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GET THEE TO A HORNCHURCH NUNNERY

August 25, 2015
Hornchurch Nunnery according Hamlet. Pic Mark Sepple

Hornchurch Nunnery according Hamlet.
Pics Mark Sepple

Condensing an epoch decade into under two hours on stage was always going to be difficult, even with the magic touch of the Hornchurch professionals.

With anticipation levels off the scale, the Queen’s Theatre put on the first autumn production of Bob Eaton’s Roll Over Beethoven.

Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the author followed the well trodden route of linking classical English literature with the veritable explosion of pop music that shook post war Britain to its foundations.

It worked with Bob Carlton’s Return to the Forbidden Planet, linking Shakespeare’s Tempest with an American ‘B’ movie script, but I think the Beethoven storyline was too challenging to make this production swing properly.

Had it not been for Matt Devitt’s magical hand on the directional tiller and the eleven top actor/musicians giving 100 per cent, then it might just have passed by unnoticed.

Matt Devitt, actor, musician and top director

Matt Devitt, actor, musician and top director

However, Matt and his team pulled out all the stops in the best tradition of musical theatre, and let the music do the talking.

His vast experience and skill with the guitar has been compared to the great Jimi Hendrix so the rock solid foundation was in place.

He brought in two accomplished guitarists, Gregory Clarke and Daniel Healy who between them, laid the carpet of hot notes along with Sarah Mahony on Tenor Sax and Lucy Wells on Alto Sax.

Sarah as mum Gertie and Lucy, the impressionable teenage daughter Ophelia, had a great time in bobby socks and covered every inch of the stage producing an eye-riveting effect on the audience as they blasted the audience with some good reed vibrations from front of stage.

For Hamlet’s ghost, he drew on the talents of Fred Broom who managed to extract full value from a cameo as a Butlin’s Redcoat along the spectral path.  One discovers he is the passed on father of Lucy who plagues Hamlet for revenge for what he claims was murder by his unfaithful wife Gertie and her lover Claud, nicely played by Antony Reed.

However, a heart attack on seeing two silhouettes kissing behind the curtains did rather weaken his case for murder.

Cameron Jones, Al Twist, Sarah Mahony, Lucy Wells

Cameron Jones, Al Twist, Sarah Mahony, Lucy Wells

Cameron Jones played Johnny Hamlet with a similar eye catching performance he won in Hot Stuff earlier this year, at the Queen’s. Having only graduated from the University of Exeter last year, he has a remarkable all round talent for theatrical disciplines.

Talking of master musicianship, Steven Markwick as Henry Polonius, a name that could stick, let his acting portfolio loose in a barrage of exploded wiggery and miserable old git fatherhood. He has a great unrealised comedy talent  which even the dexterity of his keyboard fingers cannot hide.

Al Twist, Adam Langstaff and Tom Sowinski completed the other roles and made up the band along with Gregory Clarke and Daniel Healy.

The set was another example of the talented Rodney Ford who produced a richly atmospheric ambience with Mark Dymock’s lighting. Sets being what they are, it is easy to take them for granted, but Rodney’s style makes for a second and third look.

Overall a worthy effort for a seasons opening, but I am deeply conscious of Matt’s skill in turning up the volume and sending in the musicians first with such superb 1950 songs that have brought a thrill to generations for the past sixty years.

The show runs until September 12 with tickets still available from the box office on 01708 443333.

 

 

 

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