Thursday, July 18

Give Us A Sign – Bilton Theatre

Talk about life imitating art! On Thursday evening, as my sister and I tried to follow directions to Bilton Theatre (in between house numbers 17 and 19, Main Road), to watch its amateur dramatic production of Give Us A Sign, I mentally prayed for a sign.

Lo and behold, a gentleman appeared carrying a huge sign with the theatre’s details on. Phew!

Surely a good omen? Turns out it was.

Members of Bilton Amateur Dramatic Society (BADS) tread the boards in the village of Bilton, a short distance, east, from the city of Hull.

Taking our seats in this cosy little venue, reached via a narrow lane off the Main Road, we perused the printed programme thoughtfully left on our chairs and waited for curtain up.

At 7.30pm sharp the heavy stage curtains parted to reveal a suburban sitting room – table, chairs, pictures on the wall, armchair, wall-mounted telephone and a radio atop a sideboard.

Seated in the armchair, the home’s owner, Ken Lockwood (Andrew Blake) – redundant salesman – checked that day’s horse races in the local paper.

Upon hearing his wife, Rachel (Helen Davison) opening the front door, Ken pretends to dust the sideboard.

Seeing through his ruse, his better half gives him a right telling off, accusing him of betting money they haven’t got (all the redundancy had gone in the seven months Ken had been out of work).

After this rollicking, Ken perfects the classic hangdog expression, playing the emotional blackmail card which results in his wife comforting him with a big hug – Ken’s smug chops over his wife’s shoulder was just one amusing scene in this entertaining story.

The real shenanigans begin when Ken reveals he is setting up his own business as a clairvoyant and proudly shows Rachel leaflets he has printed out himself on his laptop.

His scam horrifies Rachel, but she isn’t worried. After all, she reasoned, who would book a reading with the unknown Ken.

Just then the phone rings and Ken’s laptop pings into action with booking after booking.

Next thing we know, Ken, wearing a fancy shirt, hangdog look gone, is rolling in dosh. Oh dear, we could sense his high life was going to come crashing down and, boy, it did so, so spectacularly.

Enter stage right, left and through a wall (in no particular order), an MI5 agent, two Russian spies, two American CIA agents and an acclaimed professor. All singled Ken out for their own reasons – and he, and us in the audience, fell for their lies hook, line and sinker.

And the twist at the end was completely unexpected.

Writer Tony Domaille has written a very amusing play, acted out by half-a-dozen super-talented amateurs who should be very proud of the roles they played in bringing his tale to life.

The six who graced the stage that night ensured there wasn’t a boring minute in the production. All voices were loud and clear and the American and Russian accents quite convincing – and very amusing.

I didn’t detect any forgetting of words all night long, no mean feat, especially for Blake as the sham clairvoyant, who was on the stage for the duration.

Davison as his disapproving wife was equally word-perfect, as was Jordan Lill as MI5 agent, Lawrence Pearce. The best drunkard Oscar must go to Dave Hawxwell as American CIA agent, Chuck Bush, while the inept Russian spy (Rachel Lawson as Nadia Kovlova) perfected a naughty side.

Mandy Grimston as Professor Alice Richards soberly brought a bit of sanity to proceedings.

And I have my (unconfirmed) suspicions of who donned a trench coat and Russian fur hat and accent, then quickly changed into sunnies, floral shirt complete with American accent.

There were plenty of us in attendance on Thursday evening ensuring our enthusiastic applause meant at least two well-deserved curtain calls for this talented bunch.

Running until Saturday, June 8th, 2024; 7.30pm, but 2.30pm on Saturday, 8th. Tickets cost from £8. Call (01482) 812750 or visit https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/bads

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 6th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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