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Looking forward to some great expectations

Hello. I’m Neil Bamford and I play the character of Mr Jaggers in the forthcoming production of Great Expectations by the Saddleworth Players.

Mr Jaggers is first introduced as the man that tells Pip he can look forward to some "great expectations". He is a lawyer who is known in London for never losing. Jaggers is a hard-working, self-made man, who is direct, true to fact, and a good man in his own way.

Enough of him, what about me!

I’ve been involved in amateur dramatics for around 30 years. I first stepped out on stage at Turner Hall at Birch Hill Hospital Players doing old time musicals. I then got involved with Rochdale Infirmary Players (R.I.P) annual pantomime fundraising event. From there I was asked to take part in a production of The Anniversary at St Ann’s Players, Rochdale, where most of my work has been for the past twenty years. I have also worked on and off stage with Mad Theater Company.

My personal favorite pastime is murder mysteries with DNA Players who do a tremendous amount of charity work.

I have found this whole experience interesting and exciting, and scary. Rehearsals three nights each week, takes some getting used to. Getting to know every one of the company, wardrobe, property, lighting and sound, set builders and so on.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Saddleworth Players for welcoming me in. I feel lucky to be working alongside very talented and experienced players.

Finally, my thanks to Karen Barton (director) for asking me to take part, for her vision and her belief in all the work that has gone into making this production a success.

My hope is that all the hard work pays off! I look forward to seeing you all. Enjoy the show.

Neil Bamford, November 13, 2017,


Review: We did give a damn

What an absolute joy to watch! Having come not really knowing anything about the play, and having not been to this particular theatre before, I did not know what to expect. I certainly did not know that I would laugh quite as much as I did for such a prolonged period of time!

My husband and I have been quoting the lines ever since and laughing randomly to ourselves - the performances by the cast were utterly brilliant and clearly very memorable! The interplay was slick, the dialogue snappy, have the physical comedy incredibly well directed.

No other film can have made such an impact as Gone with the Wind. The first feature film to come out wholly in glorious Technicolor with a star-studded cast headed by Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, Gone with the Wind seemed to have everything, with its compelling love story played out against the epic struggle of the American Civil War. It has deservedly become a legend in the history of cinema and even today, there can be few of us who don't respond to its lush theme music or aren't familiar with the famous riposte: Frankly, my dear I don't give a damn!

Clearly a play exploring the creative process behind such an achievement could come up with some fascinating insights but would the material really hold our attention for a whole evening? Would those of us who had never seen the original film find disputes over the minutiae of the film's plotting and dialogue that enthralling? In short, would there really be more to it than the overly romantic if ironic title Moonlight and Magnolias suggested?

Such concerns were quickly dissipated by the hilarious opening as we witnessed the producer David O'Selznick'sgrowing incredulity that Ben Hecht, the scriptwriter, hadn't been one of the million and a half Americans to have read Margaret Mitchell's best seller. Not only was our interest to be engaged by the cut and thrust of three larger-than-life characters with enormously inflated egos, but throughout the evening the pace of the action would carry us breathlessly forward as one absurdity succeeded another.

At the centre of the action, Mark Rosenthal brilliantly captured the panache and self-assurance of the Hollywood mogul at the zenith of his career, brooking no opposition to his wildest schemes, whose sheer effrontery won over his colleagues despite their better judgment. Phil Clegg as the hapless put-upon scriptwriter was not only a foil to the mercurial Selznick but was convincing as a powerful exponent of the moral values he felt the others were ignoring at their peril.

A grumpy Vince Kenny as a successful Hollywood Director eager to escape hordes of unruly Munchkins on the set of The Wizard of Oz was cynical and at times vitriolic, yet basically committed to giving his all to wrest success out of the jaws of threatening failure.

We also had a delightful cameo performance by Lorraine Reynolds as Miss Poppenguhl, Selznick's personal assistant, whose primly obsequious appearances were not only amusing of themselves but served to remind us of a world outside the confines of Selznick's studio and thus emphasize the bizarre nature of the goings on we were witnessing when Selznick forced the team to go into purdah for five days.

As the play developed Selznick's flamboyant reliving of the story in a variety of roles led us seamlessly into the device of Selznick and Fleming acting out critical scenes from the book and providing Hecht with the basis for a script. The combination of their ham acting and personal tensions ratcheted up by sleep deprivation and their severely limited diet of bananas and peanuts gave the play an increasingly surreal quality with some unforgettable moments such as the beautifully choreographed slapping sequence and the birth scene with Fleming as Melanie being told to push harder by Selznick as Scarlett O'Hara.

Yet beneath the slapstick there was always a more serious undertow and Verity Mann as director is to be congratulated on the firm control of the production which enabled a deeper exploration of character and attitude to emerge, particularly towards the latter stages.

The set by Keith Begley was another great addition - wonderful and striking and completely in keeping with the time period.

We have enjoyed it so much that we have invited some more friends to come with us at the end of the week as it will be our last chance to see it before the run closes. If only we could get it on DVD...!

Antonia Kinlan , October 5, 2017,


The nearest thing to real life

Hello, I am Lorraine Reynolds and this is my first time performing for Saddleworth Players at the Millgate Arts Centre.

I play Miss Poppenghul, the long-suffering secretary to David O. Selsnick.

Miss Poppenghul tries her best to cater to his every whim, whilst feeling perplexed and somewhat irritated by the antics of the men who surround her ... Not much different to real life!!

COME & SEE US ... BOOK NOW

Lorraine Reynolds, September 22, 2017,


A gangster with a typewriter

Hi! My name is Phil Clegg and I play the part of Ben Hecht in the Saddleworth Players’ production of Moonlight and Magnolias.

This will be my fourth appearance at this delightful theatre which is always a favourite of mine. Hecht was considered, at the time, to be Hollywood’s greatest screenwriter. With his fast-paced dialogue and style of writing he was credited for completing several screenplays in a matter of hours! Unfortunately my typing skills will never match those of Ben, but I have been pleasantly surprised as to how therapeutic punching those old keys and listening to the unique sound they make on our vintage typewriter has been and has brought back many happy memories of working in a busy charging room in my early police career.

Hecht sure was a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. It was once said that those Chicago newspapermen were just gangsters using a typewriter rather than a tommy gun. He once asked his name to be removed from the credits of a movie because the director changed one of his scenes!! Although Hecht re wrote the Gone with The Wind scenes in order to condense Sydney Howard’s original screen play from six hours to three he was never credited with his contribution and the Oscar went to Howard.

Rehearsals for this production have been marvelous and, although I have known Mark for many years, this is only the second time we have shared a stage together, the first being a pantomime. He played one of the ugly sisters and re wrote several scenes in that production which would have given Sydney Howard a run for his money!! Vinnie and Lorraine I hadn’t met before and it has been a pleasure to work with them. The production crew have also been outstanding.

I am sure you will enjoy this fast paced funny and thoughtful play and hope it brings back some happy memories of one of Hollywood’s greatest films ever made. N.B. Watch how Vinnie is playing Melanie and Prissy; believe me, he deserves an Oscar!

BOOK NOW to see Moonlight & Magnolias; 30th September–7th October

Phill Clegg, September 21, 2017,


Prompting for a pacy play

Ciao, I’m David Lyons and I joined Saddleworth Players at the tail end of last season in April.

 

Here I am now, writing this blog, letting you know about the play I’m prompting for, called Moonlight and Magnolias. At its core the play is a comedy, with an outer shell of farce. Yet, beneath these comic elements is a tragic undercurrent of social commentary. The play is set in 1930s America: World War II looms (albeit in distant Europe), and the place of Jewish immigrants, even those in Hollywood’s high ivory towers, is precarious.

 

The action focusses on three Hollywood big shots (and one secretary) frantically attempting to rewrite the screenplay for the epic Gone With The Wind in five days, with production closed down and executives breathing down the neck of the producer. Through the characters’ scrambling descent into madness, squalor, and banana strewn surroundings, the play also examines creative drive, the pressure of showbusiness and the responsibility of artists to represent things for how they are, or perhaps in Hollywood for how they are not.

 

When I originally sat amongst the cast and crew at the read through, the feature that struck as most obvious at first was the sheer pace and fluidity of the play, even then during our first experience of it together, huddled round, wondering how these characters, costumes, sets and scenes would all materialise before our collective gaze within the next couple of months.

 

As a result of this speed, trying to come between actors during intense, relentless scenes of creative delirium both real and acted, is a difficult task. Acting as prompt is always hard in the sense that you have to not only sometimes interrupt actors in full flow, some of whom may never stop unless they are stopped, but also because there is always a sense of waiting for someone to slip up. This is, however, a cynical approach overall, and a better idea is to encourage the actors, guide them when they lose their place and reassure them when they doubt their own abilities to remember their lines, something which is nearly always overstated.

 

Now the books are down, that ability is truly put to the test, but my faith in the actors delivering the end product is never in doubt… Question is, will their characters be able to do the same?

 

BOOK TICKETS to see Moonlight & Magnolias on our booking site.

David Lyons, September 17, 2017,