Blag Youth Theatre Reviews

  • OLIVER WITH A TWIST

    What a fantastic piece of writing by Richard and Lynn Beaumont which enabled the entire cast of 106 to fully participate, in song and word, in Oliver - With A Twist. This was Blag Youth Theatre's summer project which I understand was rehearsed in a two-week period. What an achievement! While the storyline was consistent with Lionel Bart's original, as was the music, the lyrics had been given great inventive new meaning, which seemed to me to take a large dig at [the] West End musical and the use of extras in the movies. No wonder it was called Oliver - With A Twist. There were two Olivers taking the title role, played by Phillip Preston and Edward Parks. This was a triumph of casting, as one was 6ft tall and the other half his size. When it came to punishment or admonishment, it was always the little Oliver who was dragged on stage for this to be meted out - a terrific running gag throughout the show.

    I thought I had arrived at the wrong show when on to the stage stepped the delightful Charlotte Beaumont in the character of Annie (complete with ginger wig and red frock). My fears were soon allayed when she was unceremoniously dragged off stage and firmly told, she was "in the wrong show". This was a great start to what proved to be a polished, slick and hugely entertaining performance. There was some very interesting change of lead names [sic] - Fagin became Fagend, Mr Bumble became Mr Bungle, Mr Brownlow became Mr Brownloaf - and so it went on. The four choruses (Fagend Boys, Orphans, Cockney Extras and Nancy Boys) were played with masses of energy and great contrast, which was heightened by their costumes and direction of their grouping. The Cockney Extras were outstanding, particularly the piece where they contrasted the difference between film and theatre extras. This was so clever and so true which I imagine was a result of the writers' experiences in theatre and film.

    All members of this huge cast were directed with discipline, crispness of movement and timing. There was no question that they all thoroughly enjoyed their own show, as did a full Elgiva. The lack of make-up was I am sure because of the sheer numbers involved in this splendid production but as a result, we couldn't pick up the facial expression of these extraordinary young actors.

    Annie Hamilton-Pike

  • OLIVER WITH A TWIST

    If the classic Oliver was to get a twist in its tail then it couldn't get a bigger one than having the Blag treatment. Blag Youth Theatre's summer project took 106 youngsters and injected the wit and writing talent of husband and wife team, Ricky and Lynn Beaumont. The story line was the same but with a few twists and turns along the way. The first half started with a little orphan Annie, complete with dog and red hair, coming onto the stage singing Tomorrow only to be shouted off stage by the other orphans saying 'wrong orphanage!!'

    The laughter continued with loads of one-liners in this well-written adaptation. The audience was introduced to two Olivers, one who was about 6ft tall and another about half the size, who acted as his stunt-double. This whole set-up raised a lot of the laughs. Another twist was Nancy telling Bet how fed up she was with being killed every performance by Eric Sykes (as he was known in this). The outcome was that Bet took over the part to give her friend a break from death. A weird concept but it worked.

    There were some brilliant vocals, singing comical lyrics to all the well-known Oliver tunes. The only thing that let the youngsters down was the sound quality, I think it may have been the placement of the microphones. But it didn't detract from all their hard work and they should all be proud of themselves for achieving a performance like this in two weeks.

    Kelly Clayton

  • LARD IS THE WORD ITS ABSURD

    I'VE got chills, they're multiplying and I'm losing control. I've just seen Lard. This spoof of the cult film Grease was the work of Lynn and Richard Beaumont and their BLAG Youth Theatre. The show opened with screaming cheerleaders frightening the life out of the audience as they sprinted down the aisles, shouting out the intro to the spoof stage play. And spoof this was - with pregnant goldfish, remote control car drag race and a nerd let into the cool gang. The story centres on the Ladettes and the Blue Tits, the cool gangs of the all-American Ride'Em High. So you can see this version of the film did not keep the original names or material, and was very loosely based on the story. But the results were hilarious.

    You are guided through the story by roller-skating usherettes, Miri Katz and Laura Alkman [sic], who were very entertaining, good at ad-libbing and interacting with the audience. All the cast did a wonderful job and I would like to name every single one but unfortunately space doesn't permit. I felt stars of the show were boffins Patsy, played by Alexandra Lacey, and the cute Dweeb, played by Ben Bird. Both had the funniest lines and seemed to fit their nerdy parts worryingly well. A mention is also deserved for Lily Priggs and Robbie Rushton who played Sandy and Danny. Lily delivered her lines with comic precision, had a wonderful voice and turned into a right stunner for the famous end of the story.

    And what can I say about Robbie, he must be a stud in real life because he played it so well. The only down side of the show was the quality of the sound. I had trouble hearing all the words during the songs when they were dancing around. But this did not detract from the professionalism that these youngsters showed and the entertainment I enjoyed.

    Kelly Clayton

  • THE WIZARD OF OZISH

    Richard and Lynn's latest summer project, The Wizard of Oz...ish, was loud, enthusiastic fun from start to finish. The cast had just two weeks to get their act together and produce a full-scale musical theatre production, and given that many of the 126 children had never appeared on stage before, it was a remarkable achievement. There were, of course, a few hiccups at Friday night's first night. Sound quality was occasionally poor and at times the children's voices were drowned out by the musical accompaniment. But the commitment and sheer enthusiasm of the young cast was wonderful to see. The show is staged almost as a play within a play, in which the two narrators (played brilliantly by Chris Phillips and Michael Macqueen) struggle to keep the action going as leading lady, Dotty (Lola Brookes), threatens to quit, principal actors feud and equipment problems threaten to overwhelm the production.

    The plot is (very) loosely based on The Wizard of Oz. In this production Dorothy becomes Dotty and lives in Chorleywood with her dog, Toto (a superb George Banks), rather than in Kansas. Scarecrow, Tinman and Cowardly Lion also make way for three new characters - Spotty (Andrew Kendall), Potty (Dom Kozack) and Derrick (Pranai Buddhdev). The story follows Dotty as she sets out to "find herself" during her journey through the Land of Oz...ish. Her first port of call is Burgerland, where junk food is outrageously expensive - pity the parents who must pay 9.99 for French Fries, 5.40 for a burger and 4.00 for ketchup - and where she kills the Wicked Witch of the East and takes over her ruby flippers. Then it's off to the Land of Helium where Dotty plans to see Wanda, the Wiz, and ask for help to get home. On the way she meets Spotty, who suffers from acne so bad that he frightens himself each time he looks in the mirror; Derrick, a comedian who has lost his sense of humour; and Potty, who has completely lost his marbles.

    One of the show's best musical numbers was 'We'll Just Have To Wait For The 8.28', sung to the tune of "Summer Lovin'" from 'Grease', in which commuters bemoan London Transport train delays. Other stand out numbers were 'Which Witch is Which?', where the Good Witch (Laura Aikman) and the Wicked Witch of the West (Elizabeth Holmes) swop [sic] roles, and the talent show in the Land of Helium featuring Spice Girls lookalikes - The Glitter Girls. The tunes in the show borrowed heavily from other musicals, including 'Grease', 'Oliver!' and 'The Jungle Book', but the lyrics were completely original and had the audience in stitches. All in all, a job well done, and one which I'm sure has given 126 youngsters a lasting love of the theatre.

    Estelle Sinkins

  • TOADWARTS N ALL

    A Dynamic, polished performance took to the stage at the weekend, despite having been cast, rehearsed and staged in just two weeks. Toad Warts 'N' All performed by BLAG Youth Theatre at Watersmeet Theatre in High Street, Rickmansworth, received well-deserved applause on Saturday. The enthusiasm of the 94-strong cast, aged between eight and 15, was displayed in strong, attacking performances, which were testament to the young actors and producers Richard and Lynn Beaumont. Having taken the traditional story of Wind in the Willows, Toad Warts 'N' All gave the children's classic a more contemporary script, using modern referrences and familiar tunes from other musicals such as Oliver and Bugsy Malone as well as Bjork's top ten hit It's Oh So Quiet, with specially adapted lyrics.

    The highlight of the performance was, the musical's central characters and, in particular, Mole, played by Daniella Isaacs, whose peformance stole the hearts of the audience. Dressed in a grey overcoat, scarf and yellow builders helmet, her touching characterisation of the hapless, loveable, naive mole was simply superb. Daniella's performance was assisted by the confidence of her fellow river bankers - the sophisticated Ratty, portrayed by Georgia Inett, a truly irascible Badger, played by Chloe Godsell and Toad, whose gargantuan ego filled the stage and who was played with gusto by Emily Parks. The girls sang, danced and acted their hearts out, bringing life to their characters and engaging their audience with every scene.

    Meanwhile, Marigold, the narrator, played by Emma Reale, bubbled with effervescence and enthusiasm as she lead the audience through the play. Her expansive gesticulations, which looked as if she were attempting to hug the entire audience, may never be seen in Watersmeet again. Meanwhile, the play itself was a major feat of organisation, filled with engaging one-liners and appealing characters and should be commended for the way in which it gave every child the opportunity to speak on stage. Unfortunately, the popularity of the workshop did mean, with 94 children to occupy, some additional scenes could appear superfluous, and, at times, the performance lost its momentum. Despite this, the play reached its conclusion without a missed line or cue. Every performer should be praised for the energy which burst forth from the stage with each new line, song, or dance routine.

    Wendy Fielder

  • ROBIN OF CROXLEY

    IF The Sheriff of Nottingham was actually an estate agent based in Oxhey, then what else would Robin Hood be than the landlord's sworn enemy: the student. A modern take on the legendary tale, Robin of Croxley, The Prince of Karaoke was performed by the students of BLAG Youth Theatre last Friday and Saturday at The Elgiva Theatre in Chesham. The production, which was written by Richard and Lynn Beaumont, was part of the children's two-week summer project. Seventy-six children, aged between eight and 16, helped to produce the two-hour musical show, which featured new adaptions of songs from such well-known musicals as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Little Shop of Horrors. While five different narrators battled it out for the longest lines in the show, the Agent of Oxhey battled it out with Robin, accompanied by his sidekick Bateman and the now homeless population of Three Rivers.

    The show contained a multitude of popular culture references, designed to keep you on your toes, as well as all the lastest hits song [sic] in a Karaoke-style finale. The production was huge and the organisation of so many children on such a small stage was admirable. The merry men made room for the not-so-merry men and the theiving little rascals, who all had their own special part to play. Bobby Beaumont gave a smug and self-satisfied performance as the estate agent in question - all sunglasses and shiny suit - while Robin, played by Matthew Smith, looked very much the part of the student, with his OASIS t-shirt and baggy pants. Claire Lewis' Self Made Marion was, refreshingly, an independent career woman - although, it must be said, not independent enough to refuse the aid of the dashing white knight on his scooter when the going got tough.

    The most memorable performance for me though was Dr Thingy, played by Carrie Scott, Robin's mother and the agent's wise woman, Carrie was truly convincing as the old hag who, when whipped up into a musical trance, could see into the future (so long as the silver kept on coming). The children had obviously worked hard on the play and the performance was a team effort. There was something to please everyone and, if musicals were not your thing, then you could laugh along with the play's self-awareness and irony. Being a modern take, Robin of Croxley even had a surprise ending with a small twist in its tale.

    Having defeated the student at a battle of Karaoke, thanks to a healthy dose of Dr Thing's [sic] voice-removing potion, courtesy of Ursula in The Little Mermaid, the agent was triumphing over his former enemy only to be shot in the back with an arrow from the bow of the real Robin Hood a few moments later. So it seems that, as with comedy, so with [the] appearance of legendary figures. Timing is everything.

    Joanna Davis

  • ROBIN OF CROXLEY

    ROBIN Hood has a role, albeit a brief one, in this modern take on the story of Nottingham's most famous son. In BLAG's version, however, the hero, Robin of Croxley, is joined by his good friend, Bateman (Bateman and Robin - get it!!) to battle the evil estate agent of Oxhey, who has made Robin's family and friends homeless.

    Playing the role of the evil agent was Bobby Beaumont whose "cackling" laugh heralds a successful future as a pantomime baddie. He certainly made the most of the role, barking out orders to his batty stooges - Roxy (Becky Cartmell) and Poxy (Deborah Guest), bullying his boss John King (George Banks) and pestering Self Maid Marion (Claire Lewis) to marry him.

    Matthew Smith also did well as the hero of the piece, while Kate Taylor's deadpan remarks as Bateman were a delight to hear. And Carrie Scott's Kate Bush-impersonation as Dr Thingy the psychic was a hoot. I also have to praise the show's five narrators - Georgia Inett, Nathalie Mitchell, Lauren Conlon, Briony Scott and Hannah Aylward - who told the story via a game of tag. Not as easy as it may sound, but very effective. And their number - 'Ballds don't go in Children's Stories' - was an hysterically irreverent snub to writers who insist on there being at least one ballad in every musical.

    In plot terms the story is simple. On hearing of the Agent's evil doings, Robin challenges him to a Karaoke concert (as you do). If he wins the Agent must leave and life will return to normal for the citizens, but if he loses then the Agent wins the hand of the lovely Marion and Robin will be banished. The Agent ensures his rival's defeat with a magic potion from Dr Thingy and all seems lost. But as he walks Marion down the aisle, the real Robin Hood appears and shoots him with a bow and arrow, to the delight of all the cast. BLAG's annual summer project aims to give every child the chance to perform and speak at least one line. It's a bit like organised chaos on the stage but there is no doubt that every one of the 78 children had a ball.

    If I have a criticism then it's that in some parts of the show I wasn't really able to hear what the singers were singing, which was a pity as the dialogue was generally very witty. Nevertheless, it was a fun afternoon and the parents and friends who gathered to watch at The Elgiva were clearly proud as punch of their young actors.

    Estelle Sinkins

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