Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Summer Holiday The Eastbourne Stagers Devonshire Park Theatre

Summer Holiday
The Eastbourne Stagers
Devonshire Park Theatre
14-18 Sept 2010
(Show seen 14 Sept)

Booking this show a couple of months ago was enlightening and a revelation for all the wrong reasons. It just demonstrates how ignorant some people are about the performing ability of amateur performers, particularly in Eastbourne.

On asking to book Summer Holiday we were told it's not on and they couldn't find it on the computer. With an insistence from us that was a scheduled show the booking office clerk then came back and said "Oh yes that's the one being done by the nobodies".

This is clearly an individual who has probably never even seen an amateur production and also quite clearly somebody who doesn't have a child or a relative performing in such a production. I wonder what the response would have been from the parent of an Eastbourne Stager or even a Rattonian if they had this response? Personally I find this quite insulting for anybody involved in amateur productions and perhaps theatre staff should be encouraged to see a Stagers show before they make such personal opinions to patrons? I've now seen many an amateur show in Eastbourne which I would rate above other so called "professional shows".

Anyway I have a great show to review.
Believe it or not I have never seen the movie in which Cliff Richard, of course, starred.

However, over the years and although I am not a great fan of Cliff's music, I have become familiar with all the tracks in this musical.

My other half had seen the screen classic and was more familiar with the storyline.

If anybody is like me and has been in 'Summer Holiday' hibernation since 1963 (at which time I wasn't quite born!) the story is quite simple 4 London bus mechanics make a deal with their employers. Having renovated a London bus they intend to drive it around Europe as a travelling hotel and if it makes sufficient money expansion will be possible.

In France they come across 3 female singers and their broken down car. They offer to take them to their next gig in Greece. However they don't anticipate a stowaway. They think it's a boy but it is actually a young female singer trying to escape her publicity mad mother.There's lots of jolly music, a predictable but funny love story, mayhem at European borders and plenty of opportunity for a lot of comedic moments.

So how did the Eastbourne Stagers fare with the responsibility of standing up to a Cliff classic.

Actually it was thoroughly enjoyable. Something we have come to expect from the Stagers with this being the third production we have now seen.

No, as an amateur group, they don't have the budget to go out and create a West End type set. But the recreation of the double decker London bus had clearly been given a lot of thought with both an exterior and interior view available to use. It was all that was needed in the circumstances.

Only 10 main characters are needed from the 60+ Stagers company. But those who don't have a leading role are still kept well occupied in cast dance routines and as bystanders along the route the bus has to make.

It works well. You never feel that the company has been brought on for the sake of it and the relatively small DPT stage never looked overcrowded.

For the vocal roles the Stagers know exactly who their best singers are and they seem to stick to that.
And why not? "If it ain't broke don't fix it" comes to mind!
The casting for this show seemed to be spot-on. To be fair I thought McAuley Parker (Edwin) was a little nervous to start off with as Edwin. But who can blame him? With both opening night and a large DPT audience to contend with I expect everybody had a few nerves. However as soon as he was able to concentrate on a few individual lyrics, rather than group numbers, the nerves seemed to vanish and his true singing ability was shown.

Having played such a serious role in Footloose. Dave Nicholles was able to let his hair down (or rather to put it on) as the hilarious Jerry. Jerry was the subject of conversation on many peoples lips as we left, it was a very funny role.

Helen Ward Jackson seemed at home as Barbara's eccentric mother, Stella. Rosie Sargent has a lovely voice and made a great Barbara and "Bobby". Making such a "girly girl" look like a boy though is hard and realistically Don really needs to consider dropping into Specsavers for an eyetest!

That brings me nicely to Don, alias Nathan Morris. Nice one Nathan - vocally I thought that was an incredible performance from beginning to end. If this guy had any nerves at taking on Cliff's role he certainly didn't show it!

That leaves 2 leading men still to mention Gareth Brighton as Steve and Leigh Baker as Cyril.

Leigh is always consistent in delivering an excellent performance and he doesn't let us down this time either. Steve, who played the 'hillbilly' Willard Hewitt so well in Footloose so well, again impressed the audience with his acting and singing ability.

7 down 3 to go.

The female singing group "Do Re Me" (Alma, Angie & Mimsie) were played by Becky Hervey, Shelina Hargrove and Ellen Booth. These 3 young ladies made a quite believable group both in singing ability and in appearance and like all the Stagers they looked like they were having a great time too. I think this trio had a bit of a core fan base in that first night audience too as they received an extra loud cheer at the end from one part of the theatre in particular.

If I had to pick holes in anything it would be the minor issue that I didn't really think the tiny sequence where "The Shadows" performed at the front of the stage really worked. Something just wasn't right here on the presentation front. Perhaps it was because all 4 weren't on 'guitars' or because they looked more comfortable and believable miming at the back of the stage where they were originally?

Anybody who is still in the belief that only friends and family of amateur performers go to these shows is completely wrong. It was clear from the solely positive comments as we left the Devonshire Park that so many people had no connection to any performer.

As I said in my tweet it also just goes to show you can have an excellent show without a TV star or West End performer in sight and without the huge set investment that some productions have to rely on.

If you've never seen an amateur production even if you missed Summer Holiday why not give the Stagers a chance on their next production?

As somebody said as we left "You know what? I might well go and see that again!"....... If I lived locally I would have considered the same!

Incidentally if you have children or grandchildren why not take them to see if they are interested in drama?

I wish my parents had given me such an eye-opener.

If you did go as a result of reading this ... or if you have seen the show.... why not add a comment to this post?

Nobodies? Only in the eyes of those who won't open them.

4 out of 5 for Summer Holiday by Eastbourne Stagers
Print This Entry


  1. I went to watch the show as my niece was performing in it and i really enjoyed it and find it very upsetting that someone would call them nobodies,i have seen for myself the hard work those kids put into getting the performance right. But i would like to congratulate them on a fantastic show i will be watching them next year

  2. Yes it annoyed us and we aren't even related to any Stagers! We'll be back to support them next year too - they put on a great show! Thanks for commenting :)


Thank you in advance for your show comment or feedback