Posts Tagged ‘Viva Theatre Company’

Review of Viva’s production of ‘Avenue Q’ in the Maltings Ely on Saturday 20th June 2015

June 21, 2015

Avenue Q VivaThe line from the programme says it all: “Avenue Q has not been authorised or approved by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop which have no responsibility for its content”.

This fantastic production by Viva in the Maltings, Ely was definitely no ‘Sesame Street’ for the puppet characters were, to put it mildly, dysfunctional or perhaps I should say, ‘normal’ adults, with adult depressions, desires, faults and language (!), yet not a moment was offensive – unless you are no longer of this planet.

The drama, choreography, character portrayal, singing and accompaniment were of the highest quality. The actors manipulated the puppets skilfully, putting across their personalities really well. Their expressiveness was phenomenal.  All of life’s problems when you live in a back street (or, in this case ‘Avenue Q’) were there: Kate Monster (played by Naomi Porter) and her troublesome love affair with Princeton (played by Nick Huntingdon in this production/Simon Thompson on Thursday); Rod (Ben Clark) and his frustrated gay-ness, exacerbated by Nicky (Michael  Kowalczyk) who was definitely not gay, jobless Brian (Lee Sherwood) and his dominant ‘oriental’ wife Christmas Eve (Kerry Hibbert), Trekkie Monster (Charlie Gillett) and his adult interest in the internet,  seductive Lucy the Slut (Emily Norman/Emily Smith), crabby school principal Mrs Thistletwat (Emily Norman/Emily Smith), black Gary Coleman (Becky Bush) and Bad Idea Bears (Ellie Bovingdon and Charlie Ellerton). They were all magnificently played so that events developed realistically and for the most part, hilariously, poking fun at ‘normal’ human weaknesses.

Director Josh Schumann, Musical Director Graham Brown and co-musical director Richard Hayward and his band of musicians, choreographer Louise Plummer of Newmarket Dance School and their team of dedicated staff are to be congratulated for such an amazing and highly successful production. They will certainly wow the audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Viva’s next production to enjoy will be ‘Half a Sixpence’ at The Brook, Soham 730 pm from 29th to 31st July. tickets: (01353) 722228


Review of Viva Theatre Company’s production of the play ‘Pride and Prejudice’ on Friday night, 27th June 2014, in St. Andrew’s Church Soham

July 1, 2014

Image‘Pride and Prejudice’ is acknowledged as one of the best books in English literature. Jane Austen’s characters come to life in the pages and their words are often at length, but witty and revealing. With her writing there is a constant underlying feeling that she is commenting on the strange idiosyncrasies, prejudices and injustices of her society. How can this be translated into a one-evening play? I thought it impossible and was expecting a play that simply told the story. How wrong I was! It was not only the cleverly devised script by Simon Reade that brought Jane Austen’s words and plot alive, it was the splendid performances of the actors. Their personas were undeniable, their style of speaking, their gestures and the subtleties of facial expressions brought forth the emotions Jane’s work intended.Image

Jenny Surridge gave us the Elizabeth we had always imagined. Elizabeth’s intelligent mind was very much in evidence, as was her rebellious streak, and the affection she and her father had for each other in spite of the nervy exuberance and ignorance of her mother (admirably played by Mary Barnes). Rowan Maulder was every bit the handsome, principled ‘dark horse’ we expected in Fitzwilliam Darcy while David Tickner was indeed a long-suffering and wise Mr Bennet . James Palmer (as Charles Bingley) and Alison Palmer (as Jane Bennet) made the perfect couple, while the flighty Lydia (wonderfully portrayed by Kerry Hibbert) was teamed up well with the dashing Joshua Schumann as George Wickham. Tim Alban Jones, the current vicar of St. Andrews Church no doubt had his congregation a little concerned should he revert to character at a later date, for he played the most insufferable snob, Mr. Collins, superbly. Kate Weekes was an excellent Charlotte Lucas – wife of Mr Collins accepting her unorthodox marriage with disarming fortitude. 

The array of superb actors does not stop there. Kirsten Martin as the acerbic Caroline Bingley developed a voice filled with guile and self importance that is not easy to forget.  The snobbery of Lady Catherine de Bourgh (played by Janis Harrison) was never in any doubt while a host of other excellent performances added to this amazing entertainment: Zara Minns (Kitty Bennet), Laura Davis (Mary Bennet), David Moat (Sir William Lucas), Tracey Summers (Mrs. Gardiner), David Blythe (Mr Reynolds/Meryton Gentleman), Delia Tickner (Lady Lucas), Scott Robertson (Mr Denny/Imaginery Son), Lloyd Popp – Captain Carter, Leader of the Militia, Joe Turner (Mr Chamberlayne, Militia), Radha Cardwell (Mrs. Long), Maureen Hardingham (Mrs. Jenkinson) and  Elisha Cardwell (Miss Long).

Staging was simple and effective, the music charming and authentic, the costumes delightful, – in fact this whole production was fantastic! Congratulations must go to Directors Sarah Dowd-Crosby and Emma Moat, Musical Director Tim Alban-Jones, Dancing Instructor Louise Plummer and their industrious crew and supporters.

The next show to look forward to is ‘Acorn Antiques’ the Musical, Thurs 6th– Sat 8th November 2014 at the Brook, Soham

Tel (01353) 722228 email:

A review of ‘Stepping Out’ presented by Viva Theatre Company at The Brook, Soham

November 13, 2012

Viva Theatre Company’s production of Richard Harris’s ‘Stepping Out’ was a most welcome and entertaining diversion from our usual wintry afflictions. From the start the stage came alive, not necessarily from the tap dancing, but from the exuberance of the tap dance enthusiasts gathered for their weekly class under the directorship of Mavis (played by Mary Barnes) accompanied by the prickly pianist Mrs Fraser (Helen Hawes). As the play progressed, the characters blossomed, tensions developed, and soon we were thoroughly involved in their diverse lives and difficulties.

The script was cleverly designed and we gradually learned more about the characters and we could easily relate to the shenanigans that went on in this group of keen amateurs. Delightful one-liners were expertly timed to produce streams of laughter from the audience. Our favourite group members were all there: – The ‘superior than thou’ Vera (Esther Hiller) who managed to rile everyone with her tactless questions, comments and actions. Who else would say to the struggling plump dancer on benefits (Sylvia played by Kirsten Martin) “I used to be fat once.”?

One of the most captivating characters was Maxine (Sarah Dowd Crosby) who held the group together and soon brought Vera down to size by suggesting she take her to buy second-hand clothes. Dorothy (Tracey Summers) and her bike, the shy down-trodden Andy (Lesley Wood), the highly entertaining Rose (Radha Cardwell), the brave sole male in the troupe Geoffrey (Scott Robertson) and two Sugar Plum Fairies (Claudia Stein-Carr and Sue Lord) completed the dancers.

The success of this production came from a sense of team cohesion and realistic dialogue and responses that were no doubt encouraged and developed by the Director Annie Cook. The production was also assisted by Stage Manager David Moat, Choreographer Lizzie Bendall and Followspot Operator Lou Murray. This was indeed a wonderful show. I eagerly await the next Viva production.

Review: Viva’s production of ‘The Importance of being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde at the Brook Soham Friday 16th October 2010

October 19, 2010

Oscar Wilde’s wit never ceases to make us smile and in Viva Theatre Company’s production of his play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Oscar was indeed always present.  The clarity of diction, inflection and delivery of the actors gave every ‘one-liner’ its full value. There was hardly a moment without the audience spontaneously laughing in recognition of his unique observations of life, courtship and marriage. Although the play is set in times gone by, it was quite relevant to the present and the audience knew it.

Daniel Schumann’s impressive work as Director was very much in evidence. This was a smooth-running, delightful production. ‘Algy’ (played by Joshua Schumann) was a real toff, his attractive eyes full of mischief, his gestures sweeping and grand. He teased his friend ‘Jack’ (or ‘Ernest’) (Darren Smith) mercilessly.  Jack soon involved the audience in his emotional confusion as life seemed to deliver him blow after blow, starting with Algy preventing him from proposing to his ward, Gwendolen (Kirsten Green). Gwendolen and Cecily (Hannah Goodger) were a pair of beautiful young ladies with the ability to charm, sooth or fight with real venom as their love lives were thwarted time and again.  Central to the ups and downs of these characters and their relationships was the importance of the name ‘Ernest’. Lady Augusta Bracknell (Esther Hiller) enunciated her words to perfection as the domineering and meddling ‘Lady’. We waited with bated breath for her indignant words ‘a handbag?’ when she was told that the suitor for her daughter Cecily’s hand in marriage did not know his parents and had been found in a handbag at Victoria Station. She did not let us down, the words rang out delightfully with righteous incredulity.

 Dr Frederick Chasuble (David Tickner) pontificated in a most affectatious manner, just like those over-seasoned vicars we recognise from times past. David also made an admirable butler (Lane). Miss Prism (Delia Tickner) easily became the lovable, pivotal character who tried to tutor her wayward pupil Cecily but was easily side-tracked by her affections for the vicar. However, finally she was the one who solved the mystery of the baby in the handbag and it was soon discovered that Jack’s name was really Ernest and all was well.  Daniel, needless to say, caught servant Merriman’s disdain perfectly.

With the support of producer  Sarah Dowd and an excellent crew, this production was a wonderful success.

If you are interested in becoming involved with this delightful company you are invited to attend the AGM on Thursday 4th November 2010 7.30 pm in the Drama Studio, Beechurst, Soham Village College.