Photos Reviews

The Good Old Days

May 2010

by Alan Caig


Let's All Go To The Music Hall! - A Rousing Introduction - The Entire Company

Soiree Musicale in a Victorian Parlour - The most Delicate of Sentiments, the most Musical of Moments - Miss Maggie Bourgein and Mr David Batty, and featuring the Topsham Spa Orchestra

The Caretaker - Recitative Dramatique! - Miss Christine Eilbeck, The Welsh Wizardrene

The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God - The Danger, the Glamour, the Menace ... even the Smells of the Orient! - Maj. Christopher Williams (cashiered), late of Her Majesty's Punjabi Catering Corps

My Morning Promenade - Gentlemen, beware! - Miss Avril Pattinson, Silver Tones from Silverton

Sand Dance - The exotic orient again, but without the danger or the glamour or the menace.... just the smells - Wilson Keppel and Betty

Three Ha'pence A Foot - Maritime Perils and the Disgraceful Price of Timber - Mr William Pattinson, Have Gavel, Will Travel

The Two Gendarmes - Two Gentlemen with but a Single Thought, if that. Her Majesty's Realms are safe in their hands! - Mr David Batty and Mr Howard Eilbeck

My Little Bottom Drawer - A prudent Young Lady recounts her Matrimonial Preparations - Miss Avril Pattinson

The Drunkard's Dilemma, or Her Honour for Ten Pence - A Cautionary Tale, in which Avarice, Drunkenness and Concupiscence are Soundly Defeated by the forces of Morality and Clean Living - The Estuary Barnstormers, starring Miss Anny Kilbourne, Mr Howard Eilbeck, Mr David Batty and Mr Alan Caig

During the Interval the Chairman will select from the audience the lady and gentleman he deems to be accoutred most fashionably and present them with a token of his esteem. NB The offering of blandishments of alcoholic liquor or other comestibles will result in instantaneous disqualification.

With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm - Patrons of a nervous disposition are cautioned that this item contains descriptions of regal beheading and its aftermath. Anyone affected by the issues raised by Mr Batty should telegraph our regicide hotline for advice and support. - Mr David Batty, Topsham's Top Tonsils

Tying the Knot - The Course of True Love never did Run Smooth - Miss Avril Pattinson, Miss Rosemary Whitehurst, Maj Christopher Williams

A Knight at the Theatre - These Islands' foremost Shakespearean Tragedian regales you with tales of Greasepaint, Footlights and the Immortal Bard - Sir Kenton McDawlish

Love Is the Reason - From a time when Romance ruled - Miss Maggie Bourgein, The Darling of the Halls

Memories of Max Miller - Special Guest Appearance - Mr Bill Pertwee, A Life in the Theatre

Finale at the Old Bull & Bush - All Human Life Is There! Patrons are advised to refer to their songsheets and to join the company in song - The Entire Company

In the Chair: Mr William Pattinson, Actor, Raconteur, Bon Viveur (available for weddings, funerals and village fetes)

At the Pianoforte: Mr Ian Dodds, Professor of Handbells Emeritus at the Exwick Conservatoire (available)


Director - Alan Caig esq
Assistant Directrice and Ballet Mistress - Miss Avril Pattinson
Production Manager - Maj.Chris Williams

Set Construction - Messrs Eliot Wright, Ant. Morris
Stage Manager - Miss Freddie Jacobs
Lighting - Mr Peter Tapp, assisted by Mr Ian Potts
Wardrobe - Miss Angela Wallwork, Miss Avril Pattinson
Publicity Design - Mr Phil Keen
Publicity - Mesdames Butt, Gander and Wallwork
Photography - Mr John Sanders
Front of House - Miss Maggie Butt
Front of House Manager - Mrs Sharon Wannell
Floor Manager - Miss Cally Pettit, assisted by the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Society
Webmaster - Mr Des Gander

Estuary Players would like to thank:

The Globe Hotel for generous sponsorship
Topsham Amateur Dramatic Society (TADS)
Topsham Handyman Services (call 879712)
Topsham News for ticket sales
Steve and Angela Hilton, Veronica Coe and the Topsham Community Association


From Estuary News (also quoted in Exmouth Journal):

... this enriching production ... the genuine article ...

Who amongst us can fail to be uplifted by our memories of the Music Hall? As this production demonstrates, enough of its cultural lineage and traditions have survived to the present day to create an evening of unalloyed joy and entertainment, calling to mind those stars of Victorian and Edwardian times such as George Robey, Vesta Tilley, Dan Leno, Marie Lloyd, Issy Bonn and the immortal and glorious Wilson Keppel & Betty.

Against this proud history, the Director Mr Alan Caig has forged with great verve and insight a straightforward production that does not descend into parody or pastiche nor mocks the gentle irony of The Good Old Days. In so doing he has connected that glorious past with our more uncertain present. Above all he has provided an evening of great fun. The audience - seated at candlelit tables and decked out in the splendour of period finery - were very much part of this show. We were not just passive observers being entertained by a group of minstrels and strolling players, even if on the first night there was not quite the critical mass of people in the audience needed to 'bounce back' against the actors, despite the occasional feedback if not heckle. With a full house, one can predict a more tumultuous atmosphere as well as throatier renditions of all the old favourites.

An excellent programme of 'turns' provided the structure of the evening's entertainment with memorable performances both individual and ensemble and with the welcoming MC and gavel host, Mr Wm. Pattinson, injecting the requisite verbosity as well as a fine version of Three Ha'pence A Foot. [Mr Leonard Sachs himself could never emulate that!] My personal highlight was the incomparable Sand Dance by Wilson Keppel and Betty, with a Belly Dance from Miss Maggie Bourgein that would attract gentlemen from as far afield as Barnstaple in this County. The Soiree Musicale in a Victorian Parlour, featuring Miss Bourgein ('the darling of Matthews Hall') and Mr David Batty ('Topsham's Top Tonsils') accompanied by the Topsham Spa Orchestra, admirably recalled an era when entertainment round the piano was a given in the household of anybody or nobody. This was the world of George Grossmith indeed. With tact and flattery, the Director had persuaded our special local resident, Sir Kenton McDawlish, to talk about a Knight at the Theatre which he did with great flourish, if perhaps with a little too great a sense of his own importance. In any event he seemed glad that his mother was not in the audience.

Miss Christine Eilbeck ('The Welsh Wizardrene') recited The Caretaker to which Mr Pinter's effort held a candle, whilst Major Christopher Williams ('H.M Punjabi Catering Corps - retired') told us a true and moving story about a Green Eye of a Little Yellow God, in a Temple near Khatmandu. Songs flowed with wit and seductive charm from Miss Avril Pattinson and with gentle warmth and feeling from Miss Rosemary Whitehurst, whilst Mr Howard Keppel-Eilbeck and Miss Amy Kilbourne turned melodrama into such melancholy and sadness with a Cautionary Tale that the gavel host was obliged to adjourn for the interval, in order to allow refreshment to be taken by all, including Mr Batty who in the next turn had to present to us all a regal beheading and its aftermath, in With her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm.

We were agog for the Memories of Max Miller and his Life in the Theatre, risqué though we feared the Cheeky Chappie might be, from the peerless Mr Bill Pertwee, who spared not our blushes and who appeared in a Dressing Gown of sorts that almost beggared belief, even though redeemed in full by the familiar hat & patter. Magic!

Underpinning the musical background that is vital to the whole Show and which was met with universal acclaim, we were favoured at the Pianoforte by a local master of the staves and ivories, Professor Ian Dodds, whose bravura style and stamina came straight out of the Exwick Conservatoire rubric. Class always speaks for itself!

To conclude the evening, the company and audience retired with sound and happy fury to The Old Bull & Bush before the Actors were seen sneaking away to Topsham's equivalent, namely, The Globe, which had so generously sponsored this production. And as the mist from the estuary appeared to enfold the gas-lit streets a thought came to mind - that, in the present days of global fame and international celebrity, this enriching production by The Estuary Players seemed far more the genuine article - what entertainment was and maybe should be, perhaps indeed the Real Thing?

- Reviewed by: Tom Epton


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