The Conquest Theatre has been a member of NODA for many years. Here are just a few of the reviews on our in-house productions.
Big the Musical (October 2023)
Author: Bruce Wyatt for Michelle Cooper
BIG the Musical is an adaptation of the 1988 film which sees a young boy Josh Baskin wishing to be grown up. His wish is granted by the Zoltar machine at a local carnival and suddenly wakes up in an adult body having to navigate the difficulties and realities of adulthood, like getting a job and a girlfriend.
Initially we meet young Josh which was well played by Emilia Unwin, together with friends Charlie and Billy Kopecki (Alana Haines and Barnaby Seddon). Charlie and Billy were eventually persuaded that big Josh was still Josh and their scenes together throughout were convincing. A nice portrayal from Arabella Tabberer-Catt who played Cynthia Benson, with an eye for young Josh, which made him feel rather awkward. I also liked Catherine Crosswell as Mrs Baskin, Josh’s mum who sang a heart-felt ‘Say Good Morning to Mom’.
The role of big Josh was in the very capable hands of George Chambers. Whilst obviously an adult, George played the role with a boyish charm which was most impressive and natural, together with a fine voice. Disappearing to New York, with the realisation of what it means to be a big boy, Josh wants to go home, but needs to search for another Zoltar machine to make it possible.
In the meantime, Josh realises he needs to find a job and meets the boss of a toy company George Macmillan, whose sales had plummeted. As an adult with his boyish knowledge of which toys work well, he impresses George and his given a responsible job. George was played with great presence by Hugh Farey. Musical numbers ‘Fun’ and ‘Welcome to Macmillan Toys’ were fun, and George and Hugh’s dance number on a stage wide keyboard worked very well.
Another with a strong voice was Sheridan Walden as Susan Lawrence, in charge of marketing, who took a fancy to Josh and eventually goes for a meal and back to his place. George sang ‘Stars’ with a lovely blend of innocence and Sheridan followed with ‘Little Susan Lawrence’ remembering her younger days and the first love of her life, which was a sweet number.
Concluding the first act was the annual company bash with a great company number ‘Cross the Line’. Throughout the youth members of the company supported the action well and the youngest of these took their bow at the end of the Act.
Early in the second Act, Catherine (Mrs Baskin) sang ‘Stop Time’ which I found quite moving with its expression of feelings experienced by every parent. ‘Coffee Black’ was a slick company number and I found Hugh’s passage when he felt Josh was like the son he never had, was well handled. ‘The Real Thing’ sang by Susan’s friends was part of a strong scene and I also liked the scene when Josh was trying to explain to Susan that he was only 12 years of age. The story concluded with the youngsters repeating the opening sequence of hopscotch and ball playing and it was a lovely moment when Josh and his mum were reunited. There were numerous other named characters including Joe Rolt as Paul Seymour, Emily Chambers as Mrs Kopecki, Jess Gilbert as Mr Kopecki and Rob Finney as Mr Baskin, who all gave good support.
The set comprised a simple format with three central doors providing additional exits and entrances and the carnival stalls and other items and props used were of good quality. The singing and dancing, all to backing tracks were well handled and all supported by a good level of sound, lighting and costumes. It was a pleasure to return to the Conquest Theatre and thank you for the warm welcome.
The Elephant's Dream (May 2023)
Author: Michelle Cooper
On Friday 12th May I had the pleasure of attending a performance of The Elephant’s Dream at The Conquest Theatre, Bromyard. An original piece written and directed by Hugh Farey. The piece was based on true events and told the story of Miss Chapman’s circus and how she and a menagerie of animals ended up settling at Tack Farm, Bromyard; following the forced closure of the circus in 1940, when it was declared that England was at war with Germany. I was told that this was the vision of Margaret Dallow, a long term member of the society who fondly recollects childhood memories of the beloved elephants of Bromyard. Together with Hugh and the rest of the cast, collaboratively, they created a rather special piece of theatre. It offered much nostalgia to those local residents who are fortunate enough to remember these rather peculiar times, whilst offering some rather facinating history to the younger generation. Although based on true events, the creative story telling was very dreamlike and as an audience we got to hear the thoughts and dreams of these beautiful animals, as one by one their stories unfolded.
The action started the minute we stepped into the auditorium, with a little pre-show from the silent but very animated clown, portrayed by Hugh Farey. The first of many hilarious appearances throughout the show, which saw this trickster swinging poles above the audiences heads and threatening to throw his pale of water at us, which in the end turned out to be silver confetti, he certainly had us all ducking for cover! Brilliant cameo which provided much needed light to the more darker undertones of the play.
The set was well imagined with colourful ribbons forming the ‘big top’ canopy, with white moveable poles and a vibrant barrier. It was simple but so effective and instantly transported us off to the circus. Here we were introduced to Miss Chapman (the proprietor of the circus), impeccably dressed and played brilliantly throughout by Janet Roe. With the war bringing an end to the circus, she is forced to auction off her animals but when she sees how little they are going for, she decides to put her hand in her own personal funds and buy some of them back. This is when we get out first glimpses of the animals from behind the auction fence, which were all played by humans! I have to applaud wardrobe for their creativity on this project, the costumes were fabulous and demonstrated great imagination.
Two liberty ponies dressed all in white, with high pony tails and pink leg warmers, played so elegantly by Caroline Millington and Lily Gillespie, who showed off their nibble hoof work to prospective buyers. They were later joined in the show by two more ponies played well by Arabella Tabberer-Catt and Megan Adshead, who treated us to a nicely chreographed dancing pony routine, which went down well with the audience.
There were two bears dressed in fur coats, which were comically played by Margaret Dallow and Caroline Thomas, great characterisations of two ageing bears with mischievous tendancies! The later scene where they steal the beer from the soldiers was hilarious.
Polar bears doning Eskimo styled coats were a nice addition to the menagerie of animals, played by dynamic duo Arabella and Megan. We saw numerous penguins in dinner jackets and monkeys in bright red waistcoats and hats, played by the younger players.
One of my favourite moments in the whole play was the scene with the monkeys and their keeper, some brilliant perfromances from the young cast especially the gullible, oops i mean the brave, monkey. This scene had some fantastic jokes and one liners, which were delivered with great hilarity and punch. When the unruly monkeys discovered that there were no more bananas only leeks, chaos unfolded as they wreaked havoc on the audience. They descended downstage and into the stalls, where they proceeded to throw their leeks right at us. Naughty monkeys!
Finally we meet the three elephants Wynkum (Amy Burke), Blynkum (Jess Gilbert) and the young elephant Nod (Poppy Stubbs), dressed in matching grey tracksuits, head dresses and ankle cuffs. I have to applaud these actors on their sensitive portrayal of these magnificient beasts. They all gave very expressive performances, especially young Poppy Stubbs, what a talent!
Once Miss Chapman buys her animals back, with the help of her trusted animal trainer Valeska, played beautifully by Amanda Vincent-Perkins and well supported by Neil Eldridge as Charles, the Ringmaster, they set out to find a new home for the animals. A fun scene with Scott Rayson as the Estate Agent, helps them spellout ‘Bromyard’ in a unintentional card game, this results in the purchase of one Tack Farm. When the animals arrive in town, there are some very comical moments, especially the elephants stealing vegetables from the market traders. I enjoyed this scene and we had some great cameos from Graham Bull as the Butcher, Ted Taylor as the Fishmonger, Margaret Taylor as the Fish ‘N’ Chip seller and Janet Hugman as the Greengrocer. Janet later reappears as the Landlady whose washing (including her unmentionables) get eaten off the washing line, by the elephants! A special mention for Matilda Tabberer-Catt for her amazing stiltwalking, this was very impressive.
In Bromyard we meet Jack, a Corporal played by Conor Stobart, who gave us another strong and convincing performance. Bound by duty but completely captivated by the animals and the beautiful enigmatic Valeska. As the play unfolds the two characters are drawn to one another and begin to fall in love, this signified a hopeful future for the couple, post-war. Great chemistry and well acted scenes from our romantic leads.
The renovation of Tack Farm was genious, every member of the cast took part in constructing the farm out of painted cardboard blocks. This was absolutely brilliant and a highlight of the show. They must have spent hours perfecting this well chereographed routine, which felt almost like a circus trick.
As we move deeper into the war, we see desperation and hardship fall on Miss Chapman and her animals. Struggling to find food and with bills mounting, things just get harder and harder. When Nod falls into a pool of water, Luigi an Italian P.o.W, runs to the young elephants aid, this strikes up the most beautiful friendship between the pair. An outstanding performance given by Peter Goodson as Luigi, who along with Poppy gave us some of the most memorable moments of the show.
During the climax of the play when the young elephant becomes ill, we all begin to fear the worse. When Nod begins to hear the Circus music and slowly fades into the background, we know this is a sad goodbye to this much loved character. We’re left with a heartbroken Luigi centre stage, in floods of tears, mourning the loss of his firend. This was such a moving moment and Peter gave us absolutely everything as an actor.
Sadly the circus does not survive and Miss Chapman is forced to walk away. We’re left at the end with a very poignant moment, when a little girl hurries on and asks if she’s missed the circus. Miss Chapman nods and then gifts the child with a toy animal – a little something to remember them by.
The grand finale which featured all the characters was fantastic and saw Luigi reunited with Nod, who finally gets the mango they’ve been dreaming off!
Throughout the piece the principals were well supported by a strong ensemble of clowns, soldiers and P.oW.s, who did well to double up their characters and provided some great moments. I particularly enjoyed the clowns becoming soldiers scene, where they wore their clown shoes, noses and carried fake weapons. A very entertaining sketch. We were also treated to recurring fanfare from trumpeter extraordinaire Colin Hales, which gave a nice circus flavour to the whole piece.
This was an extremely ambitious piece for an amateur group to undertake but it was brilliantly done and I wish to congratulate all those involved on creating such a great piece of theatre. I can’t wait to see what you do next, how do you top elephants?
Camelot the Panto (February 2023)
Author: Michelle Cooper
I had no idea what to expect when going to see Camelot The Panto but I have to say I was impressed by this talented group of performers. Camelot was an inspired and splendid choice of panto filled with fabulous characters, colourful costumes, upbeat music, impressive dance routines and plenty of good humour and audience participation. It was well directed by Nikki Ivison and you could see how hard the whole company had worked to create this wonderful show.
The panto tells the love story of Prince Arthur and the beautiful Guinevere, whose nuptials are cut short when Guinevere is kidnapped by the evil Morgan Le Fay and her followers Valerin the Vicious, his mother and their henchmen Marlon and ‘invisible’ Garlon.
We start in Camelot, where we receive a great introduction to the comical character ‘Laughalot’ played brilliantly by Jess Gilbert. Jess has fantastic stage presence and commanded the audience right from the start, interacting with ease and delivering some truly ‘laugh out loud’ moments. We all got onboard with Laughalot and enjoyed the numerous callouts of “Be Bold and Brave”.
We then meet the dashing Prince Arthur played by the multi-talented Megan Davies. Megan gave an impressive performance with strong acting, a great vocal and even better dance moves, I loved her use of tap! You could tell she was an experienced performer and she really stood out in the big dance numbers. I have to commend her on her choreography, which played to the strengths of the whole cast. Well done!
We enjoyed an energetic first group number ‘Faith’, where we met the colourful ensemble as well as the beautiful Guinevere (Emily Chambers) and her lady in waiting Nell (Lisa Legge). I’m glad that Guinevere wasn’t the typical damsel in distress, Emily played her as a headstrong independent woman, not afraid to stand her ground, which she did so convincingly. Lisa as Nell was a nice contrast; quiet, shy and completely adorable. We could all see that her and Laughalot were meant to be, with their awkward but endearing interactions. This was a great pairing!
Enter the Dame; Connie Clatterbottom played hilariously by Rob Finney, with great characterisation, facial expressions and comic timing. He had us laughing in every scene. Congratulations to the wardrobe department for sourcing his FAB-U-LOUS costumes they were divine and my goodness couldn’t he walk and dance in heels (better than me)! Of course we couldn’t forget Connie’s faithful sidekick, her lovable dragon Drizo played by Mel McCluskey, which goes to show, you don’t have to say a word to capture the hearts of the audience. We really did fall in love with this Dragon and Mel did a brilliant job in expressing Drizos every emotion, behind the masked costume. One of the funniest moments of the whole show was when Drizo drank the love potion and did her sexy dance to’ Let’s get it on’, as she fell in love with the King! Brilliant!
Another great and unexpected moment was the musical number ‘Jump’ a rap lead by the King Uther, played by Paul Lack. You could tell through his deliverance that he was a very experienced actor, he gave a great performance and that rap, supported by the ensemble brought the house down.
Morgan Le Fay played wickedly by Dani Worlock was another strong performance, the minute she arrived on stage the typical panto boo’s commenced, she had some great comebacks at the audience and we enjoyed her evil cackle. She had a strong voice and her musical numbers were certainly a highlight of the show. I particularly enjoyed ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves’, which showcased the singing talents of some of the younger cast members, as Morgan’s fellow Sisters.
Conor Stobart and Jo Stanley as Valerin the Vicious and ‘his mother’ were a great duo and bounced off each other brilliantly. I enjoyed the temper tantrums of Valerin and the smothering of his mother, which highlighted that he wasn’t an evil genius he was just a mummies boy! Great support from the dim-witted henchman Marlon (Joe Rolt) and Garlon (Caroline Thomas).
I enjoyed the de-aging Merlin played firstly by Peter Goodson, who gave us a slightly forgetful, bumbling version of the great Wizard. I particularly enjoyed his ‘I’ll be there in a flash’ moments (…more like five flashes). I must mention Merlin’s talking head Nilrem played by Megan Poole and Dave the Snake (Poppy Stubbs), who with the use of only their heads, gave good performances. Megan had some great facial expressions and line delivery. When entrapped by Morgan Le Fay, Merlin outwits her and is able to free himself by going backwards. He comes back to defeat her as the Young Merlin (Jo Longuet-Higgins). The mash up of Hit Me With Your Best Shot/One Way was fantastically sung by Jo and Dani. Right at the end we see Merlin de-age one more time, played well by Megan Adshed, which got a good laugh from the audience.
The castle scene had some good cameo’s from David James as the Talking Clock and Hilary Smith as the Bishop. I loved the use of the various doors and secret compartments, which helped deliver some great comic moments. We enjoyed shouting out “it’s behind you” when the ghost sequence commenced, which concluded with the ghoul coming face to face with Connie, throwing it’s arms in the air, screaming and running away. Hilarious.
Merlin gets Morgan Le Fay to renounce her powers and the show draws to an end with Arthur and Guinevere being reunited and Laughalot finally finding the courage to ask Nell out. The company finish with another great uplifting group number ‘Shine’ and the audience were left wanting more.
Thank you for a great evening of entertainment, I enjoyed it thoroughly and I look forward to coming back in the Summer to see The Elephants Dream.
Legally Blonde (October 2022)
Author: Andy Brown
Omigod -how good it was to be at The Conquest Theatre for Legally Blonde on their return to NODA after a short absence. It was great to be part of a full house for the Saturday matinee performance for this popular musical. This musical has every ingredient wanted, especially some very relevant messages about striving for what you want in life.
Elle Woods is expecting boyfriend Warner to propose to her however he dumps her because she is not serious enough for him. Determined to win him back she gets into Harvard Law School where she wins the day both in her search for love and academically.
The show needs plenty of energy- lucky the actors involved had loads of this even if it was a Saturday afternoon!
Ellen Pitts as Elle Woods gave a marvellous performance and took the audience with her on her journey to success. The character is on stage throughout most of the show and has a considerable share of musical numbers in this demanding role which was well managed.
Elle was well supported by her ‘Greek Chorus’ who were fun and in good voice, played by Emma Green as Margot, Emily Chambers as Serena and Mia Field as Pilar.
The contrasting characters of Warner Huntington III played by Joe Standell and Emmett Forrest played by Conor Stobart were well cast in terms of acting and musical numbers such as ‘Serious’ and ‘Chip on my Shoulder’. It was evident who the audience wanted to win the day regarding Elle Wood’s love life.
Emma Hughes was brilliant as hairdresser Paulette Buonufonte and extracted the full humour as well as the tenderness the character demands. The song ‘Ireland’ was beautifully done.
There were many other well played roles, not least Nikki Ivison as Callahan, Lisa Fraser as Brooke, Mel McClusky as Enid, Lisa Legge as Vivienne and Amanda Perkins as Chutney.
A special mention must go to Hugh Farey and Rob Finney. Hugh was not only great as Carlos with his announcement at the end of ‘Gay or European’ but also milked for all it was worth the role of the Violinist in the second scene of act one. Meanwhile Rob played the iconic roles of Kyle B O’Boyle (with his ‘package’) and Nikos well much to the enjoyment of the audience.
No matter how well the human cast do they are always going to be upstaged by Bruiser (played by ‘Princess’ Percy Hughes) and Rufus (played by Tallulah ‘Lula’ Ivison). These amazing roles are played by two dogs and the audience loved them both. Lula did at times however seem more interested in treats than being the potential star of the stage and taking her exit on cue!
The set was simply but nevertheless effective. The rostra up stage left, and right was multipurpose in its use. Otherwise, doors and a few appropriate flats sufficed. Set changes were carried out well and did not slow the show down at any time.
Costumes and hair styling were both in line with the need of the production.
Congratulations to all involved and welcome back to NODA. I most certainly look forward to seeing you at Camelot the Panto in February 2023.
Chicago (October 2019)
Author: Louise Hickey
The set was the usual scaffold that you almost expect with a stage version of Chicago and I must congratulate the cast members who climbed up and down them throughout the show: Especially those who sang at the same time, my heart was in my mouth on occasions as it looked so precarious.
Whilst it was nice to see an orchestra support the cast, their positioning right at the front of the auditorium on the same level as the audience made it a little overpowering at times, which was a great shame. Even the lights on their music stands were like search lights, so my attention was drawn to them perhaps more than I should have. For future reference they could think about putting a cloth barrier up to deflect some of the sound and light. However, this is always going to be a challenge in small theatres like the Conquest and they really should be applauded for using 11 musicians.
The opening with the cell block inmates performing ‘All that Jazz’ was slower than other versions but this gave the audience a chance to see the characters unfold. Amy Burke as ‘Mama Moreton’ was a formidable presence and worked well with Emma Hughes as ‘Velma Kelly’. I absolutely loved their duet ‘Class’ and thought the direction for this number, whilst subtle, was very clever. This was Emma’s first time with Conquest theatre, and I hope it won’t be her last; she really played Velma very well and has a great voice that suited the role perfectly. She certainly had a lot of energy too for the song and dance routines she had to perform. It was very unfortunate that having just sung a duet with Emma Green as Roxie Hart, that the theatre was evacuated due to (thankfully) a false fire alarm and so had to come back and do it all over again.
Emma, I felt, held back on giving a feistier performance in the role of Roxie. I am sure it was nerves but her ‘wandering’ during her songs and the way her voice dipped, made her look a little uncomfortable and she would have been much stronger if she had directed the songs out into the audience with ‘sass’. I was aching for her to let rip with ‘Isn’t it great’ as this is such a fantastic number, but this is a huge role and she did it very well.
Hugh Farey as ‘Billy Flynn’ proved that he is an allrounder in theatrical terms; his songs were strong, and he looked comfortable in the role. The ‘Press Conference Rag’ was well performed and Hugh managed to get all the tongue twisting lyrics out to much hilarity. Ellie Davison played Miss Sunshine and her operatic interpretation of her solo was interesting… It was a shame that this, like a few others, were overpowered by the orchestra and so the audience lost quite a lot of it.
The ‘hanging’ scene was covered by the cast and the chorus were well used throughout, with the male members putting their dancing shoes to good use, although some were more enthusiastic than others.
I have saved the best till last: I was delighted to see Sam Jenkins appear as Amos Hart. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Sam in previous guises with other societies and this was, by far, his best yet. This was the perfect role for Sam. His portrayal of Amos was poignant and incredibly moving, especially when he beautifully sang ‘Mr Cellophane’, it was brilliant; he had the audience hanging on every word. This was the highlight of the evening and I think the whole cast should be congratulated for tackling this very powerful musical. Well done Conquest.
The Canary Girls (June 2019)
Author: Louise Hickey
This play was written locally to depict the history of National Filling Factory No 14 in Rotherwas, Hereford from June 1916 until September 1945. This was a munitions factory providing vital shells for the military during World War 1 and 2. The term Canary girls was used to describe the colour of the women’s skin due to the material used to fill the shells. It was a highly secret and dangerous occupation for the women who worked there.
I appreciate that the play traversed over different scenes but, I felt, that the very basic staging used as scenery, didn’t do justice to the important historical references.
The play opened with a voiceover from Chris Barltrop talking as someone who had joined up and his account of his war. It was a fascinating account, but the music played with it was very intrusive and far too jolly for the story he was telling.
The ‘girls’ ranged in ages which I am sure was correct and the difference in circumstances of the girls too was depicted with local gentry, Lady Deborah Cheshire, working alongside women from the less fortunate in society. There was a nice relationship between Amy Burke as Lady Deborah and Jenny Hall as Dorrie Birch. The lively Iola Jones, played very well by Amanda Perkins, lifted the play and gave some comedy into the play. Vicki Shortland and Jess Rolt, playing Miriam and Sybil, used northern accents extremely well and also added some humour to the play.
It was extremely touching when Megan Poole, as Aggie Donner, challenged Alfie Morris played by Joe Rolt about his not being enlisted and his explanation for this, Hugh Farey and Graham Bull as the man from the ministry and the factory manager were convincing in their roles as was Ann Smith as Miss Towers the factory forewomen. Molly Piggot played the WPC whose job it appears was to guard the factory in a very authentic uniform with the shiniest silver buttons on it.
It was a shame that the women’s costumes were not of the wraparound type as they made many references that they couldn’t take anything metal into the factory for fear of creating a spark that could lead to explosions, yet there were buttons on the jackets the ladies wore. I know that they were not metal, but a wraparound would have been more authentic. I also would have liked to see a little more makeup on the ladies to show the colour yellow and also, following a political demonstration, Harold Young played by James Thomas was supposed to have injuries which were referred to, but there was no visible evidence of it.
I loved the history of this play which showed how important the factory was during both wars.
My Fair Lady (November 2018)
Author: Louise Hickey
The stars of this show were most definitely the fabulous costumes and set. They were all made in house and were amazing. The Ascot and ball scenes were stunning, there was so much attention to detail.
Vicki Shortland played Eliza Doolittle and did very well although a couple of her songs seemed a little out of her range which was such a shame. Her interpretation of the feisty Eliza came over very well. I loved Mark Cox as Captain Pickering, he gave a solid, yet sympathetic performance as did Ann Smith as Mrs Higgins. Janet Hugman also performed really well as the slightly disapproving Mrs Pearce.
Hugh Farey’s portrayal of Henry Higgins was a little aggressive. His performance was, as always, faultless and perhaps no-one else minded but, in my opinion, you never really got to see the gentle side of the Henry Higgins that fell in love with Eliza.
Will Henderson and Robert Hollis made valiant efforts as Feddy and Alfred Doolittle respectively, and both came across well.
The chorus numbers were good, but it was unsettling that two members of the female chorus seemed to be doing their own thing rather than what had been choreographed, perhaps they don’t realise how off putting this can be. It was lovely to see so many young members in the chorus, but they need to be advised about the type of makeup they use under the stage lights. Unfortunately, a few of them looked decidedly unwell as they were so white. I hope they pick up on this as it really does make a huge difference.
This was a good performance of a show that really is a crowd puller and the audience absolutely loved it; many of whom sang along to most of the songs, which is a good indicator. Well done Conquest.
Spectrum (July 2018)
Author: Louise Hickey
The 10 members of the Conquest Senior Youth are an inspirational Group. The concept and subject matter of their production ‘Spectrum’ was researched, devised and developed by the group themselves, ably guided and directed by Rebecca Cook. Working closely with Herefordshire Mind, Strong Young Minds and Herefordshire Young Carers to better understand the pressures and stresses that life in general throws at our teenage generation resulted in a thought provoking, emotionally challenging and extremely powerful storyline.
The set was one of the simplest I have seen in a long time. Door frames with different coloured lights around the frame were carried on and moved into different positions to emphasise the scenarios and for each character’s story. Very effective…
The opening sequence was a wonderful self-choreographed slow motioned depiction of angst with simulated pushing, shoving and slapping. Mesmerising and vaguely troubling once you recognised what was happening.
The music played throughout the play was written by cast member Alfie Newman and was used to underscore the dialogue which added to the atmosphere perfectly. However, at times it was a little too loud as it made it difficult to hear what was being said but that was a very minor thing.
The play covered teenage carers, anxiety, homosexuality, peer pressure, relationships, school geeks, exams and, tragically, suicide. The cast tackled each problem with a sensitivity and maturity that belied their ages and brought the audience up short with a stark look at what some youths in our own community are facing day after day. I am sure that each member of the cast will have taken so much from this experience; it certainly made a huge impact on the audience, which was evident when we were given the opportunity to speak to the cast and Director in a Q & A session at the end.
The 10 well balanced senior youth group members gave quality performances and I am sure that each one touched the audience in a different yet special way and so I cannot refer to anyone of them specifically as this would be unfair, they were all brilliant. This will be remembered.
Home (June 2018)
Author: Louise Hickey
I am not sure that I can say that I enjoyed this play. The subject of institutionalised living can be uncomfortable to say the least, no matter where the setting. At the beginning, the meeting of characters Harry and Jack, played by Hugh Farey and David Pollard, seemed just that; two gentlemen meeting on their daily constitutional walk, passing the time and discussing their respective wives and home matters. It slowly dawned on us that they were in fact living in what was probably a home for psychiatric patients with varying degrees of paranoia and dementia.
This was confirmed when the men leave the stage to be replaced by Amanda Perkins and Charlotte Bull as Kathleen and Marjorie, whose loquacious interaction was sad, ironic but strangely humorous. Added to this was the final character Alfred played by Graham Bull who had a limited vocabulary, but his constant response when asked what he was doing of “nuttin” in a Liverpudlian accent also brought a chuckle from the audience.
This was not an easy play to perform by any means; there were lots of suspended sentences, um’s and ah’s and anecdotes started but never finished. This did make it difficult for the actors as at times, there were no feed lines to pick up on, resulting in pregnant pauses and the odd prompt; Understandably so as this was an incredibly wordy script and this did impact somewhat on the pace, which was a shame.
Hugh Farey was very convincing as Harry and David Pollard made a good Jack. Charlotte and Graham Bull are new to the Conquest and I am sure we will see them in many future productions. Amanda Perkins was very good and had invested in her character both with her mannerisms and accent making her tragically funny. However, I felt, this play went nowhere; there was no conclusion and although I am sure was the intention, only served as an observation into the sad lives of the characters which made me sad too. I would like to say I came away entertained but unfortunately this wasn’t the case no matter how well the play was executed.
'Allo 'Allo (March 2018)
Author: Louise Hickey
The removal of the front tabs made a big difference and really opened up the stage; using the pros arch as part of the set made for a great effect. The stage itself had been sectioned off, with the added height up stage it allowed the scenes to be played in a separate space which worked very well. It was very funny to see Hilary Smith playing Old Mother Artois, sitting up in bed watching what was going on for most of the play. The café part looked very like the TV version and felt familiar.
There was a huge cast including some younger members who, although in non-speaking roles, dressed the stage well and helped to bring the right atmosphere to the café, making it look busy and authentic. Vicki Shortland and Anne Churchill as Yvette and Mimi respectively were true to the TV characterisation and their heights perfect for their amorous moments with Rene. Janet Rose was Edith to a T; her cabaret was brilliant. I loved her costumes; the dresses were very authentic and looked of the time.
David James played Ernest Leclerk and made the part his own. Gaynor Smith was Michelle “I shall say this only once” Dubois who made most of her entrances with great aplomb, through a strategically placed window. Another funny characterisation and managed her quick costume changes very well.
Hugh Farey, Dan Peglar, Conor Stobart as the main German and Italian soldiers depicted their parts well and stuffing their ears with cheese in the café scene was subtly done. Nikki Ivison was amazing as Herr Flick and made a very convincing Gestapo Officer, and her rapport with Caroline Millington as Helga, was evident as they acted well together. Additional Comic moments came from John Berry as Captain Crabtree who was pretending to be the hapless Gendarme and Evan Pardoe-Mathews and Brad Tabberer-Catt as the two airmen – ‘What Ho!!!’.
The other supporting cast did a great job, but the star of the show was Mark Cox who played Rene. He kept the pace flowing throughout and his comic timing had the audience crying with laughter. His easy manner and effortless interaction with everyone on stage made it a joy to watch. It can’t have been an easy role to undertake but Mark made it look effortless and his accent, as did many of the others, stayed true throughout which again is a great accomplishment. I really enjoyed ‘Allo ‘Allo, thank you Conquest Theatre for a fun evening.
The Sleeping Beauty (January 2018)
It was lovely to see the different ages on stage playing to a full house. The set for the palace was lovely and the costumes were beautiful and very colourful.
I was very impressed with the choreography for Princess Rose’s dance with her 4 suitors, which was done with ease; in fact, all dances were performed well. The music that was played by the band kept the feet tapping and they were well placed in a corner of the stage. I would like to give a special mention to the Fairy Queen played by Lisa Legge, for her lovely singing voice.
I loved the younger cast members as Rabbits who were very cute and loved them singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. I also loved the other young cast members playing the wolves with their number ‘We could have been anything that we wanted to be’.
There was a lovely moment when some children were invited on to the stage and among them was a very adorable 3-year-old, who was very cute doing heads shoulders knees and toes.
It was a lovely evening and I look forward to seeing how the future plans for the theatre take shape.
The Browning Version and Mixed Doubles (July 2017)
Author: Louise Hickey
Hugh Farey played Arthur Crocker-Harris a crusty academic of the Greek Language. He had taught at the same college for 18 years and was married to a woman who was really quite objectionable. With failing health, he was forced to leave and take up a less stressful position in Dorset. This was his penultimate day in his current post and thought it would be just another day. However, his encounter with a handful of people and certain revelations, changed his life for ever. Hugh was outstanding as the tired (of life) teacher who had settled for whatever life had thrown at him. The bone weariness and sadness that Hugh portrayed was tangible. The hurt that he voiced at finding out he was referred to as the Himmler of the Lower 5th was so poignant.
Conor Stobart was excellent as Taplow. His confidence at holding the audience’ attention for the first five minutes when he made his entrance into the ‘Crock’s’ home was well executed. I believed him when he said he liked the revered and crusty man, who made jokes that no-one understood, but was mature enough to laugh to save his masters feelings. His dialogue though long and not the easiest when referring to the Greek literature he was forced to read was clear and his general delivery was refreshingly loud enough to hear every word. Likewise, Dan Pegler as Frank Hunter, also had excellent diction and carried the role of the younger man who had attracted the attentions of the Masters wife off well. His rejection of her and his show of allegiance to his senior colleague I found both pleasing and touching.
Ann Smith played the Masters wife perfectly. Her putdowns and sniping comments were doled out in a way that was subtle yet spiteful. Ann’s stage presence is pleasing to watch. Her use of the space and numerous props was carried off in a natural way that never detracted from the dialogue that was taking place, which is such a gift. Her pleading with Frank was heartfelt one moment and dismissive the next, it was almost a joy to see her sudden realisation that she was, for once, not going to get her own way.
David Tearle played the role of the very unpleasant Headmaster well, as did Vicki Shortland as Mrs Gilbert and Tom Merriman as Mr Gilbert.
I thoroughly enjoyed this play and applaud the cast for their performance. Thank you.
Mixed doubles was set in a tennis club. There was the pompous member George (Mac Henderson) who was holding a quiz, supported by his long-suffering wife Heather (Lesley Allen) who is having an affair with Mike (Andrew Dwyer) much to the astonishment of his much younger wife Tracy (Jenny Hall) who thinks he is an old bore. The affair is revealed on the night by the busy body Marjorie (Anne James) who deep down was jealous because she was fed up with her own lack lustre husband Eric (David James Smith) and hankered after the affections of George. Shelagh (Hilary Smith) was the mousy wife who let everything go over her head other than the toilet habits of her husband Donald (Roy Meddings). The two school girls Rebecca (Lottie Carr) and Sally (Abi Denton) enjoyed the shenanigan’s more once Sally’s Grandmother Pat (Hilary Jones) got to grips with everyone. There were lots of titters from the audience during this production and although lacked some pace romped through in true farcical fashion. Thank you to all involved.
Dick Whittington (Feb 2017)
Author: Wendy Winterburn
It was lovely to come back again to see the Conquest Theatre put on Dick Whittington. It was lovely to see a full house and an enthusiastic audience.
It is always good to see different age ranges on stage and I loved Fairy Bowbells, played by Kyla Henry, ankle boots and wand.
King Rat, played very well by Hugh Farey got the boos and hisses his character deserved and his rat henchlings were very cute and showed off their dancing skills.
It was nice change to see Tommy the Cat, played by Lottie Carr, with tap shoes on which showed her tap skills off in one part of the show.
Captain Port and First Mate Starboard played by Bob Dallow and Nikki Ivison respectively were a very good double act and when they got the odd fit of the giggles it just added more to the enjoyment of the evening for the audience.
The musical numbers kept your feet tapping and there was a lovely duet between Dick Whittington, played by Evan Pardoe-Matthews, and Alice Fitzwarren, played by Megan Merrell with don’t go breaking my heart. I also liked the Road to Amarillo sung by some of the cast while the Gorilla played by David James was “behind them”!
Ian Price who played Sarah the Cook was a good dame and was lovely to hear that his mother was in the audience that night.
There was also a lovely touch when a little girl who had celebrated her birthday the night before came up on stage for everyone to sing happy birthday to her. There was also the traditional sing along and the usual competition between the left half and the right half of the audience.
It was a really enjoyable evening and thank you to Bromyard Conquest Theatre for inviting me.
The Pirates of Penzance (October 2016)
Author: Louise Hickey
As the show opened and the pirates made their entrance I was pleasantly surprised by the number of them. The volume was great and the enthusiasm evident. The ladies chorus matched the men’s and produced a lovely harmonious sound. It was encouraging to see so many young chorus members thoroughly enjoying themselves with great potential for future principal roles.
This was a very relaxed version of this popular Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and the audience loved it. I was slightly surprised by the acrobatics of Hugh Farey as the Pirate King. It was also unusual for him to conduct the chorus for ‘O Poetry’ but as the small band were situated in the wings with the conductor sitting with his back to the cast I can perhaps understand the reason for this. It was slightly off-putting to have the Conductor keep turning round to see who was in the audience and should perhaps have been reminded that he was on stage and completely visible.
I did feel for Rob Hollis, who played Frederic, as he sang well when the songs were in his range but he struggled valiantly with others. Heather Marshall as Ruth was a roaring success with the audience and she did very well.
Lisa Legge who played Mabel has a beautiful voice; she sang ‘Poor Wondering One’ extremely well and I held my breath and she reached the higher notes but I needed have worried, she nailed it. She was more than ably supported by Georgina Tabberer-Catt and Lucy Sewell as Edith and Kate, who too have beautiful and powerful voices. My only negative comment is that they all tend to ‘wander’ when they sing. Moving is good only when you are going somewhere, but just moving backwards and forwards like you are attached to a piece of elastic is quite distracting.
Will Henderson played the Police Sergeant and he was very energetic as only his youth could allow. Kevin Ilsley played Major-General Stanley extremely well and the patter song was great. His portrayal of the beleaguered Father was very funny and came across very well.
Thank you Conquest for inviting me.
The Fat Lady Sing in Little Grimley & A Jolly Sinister Jape (May 2016)
Author: Wendy Winterburn
It is lovely coming back to this little theatre and tonight they were staging two comedy plays. The first play was The Fat Lady Sing in Little Grimley was simply set with just some tables and chairs in front of a curtain which made it effective as you concentrated on just the characters.
This was a lovely play and if you have been on committees or even in an amateur dramatic society you will probably associate with some parts of this comedy! All parts were well played by the cast of 4 and I loved the plan the characters cooked up to try and sabotage the newly formed am-dram’s show. Well done to the cast for a lovely play.
The second play of the evening was A Jolly Sinister Jape and as soon as the curtain opened the audience around me including myself were very impressed with the set. I was also impressed with the costumes. This was another really good play and some of the double meanings were very good. As the first play all parts were well played by another cast of 4 and the audience were definitely enjoying themselves, when Fatty, played by Emma Garvey, took off her dress and fat suit to reveal that she had lost a lot of weight some of the audience were doing the stripper tune!
An absolute wonderful evening full of laughter and thank you so much to Conquest Productions.
May The Farce Be With You (February 2016)
Author: Wendy Winterburn
This was my first visit to this lovely little theatre. I was looking forward to seeing how they would introduce sci-fi into Jack and the Beanstalk.
This was an enjoyable show and the combination of traditional storey and the sci-fi element was well done. I enjoyed the play on the Start Wars names.
I loved Ada Invader’s hair, played by Izzy Davies and also loved her hissing competition with one of the golden geese. Mention should be made of Lily Palfrey who played Jack who was very good playing to the audience’s vocal reactions.
Bad guys Lord Garth Invader, Lord of the Darkside, played by Peter Goodson and Lady Nipscrew, played by Hilary Jones had a good amount boos between them and all parts were well played. I like the Giant’s Wife played by Ted Taylor who was very light on his feet and STROP’s, played by Amanda Vincent-Perkins, enjoyment of having a screw tightened.
I should also mention Demi-Mooer who was played by Kyla Henry (front) and Suzi Brown (back) who was very expressive with their movements. I also enjoyed the dancing from the Storm Troopers.
The set and lighting were very good and I liked the spaceship that Luke Warmwater, STROP and PMT were in, I also liked the cage in the giant’s house and the beanstalk. The set was well designed.
The singing was provided by The Strolling Players, Andrew Dwyer, Anne Churchill and John Berry and they also joined in with asking 3 children with birthdays up onto the stage (no children with birthdays but who had birthdays next year), giving them a card with the three singers written thereon and asking them who their favourite people in the panto were.
Thank you so much Bromyard Conquest Theatre for inviting me to see you lovely panto.
The Wizard of Oz: The Ruby Slippers (June 2015)
Author: Louise Hickey MBE
This was the second production that I have attended at the Conquest recently where they have used little scenery and very few props. On this occasion the use of back projection was used to lead Dorothy and Toto to the Emerald City. It would have been nice to have seen a few props; a letter in particular in the first act would have made it more affective.
Annabel Mackereth was a very capable Dorothy, ably assisted by Maisie Clay as Toto. Jamie Hawkins played the Tin Man, Patrick Howells was the Scarecrow and Evan Pardoe-Matthews was the Cowardly Lion. All three were very good and had strong voices and Evan had many of the Lions actions and mannerisms.
Isabel Dowling as the Wicked Witch and Georgia Stallard as Glinda were well cast as was Josh Gifford who was extremely funny as the Guardian of the Gates. The remaining cast members did a good job too. However, I did struggle to hear the dialogue overall, which is such a shame after all the hard work they put into the production. Perhaps if they had faced the audience more, we would have had a better chance to hear them all.
Well done everyone.
Cider and Rosie (May 2015)
Author: Louise Hickey MBE
This production was very simply done, no set changes and very few props. The interchangeable flat of summer to winter trees acted as our visual aid to indicate when the seasons changed. This was fairly effective but a few props would have helped the actors I felt.
The additional music gave a different dimension to the play and whilst I enjoyed Ann Churchill, who played the Mother, singing ‘only a rose’ much of the underscoring drowned out a lot of the speech, which was a shame for the cast.
I was very impressed with the large cast and the Conquest Theatre have so many men too, they are very lucky. The costumes were appropriate for the period therefore I was a little disappointed that Evan Pardoe-Matthews wore his hair in a very modern style which covered his face and seemed to annoy him as much as it did me. Evan was a confident Loll but his diction needs a little work as I couldn’t make out all that he said, especially at the close of the play.
Overall this was a good effort from Conquest Drama group, thank you for inviting me.
The Willow Pattern Plate & The Beauty Manifesto (May 2013)
Author: Louise Hickey
This evening’s entertainment was a double bill performed by the Intermediate Youth and Youth Theatre Groups. The willow pattern depicted the story of the well known plate that most homes have owned at one time or another. The Narrators particularly Laura Browne mastered lengthy dialogues to explain the tragic story of star crossed lovers. Good performances from Loren Merrell, Megan Merrell, Josh Gifford and Alfie Newman. Tamsin Moon had a very expressive face which enhanced her performance and Katie Lloyd was very good. The second performance of the evening came from the older youth group. The Beauty Manifesto was an interesting subject: upon reaching their 18th birthday they were expected to undergo cosmetic surgery to make sure that they were beautiful in order to fit in with the new world. Conor Stobart, Josh Skyrme and Sam Collins played the three new recruits and gave convincing performances as did Annis Newman as Jasmine the Head Administrator and Megan Webb as her reluctant sister who ended up rebelling with one of the recruits even though it meant going against her families values. Both plays delivered a moral message: very profound.
The Real Inspector Hound (May 2013)
Author: Louise Hickey
This Tom Stoppard play was very clever whilst very confusing at the same time. To be honest, I am still slightly confused. There were good performances from Mark Cox and Hugh Farey who began the play as theatre critics who then proceeded to talk over the actors in the ‘play’ that they were supposed to be watching. The play was a typical ‘who done it?’ with the obligatory body on the floor that was completely ignored for most of the play. There was clever interaction between those watching and those ‘acting’ and Joshua Herriott, Emma Gibbons and Katie Evans gave stylized performances reminiscent of the farces that used to be so popular. Gaynor Smith was very good as Mrs Drudge and reminded me of Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques. The switch from Critic to Actor is when I started to lose the plot but the end result did seem to make sense finally, I think… An interesting evening: thank you Conquest and I thought the set was great.
Oklahoma (July 2012)
Author: Louise Hickey
Choreographer: Joy Simmonds
There were a lot of firsts for this production of Oklahoma. It was the first Musical that the Conquest had put on in years, the first time Rebecca Fearnley had directed a musical and the first time that many of the cast had performed solo principal roles. I was a guest on the opening night and whilst the cast were suffering from first night nerves they managed very well. As the Conquest is a small theatre the cast are very close to the audience and it must have been extremely nerve racking for them. The mature cast entertained the audience with all of the well known and loved songs and I particularly enjoyed ‘all or nothing’ sung by Anne Churchill as Ado Annie and John Berry as Will Parker, I thought the smoke house scene, with Ian Price as Curly McLaine and Peter Goodson as Jud Fry was very well portrayed and I liked their version of ‘Poor Jud’; their voices blended very well together. The highlight though was the entire cast singing Oklahoma which the cast sang with gusto and it was very well received by the audience. I hope that by the end of the week all of the first night nerves had settled and that they enjoyed the show as much as their audiences did. Thank you Conquest.
The Battle Of Shepards Bush (July 2012)
Author: Louise Hickey
Just one week before the Olympics started I went see a play that gave an insight into the politics’ (with a small ‘p’) behind the modern Olympics and their arrival in England in 1908. This factually based play was so interesting and very well portrayed by the relatively small cast. Whilst there were many long dialogues the cast did extremely well, staying focussed throughout whilst demonstrating the absolute passion of the Olympians who were bringing the games to England, it couldn’t fail to make everyone in the audience feel patriotic. Hugh Farey was very convincing as Baron Desborough and Mark Cox was very good as Robert Stuart although I liked him as Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle better, but that could have been because of the character he was playing. The pompous Americans were well represented by David Tearle and Robert Hollis and it was with some glee that they were subtly, but nicely, put down, usually by the Assistant Secretary played by Joshua Herriott who I thought was brilliant: he played the role with a tongue in cheek attitude during his conflicts with the ‘Americans’ and I can only describe his character as thoroughly ‘British’. I was enthralled by the play and the story it told and I could have quite happily have sat through it again if only to pick up some of the facts that I may have overlooked.