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Ayckbourn comedy explores English provincial life

The cast of A Chorus of Disapproval. Picture by Andy Abbott ANL-150520-150432001
The cast of A Chorus of Disapproval. Picture by Andy Abbott ANL-150520-150432001

One of Alan Ayckbourn’s funniest comedies will be on stage in Bury St Edmunds next month, when the Irving Stage Company presents A Chorus of Disapproval.

It is a case of art imitating life for the amateur company, as it returns to the Theatre Royal with the play about a ramshackle production of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera being performed by a troupe of amateur thespians.

When widower Guy joins PALOS (Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society) to meet new people he is cast in a minor role by the director and professional Welshman Dafydd.

As the story unfolds, Ayckbourn weaves the plot of The Beggar’s Opera into the lives of the PALOS cast, with the action behind the scenes reflecting the play they are rehearsing.

As cast members fall by the wayside, Guy is given bigger and meatier roles, ending up playing the lead role of the dashing highwayman Macheath.

Like Macheath, Guy not only becomes the hapless victim of local politics, but is also torn between the two women he is romancing.

Exploring the intricacies of English provincial life, the play has a rich cast of characters including a stage manager who is useful with her fists, an irascible Yorkshireman proud of having eaten sawdust as a youth, and a married couple with an exotic taste in swapping partners with strangers.

The play includes songs and dances from The Beggar‘s Opera, which the members of PALOS tackle with enthusiasm but little talent.

A Chorus of Disapproval is directed by Simon Spence QC, making his directorial debut the company.

Simon said: “This is an Ayckbourn masterpiece and is justly one of his most popular comedies.

The hilarious, clever script provides our talented company with a fabulously entertaining show we hope audiences will love.”

Teacher Nick Bennett, who lives in Rattlesden, plays the lead role of Guy.

Nick played Peter in the Irving’s recent production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which has just won a NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) East award for Best Musical.

Flamboyant director Dafydd is played by Bury-based Nick Metcalfe; his wife Hannah by Sian Couture and suburban swinger Fay by Nicola Stapleton.

A Chorus of Disapproval is at the Theatre Royal from June 18-20.

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