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There are a few things that everybody 'knows' about amateur theatricals. The same people always get the leading roles; they are invariably clique-ridden; there is a lot of back-stabbing (and other unsavoury activity) and the end result of their efforts is faintly embarrassing.

Last week, at the Grayshott Village Hall, despite the rather cruel, albeit hilarious, product of Alan Ayckbourn's pen, the Grayshott Stagers once again demonstrated that all is well with the local theatre and that the clichéd perceptions are just that - clichés.

In their production of 'A Chorus of Disapproval' the Stagers delighted near-capacity audiences with yet another display of the marvellous ensemble work for which they have become known. This teamwork is always likely to be tested by Ayckbourn's play - he delights in quick-fire changes of scene (as well as dialogue) and only deft direction and good technical support can ensure the necessary pace is maintained. Betty Penny's sure touch allowed a talented cast to get the best from Ayckbourn's story of intrigue, venality, pomposity and lust during rehearsals for 'The Beggar's Opera'.

In the role of Guy Jones, David Protheroe showed us the initial diffidence of the newcomer developing into the confidence of a leading actor. That the transition was made with the support of a mixture of flattery, bribery and adultery could make him appear weak and unsympathetic but this was a performance that never let us forget the basic decency of the character. As the blustering director and his wife (and Guy's lover) John Hilder and Jane Sargeant gave beautifully judged performances, funny and heart-breaking in turn. But this was a production that demanded, and got, first-class performances from the whole cast.

The musical excerpts from 'The Beggar's Opera' which are so effective in illustrating the action mean that a 'rehearsal pianist' is required on stage. It was good, therefore, to see Musical Director Tony McIntee elevated from his usual place in the pit.

Excellent work from the stage crew, managed by Melanie Tyrrell, ensured that this was another Stagers' production to remember.

The 'Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society', with all its flaws, served well to highlight all that is good about the actuality of amateur theatre. The excellence of design, costume, direction and performance has demonstrated that the Grayshott Stagers are still achieving standards of which they, and the village, may be rightly proud.

Ian Page

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Updated: 27th November 2003