Spring and Port Wine

St Paul’s AODS

20th September 2023

In the perfect setting of Peace Community Theatre, St Paul’s AODS brought us the timeless classic, Spring and Port Wine.  The story revolves around the Crompton household which is ruled by the iron fist of patriarch Rafe. It is where every penny is checked and accounted for, nobody goes without, and everyone contributes. While the siblings in the house feel bullied and stifled by their father and sorry for what their mother puts up with: Rafe, in his mind, feels like he is protecting his family and keeping them from hardship. Quite the opposite to their nosey and over familiar neighbour Betsy-Jane, who lives her life hiding behind the curtains in order to avoid the last person she borrowed a fiver from.

Director Paul Cohen has clearly worked his cast and the opening audience were clearly appreciative of the hard work that has gone into this production.  The cast are great, they tell the story so well. It is warm and funny and at times heartbreaking. And although this play is set in a time gone by, there are so many themes that we can identify with in our own more modern family lives. The lack of communication, parental disapproval, unconditional love, and sibling rivalry.

Carl Bottomley is commanding as Rafe, the head of the household and delivers the script with conviction.  Catherine Henderson is great as Daisy Crompton, funny when she needs to be, vulnerable in moments and at times you can feel her warmth wrap around you like the big hug only a mother could give.

Catlin Owen is very good as the serious Florence and worked well with Gareth Mabon as Arthur, her fiancé. Good chemistry from them both. Helena Carter was good as Hilda who refuses to eat her Friday night tea of herring, much to her father’s annoyance. 

Adam Manning as Harold, the eldest brother was really good and together with the excellent Harry Cohen as Wilfred brought many of the laughs in the production. Dorothy Jones was on fine form as the neighbour Besty Jane who was always on the cadge.

The script is sharp and witty, and the set is well thought out and there is much nostalgia with the set and costumes and music too.

This play, performed 60 plus years after it was written doesn’t break down any barriers, or challenge our thinking in anyway, but it entertains, it’s wholesome, heartwarming and it’s told very well, by an excellent cast and in a fabulous setting.

Runs until Saturday

Jason Crompton


An Evening in Little Grimley

St Paul’s AODS

27th October 2022

It’s really pleasing to see St Paul’s back at it again, this time with An Evening in Little Grimley.  Two one act plays revolving around the comedic ups and downs of the Little Grimley Amateur Dramatics Society.

Under the experienced hands of director Paul Cohen this production was an evening of top-notch entertainment.  The first play was ‘Last Tango in Little Grimley’ sees the local amdram group with a problem.  When they hold their AGM only four people attend, and the group is close to giving up.  However, Carl Bottomley as Gordon who is the chairman comes up with an idea to save the society. He has written a play for them to perform which includes plenty of sexual innuendos with a title that is bound to bring in an audience. First, he needs to convince the other members of the group.  There is Margaret, played by Joyce Smith who is dogmatic and opinionated and convinced she should be chairperson, who knows far more than Gordon and isn’t afraid to say so. She is not his only problem. Next there is Joyce, played by Dorothy Jones, the treasurer of the society.  She is a simple soul with no acting skills, in fact no skills at all!  Finally, to add to the equation is Ian Duckworth as Bernard the set builder who has no wish, nor the ability to act.  All that makes you wonder why they keep going.

The second play was Lockdown in Little Grimley which sees the am-dram group confronted by facemasks, toilet roll hoarders and banana cake as they try to put on a show during the pandemic.  With the same cast it sees Gordon who has big plans to celebrate the NHS with his new show The Phantom of the Opera(ting Theatre), although the cast aren’t so sure. Margaret is outraged at being cast as a plastic surgery patient, whilst Joyce struggles with learning lines due to being “dyslexic in one eye”.  Bernard who has a thing for hoarding toilet rolls (remember that?) has his own chance to use the services of the NHS.  This play was incredibly funny, but not without drama, and some touching moments towards the end which saw the characters realise how much they all meant to each other despite their arguments.

All four actors were fantastic, each one getting their own time to shine in the spotlight and having those killer comedic one liners.  A simple set, great direction, wonderful performances and a pasty and peas supper, what more could you ask for!

This production was incredibly funny, and served to remind me exactly why I love amateur theatre

Runs until Saturday

Jason Crompton


St Paul’s (Astley Bridge) AODS Trivial Pursuits 20/02/20

Trivial Pursuits kicks off St Paul’s (Astley Bridge) AODS 90th Birthday Production with a comedy set in Roz and Nick’s garden in the summer. There’s excitement at guessing about which musical it will be next. The guests are members of the fictitious Bolton and District Operatic Society. With set designed and wardrobe by Eileen Powell. The set comprising of raised patio with barbecue, drinks area complete with various beverages and punch bowl. Two patio settees and chair set the scene

Allen Christie Casson Directs and must have had fun and pulled on experience of seeing what goes on in the amateur circuits, all of life was on show here - the bitchiness, the thinking you can play a part that you are totally unsuited for and even the blackmailing so you get the part. The exes and the affairs all add to the drama. The cast worked well together and some first night nerves were on show from one or two of the actors with a few dropped lines which I am sure will be ironed out as the week moves on. Lighting utilised the set and it worked really well with spotlights pinpointing people’s different conversations.

Carl Bottomley played Teddy, he just wants to be in Oklahoma before he is too old and you get the feeling that The Bolton and District Operatic is his life despite all his bitchy comments, he will always bring the conversation back round to him and what part he has played or wants to play. His character certainly goes on a journey getting his fingers burnt in the process, literally. His pies de resistance was ending up in drag. His friendship with Joyce played by Carmela Horne is rocky, one minute supporting each other the next having a go. Joyce once played Calamity Jane or due to programme misprint Calamity Jan, the society may never let her on stage again as for seven and half minutes (who counted the minutes?!) she ad-libbed and sung two songs from another show - hilarious! Carmela’s character had to get slowly drunk through the night - she is not an alcoholic, she ‘just likes a drink’. I think it was handled well and you got the sense of a woman who sees herself as others don’t. Joyce is sister to Roz played by Jenny Peters who is hosting the Barbecue. She is desperate for her sister to get a part in Oklahoma and get her confidence back and hopefully then leave the booze alone. Roz also has her own drama to sort out. Jenny gave a solid performance.

Husband to Roz, Nick played by Ian Duckworth was the man who has all the money worries of the society. He is the man you want to be friends with - he makes the decisions and everybody wants to know what’s in his head and want him to know what’s in theirs.  Pearl played by Susie Woodley puts pressure on him to tell people, although she freely tells others they are in trouble and loves the doom and gloom of it all.

Mona played by Eileen Powell was the company choreographer and has had firm ideas over the last three years what she wants to choreograph and will try any which way she can to get it.  Played with great energy and sass.

Jessica played by Helena Carter - the ‘other woman’ and not afraid to tell you she is or tell you anything in fact you do not want to hear. Don’t mess with Jessica.

Derek played by Brendan Higgins and Deidre played by Jessica Haslam are that couple that make these sort of things awkward, split up with one still pining is always the drama in the room, then add one of them turning up with a.n.other - sit back and watch them crash and burn. Loved the line from Jessica “I will talk to you Derek as long as you don’t cry.” Brendan’s character is boring and everyone he asks confirms this for him. His attempt at the rhinoceros joke although falling flat on the cast’s ears was funny. But anyone who pays ten grand to a society so his ex can have the lead must be desperate especially if she doesn’t even want the part.

Eddie played by Robert Peters was a bizarre character in the cast, but it worked and he was very funny with great timing. Eddie grades eggs for a living and is mad on television complete with his tv magazine. He is the extra guest that no-one knows or wants but makes himself right at home and even detaches the tv aerial to get a better picture. Great Character

St Pauls, showing why they are still going strong despite the fact this play should have gone on last year but due to ill health was postponed. Well done to cast and crew. Congratulations on your 90th year and thank you for inviting me and making my guest and I so welcome

Liz Hume-Dawso

Trivial Pursuits February 2020

A summer evening’s barbecue is the setting for a meeting of the Bolton & District Operatic Society for a pleasant few hours of small talk, laughter and friendly conversation. An idyllic scenario, yet not in the world of Frank Vickery’s Trivial Pursuits where the underhand manoeuvring, petty intrigue, and egos of a small Amateur Dramatic society are laid out for all to see.  Next season's play is to be announced but Nick, the society's business manager, has promised a different show and the plum roles to four different people.

Director Allen Christie Casson has gathered a group of experienced and talented actors to produce this comedy in what is the start of St Paul’s 90th year celebrations.

Ian Duckworth played Nick the director very well and the fact that he cannot get the barbecue to light gives a clue as to the way the evening is going to go.

Jenny Peters played Roz, Nick’s organised and down to earth wife, who holds the group together until she realises Nick has been using his directorial influence too intimately with the company’s youngest female recruit. Carmella Horne played her sister Joyce, the once talented but now a bit passed it leading lady.  Good performances from them both.

Carl Bottomley played the societies’ camp luvvie Teddy with real ease.  The final scene was something not to be missed.

A good confident performance from Eileen Powell who played the humourless Mona as a bit of a diva and Suzie Woodley was the society’s treasurer who knows the truth of the dire financial situation the company is in. Helena Carter was Jessica, one of the four who tried to manipulate Nick, a very confident portrayal. 

Brendan Higgins played the emotional Derek extremely well with many of his one-liners getting big laughs.  His soon to be ex, wife Deidre was played with ease by Jessica Haslam.  Both worked well together.  Deidre’s escort for the evening, the television obsessed Eddie was played very well by Robert Peters.  A nice little cameo. 

There are not many groups in Bolton that can claim 90 years of togetherness, this production was an example of dedication from a small group of people that value the support from their audiences.  Go see it!

Runs until Saturday

Jason Crompton


Cash on Delivery - St Pauls (Astley Bridge) 22nd February 2019

“Farce-(Noun) A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay including a crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.”

Well, St Pauls certainly used all the words above to the letter to put on Michael Cooney’s Cash on Delivery at St Pauls School

It is a hard space to work in a school hall - but as you entered, a living room had been created complete with four doors, two with keys, one with letterbox, settee, standard lamp, coat stand, telephone table and chairs and menacing-looking, large oblong chest set upstage. The set worked really well for the cast. Just one small point: where I was sat it would have been good to have maybe a black cloth to cover the back wallpaper that you see as you open the door, giving the illusion you were looking into the street,  thereby suspending the idea of disbelief.  Saying that, the scene was set - enter the cast directed by Paul Cohen.

Eric Swan played by Carl Bottomley had little time off stage, he must be exhausted! How he kept up with all the aliases he had I have no idea. Remembering each entrance and where he had put everyone must have been a logistical nightmare. He plays a man who falls into being a con man after losing his job and the Benefit Office just love giving him money. His web of lies and deceit soon has many people involved unwittingly in his schemes. There so many people caught in the web, that even he is losing the plot. Carl manages to keep a handle on this and crank up the pace when needed.

Brendan Higgins who played Norman Bassett took this huge role on with only weeks to go and you would not have known. His partnership with Carl Bottomley was excellent - they worked really well together, working the buffoonery and horseplay to the max. Brendan’s delivery was expertly brilliant at times and I am still chuckling at the night nurse line and I few others including the deaf scene

Mr Jenkins, played by Howard Clare, when his character is ordered to come and check on the residents of the house, he had no idea what he was getting himself into! Howard’s ability to look bemused and perplexed and the explanation he had to witness were hilarious, no wonder he hits the sherry bottle! Then he has to explain it all to his boss - He got a round of applause for that - as well as falling off a roof

Uncle George was played by Keith Brian, when his character was alive played this with a light touch & then gets to be the corpse that everyone else makes names up for and has to be manoeuvred and manhandled about the set by the rest of the cast. When he is finally put on a stretcher and carried away to the mortuary little did we know he would come running back on, still attached to the stretcher - hilarious!

Catherine Henderson playing Doctor Chapman had a scene-stealing cameo with just the right touch and I loved her character as the woman who has no idea what is going on and interjects at the wrong moment and is told “to sit down” - genius casting!

I could go on and on but the whole cast played their part in making this a ludicrous, comic & entertaining night out -  lovely to see a cast working together on stage with such ease, a thoroughly enjoyable night out.

Thank you for making my guest and I welcome.

Liz Hume-Dawson

Cash on Delivery

St Paul’s Astley Bridge

This is farce, nothing more and nothing less written by Michael Cooney who has managed to extract every ounce of confusion from the tale, in a comedy that slowly turns increasingly more ridiculous and bizarre but very funny.

The show centres around Eric Swan who has been defrauding the DSS for two years by claiming benefit for an army of fictitious lodgers, all of whom suffer from a variety of ailments for which they can claim, and who have extended families with similar ailments!  His wife Linda is oblivious to all this and as the play begins, Eric finds that it is all getting too complicated, but as he tries to extricate himself by killing off his make-believe tenants.

Eric's lodger Norman gets sucked into the deceit and then the DSS Inspector Mr Jenkins turns up to add to the confusion.  There's lies, then more lies, people getting knocked out, mistaken identities and cross dressing!  

Carl Bottomley as Eric gives a great performance with good timing and equally as good was Brendan Higgins as Norman who really comes into his own with wonderful comic timing and facial expressions.

Carmela Horne as Eric’s wife Linda gave a good performance especially when she found out what her husband had been up to.  Joining the fun were Keith Brian as Uncle George, while Howard Clare plays benefit inspector Mr Jenkins with just the right amount of seriousness amidst the chaos. 

Catherine Howard was wonderful as Doctor Chapman whilst Robert Peters was perfect for the supercilious undertaker Mr Forbright.  Jenny Peters was good as Ms Cowper, the DSS inspector’s boss who had all the answers in the end.  Eileen Powell was equally as good as Sally Chessington whilst Emma Powell gave good support as Brenda, Norman’s love interest.
Director Paul Cohen has created a great comedy here and with the chaos of our current climate, if this is your thing, and it did seem to be for most of the audience, then you will love each nuance, twist and turn.

Runs until Saturday

Jason Crompton



The Late Mrs Early

St Pauls (Astley Bridge) AODS

From the pen of Norman Robbins, The Late Mrs Early tells a story of the Early family in a 1980s    

The overbearing, matriarchic mother, Alice Early leaves us in no doubt who is in charge of the household -her. She browbeats her long suffering husband, Sam and is on the path to do the same to their only son Terry. When Terry announces that he is to become engaged to local girl, Susan Rickworth, he is told by Alice, in no uncertain terms, that that will not be happening. It transpires that Alice had a previous relationship with Susan’s father and because of how this ended there is no way that she will allow her son to marry his daughter. Sam is caught in the middle of all this unrest and takes solace in his pal Joe. We are then introduced to nosey neighbour, Mabel, who lends her electric kettle to Alice that turns put to be faulty is is responsible for Alice’s sudden demise.

 Suddenly Sam is a different man and is off out drinking with his pal Joe but one night Alice’s vengeful ghost appears as forceful and domineering as ever and tells him that she will haunt him until he puts an end to Terry plans to marry.

 The drama unfolds and Susan’s Parents are introduced to the action. Eventually Alice is persuaded to pass to the other side and let the ‘living’ get on with their lives.

 Catherine Henderson, in the role of Alice, plays her with forthright conviction and turns in a credible performance. Ben Kilburn as Terry executed the role very well with good stage presence and complimented Helena Carter’s portrayal of Susan which she performed with the right amount of naivety.

 Ian Duckworth as Sam Early gave an excellent performance, he executed some great one liners with excellent comic timing but then showed the right amount of pathos which displayed his versatility. Jenny Peters excelled once again as Mabel Sutton, she displayed great stage presence as did Tom Shorten in his portrayal Joe Gettings. Robert Peters and Carmella Horne in the roles of Susan’s parent’s Reuben and Lucy Rickworth completed the line up with excellent performances worthy of note.

 With a simple yet very effective living room setting this production, under the direction of Paul Cohen, was another huge success for St Pauls’ AODS.

 Graham Cohen

The Late Mrs Early August 2018

St Paul’s (Astley Bridge) AODS

Director                                   Paul Cohen

This society used a school hall or this production where half the hall was the stage and the other half was for seating. There was no stage as such but great use had been made of the playing area which was one set as the front room of the Early’s house with sofa, chair, dining table and chairs, sideboard and fireplace. The two entrances and exits were used well as the front door and kitchen door. No changes of set were required and good use was made of the props. The direction was very good with great use of the area, lighting, make up and props. The only difficulty with this piece was time setting as the costumes were pretty modern but the dialogue and attitudes were very 1950’s. Putting that aside though the play was very funny and the acting very natural and well conveyed.

Terry Early was very nicely played by Ben Kilburn as the son. His diction and delivery were clear and well projected and his angst being torn between his family and his fiancé was tangible. He played well opposite Helena Carter who played Susan Rickworth his fiancé. Helena delivered her lines very naturally and both Ben and Helena had really good chemistry together making me believe they were in a relationship

Mabel Sutton was my favourite character and Jenny Peters was absolutely fantastic in the role. Every street especially up North has a Mabel and Jenny’s dry delivery and timing was perfect in this role. She never missed a beat and played the part perfectly.

Ian Duckworth was fabulous as Sam Early the downtrodden husband who finds a new lease of life with his wife’s demise. Great characterisation and delivery particularly in the drunk scene as these are always difficult to look real but Ian did a great job.

Catherine Henderson was super as his wife Alice both in life and death. I was scared and angry with her all in one go for being such a nasty piece of work- always a good sign that an actor is fully immersed in the character when audience feel strongly about a character. Her projection was great and the make up as a ghost looked very effective. 

Joe Gettings was played brilliantly by Tim Shorten as Sam Early’s best friend and confident. Again a very northern character but pieced together extremely well by Tim. The scene with the serving of tea and the lemon was comedy at its best as the timing and delivery was perfect. 

Robert Peters and Carmella Horne completed the cast playing Susan’s parents. They both worked hard and delivered good performances as the slightly more affluent couple. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the whole show as it was well directed and delivered by a talented cast. Thank you for making  me very welcome on my visit.

Sharon Drummond NODA

Twelfth Man February 2018

St Paul’s Astley Bridge

Twelfth Man revolves around the Yorkshire cricket team in Tetford who are faced with the unexpected challenge of playing against an all-women’s team.  Their reactions are hardly encouraging and despite intrigue and trickery from the home team, the women win the day, calling for some rethinking on the men's behalf on the sanctity of cricket, although not before several major revelations rock the foundations of the cricket club.

Director Eileen Powell directs the gentle comedy set in a cricket pavilion with minimal set and props which all worked well.

Ben Kilburn plays Billy the gentle soul of the team.  Ben has great comedy timing with excellent facial expressions. Emma Powell was equally as good as Pauline his other half. Carl Bottomley was good as Len the captain of the men’s team and was rarely off the stage.  Jenny Peters gave another strong performance playing his put upon wife with ease but also had a dark secret of her own.  Tim Shorten gave another strong performance as dead pan Ray.  Paul Cohen showed his experience as Jack the undertaker and had many of the comedic one liners.

Ian Duckworth was rather suave as Doc and John Dudley was good as the accident prone Duncan as they both made up the other members of the men’s team.

Carmela Horne, Jean Maden and Catherine Henderson were all good as part of the visiting women’s team and brought trouble to the men’s proceedings.  

Linda Howarth was good too as Alice, the American who not only looked the part but brought a secret right out of left field!

A nice little comedy on a chilly evening.  

Jason Crompton


St Paul’s THE TWELTH MAN  22nd  February 2018

In the Year of the Woman how appropriate to do a play about a cricket team from Yorkshire who have to compete against ‘lasses’. 

The Test Match Special theme SOUL LIMBO by Booker T & The MG’s set the scene beautifully for a cricketing spectacle and put the audience in the mood straight away.

The women have the men on the back-foot having to select all their best defensive shots, in more ways than one. Eileen Powell brings out the humour in this play and the characters were well portrayed. The scene changes were done as efficiently as the grounds men with   their covers at Lord’s.

A few first night nerves and prompts were apparent but I am sure they will be ironed out as the week goes on. 

I did get a feel that their representation of a typical local ramshackle team was very true and you could imagine them being turned over by any competent ladies team let alone the senior England ladies team. 

Just as every poor team has to be badly led, Carl Bottomley as Len captured the self destructing and selfish captain you would expect to see, treading on his own stumps. Ben Kilburn as Billy and Emma Powell as Pauline opened the batting very strongly, it was a fault of the writer that they were not extended more in the play. Paul Cohen’s ‘middle order’ contribution saw some beautifully timed comic strokes as the ghoulish undertaker.

Finally, I’d like to commend the play selection of such an entertaining but lesser known play, seemingly invisible on Google when I tried to research it! A refreshing find & welcome alternative to yet another version of ‘Outside Edge’ – well played, St. Paul’s!

  Congratulations and thank you for inviting me.

          Liz Hume-Dawson - District 5

All in Good Time February 2017

Bolton playwright Bill Naughton’s classic comedy ‘All In Good Time’ was brought alive in great style by St Paul’s AODS.

The action takes place in the living room of the Fitton family with the wedding reception of their son, Arthur and his bride, Violet. It has all the hallmarks of the 1960’s Lancashire household where once married, most couples move in with their husband’s family until they can afford a place of their own. This brings problems for the newly married couple and after six weeks of marriage it is discovered that the marriage has not been consummated. The gossip mill starts rolling, parents meet to discuss the scandal and soon everyone knows of the couple’s marital problems.

Amelia Atherton in the role of Violet Fitton was perfectly cast. Amelia brought a naïve innocence to the role and delivered a very natural, confident performance. This was complimented very well by Ben Kilburn in the role of Arthur. He gave a believable and assured performance with just the right amount of emotion required to portray the character’s feelings.

Arthur’s parents Ezra and Lucy Fitton. were played by Carl Bottomley and Jenny Peters respectively. Bottomley portrayed the father role very well, showing just the right amount of authority whilst showing his soft side towards the end. Jenny’s performance was outstanding as she delivered some excellent one liners displaying superb comic timing that was a joy to watch.

The roles of Amelia’s parents Leslie and Liz Piper were in the more than capable hands of Ian Duckworth and Eileen Powell who both turned in splendid performances. Powell’s upper-class busy bodying was just right and Duckworth’s nagged husband expressions and responses were spot on.

Arthurs brother, Geoffrey who had a soft spot for Violet, was played by Gareth Mabon who’s confident and polished performance was excellent.

With supporting roles from Robert Peters, Carmella Horne, Brendan Higgins and Mitchell Higson, It was apparent that experienced director Paul Cohen had drilled his cast well as this polished, tight knitted performance was delivered to a very appreciative, full to capacity audience.

Well done on an excellent production.

Graham Cohen.


Out of Focus September 2016

St Paul (Astley Bridge) AOS

Chaos reigns as four groups come together to use the Church hall at the same time – an oversight of pantomime rehearsal organiser Evonne, the Vicars wife. This leaves the group with the dilemma of what to do and it’s decided that they will all join together and be in the pantomime – and that’s where the fun starts.

Linda Howarth as the Vicars wife shone as she dithered about trying without success to direct the panto and doing all she could to make people like her.

Badminton player Bob, played with strength and great comic timing by Tim Shorten is all set for his rendezvous with Linda, played with a sultry air by Emma Powell but as his wife Kath is not for going home he has some explaining to do. Jenny Peters was on top form as Kath.

Always wanting to take charge, Helen, the Brownie leader presented the right amount of authority as she desperately tried to organise proceedings – much to the annoyance of the other members of the group. Eileen Powell made this part her own as she dealt with being disliked by the group and having her advances spurned by David, the police officer, (Carl Bottomley)  who sets his sights on Sue (Carmela Horne) who both fall in love and announce their engagement. Both gave confident performances throughout.

Ian Duckworth never disappoints in comedy roles and his portrayal of Leonard, the loner who gives impromptu talks on any given subject – complete with slides was no exception. So convincing was his performance an audience member behind me was overheard to say “do you think he’s like that in real life”.

Completing the cast was Brendan Higgins as Wayne whose bravado with a gang of teenagers results in him being tied up – a good performance.

Director Robert Peters has created a laugh out loud comedy which has set the new season of amateur theatre off to a flying start.

Paul Cohen


BEN:-Funny Money February 2016

This Ray Cooney farce is one of my favourites and is one that isn’t performed very often on the amateur circuit.  Typically it follows the usual Cooney confusion when Henry Perkins accidently picks up the wrong briefcase one full of money. Henry assumes it is illicit cash and he decides to keep it. Knowing that the former owner must have his briefcase, he rushes home to book one way fares to Barcelona with his wife.  Then the confusion and mistaken identity starts with Henry’s neighbours, crooked detectives, a manic taxi driver and a suspicious passer-by.

Heading this cast as Henry Perkins is Carl Bottomley who has great comic timing.  Not an easy role to play but Carl pulled it off.   His confused and drunken wife, Jean is played brilliantly by Jenny Peters, slowly getting drunker on brandy as the situation continually spirals out of control.

Their neighbours Vic and Betty are played by Robert Peters and Carmela Horne. Both gave good comedic performances and were a perfect dizzy couple caught up in the confusion.

The other four characters included Howard Clare as the money grabbing crooked detective who blackmails Henry into paying him off all night long when he pretends to be his brother.

John Dudley plays the other detective Slater whose patience gradually wears out during the show.  Tim Shorten played Bill (or is it Ben!) the exasperated taxi driver with ease.  Finally Steve Brennan plays the “passer-by” with a very strange accent.

Director Paul Cohen and the team at St Paul’s should be proud of a great production that the audience and cast clearly enjoyed.

Jason Crompton


Ben: It Runs in the family September 2015

When picturing a doctors' common room you may imagine peace, intellectual conversation and an air of tranquillity. However, this is not the case at St Andrew's, the setting of Ray Cooney's medical farce which can be likened to a Carry On script.

St Pauls AOS attack this play head on with a wealth of experience and comedy talent aplenty.

Tim Shorten plays Dr Mortimore with an assured confidence that soon borders on the edge of hysteria as he prepares for an important speech. The arrival of his illegitimate son, Leslie, sends things awry and that's when the fun begins.

His colleague, Dr Bonney is soon roped in and here we have some great comedy moments safe in the hands of Ian Duckworth.

Daniel Parkinson plays punkish Leslie with confidence and is ably supported by Carmela Horne as his mother who has turned up to help him find his daddy.

Adding more confusion is Howard Clare as Bill. The many one liners were delivered in style by Clare who adapts to comedy roles well and created many laugh out loud moments.

The set was effective and given the size of stage available, stage manager Len Powell and his team should be congratulated on presenting a workable set that was well used.

With a talented supporting cast, director by Allen Chrisey-Casson has set off this season with a top class production.

By Paul Cohen

Anything Goes, St Paul’s (Astley Bridge) AODS February 2015

ABOARD a transatlantic liner bound for London, an unlikely assortment of passengers has gathered. These include a second-rate gangster disguised as a priest, an evangelist turned nightclub singer, an English aristocrat, his American fiancée and her formidable mother, and a young Wall Street broker who has stowed away in the hope of persuading the heroine to break off her engagement to the Earl and marry him instead. 

Cole Porter’s 1934 hit musical includes many a well-known tune, including I Get a Kick Out of You, You’re The Top, It’s De-Lovely and of course, Anything Goes. Even if you have never seen the musical, you almost certainly know the songs.

Paul Cohen has put together a very entertaining production, from set design, costumes, chorus and, of course, the cast.

Jack Corrigan gave a good performance as the would-be suitor Billy Crocker and Zara Horn, as his would–be-fiancée, is charming. 

Jamie Fletcher as Sir Evelyn was an absolute joy to watch, a performer who has brilliant comic timing. 

Star performers for me were Chris Hatchman, as Moonface Martin, and Katie Ball, as Bonnie, who both gave top-level comic performances. Katie in particular lit up the stage every time she appeared.

Hillary Brownson-Hardman was brilliant and gave a flawless performance as the foxy Reno Sweeney. Her rendition of “ I Get a Kick Out of You” was top-notch. 

Her angels, Jennifer Price, Natalie Toole, Georgia Brooks and Gina Lecky, brought all the glamour that was needed.

The chorus and supporting cast were all excellent and made the production pure escapist enjoyment.  My nine-year-old son thoroughly enjoyed it and that’s the mark of a good show – believe me.


St Paul’s (Astley Bridge) AODS September 2014

When We Are Married

JB Priestley’s comedy may have been written more than 75 years ago but the squabbles between man and wife remain the same time.Three couples who are old friends come together in When We Are Married on what is meant to be a happy occasion – their 25th wedding anniversaries.

But be it henpecked or stingy husbands, unappreciated or bored wives, the revelation that they are not actually married reveals amusing cracks in their relationships.

Set in the Victorian era and the trio are shocked and appalled at the news, what would the we areneighbours say?

All the cast members put in strong performances in what is an old-fashioned but fun-loving Northern comedy.

With their social standing at stake, Alderman Joseph Halliwell, played by Ian Duckworth, and Councillor Albert Parker, played by Carl Bottomley, are perturbed while nagged Herbert Soppitt, played by Tim Shorten, amusingly finds his voice.

The ladies in their lives, Maria Halliwell, played by Eileen Powell, Clara Soppitt, played by Jenny Peters and Annie Parker, played by Jean Maden, also have their own views on the news, particularly Annie, who turns into an unlikely flirt.

Katie Ball is particularly strong and amusing as outspoken teenage housekeeper, Ruby Birtle, and gets the biggest laughs of the night.

Robert Peters, as alcohol-soaked photographer Henry Ormonroyd, and Linda Howarth, as the wickedly destructive housekeeper Mrs Northrop, are also entertaining in their supporting roles.

Everyone looked the part thanks to the costumes, spot on for the middle classes in the early 1900s, and the set was also well-designed.

When We Are Married runs until Saturday.

February 2014 Guys and Dolls

THEATRE lovers will be able to banish the winter blues and enjoy a toe-tapping performance of popular musical Guys and Dolls.

St Paul’s (Astley Bridge) AOS will take to the stage at 7.30pm tonight at Walmsley Parish Hall, Blackburn Road, Egerton.

Set in 1950s New York, the musical follows a host of colourful characters in a humorous and touching story based around the bright lights and shady corners of Times Square.

Steve Brennan, chairman of St Paul’s, said: “This year we welcome back Paul Cohen as our director and choreographer.

“Paul is joined by musical director Susan Barber. They have worked very hard for us and I am sure they will produce an excellent and enjoyable show.”

The group has been without a permanent venue since the closure of the Theatre Church, Astley Bridge, in 2012 and is hoping people will support them at the new venue, made available thanks to Walmsley Church Parish Council and Walmsley AODS.

Guys and Dolls runs until Saturday, call 01204 847866 for tickets.

BEN: Rumours - September 2013

HAVE you heard the rumours?

A Bolton theatre group has launched its new season with a play which is sure to have audiences grinning from ear to ear. Rumours, by St Paul’s AOS (Astley Bridge), is a fast-paced comedy of errors which centres around an ill-fated dinner party attended by a bunch of political movers and shakers. First to arrive are Ken and wife Chris, who discover the host upstairs, with a gunshot to the earlobe, and his wife missing. When the next guests, Len and Claire, arrive, they are keen to conceal this information and the result is amusing calamity and tall tales. Two more couples, analyst Ernest and cook Cookie, then quarrelling Glenn and Cassie, arrive to the house throughout the first half. Finally, two policemen turn up and the evening’s real truths are finally revealed. The play, written by Neil Simon, sees the cast put in a strong and convincing performance of an amusing script. Amongst the chaos, Ken, played by Carl Bottomley, goes deaf and wife Chris, played by Carol Goodman, gets steadily fraught and drunk. Robert Peters is fantastic as Len, putting in a particularly entertaining performance in the second act, while complemented by Jenny Peters, who plays Claire. Ian Duckworth and Eileen Powell, who play clumsy Ernest and fabulously-dressed Cookie, bring another dimension to the party. And scowling Glenn and Cassie, played by David and Vicki Wilson complete the conspiring party-goers. During act two, Ian Hawyes puts in an amusing performance as PC Conklin, flanked by Phil Chapman, as PC Casey. An enjoyable start to the new season from St Paul’s AOS. Rumours, directed by Sharron Knott, is at Chorley Old Road Methodist Church Community Hall until Saturday.

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BEN: Murdered to Death September 2012

WHEN I realised Murdered to Death was a spoof murder mystery I admit I was a little dubious about whether it was for me.But within minutes of the spotlights lighting up the stage of St Paul's Astley Bridge A.O.D.S's interpretation I knew I was in for a good night. The comical play by Peter Gordon is set in a 1930s manor house and is a whodunit tale centring around a fatal shooting at a dinner party.There is laughs a plenty with the aptly named incompetent investigator, Inspector Pratt and Bunting, a bumbling butler downtrodden by years of commands. The casting was perfect, with each actor and actress having their merits.But a particular favourite of the audience was the character Inspector Pratt, played by Matthew Howard-Norman. He suited the role perfectly and his ability to keep a straight face when delivering his comical lines and actions was a skill in itself. If you can crack a smile at some deliberately terrible jokes, some lighthearted stereotyping and enjoy fun poking at traditional murder mysteries then this one is for you.No criticism could be found about the production.But at some parts it was difficult to hear what was being said due to the echoing in the building when latecomers came through the entrance. The entirety of the play was set in the living room of the home. The fast flowing play meant that any scenery changes would have been a distraction.I'm keeping my fingers crossed the group will perform a further play in the Inspector Pratt series as the audience left wanting more.

Noda: Lord Arthur Saville's Crime September 2011

The curtains opened to reveal a most charming set., the numerous costumes worn by the ladies were beautiful, the men were quite handsome too. Set in Victorian times, the play revolves around Lord Saville, who is due to be married and is told by a clairvoyant that he will commit a terrible crime: Murder. He endeavours to carry out the deed before his wedding; needless to say, this doesn't work out as planned. With help from his servant Baines, played superbly by David Griffiths, and Herr Winklekopt, well acted by Howard Clare, all the plans go wrong. Bryn Lunt played a wonderful Lord Arthur Saville – alternating between amusing and serious, to downright hysterical and manic. Well done. All the other characters in this play were really well cast and all gave good performances.

Jackie Kay

TBN: St Paul's AOS, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, has done it again.
My Fair Lady February 2011

IT seems appropriate, in the week that Valentine's Day falls, to produce this old favourite tale.
My Fair Lady - the 1964 film starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison will be familiar to most - is a musical about class, and a masterclass in the age old battle of the sexes. A chance meeting between two noted British linguists, Prof Henry Higgins and Col Hugh Pickering, leads to a bet that will test Higgins' skills. After they hear cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle in the street, Higgins proposes to transform the girl into a refined Victorian lady. With catchy, and more importantly, funny songs, such as Wouldn't It Be Loverly, the Rain in Spain and With a Little Bit of Luck, nicely executed, this timeless classic has not lost its magic under the watchful eyes and ears of director Eileen Powell and musical director Jennie Allcock. The main trio here are superb. Jen Carney (Eliza) gives a performance full of emotion, Tim Shorten (Higgins) is assured, and Colin Dean (Pickering) is absolutely charming. Mick Moran (Eliza's dad) is excellent, and shows off a move or two with the big song and dance, With a Little Bit of Luck, and for that, choreographer Trisha Shorten deserves a mention too. No one puts a foot wrong here. Matthew Howard-Norman is hilarious, as the simpering Freddy, who tries to woo Eliza, and although neither have many lines, Christine Catherall (housekeeper Mrs Pearce) and Pam Baxendale (Prof Higgins' mother) both give composed displays.
The cast are ably supported by a large chorus, and St Paul's AOS, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, has done it again.
Loverly stuff.

TBN: Kindly Keep It Covered - September 2010

St Paul's (Astley Bridge) Amateur Operatic Society -Kindly Keep It Covered

A MANNEQUIN, a stuffed camel, and a man driven to distraction by his need for food are not the usual ingredients of a good play - but they are in Kindly Keep It Covered. And they provided some of the many humourous moments in the farce. It tells the tale of couple running a health farm, bought with the insurance money from the death of the woman's first husband. All is not going to plan anyway but things get even worse when her former spouse returns from the dead and havoc reigns. Everything starts to unravel but will they get away with the fraud or not? You'll have to go and see it to find out. I thought the cast of just seven did very well, although there were a few first night jitters. I loved Stanley Porter as the food mad Mr Hooper - hilarious and Jenny Peters, as the interfering mother-in-law, Olivia, and Keith Thompson, as Sidney, the dead husband, deserve a mention for great performances. All round a very amusing play, plenty of chuckles and well worth going along to for a fun night out. 


A NODA review of Basin Full of The Briny

Basin Full review 

Anything Goes - February 2009 Bolton News Review

Anything Goes St Paul's Astley Bridge ADS Astley Bridge Theatre Church Seymour Road, Astley Bridge HAD the SS American truly set sail with St Paul's Astley Bridge ADS on board, it would have experienced occasional choppy waters. For the am-dram society's latest offering, although impressive for the most part, was not without the odd glitch on opening night. No doubt these minor issues will be ironed out for the remainder of its five-day run. This high-octane modern version of the 1930s Cole Porter classic is set aboard a luxury liner and centres around two love stories. A series of catchy numbers are performed well, although some lyrics are lost behind the thunderous music from the talented house band — while fantastic humour is injected into the performance by a number of key characters. Special mention must go to Matthew Gavin for his wonderfully plumish performance as love-torn Sir Evelyn Gavin. Meanwhile, Robert Peters, who plays the part of stowaway passenger and wanted criminal, Moonface Martin, wins the prize for best American accent — and comes a close comedic second. Hilary Brownson-Hardman's vocals excelled in her role as the sultry temptress, Reno Sweeny. This was a well executed production with far more positive elements than negative and well worth a look.

Bolton Evening News Review: Fiddler On The Roof - February 2007 

IT is quite a task to successfully tease out the sadness of this harsh story of love and life and still have the audience leaving with a collective smile on its face.
St Paul's (Astley Bridge) Amateur Operatic Society manages this with some ease on the opening night of its production of Joseph Stein's Fiddler On The Roof.
Attempting to live a traditional Jewish life in an early 20th century Russian outpost, dairyman Tevye, brilliantly played by Robert Peters, is searching for appropriate husbands for his three eldest daughters. However, as is normal in a musical, they would rather marry men that they love.
This family struggle takes place at a time when the Russians are displacing Jewish people, forcing many to leave their homes.
Eileen Powell is excellent as Tevye's wife Golde, while Rebecca McLean, Lucy Telleck and Alice Finlay are equally good as the daughters looking for love.
Special mention must also go to Gareth Cunliffe, who is hilarious as the gormless tailor Motel.
Musical director Jennie Allcock brings out the emotion from songs such as the infamous If I Were A Rich Man and the moving Little Bird and Anatevke, with lyrics skillfully interpreted by a cast who bring as much to the show in a musical sense as a dramatic one. Director and choreographer Louise Cohen copes admirably with what could have proved to be a complicated show.

Andrew Mosley

Bolton Evening News Review: 1 O'Clock From the House - September 2006

This Funeral is a Laughing Matter

They say that blood is thicker than water, but for sisters Miriam, Maureen and Margaret, the thickest thing is the plot as to which of them will inherit their father's money.
As tempers flare, Julie Nappin as Miriam, Jenny Peters as Margaret and Emma Powell as Maureen put in star turns, even going as far as to reduce the , as ever perfectly timed, Ian Duckworth (playing Miriam's husband) to a supporting role. The cast's comic timing is superb, and received spontaneous applause. And Miriam's Welsh cousin Tudor, played by Robert W Peters, and his wife Avril, played by Carol Gannon, along with friend of the family Mansell, played by Michael Rodgers, bring more than a touch of the League of Gentlemen to proceedings. If Miriam, Margaret and Maureen are reminiscent of a coven of weird sisters, things get even weirder with the arrival of Mavis (Eileen Powell), the fourth sister who until their father's death was tucked safely away in an institution. But is she necessarily everything she seems?
One O'Clock From The House is a quick-fire, laugh-out-loud comedy that will have the audience in stitches.

Kat Dibbits

Bolton Evening News Review: Carousel - February 2006

Fun on the fair

There cannot be a more moving song contained within a musical than Rogers and Hammertein's 'You'll Never Walk Alone'. Not many songs have the distinction of appealing to everyone from lovers of the classics to pop and football fans, but this, sung with much gusto by the entire cast of Carousel does just that. St Paul's pull off the story of bad-boy backwater carousel operator Billy Bigelow with aplumb. Ian Barlow judges the part of Bigelow excellently, throwing in some macho cockiness when required and adding a touch of sensitivity at just the right moments. Alison Taylor is excellent as his unlucky bride Julie with Alice Finlay as his daughter, Louise. There is plenty to sing along to here, including the aformentioned 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and the jaunty 'June Is Bustin' Out All Over'.

Andrew Mosley

What Noda said...

St Paul's (Astley Bridge) AOS

A sound overall performance of this much loved Rogers & Hammerstein classic. Perhaps a more gradual build up to the final hustle and bustle of the fairground would have provided a little more interest but, nonetheless, this was a colourful opening which established the characters. There were fine performances of Julie and Billy, played by Alison Taylor and Ian Barlow, who were well supported by Linda Howarth as Nettie Fowler and Eileen Powell as Mrs Mullins, although I thought Mrs Mullins' wig would probably been better suited in the Shakespeare play one doesn't mention! Ian managed the fine balance between the macho, stubborn and remorseful Billy very well whilst Alison was very good as the compassionate, dutiful Julie. Both sang extremely well, particularly Ian with the soliloquy. Jen Carney as Carrie Pipperidge sang well, was charming, got the comedy elements across and was the ideal foil for the pedantic, stoical Mr. Snow played by Steven Brennen. Mick Moran was more than acceptable as the surly, insidious Jigger Craigin. Len Powell made a serene Heavenly Friend and Robert Peters a dignified Starkeeper. Chorus work was of a good standard as was the ballet which was well executed with Alice Finlay as Louise. A pleasant evening's entertainment and a creditable effort by the society under the guidance of Director, Paul Cohen, Choreographer, Louise Cohen and Musical Director, Leslie M Iddon.

BEN: Out of Focus - September 2005

Play is a dreadful pantomime

It is not often that the term "the worst pantomime ever performed" would be taken as a compliment.
But for the actors of St Paul's AOS in Out of Focus, the triumph lies in portraying the shambolic, hilarious mess that is the play-within-a-play, 'Super Cinders'. An unfortunate overbooking of a church hall throws together a fabulous mix of characters - and they are all being terrorised by the brownie pack from hell. Ian Duckworth receives the biggest belly laughs of the night as the hapless Leonard Trotter, whose obsession with slide shows causes chaos. Carol Gannon plays Evonne Duckworth as a highly-strung, oppressed housewife of a dull-as-ditchwater vicar who gets the last laugh at the closign party. As the characters unite to try to perform a pantomime, the action becomes manic. Rarely have amateur actors been this good at physical comedy, with Duckworth and Gannon again excelling. Peter Gordon's play examines the minutia of local parish life, and finds that beneath the tea and scones there is backstabbing, deceit...and of course a love affair or two. And plenty of thigh slapping along the way.

Kat Dibbits

What Noda said...

Out of Focus
St Paul's (Astley Bridge) AOS
The annexe to a church hall provides the backing for this hilarious Peter Gordon play. The set, well dressed with the usual church hall clutter and badly drawn notices, looked quite authentic. however, I was puzzled as to why the skirting board extended across the kitchen doorway causing the cast to step delicately over it. The lighting, with no particular dead spots, did everything asked of it whilst the sound cues, generally well handled, did suffer occasionally from feedback problems. It would also have been advantageous to have the offstage sound of a boisterous brownie pack to set the piece at the opening. Director Cecilia Keefe should be congratulated for running a tight ship, keeping an upbeat tempo and developing the relationships between the characters. With a large cast masking can prove problematical and cast members should be encouraged to allow laughter to subside before continuing with the lib. Eileen Powell was excellent as the pugnacious, opinionated brownie pack leader, Miss Helen Beever as was Ian Duckworth as the rather tedious 'man with a slide show for all occasions' Leonard Trotter. The pairing of Jenny Peters and Peter Smith as the acrimonious Kath and Bob Enfield worked very well as did the cause of the acrimony, the rather striking office femme fatale Linda Hammond, well played by Emma Powell. Carol Gannon played the downtrodden vicars wife Evonne Duckworth. With all the attack of a dormant dormouse this was, as she was fond of saying, a 'super' characterisation. Jen Carney as Sue Dixon and Robert W Peters as David Wright played their parts well as their relationship developed whilst Howard Cohen made quite an impact as the Walter Mitty styled Wayne Bryant.

An excellent evenings entertainment with plenty of laughs along the way.

BEN: South Pacific - February 2005

Story to warm a chilly night

This is a story of love found, lost and found again in somewhat warmer climes than Astley Bridge on a freezing late February night. Despite the conditions outside, there's plenty in this version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic to warm the cockles. Songs such as Some Enchanted Evening, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair and Happy Talk are instantly recognised by one and all and each and every number is given an added kick by a lively orchestra and choir. Tim Shorten is, as always, excellent, this time in the role of Emile de Becque, while Jennifer M Carney is brilliant as the lovestruck, upbeat subject of his desire, Ensign Nellie Forbush. Scott Unsworth's voice and confident acting abilities are of a professional standard and his star quality shines through as Lt Joseph Cable. Elsewhere, Martin Taylor brings a likeable comedic touch to the character of Luther Billis. Set to a backdrop of the Second World War that will put paid to one budding relationship and allow another to flower, a trip to this South Pacific island is well recommended. South Pacific is at the Theatre Church in Astley Bridge until Saturday.

Andy Mosley

What Noda said...

South Pacific
St Paul's (Astley Bridge) AODS

A competent production by Paul Cohen of this evergreen Rogers & Hammerstein classic which was well supported by choreography from Louise Cohen and musical direction from Leslie Iddon who conjured a good sound from a small orchestra. Tim Shorten did well enough as Emile de Beque without looking totally at ease with this debonair character whilst Jennifer Carney had everything one could have wished for as the naïve, knuckle-head Nellie Forbush — an excellent performance. Scott Unsworth was ideal in the part of Lt. Cable. Vocally excellent and much better than others I have heard. However, uncharacteristically, the libretto was a little subdued. Liat was nicely portrayed by Nicola Jones whilst the all-American "Del Boy", Luther Billis, was played by Martin Taylor. He did well enough with the characterisation without totally carrying the authority the role can give. Captain Brackett was played by Howard Clare, Howard Cohen made a fine Cmdr. Harbison whilst Christine Catterall somewhat underplayed the role of Bloody Mary. The children Neneng Crossley (Ngana) and Kyle Crossley (Jerome) looked cute enough and the smaller parts were well played by Andrew Alderton (Stewpot), Stephen Brennan (Buzz Adams) and Mick Moran as the Professor.

The chorus worked well throughout what was a perfectly acceptable production.

What NODA said about Fish out of Water

Fish out of Water
St Paul's (Astley Bridge) AODS

An amusing story of Brits abroad and particularly Agatha Hepworths single minded determination that everyone will have their days suitable organised — whether they want to or not. Christine Catherall was very good as the aforementioned Agatha Hepworth dominating not only the other hotel residents but also the stage and the attention of the audience. Agatha's sister, her of the doleful countenance, was equally well played by Carol Gannon. Her body language was exactly right for this part giving everyone the impression that she would much prefer a wet weekend in Blackpool to a sunshine holiday on the Italian Riviera. Ian Duckworths characterisation of the much bewhiskered Brigadier Hubbard absolutely right as he tried to evade the invasive Agatha whilst Eileen Powell was equally successful as the rather snooty Mrs Hubbard. Emma Powell also made an excellent job of the shy, lovelorn clippie Dora Cowley who falls for Len Barrett played by Brendan Higgins.
The cast was completed by Ian Collinson as the abandoned and rather tedious Mr Mallett, Leonard T Powell as the harassed holiday rep Julian Whittle and Linda Howarth as the Italian maid Marisa.
Accents, where necessary, were generally well maintained and there was attention to detail with make up which is sometimes overlooked. Director Cecelia Keefe should be well pleased with the end result — a highly amusing and satisfying evenings entertainment.

BEN: When we Are Married - December 2003

Comedy with great marriage lines

J B Priestly's 1938 comedy shares some of the same preoccupations as An Inspector Calls a decade later - primarily how the self-satisfied bourgeoisie react when an outsider arrives to question their social foundations. In this case, Gerald Forbes (an excellent Stephen Brennan), turns up on the silver wedding anniversary of three such couples with the bombshell that the parson who married them was not authorised to perform weddings. Technically, these pillars of the establishment have been living in sin for a quarter of a century. This is fertile ground, liberally sown with comic seeds by Priestly and lovingly tended by director Michael Rodgers. As the 'husbands', Ken Thompson (Helliwell), David Johnson (Soppit) and particularly Cyril Norris (Parker) are fabulous, feeding the comedy as their priorities become clear. The 'wives' similarly excel, Christine Catherall and Jenny Peters drawing lovely portraits of lives inverted in a moment. Carol Gannon's quiet demolition of her husband's 25 years of disinterested stinginess was a joy to watch. Rob Peters as Omornroyd, the couples' unlikely saviour, is a lovely comic delivery, and Eileen Powell adds striking colour as she torpedoes Helliwell's attempt at damage limitation. With sterling support from Jen Carney and Cecilia Keefe as the domestics from hell, and Linda Howarth (Nancy), Ernie Bottomly (Dyson) and Phil Goodman (Rev. Mercer), this is a terrific comedy of manners that it would be rude to overlook.

Nigel McFarland

BEN: High Society - April 2003

High Society was Top Class

Cole Porter's famouis musical comedy High Society was taken to the stage with both visual and musical flair last night. The show follows the story of Tracy Lord (Jen Carney) on the day before she is due to marry George (Stephen Brennan). With all the wedding plans in place, Tracy's ex-husband arrives at the house - and events take a turn for the worse. Those on stage were excellent, from Carney and Brennan in the lead roles, to the chorus line of servants in the upper-crust Lord household. A special mention goes to Robert Peters' Uncle Willie, who sways through many of the scenes fuelled by gin but manages to keep the action and the laught going. The musical numbers, directed by Nicola Worrall, hit the right note. And even with a few difficult numbers, the cast made all 32 songs work, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire. There should also be a mention for the set design which evoked the 1940s convincingly. With each of the servants dressed for the period, the show looked as good as it sounded.

Alison Barton

BEN: My Fair Lady - February 2000

My Fair Lady

A few airs and graces can make all the difference in how you get on in the world - as Eliza Doolittle knows all too well. The typical Cockney flower girl with an 'apples and pears' accent to match decides she wants to better herself by perfecting the Queen's English. My Fair Lady is based on Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion. He belived that both written and spoken English were in need of reform. He hated regional accents as he thought they branded people uneducated. Lerner & Loewe got hold of the script after the film version in 1939. And they injected their own ideas to write a musical score that would capture the hearts of everyone. My Fair Lady was born. St. Paul's take you through the famous numbers including I Could Have Danced All Night, On The Street Where You Live and Get Me To The Church On Time as stuffy Colonel Pickering does his best to teach Eliza how to prnounce her vowels correctly. Susan Commelly puts in an excellent performance as the youthful Eliza, as does Michael Rogers in the role of Pickering. But the strength of the show lies in the chorus. When the entire cast gets on stage to back-up the musical numbers like the Ascot Gavotte, the talent of the group shines through backed by students from St. James' High School, Farnworth.

Louise Tansey

BEN: Brush With A Body - September 2000

Brush with a Body

'Brush With A Body' might not be a well-known drama, but the black comedy was an excellent choice for St Paul's AOS. This is the first time the well-established group in Astley Bridge has produced a play instead of a musical and Maurice McLoughlin's hilarious comedy must have been a joy to perform.
The drama revolves around a stuffy middle-class family in the 60s and the grusome discovery made by their Irish chimney sweep. The discovery in the chimney and consequent cover-up attemps to avoid involving the police makes for plenty of comic moments. McLoughlin's comedy verges on farce in many places and the inclusion of the French windows in a drawing room always creates a perfect excuse for lots of confusion and hilarity as charachters dash in and out while the other characters' back are turned. Stars of the show were undoubtedly Joe Marsden who played Mr Flaherty the chimney sweep and Carol Gannon as Mrs D'Arcy the housekeeper. Joe Marsden also deserves praise for producing the show. Carol Gannon was simply outstanding as the housekeeper with the biggest nose in the country who is desperate to use her late husband's life insurance on plastic surgery.
Both Jennifer Carney and Julie Nappin gave solid performances as the two Walling sisters.
Although just a fleeting performance, Lucy Entwistle was excellent as the crazed South American psychiatric patient on the loose. 'Brush With A Body' runs at the Theatre Church on Seymour Road until tomorrw and starts at 7.30 pm. Tickets from 847866.

Jane Bullock

BEN: The Pajama Game - February 1999

Always time for bit of love interest

In these days of economic uncertainty stresses and strains at the workplace are commonplace. And that sems to have been the case in the 1950s at the Sleep-Tite Pajama factory. But here the workers labour relations gripes, industrial disputes and dealings with crooked bosses are interspersed with song and dance routines. But between all the union meetings and time to study exercises, there is still time for the love interest to develop between grievance committee member 'Babe' Williams (Jennifer Carney) and company superintendent Syd Sorokin (Joe Marsden).
The two main characters' relationship is well portrayed by both cast members who displayed good stage presence and vocal ability. But, Babe's union involvement, and Syd's management position, soon puts a strain on things. Paul Cohen as womanising union boss Prez and Alice Bowmer as the secretary Galdys, also stood out in a large, hard working cast. Good costumes and scenery evoke a vibrant colourful 1950s atmosphere, and the accompaniment from musicians Helen and Michael Walker under the direction of Peter Barnett was excellent. It is an ambitios production with bags of effort from all the cast. But it is an unusual choice of musical to stage, and few songs stuck in the memory once the final curtain had closed. And is often the case, a microphone would have helped to amplify even the more stronger singing voices at certain times in this production.

Dave Roberts

BEN: Calamity Jane - February 1998

Worthy Western

This colourful production, which has everyone quietly singing along to old favourites, has been particularly well cast. Charismatic Louise Williams is accomplished in the lead role of Calamity Jane.
She plays a tomboy who thinks she is in love with Lt Danny Gilmartin, well played by Stephen Brennan. But she makes friends with singer Katie, alias the capable Louise Cohen, who shows her how to be more feminine. While Calamity's trying to win over Danny, she falls for Wild Bill Hickock, played by the ample voiced Joe Marsden. As is usually the case in these romantic western musicals, confusion reigns and there is much comedy, but everyone gets the girl in the end.
The show was not without a few first night hitches with set and lighting. Having said that, there was never a dull moment and the show had a refreshingly fast pace. Musical high points were the harmonies in The Black Hills of Dakota and the powerful Secret Love performed by Louise Williams.
Paul Cohen was superb as a dance hall floosy, Derek Manuell shone as Henry Miller, proprietor of the Golden Garter, and the chorus and dancers threw themselves into their performances magnificently and the orchestra never missed a note. Y'all could do a whole lot worse than to mosey on down to the Theatre Church to catch a piece of this highly entertaining show.

Nick Jackson

BEN: The Sound of Music - February 1995

The stage is alive at Astley Bridge

This delightful production staged by St Paul's (Astley Bridge) AOS is a credit to all concerned.
But Michael Rodgers must take the lion's share of praise for the way he has brought out the best in a talented cast and achieved a polished and smooth-running show. He is fortunate in having a leading lady of the calibre of Julie Johnson who combines acting talent with a beautiful singing voice. Her scenes with the children - a charming group of scene stealers - were a joy. Dignified
Chris Higson was a suitably dignified as Captain Von Trapp and he gave a moving delivery of Edelweiss. Christine Catherall deservedly received rapturous applaus for her solo Climb Every Mountain and Sharon Knott was effective in her role as Sister Berthe. Also worthy of mention are Jennifer Carney (Liesl) and Gareth Bolton (Rolf) who made a touching pair of young lovers.
The ladies of the Nuns Chorus were well rehearsed and particularly stirring in their singing of the Nuns' Processional. Clearly much thought has gone into wardrobe. The wedding scene, in particular, was beautifully costumed. Musical directoe Joe Marsden ensured the accompaniment was excellent and not intrusive. Altogether a show that's well worth seeing.

Doreen Crowther

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