"The Great Christmas Cracker Heist" by Jamie Lakritz
Round Hill School, Beeston.
This was a new play to me, the second new play on the bounce, and the second new play that I have loved seeing. The thing about new plays is that you have no expectations, and you really take notice of everything that happens and everything in the script, in short you concentrate on everything and drink it all in. Some drinks you feel like spitting out and some, like this one, you want to buy a second bottle to savour.
The script is wonderfully witty and the double twist at the end came as a real surprise. The characters are recognisable and believable; characters that most audience members will relate to and know someone like the play's characters.
The comedy is very natural, and written in a way that everyone can understand and get the full comedy element of. There's one scene with Sally and Colin, in his tight lycra, where Sally comments on his appearance which, after a slight delay from the audience caused gales of laughter. I think the delay was because Sally came right out with the comment and that it was unexpected from Sally. Either way, that comment brought the house down.
Simon, the sales manager, who is having marital issues with his wife, Victoria, is played beautifully by Tom Jenkins, and that story is played out to the bitter end, but turns out to be a blessing in disguise.
Sally, the cleaner who is not the brightest spark, but incredibly lovable, is played the incredibly lovable Sue Frost. Her pace and comic timing in this role is perfect.
Rita, the factory supervisor is played by Gwen Murray and is a delight to watch.
Bridget, played by Ali Parnham, is an artisan, or as she describes her job, she folds the crackers.
Alice, the other artisan is played by Sarah Nicholson.
Paul Langston plays Brian, the joke writer, and we get to experience the standard of jokes that DG Crackers include with their crackers throughout the show. Be warned there are plenty of groans to be emitted with Brian's "talent". He's also a bit of a joker when it comes to Secret Santa as well!
Colin is in charge of creating the "bang" with the cracker, something he takes great delight in, after his previous job in explosives. Due to this though he has developed a slight hearing problem, which in itself causes much mirth. An ideal role for Gary Frost, who also gets to play Christmas party DJ and lothario as Colin.
Debbie Blake is wonderful as the local rag reporter, there at the workplace to create a feature on people who have to work in the Seasonal industry business. The visual image for George, the reporter, is perfect and great fun.
Liz Austin plays Carol, who is PA to the boss, Mr Gordon, the CEO of DG Crackers who has just taken delivery of that very expensive 1971 bottle of wine. Carol also plays a very important part in the downfall of her boss.
Mr Gordon is played by Ian Greatorex. Gordon is very unfeeling about his staff and also with the decision to have to let them all go, and just before Christmas as well. What an absolute rotter! But in all good comeuppance stories, the underdogs get their day over the boss, and in what a way, which is where the twists are executed.
Kevin Fairbrother plays the police officer who initially drops in to the workplace after a complaint about the noise from the office party. What do you expect when the DJ is suffering from reduced hearing. Mind you I have in my time come across many DJs who seem to have hearing issues and can't quite hear just how loud the music really is. A lovely, and ironic piece of observational comedy writing.
And last, but by no means least is the youngest member of the cast, and making her debut acting appearance with Beeston Players is Brooke Harris as Phoebe. Phoebe is a technology savvy teenager with attitude who helps the staff out in one vital area of the heist. Who'd have thought to get a teenager to play the part of a moody teenager? Brooke looked completely at ease in this cameo role, and I hope that she continues with this quality of acting.
Directed by Barbara Barton, everything about this production was just right. the pace, the casting, the costumes, all adding something to the comedy rich play.
The action all takes place in one room, the staff room of the factory, and designed by Sam Williams. You can never fully rely on props or the set to behave itself fully though and the door to the offices just had to keep upstaging the actors by not staying shut, creating a nightmare scenario for the Sound operator, also Sam Williams. In a way it also caused more comedy.
The Lighting Design is by Nina Tunnicliff, who also acted as Producer. Simple fade to darkness operations, especially effective in the second act of the play.
All the costumes were apt for the characters - it's been a while though since I last saw this amount of lycra on stage - and combined with the hair and make-up, by Maxine Taylor, all characters were totally believable, which made the story concocted by the workers utterly doable.
When teamed up with the brilliantly friendly and approachable front of house crew, your visit to Round Hill School and the production, will make you want to become a regular supporter of this drama group, if you've never seen one of their productions before.
"The Great Christmas Cracker Heist" by The Beeston Players can be caught for the final performance on Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm and tickets are only £8.00, and that's no joke!
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