In a world where everything is so complicated and heavy with subtext, there’s something to be said of a play that offers light hearted relief. ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman is a disarmingly simple comedy ripe for community theatres and a summer where we all need a bit of a lift.
Fading Hollywood star Jefferson Steele (Nigel Barber) has been duped by his agent to thinking he’s taking a gig at the infamous birthplace of Shakespeare. Only when he arrives from the USA, he discovers he’s playing the lead role of King Lear at a tiny Suffolk village called Stratford-upon-nowhere with a bunch of am dram characters trying to save their village theatre from developers – while Jefferson is trying to save his career.
Dorothy the director/ driver/ fool/ insert multiple roles as per am dram norms (Sharon Eckman) does a wonderful job massaging the ego of Nigel (Elliot James) who’s waited all his life to play the dream role of King Lear only to have this blasted American turn up and steal his ‘birth right’. The envy isn’t helped by the fact Jefferson is struggling to learn his lines, but as he says: “I’ve got more lines in this play than my last 20 movies.” Mary (Alice Redmond) is all of a swoon over the Hollywood hunk, while the handyman and bit-part-player Dennis (Jamie Scott-Smith) does a fine bromance role and the trio provide plenty of laughs with their love-ins.
As plots go, ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’ is straightforward. There’s no big reveal, no build up, no secret twists and turns that makes you go ‘Oh!’ – but the simplicity is part of the appeal. There’s action and enough going on with Jefferson’s daughter arriving and a misunderstanding with the PR lady to move the plot along.
For the majority of the play, you will chuckle at the going-ons and likely laugh out loud on several occasions. The dad jokes will make you groan, but you will smile. This isn’t a challenging or deep production – it is a production of simple entertainment to bring you pleasure. The mass appeal for an easy watch is likely why it was a sold-out show on its opening night. To borrow a line from the show: ‘It’s a chance to step outside of our own ordinary lives.’
Running July 26th – July 30th at The McGrigor Hall, Frinton-on-sea. https://www.frintonsummertheatre.org/
Reviewer: Samantha Collett
Reviewed: 26th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★