Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich NR3 4BB               Box office: 01603 626414                   Sewell Barn Trust: Registered Charity No 277724

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A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL by Alan Ayckbourn


Director: Cassie Tillett (Musical Director Selwyn Tillett)

Contact: cassie@tillett.org.uk

Performances: July 13-15 & 19-22 2017 (matinée 22 July)



THE PLAY: First produced at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in 1984.  The action takes place over a period of four months, between the first rehearsal and the first performance of Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society’s production of The Beggar’s Opera.  Guy, young and recently widowed, tries to escape from his loneliness by joining the society. He’s incapable of saying No to anything, whether it’s a request for confidential business information or an offer of illicit sex, and through a series of accidents and actor tantrums he advances from a one-line part to playing the lead.  The nearer they get to opening night, the closer events in the cast’s off-stage lives mirror situations in the twisted relationships of their onstage characters - painfully and hilariously. Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘psychologically acute and heartbreakingly funny’ play holds the mirror up to every theatrical group, every drinks party and every socially embarrassing situation you’re likely to encounter - and probably many that you already have.


THE SHOW-WITHIN-THE-SHOW:  The Beggar’s Opera was first produced in 1728 as a satirical attempt to get away from the overblown musical and theatrical styles of fashionable Italian opera. Not a single king or Greek god in sight - the characters were contemporary London low life, whores and thieves mostly, and all the music was adapted from well-known popular street ballads of the time.  There were many adaptations in the two centuries afterwards, most famously Bertolt Brecht & Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera which introduced the song ‘Mack the Knife’.  Pendon are using the 1920s London version which adds some quirky modern harmonies to the 18th century style.


NB: Apart from Guy and Hannah no-one needs to be a ‘real’ singer - conveying a character through the songs is far more important than right notes or beautiful tone! Most of the musical numbers are very short, often just a single short verse, but the final chorus is a real big production number; everyone sings in chorus numbers as well as their own solos.


THE CAST


7 M and 6 F.   As some of them are in couples or families ages can be adjusted to suit who’s cast.


GUY - Mid 30s - eventually ends up playing MacHeath (the lead).  Starts diffident, even timid - grows in personal and stage confidence all through, specially after he’s been led into affairs with two of the girls at the same time.  Decent singing voice, tenor or light baritone.  3 solos.

DAFYDD - Early 40s - failed pro actor, now the society’s stage director; busy, harassed, slightly overweight. Totally overbearing and a complete lack of tact or sensitivity.  Wordy and Welsh.  Very Welsh - needs to sustain convincing natural accent all through.  Non-singing except when he barges in and takes over at auditions, when his voice turns out to be as loud and over-confident as everything else about him.  Has to sing one verse of a song in Welsh - tuition can be arranged!

HANNAH - Dafydd’s lonely wife, late 30s.  Playing Polly (one of the two female leads and not much doubt how she got the part).  Needs to be real trained high soprano (one big serious solo, 2 tiny duets).  At first completely crushed by Dafydd but blossoms when she starts a relationship with Guy.

BRIDGET - late teens/early 20s.  Daughter of the landlord of the society’s favourite local and often behind the bar.  Feisty and stands no nonsense from anyone - can look after herself, has fights with two of the cast and is chucker-out at closing time.  The society’s stage manager and general factotum.   Plays Jenny Diver, one of the lead whores - one small but key solo with lots of acid.

ENID - early middle aged, slightly nondescript, careworn and ineffectual.  If the Beggar’s Opera was Gilbert & Sullivan she’d automatically be the ageing contralto.  Plays Mrs Peachum - one tiny duet and one small trio.

TED - Enid’s husband, late 40s /early 50s.  Mild and pleasant but as bland as she is. Over-anxious and protective about their daughter.  Plays Mr Peachum who is his total opposite - needs a reasonably high voice that can carry over a full chorus; think force rather than accuracy.  One small solo, one trio, lead in a big chorus.

LINDA - Enid and Ted’s daughter.  Mid 20s.  Terribly well-brought-up and hates it.  Petulant and rebellious, with a deliberately unsuitable boyfriend.  Plays Lucy (second lead) - one tiny duet, one pointed angry solo.

CRISPIN - 20s, tough, hostile, total rebel, at odds with life and most of the cast. Linda’s wildly unsuitable boyfriend.  Starts playing MacHeath till ousted by Guy.   Three solos - baritone, sort of.

REBECCA - 50-ish, married to Jarvis and resigned to it. Bears the mental and emotional scars.  General air of slightly dented dignity and tends to rely on the bottle to get her through.   No solos, sings in chorus numbers.

JARVIS - Rebecca’s husband - late 50s, brash know-it-all businessman, hard Yorkshire almost to the point of caricature.  Playing Mr Lockit - low voice, just one short trio.

FAY - 30s, extremely attractive and knows how to use it to get anything she wants out of a man (often classified business information).  Married to Ian - they’re a pair of jet-setters and host regular swinging parties.  Hannah’s rival for Guy.  No solos, sings in chorus numbers.

IAN - 30s, Fay’s husband and total male counterpart.  Professionally ambitious, cultivated laid-back cool, makes money and charms women in that order.   No solos, sings in chorus.

Mr AMES - the society’s long-suffering lugubrious accompanist (and real pianist throughout the play).   A couple of lines as himself and a couple more as the Beggar in the show.   Has been cast!


REHEARSALS

Most likely days are Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons and evenings, other days negotiated as available and required. A read through will be arranged as soon as possible after casting.


As is usual with shows including music, we will start some rehearsals about a month before ‘normal’ rehearsals begin, dedicated entirely to ‘note-bashing’. This tends to be around 1 rehearsal per week per performer during that month. (Recordings, musical dots and words can all be provided as required.) This period will start during the week after Easter (Thursday 27 April).  From around 22 May, we move to working on the main show. Rehearsals per week: 2-4 depending on characters.


SCRIPT

ISBN: 0-573-01620-8


AUDITIONS

Friday 3 March 2017 at 7.30 pm in the Barn


All auditionees are encouraged to read the play beforehand. We will give out copies of relevant scenes on the night.


There will of course be singing involved in the auditions. However, please note that only Guy and Hannah need to be truly competent singers; other performers need to sing more or less in tune, and characterise. For the former, a real song in your repertoire - or better still, from The Beggar’s Opera - would be very helpful; for the latter, anything from a nursery rhyme upwards would enable us to hear your range. Bring music if you have it. We’ll teach very brief snatches of music during the auditions.


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