IN REHEARSAL: The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Production of a Murder Mystery (Murder at Checkmate Manor), 8 to 10 March 2018
WHERE TO GO, HOW TO BOOK:
The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Production of a Murder Mystery (Murder at Checkmate Manor) by David McGillivray & Walter Zerlin Jnr.
ACTS (Aston and Cote Thespian Society)
8, 9 & 10 March 2018, 7.30pm
Aston Village Hall, Aston, Nr. Bampton, Oxon, OX18 2DU
TICKETS from Aston Stores or via email from Popps Hoskins: Hoskinsnick at aol.com
(£7 for Thursday, £8 for Friday & Saturday performances)
'It's hilarious! It's a really, really funny play. And also there's a lot that happens on the stage that adds to the hilarity of it. I was pleasantly surprised. From reading it through to actually doing it, it's very funny.' Vicky Fuller started performing for Aston and Cote Thespian Society (ACTS) at the age of 16. She was the back-end of a pantomime horse. Now a grown-up mum she gets major roles in the annual plays put on in Aston Village Hall.
The play that she's chatting to me about, as rehearsals begin, has a very long title, but don't let that put you off from coming to see it. It runs for three evenings from Thursday 8th to Saturday 10th March 2018 inclusive.
I speak to the director Valerie Crowson who explains the basic plot. 'Murder at Checkmate Manor' is a murder mystery evening put on by a fictitious am-dram group (the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society - FAHETGDS), who are not terribly good, and things do not go as planned. In fact, they end up going disastrously. Furthermore, each member of the fictitious FAHETGDS plays several roles in the murder mystery evening, leading to general chaos.
So - each cast member of ACTS is playing a character who in turn is playing multiple parts. Hasn't that been fiendishly difficult to learn? Jan West, another ACTS performer, describes it as 'quite challenging'. There are many costume changes and further complications with dialect. 'We are supposed to have bad Northern accents, which we forget sometimes,' she says. And there's plenty of cleverly comic wordplay. 'Sentences are twisted round and spoken the wrong way and then they correct themselves.' Plus, I'm told, other monkeying around with lines that has had the cast laughing through rehearsals.
Jan and Vicky are about to change into their costumes for the rehearsal. In this scene they are playing 'Audrey' and 'Thelma' playing the two spinster sisters Violet and Rose Bishop in what has been dubbed 'the wheelchair scene'. Jan chuckles: 'We're going to look hideous in what we're about to put on.' She promptly dons a purple wig to prove the point.
Director Valerie has taken the unusual step of listing the off-stage crew, including the props, costume, lighting and sound people, directly with the cast in the programme, because in this production they play such a crucial and continuous role with timing being critical.
Valerie tells me that ACTS has acquired a big following from outside the village of Aston (near Bampton) from two main sources – the Oxfordshire Drama Network (the umbrella organisation for amateur theatre societies in the county), and through word-of-mouth recommendations.
I stay and watch part of the rehearsal and leave with a broad grin on my face. I shall be back next week to see the finished performance. You can read my review on this blog then.
About the Author
Mike Lord has been involved with amateur theatre for over twenty years, mainly as an actor but also, more recently, as a director.
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