Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Ab-fab am-dram in Paradysville

I went to our local amateur dramatic society’s performance of Little Shop of Horrors on the weekend and what a jolly time I had. This was unexpected because (a) it was held in the fuh-reezing old church hall and (b) I’ve sat through enough of my kids’ plays to know that these productions are usually a matter of clapping in the right places and stoically staying till the end.

What probably put the edge on this performance is that it was directed – with wicked flair, and a truly startling sprinkling of dirty double-entendres – by the local (gay) psychologist. He also played the lead, and what a revelation he was: a GOM (Meggie!) in the making. Who knew that someone so suavely stylish could also be so respectably bespectacled.

Of course, any am-dram performance rests on the charm of its players – and this one didn’t disappoint. Our police inspector made a fabulous singing drunkard (the play is set on Skid Row), and then zipped back into character in the next scene as a do-gooder rescuing the down-and-outs.

One of our local drunkards also played a drunkard – while not exactly an artistic stretch for him, it gave me a renewed respect for his ability to stumble about without actually falling down. (He does this off-stage too, although he tends to crash into things more.)

The female lead, playing the 20-something love interest, was on the shady side of 50, but hammed it up wonderfully in a platinum wig, a series of divine dresses, and a high-pitched voice that could cut metal.

The shopkeeper kept me on my toes by putting the wrong emphasis on all her syllables. I didn’t understand a word she said but the zesty way she played her part rendered this unimportant.

The man-eating plant, whose face was the only part of her visible practically throughout the play, managed nonetheless to communicate an astonishing range of emotions. If it were up to me, I’d give her eyes an Oscar.

But the real surprise was the baddie – a sadistic, ether-sniffing dentist/biker – played by a quiet, shy, kind local artist. With his hair slicked back and a leather jacket on, he floored his audience (and, once or twice, the female lead, whom he was required by the script to beat up fairly regularly). He growled and strutted, laughed maniacally, threatened and fisticuffed as if it were second nature. Amazing what hidden depths there are to the people you think you know!

(Last year’s performance of The Rocky Horror Show revealed a similar buried side to another quiet, respectable local: clad in fishnets, high heels and makeup, he inhabited the role of Frank N Further as if born to it. And after the play was over, he quietly returned to his life of low-key respectability. Apparently, anyway.)

And the after-party was fabulous too. A movable bacchanal, it shifted from pub to pub, the celebratory spirit becoming more frenetic at each spot. It was when, at about 2 in the morning, the quiet, shy, kind local artist who’d played the biker/dentist came over to me and snarled, ‘Buy me a drink, woman,’ and I laughed and he said, ‘Watcha laughing at? Get your arse to the bar before I get it there for you,’ that I realised what a huge success the production had actually been.

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meggie said...

OMG, who needs more GOMs in the world!
I laughed my way through your excellent post. A Barrister cum Actor once told my GOM he would make a perfect actor, & tried to get him interested. I think GOM felt he could exercise his acting talents in the hotels, thankyou very much.

tonypark said...

Proof, if ever it were needed, that the thing that makes African am dram so much better than Australian (or probably anywhere else in the world) is bring-you-own (BYO) alcohol.

The best amateur theatrica promotion I ever saw was 'Annie' by the Harare Reps, in Zimbabwe. What I remember of it was superb.

angel said...

it sounds like a total jol! marvellous when people suprise you with their spotlight personas!