to Sat 27th October 2007

The F.A.H.E.T.G.D.S. ladies mount yet another assault on the classics with a startlingly original production of Macbeth staged to get them to the Welwyn Garden City Finals. Under the carefully mascara'd eye of adjudicator George Peach, all events conspire hilariously against them.

Legend has it that this 'Scottish play' is cursed. Can our intrepid ladies cast a spell of their own or will it all be a 'flash' in the cauldron?! Our intrepid reviewer settles down for another great performance by the Boston Playgoers.

"LADIES, ladies, a little decorum please. We cannot and will not destroy our chance of a place in the drama finals". And there you have it. Amongst the greasepaint, wigs and props, Mrs. Reece brims with spirit. The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswoman's Guild Dramatic Society's production of 'Macbeth' will not be beaten. You can't just lie down and accept things. This latest work will almost certainly guarantee the ladies a place in the Drama Finals at Welwyn Garden City no less and just because Lady Macbeth chose to get on the wrong bus the show must go on!

So there's nothing for it, stage manager and general dogs-body Henry Grimshaw must step into Lady Macbeth's dress or it's handbags at dawn. Horrified silence passes to outrageous shouts of 'He can't act' and 'He’s a Man' and other permitted 'lady' obscenities fill the airwaves. What choice do they have? Not a lot! When cross-dresser George Peach Drama Festival Adjudicator has just turned up at the theatre. He ponders the flap going on around him, pulls a face and proceeds to his chair to re-apply his makeup and wait for the performance to begin. 

Shocked into action act one opens with our three witches performing in the wrong direction, if that wasn't enough the mishaps become endless, music from Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass, collapsed scenery, physical injury, missed cues and lines, rope attached daggers, a moon, a head and a falcon all of which drop down from the Gods at the wrong time. Our ladies confidence will not dampen though, and as they go on to serve eye of newt and other rubbery goodies from M&S shopping bags straight into the bubbling cauldron it seems our incompetent ladies aren't going down without a fight.

But what's this? Shock horror! After the interval and now dressed in a rather smart dress Mr. Adjudicator announces they have just nine minutes left to finish this three hour play otherwise they will be disqualified from the finals.

Mr. Plummer jumps into the frame as the girls speed up the performance to pull out all the stops. Will the 'curse' of this Scottish play come true, will the ladies earn their right into the Drama finals, will George Peach change into another dress or will that witchery cauldron melody 'That Old Black Magic' prove just too much?!

I have now grown accustomed to the panache in which Boston Playgoers romp through this type of hilarious comedy, an extremely versatile theatre company. They adopt a special kind of flair, a flair director Kei Bailey sources, he seems to have that particular knack with his cast, a flow of ease, which is a very rare commodity.

Our characters were immediately 'On Call' in the foyer as soon as the public arrived bobbing about, amiss the full to the brim cake tins with beautiful fairy cakes set to go on sale during the interval (I kid you not!!) lighting, props, and sound were excellent especially when during the interval we could hear the 'ladies’ discussing their home life and shopping tips!!! 

Mrs. Reece (Abby Johnson) the typical Mrs. Bucket-Bouquet-Margaret Ruggerford type excels as compare, leader of the gang, her handbag nicely positioned on bent arm and I loved her. She is a terrific character actress. George Peach (Robert Innes) our cross dressing adjudicator was a dream. Applying makeup to his deadpan facial expressions and his very own special rendition of 'My Way’ was comedy perfection.

Mr.Plummer (David Edgar) complete with corduroy trousers, tank top, as always displays exquisite timing especially with Felicity (Rachel Rowett) in their speed talking session! Minnie (Emma Dakari) A super comedienne and given this was her debut performance with Boston Playgoers she excelled. This girl has talent!

And remember I told you Lady Macbeth had taken off on the wrong bus? Enter Henry Grimshaw (Stuart Bull) wig and dress suited him beautifully shame about the beard! Seriously he was a trooper, comedy at its very best, a few lines from Richard 111 crept in which floored the audience as did Thelma (Judy Mugleston) and her rushed death scene. Matchless!! 

This is theatre the ability to fire the imagination, to stage a situation, to charm.
Boston Playgoers accomplish all three with ease. A brilliantly funny production.

June Atkins - BBC Radio Lincs 12/11/2007

Playgoers' gamble pays off in play within a play
It is a very brave move to attempt a play within a play, especially when all the characters are excruciatingly bad at acting.

If you nail the part then the audience could still be left in two minds as to whether you put in a fantastic turn or whether that was just you, stripped to the bare bones, unable to act.

But with their usual daring, Boston Playgoers took to the Blackfriars stage last week to present Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of Macbeth - a title with a seemingly higher word-count than some of the players' lines.

But the Playgoers proved to be terribly good at being terrible.

It's a big night for the guild. They are entered into their regional drama festival and adjudicator George Peach (the very good Robert Innes - so delightfully camp he should have been the one delivering the line "hark, I hear a knocking at the south door!") has a front row seat.

Of course, everything goes belly-up: the set is presented in the wrong direction, Lady Macbeth is a no-show and whoever heard of third witch in a wheelchair.

Here the Playgoers are parodying themselves, but with a knowing wink that suggests they are comfortable in the knowledge that they would never stoop to theatre of this shocking standard.

And they don't. This production may not have the usual thrusting tempo of the wife-swapping farcical romps thay have been accustomed to, but this change in direction must be applauded for its bravery, at least.

Admittedly, some of the jokes were laboured and the jumps from backstage banter to on-stage murdering of roles left you with the feeling this was more of a sketch show than a complete piece.

But there was more than enough moments to ensure the show was a success.

David Edgar's awful grandad-dancing and high-tempo chat with Rachel Rowett raised a deserved laugh - as did Stuart Bull's costume change from flat-capped orange boiler-suited janitor (Compo at Guantanamo Bay) into a bearded Lady Macbeth (Jo Brand in bad lighting).

Strong turns from Judy Mugleston as luvvie-wannabe Thelma/Macbeth and fellow cast members Emma Dakari, Glyn Ruskin, Ros Blowers and Lucy Taylor carried the production well.

But the real joys were the extra little touches the Playgoers offered.

Prior to curtain call, throughout the interval and even when the audience were attempting to filter home they were met with a barrage of chit-chat and abuse from the cast's improv.

Abby Johnson led the way, unnerving the audience with her flirtatious and overbearing talk of knitting clubs (Hyacinth Bucket meets Margaret Thatcher meets the mother-in-law) in a truly splendid manner.

And forget a play within a play. Here we were afforded a programme within a programme - an original guild creation (folded A4 complete with ridiculous overuse of clip-art and an advert for Dave's Fish and Chips on the back).

These little gems certainly added to the impression you were sat in a hut somewhere on the Farndale Avenue estate.

Thankfully, we weren't. But once again the numbers of bums on seats was fewer than this production deserved - and that is the real tragedy surrounding this take on Macbeth.

Duncan Browne - Boston Standard 31/10/2007

Actors names on right:

George Peach (Adjudicator) – Robert Innes
Mrs Reece (Lady Macduff / Doctor) – Abby Johnson
Thelma (Macbeth / Ross) – Judy Mugleston
Henry (Lady Macbeth) – Stuart Bull
Minnie (Banquo / Lady Macduff's son) – Emma Dakari
David Plummer (the producer) – David Edgar
Dawn (1st Witch / Porter / 2nd Murderer / Duncan / Fleance) – Glyn Ruskin
Felicity (2nd Witch / Seyton / 1st Murderer) – Rachel Rowett
Kate (3rd Witch / Macduff / Messenger) – Ros Blowers
Mrs Dabney - Lucy Taylor
Bernie Postlethwaite - Kei Bailey

Production Team

Director - Kei Bailey
Production Manager - Rachael Geddes
Set & Lighting Design - Paul Gibson
Lighting - Melanie Clark
Sound - Graham Armer
Costume Mistress - Maryjane Watson
Stage Manager - Rachael Geddes
Set Construction - Paul Gibson, Lucy Taylor
Props - Nicky Rutherford & Kendal Garton
Stage Crew - Wayne Waite, Jamie Clarricoates, Jon Molson, Luke Lane, Lucy Taylor
Costume - Violet Truelove Wardrobe
Photography - Neil Watson
Programme - Stuart Wyle