A Bunch of Amateurs, The Spring Arts Centre, Havant, REVIEW: ‘A great evening’s entertainment’

I will be honest. I wanted Bench’s latest offering to be awful so I could refer to ‘A Bench of Amateurs’.

By James George
Friday, 5th April 2019, 10:38 am
Updated Friday, 5th April 2019, 10:42 am
Members of Bench Theatre rehearse for their next show, A Bunch of Amateurs, which is at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant until April 13.

They have foiled me.

The principal negative about the evening is the script.

Adapted from a screenplay, it still feels filmic – but the theatre is unable to cut between locations and different times in the way a film can and so some scene endings feel odd.

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The plot, too, is fairly uninspiring – fading Hollywood actor with majorly bad attitude finds himself hoodwinked into playing King Lear in an amateur production and learns how to be human again because of the lovely, honest, hard-working people around him.

So far, so blah.

But first-time director, Tasmin Halford, has drawn some fine performances from her cast.

Top marks must go to Mark Wakeman as the Hollywood import, Jefferson Steel.

Mr Wakeman has been very inappropriately cast – and he plays this to its magnificent hilt.

He even manages to make the saccharine ending bearable with the strength of his performance.

There is lovely work, too, from Angie McKeown as Dorothy who is the hapless director trying to corral the ego that is Jefferson.

As a counter to Wakeman’s wonderfully big performance, McKeown’s is small and controlled and she gives some magnificent comic delivery.

Leila Millson as Steel’s daughter, Jessica, gives the most grounded and truthful performance.

Also great support comes from Sue Dawes, Alan Welton, Jeff Bone and Suzy Gains – and some excellent vocals from Archie McKeown.

Played on a simple, effective set this production proves to be a great evening’s entertainment.

Both Bench Theatre and director Halford should be happy amateurs indeed.

Until April 13.