Happy Days

For several years, the Rex Players made it clear that reviews of their shows were not welcome, but this year they have relented, which is good news for two reasons. First, because if you are going to ask people to pay to watch you perform, then you should actually welcome reasonable feedback. Second, because it gave me the chance to spend a thoroughly enjoyable evening at this year’s show.

The revue at the town’s Rex Cinema is a feature of Wareham’s year, and the format is exactly fit for purpose. There are probably not the numbers, the facilities or the talent to put on a full-blown show, but a revue is the perfect way for individual talents to shine and for ensemble performances to show at their best in bite-size pieces.

As in every revue, from Ziegfield’s Follies through Share My Lettuce to Monty Python, some of the Rex Players’ sketches don’t quite come off, but they are greatly outnumbered by the successes. Among the ones which made me laugh the most was ‘The Jackson Five’: some impressive moonwalking, except that the participants were the wrong colour, the wrong gender and half a century older than the originals. The appeal lay in the way they took it deadly seriously but were so obviously enjoying themselves. Following the same principle, an updating of ‘Summer nights’ from Grease for wrinklies is a highlight. (Although the names of all the participants are listed, it is not always possible to identify who was doing what, and so to give credit by name where it is due.)

Then there is some good acting in the edgy Not the Nine o’Clock News sketch, ‘Honourable state of divorce’, and a truly remarkable example of the mime artist’s skill in ‘Rapunzel’. John Barclay is outstanding in his own compositions, ‘Iron ball’ and the cleverly comic-erotic ‘Mrs Vaughan and the gardener’. On the opening night there was an object lesson in how to bring the audience along with you, even when things go wrong, in ‘I am my own grandpa’.

The singing is of a high standard, and perhaps the most memorable moment of the whole evening is the duet, ‘Flying free’, by Pearl Nash and Sue Minshall. The purity of the voices and the feeling behind the words put it up there with anything I have heard on any stage for a while.

The set on the Rex’s tiny stage could hardly be simpler, but that helps with the pace and the slick transition between items that is so essential to revue. Pearl Nash directs the show and is a genial commère when one is needed. Much credit goes to her and musical director Eve Baker for the huge amount of work they must have put in and for the results they have achieved. A shout-out, too, for the children of Wareham-based Top Notes Youth Theatre, who contribute three excellent numbers: they have at least one singer and one dancer of real potential.

If I have a criticism, it is that the programme is uneven, with the first half (including a great closing medley from Oliver!) much stronger than the second. One doesn’t leave exactly with a feeling of disappointment, but perhaps without as strong a sense of buoyed-up admiration as one had the interval. Taken across the whole evening, though, this is a show that can be highly recommended. It runs until 3 March at 7.30 each evening.