Today, we have a guest review contribution from Noel Harris, friend of the stars of the local theatre scene.
I met Noel in the audience of Day8's performance of The Golden Days Of Music Hall, which I was reviewing. Since then we have been to a few productions together and I enjoy his critique and friendship.
When I opted to review Sweet Charity for The Shields Gazette I could think of no better man than Noel to work on my behalf. This is his first review....for my sake I hope that he sticks to the other side of the stage.
When Harry Met Sally
Whitley Bay Playhouse
Day 8 Productions
Having not seen the film version, I did not know what to expect from this play. Now then, I am more often on the stage than in a seat, and having worked with Day8 on their hugely successful inaugural show last year, (Jesus Christ Superstar) I had a feeling that whatever happened the production team would have done justice to the script.
The storyline is a fairly simple one, where Harry is hired to decorate Sally's apartment. Harry is used to playing the field and cannot comprehend a friendship with an attractive woman without feeling sexual desire. However, in this instance, his ideas are somewhat turned upside down, but the close friendship between them eventually leads to a bedroom scene and subsequent declaration of love. The direction by Steve Arnott was as expected, clean and precise throughout. The set was of minimalist design with cleverly constructed cubist levels, set in front of a New York backdrop. The magical part of the set was when a beautifully dressed double bed came forward from apparantly nowhere. The scene changes of sofas, table and chairs ( not forgetting the memorable exercise bikes for the gym scene) took place in virtual blackout whilst a projection screen came down, on which some beautifully shot film footage of various older couples were played. The interjection of these movie clips worked well, and I must say the audience loved the contradictory tales of how the couples met. The film quality and acting in the projected sequences was excellent with many well known faces from the coastal drama circuit making an appearance. Of course, George Knox and Christopher Carr will be remembered not only for their portrayal of an ageing couple, but the scary authenticity of their performance. I would love to see the out takes. I am sure there would be some fabulous humour in them.
The cast worked well from start to finish, with each actor playing their own part to perfection. Sally, played by Fiona Wilson, was believable as a single woman who yearned to explore her sexuality and indeed was already doing so. Her elegance contrasted well with Harry, played by Alex Swan,who was suitably suave in his role of funky sex machine. The script gives the audience the feeling that he is more than on the edge of sleazy at times, but this seemed to endear him to the audience as the show progressed. The characters of Jack and Marie brought the comedy highs to this show, with convincing acting by James Charlton and Marie Whiteford. There was definite chemistry between the two actors who were clearly enjoying the script. The speed of their interaction, coupled with excellent facial expressions, enabled the precise delivery of every comic moment.
There were also three cameo appearances. James Mitchinson as a very toned and muscular Joe, who played his part with a high degree of sophistication and style-the audience certainly found delight in his skin-tight lycra gym outfit. Indeed so impressive was his stature, I heard one woman behind me chuckling to her friend, " Do you think it's real ? "
Toby Bridges and Sonia Hernandez ( with an H not an F as in the programme ) made a brief but well acted appearance.
So were there any downsides to this most enjoyable of evenings? Well yes, the sound could have been technically better,something that Day8 have had a lasting problem with. There were a couple of cringey moments when the side microphones picked up the bang of a passing bag, and decorators tape being pulled off the roll should not have sounded like a raspberry being blown. However, these really are minor points, and in consideration of the excellent acting and vocal projection of every cast member, these blips only added to the humour of this well performed romantic comedy.