Five-star review for Lancashire performance of Private Eye stalwarts' comedy

Julian Wilde reviews the latest production from Lytham Anonymous Players...

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 5:09 pm
Sharon Brookes as Mary, Stewart Ellis as Nigel, Roger Lloyd Jones as Jefferson Steel, and Stephanie Heney as Dorothy

The cleverness of the writing is matched by the excellence of the acting in this first-class production by Lytham Anonymous Players.

The 2008 script by Private Eye stalwarts Nick Newman and Ian Hislop is funny and ingenious throughout , with strong comic roles for all seven individualistic and contrasting characters.

The Stratford amateur theatre company in rural Suffolk decide that their only hope for survival is to cast a celebrity for their production of King Lear.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Much to the group’s surprise and delight, a waning Hollywood actor well known for action movies, Jefferson Steel, accepts the role of King Lear. He arrives, expecting to be acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company - his agent has confused his Stratfords.

The admirable Roger Lloyd Jones, as Jefferson Steel, complete with shades, leather jacket, diva-like tantrums, expletives and petulance, is a living comment on Hollywood self-centredness and is the very antithesis of the values of amateur theatre.

Stephanie Heney produces an accomplished performance as play director Dorothy who skillfully keeps all the differing cast members on board in the midst of this conflict. Her eyes, shoulders and posture speak subtle volumes and her diction is outstanding.

Producer Tony Stone gives the play a contemporary feel with skype and twitter, using a filmed sequence and a massage scene in silhouette amusingly to maintain the pace. A tuneful chorus of four singers link the scenes inventively with the words of Lear’s Fool.

Stewart Ellis, Sharon Brooks and Bryan Wood, as the company’s diverse cast members, each bring the house down with some cracking lines delivered with perfect timing. Kelsey Baker, as Steel’s feisty daughter who is clear-sighted about his failings, provides poignancy and Sarah Jane Stone supports effectively.

The plot unwinds interestingly and unexpectedly, expressing homage and affection both to Shakespeare’s language in King Lear and to amateur dramatics.

The audience was clearly ready to welcome back the Anonymous Players after two Covid cancellations and the thunderous applause at the end showed that they had appreciated a five-star production of the highest quality.