REVIEW: A bizarre mix of panto and pathos from Burgess Hill Theatre Club

Curtain Up!
Curtain Up!

Curtain Up! Burgess Hill Theatre Club

Take a wafer-thin script, a feeble storyline, and what do you get?

Surprisingly, some good performances from a cast determined to wring out some sort of quality from a play without any real class.

Curtain Up! is a bizarre mix of panto and pathos. The narrative is as threadbare as the present political parties after the Referendum.

Five women inherit a derelict theatre, argue about the cost of paint, decide to launch a show starring Lisa Minnelli to raise funds.

Surprise, surprise (sorry, that was Cilla Black), the star backs out and one of the five takes over. End of story.

Peter Quilter wrote, among other productions, End of the Rainbow, about the final days of Judy Garland. Curtain Up! is light years from that quality. Never mind. Up stepped Dale Smith, Cherry Woodhouse, Emma Hudson, Vicky-Jane Gooding and Kerri Cooper to put their heart and soul into dialogue that lacked exactly that.

Smith classily captured the clever but slightly nervous graduate Theresa well after blowing away the dust from the opening scene. The experienced Woodhouse recovered from an uncomfortable start to have a much stronger second half as the mother, Pam, portraying her well as someone as bitter as a lemon while delivering the few outstanding punch lines with acerbic wit.

Amid this finesse-free mix of slapstick and whining Emma Hudson was superbly suited to bring out the larger-than-life Sharon. Candidly confessed as a “punk elephant” Sharon produced a few chortles with her nudging asides. Her style of leadership was to say: “Right! What Do We Do Now?”

Vicky-Jane Gooding restrained the infectious energy that has enlivened so many productions and gave a thoughtful portrayal of the decrepit Betty. Some of her best moments were when she said nothing at all, just using body posture and facial expression to send the message. Kerri Cooper was perhaps a little too nice as the supposedly she-devil lover Jackie but gave a consistent performance.

When a giant Panda-like creature appeared it all threatened to descend into farce. If only Quilter’s script had been as funky as the cast dancing at the end.

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