EODS relish the Ayckbourn challenge

Chorus of Disapproval performed by EODS at The Royal Hippodrome Theatre last week. SUS-150302-150824001
Chorus of Disapproval performed by EODS at The Royal Hippodrome Theatre last week. SUS-150302-150824001

EODS took the Royal Hippodrome by storm last week with Alan Ayckbourn’s Chorus of Disapproval. And if you laughed out loud, you probably knew too much, writes Kevin Anderson.

The “show within a show” is a knowing conspiracy between actors and audience, many of whom might just have first hand knowledge of the triumphs and disasters endured by the Pendon Light Operatic players.

EODS paraded an experienced cast who visibly relished the task.

Perhaps the memory plays tricks, but Ayckbourn second time around isn’t quite as funny. Maybe those marital merry-go-rounds were just rooted in the Seventies and Eighties.

But the Am-Dram politics are perennial, and there was constantly something to chuckle at in Gareth Brighton’s faithful production.

Richard Lock, as Dafydd, has the look of the harassed impresario full of grand gestures, and some manic John Cleese moments – a lovely balance with Dave Nicholles’ perfectly judged Guy, whose rise from newcomer to the star of the production owes more to haplessness than natural talent.

Guy’s singing is one of several fine voices, skilfully marshalled by a Carl Greenwood more usually identified from the pit by the back of his head, but dragged into the heart of the production as Pendon’s MD.

Singing and acting badly is a very particular skill, but the EODS cast have it mastered (and that is not at all a back-handed compliment).

Notable contributions from Hannah Poynter as an understated and quite poignant Hannah, and from Becky Robinson who redefines the obstreperous and non-negotiable stage manager – not that it ever needed redefining…

One small reservation. When so many performers now wear radio mics like fashion accessories, it was admirable to see them dispensed with here. But without them, the projection just occasionally felt a little underpowered.

The set has just the right amount of clutter for a village hall rehearsal space, and the scene switches were deftly handled. And by the end, the two parallel stories align rather than collide.

From gauche and cringing to affectionate and amiable: it was all so very authentic. Well done, EODS.