Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Back To The 80's Review Eastbourne Stagers Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne

Back To The 80's
The Eastbourne Stagers
15-19 September 2009
Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne
Back To The 80's the Eastbourne Stagers
Cast as follows
(apologies for laziness in copying the programme for this
but it's a huge cast and at least this way I am guaranteed
to get the names as published)
Back To The 80's the Eastbourne Stagers

Back To The 80's the Eastbourne Stagers

Going to see this amateur production on opening night made us realise just how difficult it must be these days to ever be taken seriously as amateurs.

OK it was 1st night - but all tickets were just a meagre £9 (still only £11-£12.50 at other times) and there wasn't a single familiar face in the audience.

There was a decent sized audience but families of the performers made up a good number of these - the lack of regular theatre goers really makes you feel for these young people who have put so much into the production and doing something far more useful than roaming the streets of a night.

You don't go to an amateur show costing so little expecting a professional performance from everybody. So to the two women behind me who talked almost all the way through this show praising your own offspring whilst moaning about everyone else people like you have no place in an audience. It's just a shame you weren't thrown out.

Anyway given the price of the tickets were their moans justified?

No they weren't because you've got to base your judgement of a production on the experience of the performers.
Whilst some of these performers in Eastbourne Stagers have considerable experience on the stage the vast majority do not...... and they have got to start somewhere!

Let's get the plot to this production out of the way so I can return to a review a.s.a.p.

This is a fun and light hearted look at the 80's - the music and events at the time - through the eyes of 'Corey' who is looking back on the good times and bad from his school days.

This concentrates around Corey's love life at the time (or rather lack of it). Other main characters are big headed, bad, bully boy, Michael, who the girls adore. The lovestruck girls include Tiffany who Corey is smitten with, despite the fact she is madly in love with Michael.

Feargal is the, regularly mocked, class geek. Eileen is the school's new girl with the rather crazy Laura and Debbie who try to help her settle in.

Meanwhile teachers Miss Brannigan and Mr Cocker have their own love life problems.

Actually script wise this musical isn't really all that bad, especially for anybody like me who was a teenager in the 80's and who can relate to the decade.
There are a few slightly tedious dialogues, mostly in Act 1, but equally there is a lot of comedy.

It won't exactly have you rolling in the aisles but it is a script that will keep you chuckling. In this age of Rubik Cubes, Atari Computers, DOS, an obsession with Star Wars and with mobile phones the size and weight of housebricks there is no shortage of 80's material to laugh at.

The music from the 80's is also wide and varied with everything from Madonna's Material Girl to the lesser known Lost In Your Eyes by Debbie Gibson (Should I admit to being a DG fan at the time? Probably not!). It has to be said the music does fit appropriately into the script and despite the fact we have The Proclaimers - 500 miles, Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse Of The Heart and Video Killed the Radio Star all in the same production it all adds to an easy to follow story.

So all that out of the way how was the acting and singing - whilst remembering this is a relatively low budget production by a mainly very young amateur cast?

It was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the casting. I think The Eastbourne Stagers know exactly where the strengths and weaknesses are and that is reflected, especially in the main characters. Some can dance better than they can sing. Some can act better than they can dance....... and yes as the 'ladies' behind me pointed out (constantly) there will be those who may never be professional at any aspect - but they all give it 100% regardless.

For heaven's sake we have not paid £40 to watch a West End show! Just £9!

I think anybody who saw this got far more than £9 worth of entertainment for the evening. As I said there are those who have a lot of stage experience and it did reflect in the show. James Moy's energy, enthusiasm and singing was terrific and experienced Rattonian Nikki Brook was confident, as she always is.

However many of the main cast leave a lasting impression in this show.
Feargal the geek is played hilariously by William Holmes. Becky Fillery ,who the boys adore as her character Tiffany, has a lovely voice and appeared confident on stage. Blonde nutter Laura is played by Eloise Cosham - I think the Stagers know this young lady's strength is comedy - she was extremely funny. Rosie Sargent I thought was a very impressive singer and seemed to very comfortable in her role as Debbie - I'd be surprised if she didn't go on to bigger things.

But there are another couple of young 'ones to watch' for the future. Ellen Booth is outstanding as Eileen (yes Come On Eileen does make the inevitable musical line up, eventually). If this young lady does not end up in professional theatrical productions I'd be surprised. Lee Baker as Corey (junior) is equally impressive and does a brilliant job in the lead role.

I haven't mentioned all of the main characters by any means but have tried to concentrate on the younger members of the stagers - but the 'oldies' did an excellent job as you would expect.

I thought the full cast rendition of We Are The World was lovely and still as touching as the original Bob Geldof led classic (and did Eloise shed a tear or two? It certainly was emotionally delivered by all).

I also thought that given the resticted budget this group must have they'd still done an impressive job with the set (great car shell) and making the most of sharing microphones etc when needed with only the main cast being permanently 'wired for sound'.

Critisisms? Well lets not forget it's an amateur production but I am sure all groups like feedback.

It may have been first night nerves but the four featured backing singers never quite seemed in total harmony with each other. It was hard to tell if one was not quite as good as the other three, if all 4 were out of tune or if they were all in tune but not quite in sync.

Secondly The Devonshire Park Theatre hasn't got the biggest stage in the world. With a company of over 70 this is just a few people too many when it comes to a company performed song. I'm not too sure if they were ever all on stage at the same time but when the stage was at full capacity it was far too packed. Choreography appeared to be very restricted and male lead Lee Baker probably by now has severe backage as he got a high kick in the back more than once on this evening alone.

On a stage like the Congress Theatre has you can get away with so many people but not here. Performers get hidden and you can't fully appreciate the choreography. Perhaps splitting the Company over certain performances may have been a solution?

But hey the show certainly exceeded our expectations. It was clear the whole cast enjoyed themselves, gave 100%, and from the cheers they got at the curtain call not many agreed with the wingers behind me.

Note the following rating takes into account this is an amateur production

4 out of 5 for Back To The 80's

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