Blag Theatre Reviews


    BLAG THEATRE COMPANY'S Christmas show at The Pump House Theatre in Local Board Road, Watford, is certainly something to brag about. The opening night of Stuff The Turkey-It's Christmas!, a fast-moving, exuberant entertainment, was a parody of well-known musical theatre numbers sending up Christmas customs. Another Christmas, Another Show saw the company of six attractive women and three handsome men dressed in scarlet Santa hats carry the enthusiastic audience along with them. This set the pace and I just knew this was going to be a fun evening. Sketches and songs written by Richard and Lynne [sic] Beaumont, including a send up of visiting relations and sending seasonal cards to people we hope never to see again, struck a familiar chord with most of the audience.

    Richard's solo as Cliff Richard was particularly amusing. The cast gave a double tribute to Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics in their off-beat approach to "out-casts" who appear in pantomime, which gave some food for thought. It was a pity some of the intelligent, subtle lyrics were drowned by the accompanying keyboard and percussion. However, musical director Clive Swan and Anthony Varney, percussion, rectified this in the second half which began with an hilarious parody of Andy Stewart's New Year's Party with Richard Beaumont, complete with ginger wig and enormous sporran. This was sung to a medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber numbers, with extremely witty words. Festivities continued with Christmas past - Christmas BC was an empty stage. A Dickensian send up of a ballroom scene, beloved of BBC costume dramas, followed. The highlight for most people was the Posh and Becks sketch, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

    White Christmas was recalled from the past by Bing Crosby, while Johnny Mathis' A Child is Born was followed by the office party sketch, Kiss Your Manager, set to Give It The Old Razzle Dazzle. This must have rung a few Christmas bells. And so to the traditional pantomime, performed by a group of geriatric, aristocratic thespians in a retirement home. Possibly a trifle too long, this produced every cliche in the book, including the rear end of a cow getting in a tangle with a zimmer frame. The spoof programme, printed upside-down, including a bingo game everybody won, were innovative extras, making this Jack and the Beanstalk unique. Possibily a little non-PC but done with humorous affection.

    The two-hour show was just the right length and it concluded with audience participation as the company sang more recent popular seasonal songs such as Slade's Here It Is Merry Christmas, this time with the proper words. Although it was difficult to establish who did what, apart from Richard and wife Lynne [sic], Chris Clarke, John Holland, Lucy Gwynne-Evans, Jean Heard, Donna Jones, Anna Rufey and Jean Warner provided a great evening's entertainment, their singing voices being of a high standards [sic]. Tickets are still available for Saturday's matinee so, to set you in the party spirit, rush down and get them.

    Wendy Keeling Taylor


    Good acting will always transport the spectator from a theatre bucket seat to the scene of the narrative, but when that scene is a cartoon strip, the actor's task becomes a bit more difficult. With cartoons we expect the characters to be just as they are on paper, and I'm delighted to report that the cast of Snoopy have managed to successfully bring some of my favourite characters to life. Hapless Charlie Brown, opinionated Lucy, blanket-dependent Linus and the greatest beagle of all, Snoopy, step down from Charles Schulz's cartoon strip and mingle with the audience in the latest offering from the BLAG Theatre Company. Based on the comic strip Peanuts, drawn until his recent death by Schulz, the show features seven of the strip's characters including my favourite characterisation of the evening - Woodstock.

    Lucy Gwynne-Evans resisted the temptation of going too over the top with this non-speaking role and the result was fantastic. She simply was Woodstock and the scene where she portrays Snoopy's "thawts", as he writes his great American novel, had the preview audience in hysterics. My other favourite was Linus, played by Richard Beaumont. He did a marvellous job portraying the bright, but blanket-dependent Linus, who spent the evening dragging his blankie and sucking his thumb. He was truly child-like, and if I didn't know better I'd swear he was the real thing! While those two performances stood out, characterisation was good across the board. Peter St James brought a lovely, ironic wit to his portrayal of Snoopy (a reprisal of the role he played in 'You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown') and is wonderfully over the top in his lament for puppy-hood at the Daisy Hill puppy farm.

    John Holland was a great Charlie Brown, bringing to life the boy's inability to succeed, notably in a scene where the cast look for pictures in the cloud[s] - everyone has their say, except Charlie, who can't get a word in. Jean Warner gave a good portrayal of the over-bearing and pompous Lucy; Anna Rufey's Peppermint Patty was suitably ditsy and direct; and in her first role away from the director's chair, Lynn Beaumont enjoyed success as Charlie Brown's little sister Sally. BLAG have once again produced a super piece of musical theatre, which will entertain children of all ages. But it seems a pity that their work cannot be staged properly. The Chess Suite is not a bad venue, but I would love to see the actors on a raised stage and with more room to display their talents.

    Estelle Sinkins


    MUSICALS were the subject of the BLAG Theatre's song and dance review at the Pump House Theatre in Watford last week. Audiences at the theatre in Local Board Road saw BLAG's Rip 'Em Off show run through the world of musical cliches - from opening numbers to show-stopping endings. Richard, Lynn and Laura Beaumont, who devised the show as well as performing in it, put their own words to famous show tunes in order to give a glimpse behind the curtain of the world of show-business.

    The show featured works by George Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim and Irving Berlin and others. Among the targets for their humour were washed-up child stars, over-produced hi-tech modern musicals and the sort of Cockney characters that seem to populate every stage show. The musical review style of the evening carried on at a lively pace and, although some of the sketches worked better than others, the combined effect was a fun evening. The evening was best enjoyed by fully fledged West End musical fans. Particular highlights were Richard Beaumont's performance as a former child star looking back at better times - particularly poignant because Beaumont was something of a child star himself - and the Beaumont's [Ricky and Laura] performance as an aged theatrical couple to the tune of I Remember it Well.

    Other sketches included a number on the horror of drying up on stage set to the tune of I Got the Horse Right Here [Fugue for Tin Horns] from Guys and Dolls and the whole cast on stage for a rip-off of Who Will Buy? from Oliver! The entire cast, consisting of Anna Rufey, Deirdre Mackness, Jean Warner, John Holland, Laura Beaumont, Lucy Gwynne-Evans, Lynn Beaumont, Peter St James and Richard Beaumont, performed with an enthusiastic and tongue-in-cheek style appropriate to this pastiche.

    Dave Allen


    BLAG Theatre Company's new show Rip 'Em Off is a delightful tongue-in-cheek production, which at no stage attempts to take itself seriously. Created by theatrical couple, Richard and Lynn Beaumont, in conjunction with Richard's sister Laura, Rip 'Em Off takes an affectionate side swipe at many well-known musicals. From the opening bars of Oliver! and Mary Poppins, through Annie and Cats, the show parodies the lyrics of some of the best loved musicals to show the audience what the performers feel. Two of the opening solos were particularly good. In the first Richard plays a former child star who asks plaintively 'Will I ever work again?', while in the second Jean Warner's Mary Poppins warns that "putting children in films can make them precocious".

    Deidre Mackness's risque version of These are a few of My Favourite Things from The Sound Of Music, had the audience in stitches as she regaled them with a "few of her favourite Flings". MAGICALLY TRANSFORMED The pantomime sketch featuring John Holland, Jean Warner and Chris Clarke was one of my favourite things. Each of the cast laments the fact that in normal life they are considered freaks, but in panto they are magically transformed - from a midget into Dick Whittington's cat, and from a cross-dresser into a pantomime Dame. There were also strong performances by Lucy Gwynne-Evans and Anna Rufey lamenting the fact that directors insist on putting a ballad into panto and thus boring the audience.

    The second half sees the cast taking the mickey out of cockney musicals like Oliver! and My Fair Lady. Songs like 'As Long As He Needs Me' from Oliver! and 'Get Me To The Church On Time' from My Fair Lady all get the BLAG treatment. Then it's time for the audience to get involved as they are transformed from "bums on seats" to showstoppers, with a little careful tuition from Richard and sister Laura. My only gripe, and it's not a major one, was the loss of vocal quality in some of the numbers, particularly in those when all the cast were involved. But that said, the show is tremendous fun and an enjoyable night out.

    Estelle Sinkins


    When it comes to getting audience participation, nobody does it better than the BLAG Theatre Company. In fact, the trick they pulled off at the end of this excellent spoof about musical theatre, had the audience clapping, cheering and whistling for more. I won't spoil it and say what they did, but if you want to find out, then go along and catch this play tonight or tomorrow. Like many local groups, they suffer from a lack of funds which can be a good thing, because it means they have to rely on their imaginations and talent, of which they have plenty. As long as theatre groups like this keep going, then live theatre will survive.

    For this show they decided to take a satirical look at the stereotypes as well as the tricks which writers and directors of musical plays, still play (excuse the pun). All the way down from the music halls, through Fifties and Sixties shows with jolly prancing cockney's in cloth caps and braces, to Lloyd Webber. None came out of it unscathed. Richard Beaumont, one of the co-writers, apologised to me afterwards that they couldn't provide a helicopter landing on the stage and if that is the sort of prop you need to be entertained, then BLAG ain't your teabag. But for good wholesome down-to-earth entertainment, this is what it's all about.

    Henry Wizgier


    Musicals were the mainstay of my childhood. Many a Sunday afternoon was spent curled up on the sofa, drawn into the world of Mary Poppins, Oliver, Annie, Kiss Me Kate and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. As an adult, I have not forgotten those happy times and am perfectly happy to sit through another musical if one happens to be on the telly. But all that is now at an end thanks to The Showstoppers from Hell in Rip 'Em Off. In the nicest possible way, the show, by members of BLAG, performed at the Watersmeet Theatre last week, has ensured that I will never be able to look at a musical in the same light again.

    I was left weak with laughter, the tears running down my face, as well-known songs from many musicals were performed, but with rather different lyrics. The new words rather succesfully pointed out just how awful musicals really are, with big booming voices and precocious children. Finally I can understand why my partner always runs from the room if a musical is on the telly. I would love to be able to tell you about particular lyrics but it is the sort of comedy that you really have to be there to appreciate and I certainly hope they come back with a repeat show. The only down side to the evening had to be the second act. I was warned before I went along that it was all about audience participation and if I had realised the full horror that I was to face, I would have made my escape in the interval.

    For every member of the audience it was a return to the schoolroom, where we had to learn hymns read out from the blackboard. In this case we were made to stand up, sing the theme from Neighbours (sheer hell) and kick, clap and roar like real showstoppers. My skin crawled. I stood there with arms crossed, desperately praying that I would wake from this living nightmare, and very much alone as everyone else threw themselves into the action. As they were all several (and here I am being kind) years older than me, I could only put it down to a return to their childhood - either that or they'd been enjoying just a little too much refreshment at the interval.

    When the show ended, I heard people saying how much they had enjoyed the first half, with which I heartily concurred, but I was flummoxed at how many had truly enjoyed the second half and cries of "even Geoffrey was singing!" could be heard. Unfortunately, I am just rather too young to find the theme song from Neighbours amusing!

    Yana De Silva


    FLAT caps, braces and rhyming slang galore helped bring the spirit of the East End of London and traditional cabaret to the Watersmeet Theatre in Rickmansworth recently. BLAG Theatre Company's evening of music and gags, in its Cockney-style variety show called 'Doing the Lambeth Walk', was great fun. The venue, the Chess Room, was decorated with Union Jack bunting, adding a patriotic feeling to this very British style of entertainment where the audience was invited to sing along to classic tunes from the music hall era.

    It was impossibe not to join in with the cast's energetic renditions and their A-Z of nostalgic songs was very impressive, even if they did cheat occasionally. Their alternative "posh" version of 'Show me the way to go home', called 'Indicate the way to my abode', was hilarious. Routines featuring Swoop the flying seagull and Albert the performing flea had the audience in fits of laughter and called for lots of audience participation. In one sketch, the cast sang ditties featuring "naughty" lyrics and others littered with ryhming slang - a glossary of terms came in useful here.

    Most of the acts were a definite hit but, while John Holland's one-man-band came as a nice surprise, he found it difficult to sing and play the plethora of instruments at the same time and drowned out his dulcet tones. The whole show could have evoked bad memories of dodgy cabaret at holiday camps in the 1970's, or programmes such as Tonight at the London Palladium - the type of entertainment which, sadly, is still going strong in some quarters today. But, thankfully, this was all very tongue-in-cheek. I was pleasantly surprised at this lively bunch who had me singing 'Roll out the barrel' and 'Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner', all the way home.

    Wendy Keeling


    VARIETY, so they say, is the spice of life...and if that's true then BLAG's new show is guaranteed to add a few extra years to your life. Doing the Lambeth Walk takes the audience on a journey through the East End and the world of variety theatre, where, armed with a glossary of rhyming slang and the words to old favourites like 'Pack up your troubles', 'Knees up Mother Brown', 'Roll out the barrel', 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts' and 'It's a long way to Tipperary', they are soon singing along. Anna Rufey, last seen in BLAG's production of Snoopy, lamented lustily on the 23 occasions she has followed the bride down the aisle, asking "Why am I always the bridesmaid?", and her pairing with Lucy Gwynne-Evans (Woodstock in 'Snoopy') was inspired as the two performers highlighted the talent and ambition of two chorus girls.

    Chris Clarke's 'Jimmy Binks' and John Holland's 'One Man Band' were also great fun, while Richard and Lynn Beaumont's 'ABC of Music - 26 snippets of songs, albeit one or two tenuous ones - was simply breathtaking. And credit should go to Lynn for appearing, despite the fact that a sore throat was playing havoc with her singing voice. But my two favourite performers of the evening were undoubtedly compere Martin Clarkson, whose links kept the audience entertained, and Jean Warner's charlady, whose dreams of fame and fortune on the stage became a brief reality. Martin was responsible for linking the sequences and for the show's two "animal acts" - Swoop, the Performing Seagull, and Albert, the Performing Flea. During both performances the audience volunteers played up beautifully and the gentle humour made a pleasant change from the aggressive, in-your-face style which tends to characterise today's comedy.

    Jean was in fine form in both the ensemble pieces and especially as the theatre's charlady, who steps into a breach to help Martin with Albert's act, dances with her mop and duets with Martin in a song where she claims to be a lady. Doing the Lambeth Walk is quite simply a delightful evening out and BLAG's professionalism and style increases with every show.

    Estelle Sinkins


    The dodgy puns came thick and fast at BLAG Theatre Company's production of The Night of The Jockstrap at Watersmeet Theatre this week. A list of the characters' names gives a fair indication of the Carry-On style of humour on offer, there was a Major Catastrophe, Ivor Smallpiece, Ivanta Havalot and a Miss Take. Add to this the fact the action took place in a stately home called Farque Hall and it is clear that this wasn't a play to take itself seriously.

    Fortunately, the cast had no difficulty carrying off this wonderful nonsense, which in the hands of lesser talents, would have been embarrassing in the extreme. No opportunity for a pun was wasted and no chance for a double entendre or comic misunderstanding allowed to escape. The plot, for little it was worth, followed four characters gathered together for the reading of famous ballet star Sir Rudolf Portabrason's will. All four once saved Sir Rudolf's life and he wants to leave his entire fortune to one of them. Unable to decide who should inherit, Portabrason decrees they should all spend the night in Farque Hall, which is said to be cursed and which nobody except Portabrason has ever survived the night in - I did warn you it was silly.

    But do not let that put you off, Night of The Jockstrap is fast-paced fun from start to finish. Leading this spendidly foolish entertainment was Richard Beaumont as Major Catastrophe. Constantly clowning, but never going too far, he set the perfect pitch for those around him. This was followed by the entire cast, with Anna Rufey vamping outrageously as the ballerina Ivanta, John Holland playing the wimpish Ivor and Jean Warner as the nervous Miss Take. Chris Clarks as the private dick, Rick Slick, was impressive. Although a farce, the comic timing, assured acting and fine singing ensured polished entertainment from start to finish.

    Dave Allen


    IT IS easy to see why The Night of The Jockstrap was an Edinburgh Fringe award-winning play. It is a most glorious send-up of all those murder-most-foul mysteries set in - always it seems - a Gothic mansion with a gathering of greedy characters awaiting the reading of the will. 'Jockstrap' is playing this week at the Chess Suite, Watersmeet, Rickmansworth, and marks the third production there by BLAG Theatre Company. The piece was written by BLAG founder Richard Beaumont and Laura Beaumont and directed by Richard's wife Lynn. What's it about? To start to reveal that would tell you too much and spoil the fun should you be going to one of the two performances on each of today and tomorrow. If you haven't planned a visit, give it a try - it's only a fiver a head.

    The style of the piece is best revealed by its cast of characters: Rick Slick (the private dick), Egor Blimey the butler, Major Catastrophe, Miss Take, Ivor Smallpiece and Ivanta Havalot. Among the players, BLAG stalwarts Richard Beaumont as the Major, an archetype English Colonel Blimp and Jean Warner, his old flame Miss Take, once again show the immaculate timing required for roles such as these, where double-entendres fly about faster than a Carry On movie. And Jean Warner maintained an immacualte Edinburgh accent throughout - it never slipped once.

    One imagines Ivor Smallpiece being a most appropriate name for the Hooray Henry played by John Holland - at least the Russian vamp Ivanta Havalot, beautifully played by Anna Rufey, thought so. Chris Clarke was not too convincing at first as Rick Slick, but he came into his own as the climax was reached - if that's an appropriate phrase for this production. That climax, too, involved Paul Gooch - Egor Blimey - in a most convincing wrestling match with Catastrophe.

    I saw it on the opening night, when the proceeds were given to five charities, and it was evident that a little more rehearsal was needed. Knowing the professionalism of this group, that will surely have come by now. Musical arrangements were by John Holland (yes, the same one) and musical director was Carole King (no, not that one).

    Tony White


    THERE was not a member of the Royal family safe from BLAG Theatre Company's Jubilee knees-up on Monday and Tuesday. I've never come away from a BLAG show disappointed, and this show certainly didn't break the trend. My mother is one of these people that laugh inwardly, just smiling politely when something is amusing. So I couldn't believe it when she was laughing out loud and with tears streaming down her face. It was a close call whether she was actually going to wet herself. BLAG's latest offering was a satirical music revue to celebrate Her Majesty's Golden Year. The first half kicked off with a harmonious song about the royals in general, but I feel that this was a little bit lost as the undoubted humorous lyrics were quite muffled by the music, and I think, inadequate sound equipment.

    But from there on, it was laughs a plenty. The company's writers and directors Lynn and Richard Beaumont, who also star in the productions, never fail to amaze me. All new lyrics are put to well-known tunes, such as Let's go Fly a Kite, Be Our Guest and What a Picture. The first half of the show consisted of an assortment of different funny sketches with songs looking at the Royals - from Philip's gaffes, Harry's little scandal to Charlie's [sic] quest to be king and what the Queen keeps in her handbag. The audience thought this was good, but as we were guided out of the first act by a very funny, close to the knuckle song by the Queen's staff, the best was yet to come. After the interval we were treated to the Royal Variety Show with special appearances from Lily Savage, Barbara Windsor and Cilla Black with new lyrics to You've Got to Have a Gimmick, the nasal comic Tommy 'No 'ere wait' Miller, Dare-say, Shirley Hussey and Kiri Te Katermerangue, all taken off by real life opera singer Anna Rufey.

    I cannot describe how good the cast were - Jean Warner, Lucy Gwynne-Evans, Anna Rufey, John Holland, Chris Clarke, Martin Clarkson, Lynn and Richard Beaumont were all marvellous. It was actually more entertaining than the real thing. They were all brilliant, but Jean Warner was great with her fabulous Queen, Shirley Bassey and Barbara Windsor impersonations. And Martin Clarkson, who played compere for the evening, just because he played it to a tee and I could imagine my grandma would like him. The night was rounded off by flag waving, which came free with the programme, and a sing-a-long including Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner, I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, Knees Up Mother Brown and Roll Out The Barrel. An excellent evening that rounded off a jubilee weekend, plus anything that makes my mum laugh out loud must be worth its salt.

    Kelly Clayton


    THE BLAG Theatre Company is winning a lot of friends with its original material. This show, which tapped into the jubilee spirit, certainly went down well. The first part was a skit on things Royal - what's in the Queen's handbag? The role of Camilla Parker Bowles? It was all good tongue-in-cheek fun. People from overseas are sometimes bemused by the British attitude to royalty. The truth is, I think, that the British have a real regard for Her Majesty. As the Sun commented: "Even the stout republicans have respect for the Queen." But our friends from abroad simply do not understand how, on the one hand, we can lampoon the Royal Family, and how, on the other, we can respect the institution.

    The answer is simple enough: it's the good old British music hall tradition, the sort of thing Bremner, Bird and friends represent when they portray the Duke of Edinburgh as someone who drives a cab in his spare time. The fun of the first part of the BLAG production was continued after the interval when it depicted another British phenomenon, the Royal Variety Show. There were good impersonations of, among others, Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey and Barbara Windsor. The principals of BLAG, Richard and Lynn Beaumont, are people with an offbeat sense of humour. Their entourage includes other talented performers and I was particularly impressed by Lucy Gwynne-Evans and Anna Rufey.

    Martyn Pritchard


    IN a week when the nation celebrated the Queen's Golden Jubilee it was appropriate to see BLAG Theatre Company's up-to-the-minute affectionate tribute with a twist - Gaw'd Save The Queen! The show ran for three nights at the flag bedecked venue, the Court Theatre, at Pendley. Members of the audience were given a Union Jack with the programme, inside of which were facts and figures not only about HM, but also amusing insights into royal moments experienced by the cast and crew. The fast-moving revue, written and directed by Lynn and Richard Beaumont, began with the national anthem, which quickly moved into a medley of song and dance routines. It featured numbers from popular shows with the lyrics substituted with cheekily affectionate observations of the royal family, past and present. A spoof of the Coronation Service, combined with that moment audiences dread - participatory action and sound effects - was a shade too long, but nevertheless amusing, especially the finale with part-song featuring members of the Queen's staff - slightly risqué but done in the best possible taste.

    The second part of the show, introduced by a stereotype compere, was a parody of the Royal Variety Performance. Mocking the standard format the audience was, amongst other items, treated to a string of impersonations of Barbara Windsor (not of the Royal Family) Cilla Black, Julian Clary [sic] and Shirley Bassey who's Goldfinger was turned into Old Singer - cruel. Jean Warner in these female roles, plus her impersonation of the Queen, was a delight. The satirical revue was refreshingly exuberant, members of the team being accompanied by musicians under the direction of Susana Castellot.

    Sadly, it's not possible to credit each performer with their individual turns but they made a great team. Perhaps future programmes could identify who's who? The show concluded with a good old Cockney sing-a-long knees-up with the small, but perfectly formed appreciative audience joining in with gusto. Finally, Land of Hope and Glory, complete with Britannia á la Proms was sung with genuine feeling. Energy, talent and pzazz [sic] are very much a part of this company which deserved a much larger audience - don't miss out next time!

    Wendy Keeling Taylor


    FROM the moment they bounced onto the stage with their shimmy and their singing in perfect harmony, the Blag Theatre Company did more than impress in their Pump House Christmas show, they wowed. With over 40 characters being played by a cast of five, Eyes, Teeth and Tinsel was a veritable comic feast of songs and skits based on the theme of Christmas. Featuring all the stars, from elves to Christmas puddings, and fairies to Mrs Claus, the bevy of performances never failed to surprise and amuse, leaving the audience doubled up with laughter.

    The first stand-out skit was the hilarious and heart-wrenching lament of the Christmas cracker. Played by John Holland, decked out in full festive costume involving green tights and a cracker barrel body, Holland sang about the cracker's sad fate as the only one left in the box. With a confident, tuneful voice, the cracker described his lonesome agony and longing to be pulled - it really touched my heart strings and made me laugh out loud. The entrance of Lucy Gwynne-Evans' Miss L. Toe to the stage was another glorious moment. Sashaying in her sexy berry suit, she sang her seduction in a sultry Marilyn Monroe voice that sent shivers down my spine.

    Skipping onto the stage as a reminder of that frequent Christmas time repeat, Jean Warner made a great pastiche of Judy Garland's Dorothy and exuded a professional ease throughout the entire show. Audience participation was a unique idea that was resisted at first, but as soon as an element of competition was introduced, took off well. And the introduction of Sir Stanton Davenport, aka Santa, as a forgetful volunteer from a nearby old folk's home was a clever touch. I loved seeing him wander across the stage , hip flask in hand, apparently off cue.

    The range of takes on popular cultural icons, including Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen, and Posh and Becks, brought extra wit to the ensemble and could have been disastrous, but again was pulled off with ease. Lyn [sic] Beaumont's Mrs Beckham wouldn't have seemed out of place on Smack The Pony and her stunning singing voice reached its fullest potential as Julie Andrews' Maria. I probably shouldn't say that Eyes, Teeth and Tinsel was lead by the hugely talented Richard Beaumont, because this was one show that has a truly all-star cast, but his timing and bundles of versatility made him positively elastic. Honestly, the best bits [sic] of local theatre I've ever seen.

    Yvonne Gavan


    Blag's festive ding dong excels. BRILLIANT, Lampooning, Artistic, Gifted - Blag Theatre Company is all this and more. Ding Dong Merrily...BUT WHY? is the company's Christmas offering currently showing at the Pump House in Local Board Road, Watford, and it is a brilliantly witty, hilarious mix of comedy, songs, good-natured take-offs and audience participation - in short, the perfect way to begin the festive celebrations. Blag Theatre Company was founded by husband-and-wife team Lynn and Richard Beaumont and it was this gifted duo that wrote and produced Ding Dong Merrily...BUT WHY?

    Aided and abetted by a hugely talented cast of six more actors and singers, and two superb musicians, Blag takes live theatre to a different level.In times when the anodyne, the manufactured, the bland and the boring pass for entertainment, here was a wake up call for the dull and talentless - Blag writes its own spoofs, jokes and material in a very creative, topical, original and totally refreshing way. Ding Dong Merrily...BUT WHY? is a Christmas show with a big difference - it casts an irreverent yet benign eye over the events of the year and gently sends them up, bringing them to life through song and dance.Richard Beaumont and John Holland shone as the tennis stars never likely to win Wimbledon, Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman; Chris Clarke was hilarious as Will Young and David Beckham; Anna Rufey was a superb Posh; Jean Warner drew wolf whistles and applause as Sven's sexy Nancy; Mark Novels thrilled as The Other Fagin; Lucy Gwynne-Evans excelled as a harassed teacher and Lynn Beaumont made the show go with a swing a audience participation games leader.

    These are simply highlights of each actor's performance - they all sang, danced and acted superbly in all their scenes and I could only marvel at their consistently high standards. The games were great fun - we were divided into two teams, the Stars and the Fairies, to play Pass the Parcel, Pictionary, Hit the Balloon to the Stage and Charades. I was a Star, and sad to say, we were trounced by the Fairies - but the parcel we passed was wrapped in The Watford Observer, so that at least was a bit of compensation. The show had two standouts for me, although everything was so good it seems almost a shame to say it. Anna Rufey and a saronged Chris Clarke as Posh and Becks singing the 12 Days of Christmas were a true delight - the joke, of course, was Becks was too thick to count backwards. The Nativity play that closed the show was superb - packed with naughty children, an angel with mischief on her mind, a Mary who cried when told having a baby would make her fat and a shepherd finding ways to say naughty toilet words.

    Richard Beaumont is a superb character actor, as he demonstrated with his interpretation of elderly thesp Sir Stanton Davenport and a mad Scotsman in the final rendition of Auld Lang Syne; yet for all his ebullience and brio, he projects an unmistakable air of vulnerability which is extremely affecting.In the Nativity play, he came on as the child stunned into silence by the whole experience of being in front of an audience - he looked out wordlessly in terror and your heart went out to him, a real achievement in the midst of high comedy.Musical Director Susana Castellot and percussionist Anthony Varney were equally excellent and lent another dimension of superb talent to the mix.Blag is a company that deserves to go places and it would be wonderful to think Lynn Beaumont will one day get her Christmas fantasy wish - to watch a Blag Christmas Special on Channel Four. It could happen.

    Rosemary Lomax


    Some say, jokingly, that nostalgia's not what it was. Audiences at Rickmansworth's Watersmeet Theatre this week might not agree. In the intimate atmosphere of the theatre's Chess Suite they are being taken on a journey back to The Forgotten Decade...The 50's. The coronation, the conquest of Everest, the first sub-four-minute mile, the Goons, Sir Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, rock and roll, Elvis, Bill and Ben...all feature in BLAG Theatre Company's wallow in nostalgia.

    In a cast of just four, plus a four-piece backing group, take the audience on a fast journey through the decade, encouraging, nay demanding, audience participation. At leat three of the cast were probably not born when Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, The Beverley Sisters et al were making their names. About the fourth, joint creator of the show and BLAG's leading light Richard Beaumont, I'm not sure. "We did a tremendous amount of research into the 50's," said his wife and co-creator Lynn, perhaps trying to persuade me after the show that he, too, was not around then. Their research has paid off handsomely. This was a fun show, revue-style, that took the audience by the hand through, for instance, Bud Flanagan's search for a replacement for the sick Chesney Allen before a nationwide tour, through the era of 3-D movies complete with those annoying glasses, a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, and one of the hilarious high-spots, Bill and Ben with Weed.

    Skiffle, hand-jiving, the Archer's theme tune - all required audience participation, and they got it. Richard Beaumont, who claims to have been born in a trunk, as the old showbusiness adage would hace it, and not let out until he was four, was superb. His pedigree in television, films and on the professional stage, shows through in everything he tackles - superb timing, wonderful throw-away lines, he has them all. Jean Warner is another master at the art of good timing and, together with Ros Swallow and John Holland, all three were perfect foils for their professional master. Throughout there was music from Alice & The Slackers, namely a four-piece led by pianist Susana Castellot, and the whole was brought together by Richard's wife Lynn, the director. Return to the Forgotten Decade continues until tomorrow night. Catch it if you can - for just a fiver it is good value for money.

    Tony White


    BLAG'S new show is a must for teachers everywhere. Why, you ask? The answer in two words is 'Nativity plays'. The talented cast portray a teacher and her young pupils performing a traditional Christmas Nativity for family and friends, accompanied by fights, demands for better parts in the middle of the show and the problems of stage-struck youngsters. It's no exaggeration when I say that I laughed until I cried at the antics on stage.

    In fact, BLAG's "motley" crew provide the ideal antidote to the Christmas panto season with their mickey-takes of traditional Christmas past-times, including Christmas carolling and a very entertaining version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas' told by the slightly inebriated thespian, Sir Stanton Davenport (the hilarious Richard Beaumont). But for those who simply cannot get by without a panto fix, the cast provides a dame (a great performance from John Holland), his sidekicks, Bubble and Squeak (played by Donna Jones and Jean Heard), the ghost gag ('He's behind you!'), the banana gag and the traditional sing-a-long song sheet.

    The show's other highlights include a harassed housewife trying to cope with Christmas, three different types of Christmas trees vying to be bought by the discerning consumer, and a new take on the Twelve Days of Christmas. Even Dickens gets in with a look at a Victorian Christmas. So, hats off to the entire cast - Chris Clarke, Donna Jones, Jean Warner, Jean Heard, John Holland, and Lynn and Richard Beaumont - as well as the talented musical duo of Susana Castellot and Andy Nicholson [sic. she means Anthony Varney. Bless.] for a cracking Christmas show!

    Estelle Sinkins


    THIS WAS, quite simply, one of the most entertaining evenings I have spent in a local theatre for a long time. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown was the first of the new series of scaled-down productions staged at Watersmeet by Richard and Lynn Beaumont, who previously worked under the title Three Rivers Theatre Company, and who are now directors of the BLAG Theatre Company. This Clark Gesner show, based on the tremendously popular Charles M. Schultz comic strip Peanuts, was presented in the theatre's 100-seat Chess Suite with a small cast - five - and just two musicians playing the accompaniment.

    Peanuts fans will know the plot: whimsical, pathos, worldly-wise adult philosophy emanating from the mouths of babes. It was all there, in abundance. Each player was superb. As Charlie Brown, John Holland exhibited all the pathos of a would-be suitor rejected by the red-head of his dreams, and at the mercy of two awful females, Lucy and Patty. Jean Warner's Lucy was just as bossy, loud and objectionable as Schultz's original creation. Anna Rufey was a scatty Patty, intense and lovable at the same time.

    Playing the part of a dog cannot be easy, especially for a tall man such as Peter St James, but whether lying atop his kennel, bemoaning his late dinner or spelling out doggy philosophy, he was fine. Mind you he has had plenty of experience, seemingly picked out to play animal parts in so many past productions. Top of the bill, though, was Richard Beaumont, a most convincing Linus, hugging his blanket for all he was worth, sucking his thumb as if he had been doing it all his life, and managing to do both when switching on TV with the remote control.

    One of the showstoppers 'Book Report' was a classic, a very difficult piece to sing, relying on timing and an ability to step back to allow another to take the lead. Full marks too, to musical director Susana Castellot, who played the piano throughout and who shows great promise for the future, having already shadowed the MD for Oliver! at the London Palladium. What a pity Charlie Brown did not attract larger audiences. At just £5 a head it was remarkable value for money. BLAG's next production, Return to the Forgotten Decade...The Fifties, will be in February. Same place, same price.

    Tony White

  • ANDY CAPP: The Musical

    Reg Smythe's classic cartoon, Andy Capp, was brought brilliantly to life by the cast of BLAG Theatre Company on Saturday night. This was, without a doubt, the slickest offering I've seen by the company and it was a special delight to see their efforts on a professional stage. Previously I have seen their shows at the Watersmeet Theatre's Chess Suite which, while comfortable, does not give the audience a sense of stage depth. In fact you tend usually to see the cast only from the knees up.

    Richard Beaumont brought the hard-drinking layabout, Andy Capp, vividly to life, while his real-life wife, Lynn, stole the show as Flo - his much put upon spouse. After one insult too many, Flo walks out on Andy, who discovers just how much he actually misses his missus. But while Flo misses her good-for-nothing husband, she also has revenge in mind, "stealing" Andy's prized racing pigeon, Hermione, to prevent Andy from competing in a race from York. Meanwhle their street is preparing for the wedding of the year - Mrs Scrimmett's daughter Raquel (Anna Rufey) is about to marry Elvis (Chris Clarke) and Mrs Scrimmett (Jean Warner) is determined that nothing but the best will do.

    Her silent, suffering spouse - played by Bob Visser - is forced to withdraw his life savings to pay for the event, a circumstance which leads him to speak for the first time in 20 years. At the stag and hen nights he suddenly shouts out that the drinks are on him and spends the lot. The result of this largesse is a much smaller wedding party in the Rose and Crown and the life long admiration of his friends.John Holland and Lucy Gwynne-Evans play the Capp's closest friends, Chalkie and Ruby, who help patch up Flo and Andy's rocky relationship and convince Flo to enter Hermione in the pigeon race. The remaining roles were taken by Jean Heard (as the barmaid Linda) and Paul Gooch in the dual roles of Percy the rent collector and the vicar.

    Performances, and the northern accents required for the roles, were good across the board, while the simple props and costumes helped recreate the feel of the original two-dimensional cartoon strip...right down to Andy's traditional pint glasses of ale.The musical numbers were performed with great gusto and the accompaniment, under the direction of Susana Castellot, added to the professional feel of the production.I just wish more people had been present to see the results of BLAG's hard work but, as it was, the cast played to a half empty house. Come on folks, get out and support your local theatre.

    Estelle Sinkins

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