Review: Embers Theatre Company on fire in The Northern Powerhouse of Humour

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“Acting is just giving,” says an aspiring actress - and members of Embers Theatre Company give it their all in The Northern Powerhouse of Humour.

That wannabe film star is played by Anita Easton who kicks off a trio of Talking Heads monologues by Alan Bennett.

Anita milks the humour in Her Big Chance which is the story of a one-time Crossroads star finds herself auditioning for a soft porn film. Her revelations are preceded by disrobing from dressing gown to frock to lacy cover-up over underwear - all done on a darkened stage.

Drew Davies gives a delightful performance of a middle-aged man with mental health issues still living at home with his mum but whose close relationship is threatened by the re-emergence of his mother’s old flame. Entitled A Chip in the Sugar, this lovely creation wraps itself around the audience like a warm blanket.

Waiting for the Telegram is a poignant piece about a resident in a nursing home who is approaching her 100th birthday. Margaret Thompson gives a powerful performance as Violet who is in a wheelchair, legs bandaged, mind fractured, who harps back to the past. It’s a heart-tugger especially in a scene where Violet gets tearful as she wonders whether she should have given herself to her first love.

Victoria Wood’s work is celebrated in the play Talent which comprises the second half of the presentation in Barlborough.

Acting, singing and even a spot of magic reflect the theme of the play and the considerable talent of its performers.

It’s a stark warning to anyone dazzled by dreams of being on the X-Factor, The Voice or Britain’s Got Talent that the journey there can be a rough road.

Karen Pinder heads the cast as attractive singer Julie who dreams of being a big star. She enters a club’s competition but finds the experience far from glamorous thanks to a sex-obsessed compere, a grotty dressing room and a toilet that doesn’t work. Oh, and there’s the small problem of the guy who got Julie pregnant when she was a schoolgirl who re-emerges on her big night.

There’s laughs galore as Julie and her dim, overweight mate Maureen deal with the issues as best they can. Great characterisation from both Karen and Naomi Conway, who plays Maureen, keeps the audience hooked and in fits of laughter, from start to finish.

Phillip Hadley and Michelle Garretty play the comedy magicians, Richard Parkinson-Brown the musical accomapnist and Fred Cameron the seedy compere.

References to Opportunity Knocks and New Faces, a Double Diamong poster and garish fashions set the show in the Seventies - but the theme is timeless.

Just one prompt was needed and ad-libbing managed to cover up a small hitch during the opening performance - but it didn’t spoil a thoroughly entertaining evening.

The Northern Powerhouse of Humour continues its run at Barlborough Little School tonight (Saturday, September 17) at 7.30pm.