Tucked upstairs in The Spire in Poole is the Rose Hall. Part church, part theatre, this high-street venue is well equipped with lights, speakers and – for the weekend – high ceilings filled with music and laughter crafted by the Poole & Parkstone Players & Singers. Their variety show, aptly named Summer Cocktail, delightfully showcases the wealth of talent in this group.
The hall is split in two; on the right, the Players open the show with a bang with ‘A Tale of Two Lovers’. I’m sure many amdram directors could relate to this hilarious adaptation from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where adept straight-man Quince (Sean Beaumount) attempts to shepherd a hapless flock of rough yokels through a passable production of Pyramus and Thisbe. It takes good actors to play bad actors, and the Players have the whole audience in on the joke. The inane roles of ‘Wall’, ‘Moon’ and ‘Lion’ inside this play within a play are works of absurd genius in the hands of Mark Ellen, Jackson Kingham and Viv Coleman. Chris Burdon acts as compére throughout the show and a suspiciously hairy Thisbe in this number, performing with natural charisma and comedic timing. Graham Hawkins plays a deliciously self-indulgent Bottom/Pyramus who, after a rolling monologue and thrice impaling himself on his sword, helpfully declares “Now! I am dead!”. Plenty of laughs are to be had in this energising opener.
The two subsequent scenes are similarly short and snappy, though the 2nd act opening A Touch of Danger demonstrates the challenge of quickly establishing context within an isolated snippet of a complex thriller. Nicola King (as Harriet) and Simon Dade (as Max) instead competently focus on showing the intimate familial drama taking place between the separated couple. The following scene from 10 Abbey Court feels more self-contained and better suited to the cocktail format, showing a witty interaction between an estate agent and buyer – with a devious twist. Barbara Bone is believable and entertaining as the arch Abigail, unimpressed by the claim that “green is the new white for cookers”. Tonight, Crispin Goodall was a last-minute stand-in for a sadly ill Player, though due to his confident and emotive delivery, the change would go unnoticed were it not for his script in hand.
A 180 degree turn to the left of the hall reveals the P&P Singers, who punctuate the straight play scenes with a variety of musical numbers ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan to Elton John. Jane McDouall, the musical director, is charming in her dialogue with the audience and clearly runs a tight ship. The Singers are energised and evidently skilled in their 20-strong choir, though the richness of the layered harmonies would have you convinced they were 40 in number. Highlights include a beautiful acapella performance of ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ by The Beatles, with a sweetly sung solo by Ian Metcalfe. McDouall keeps a lime on her music stand throughout. It is, in fact, a sly maraca to accompany ‘Tequila Samba’, another vibrant number and a guaranteed ear worm. McDouall is running a ‘choir in a day’ workshop in October and, having heard what the Singers can do, I’m highly tempted to sign up.
I encourage all to attend this wonderful show and to buy a raffle ticket, the proceeds for which go towards a charity supporting those with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. This talented group have evident camaraderie and are looking to develop their Poole audience, having previously performed in Broadstone. The show runs again on 25 June at 2:30pm and 7:30pm.