PhoeniX’s Idol Talent Factor

The slightly incomprehensible title gives you the clue: this is presented as a take-off of every talent show you’ve ever seen on TV, but is really a variety concert. ‘Variety’ is the operative word: in the types of act, the ages of the performers and, inevitably, the quality of their contributions.

Thus the types of act cover from dancing dogs (actually more like running-around-and-pinching-treats-from-their-owner dogs) to a conjuror, from the reading of a Pam Ayres poem to an Irish dance troupe. The majority are musical, but here again there is great variety, from George Michael’s ‘Faith’ to Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’.

Almost the best aspect of the evening is the wide range of ages on the stage. The aforementioned conjuror is only seven years old, there is a nine-year-old budding stand-up comedian and a lot of teenagers, including a pair of delightful twins. The compere is helped by a young lad of, at a guess, five or six, who is already a stage natural. At the other end of the scale, a couple who have been married for 64 years give a touching rendering of ‘Night and day’ and the wife re-appears to perform ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ excellently. Another of the soloists gets the approval of the judges ‘to give the oldies a chance’, but he earns that chance on merit with a performance of ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’ that stands comparison with almost any singing you’ll hear on the local amateur stage.

As to variations in quality, let’s draw a veil over the few acts where the enthusiasm exceeds the talent and instead celebrate some truly excellent offerings. The Puccini and the Irish dance troupe have already been mentioned, and up there with them is the boy treble who accompanies himself on guitar in ‘We found love right where we are’ – a really difficult song for anyone, but especially a youngster. One teenage girl belts out ‘Whatever happened to my part’ from Spamalot, another brings a lovely, true voice to Adele’s ‘When we were young’. Among the non-musical acts, a monologue by an Irish nun on the subject of suitable knickers stays in the mind.

The compere is full of energy and joie de vivre which communicates itself to the audience. He does a first-class job. And a special word for the judges, who at the start of the evening are shown on screen arriving at Ferndown Village Hall – not quite the grand venue they had been expecting. But they capture the verbal mannerisms of Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Bruno Tonioli with uncanny accuracy and add greatly to the enjoyment of the evening.

You will notice that no names have been given, partly because it would be invidious and partly because no programme is provided; I’m guessing that this is because some performers appear under their real names while others are clearly playing a part. Among the latter are quite a few familiar faces from Ferndown Phoenix and surrounding societies. In fact, the whole evening has the feeling of a family affair and there is a lot of audience participation and support for local favourites, but it can be enjoyed equally by an unbiased outsider.

Because of the chosen format, much of what goes on between the acts must be improvised. Certainly there is some skilful ad libbing, but I suspect that it is done within a carefully crafted structure: all credit to the compere, the judges and directors Lee Neal and Duncan Trew for making it seem so spontaneous and relaxed.

Future performances: 4 March at 2.30 and 7.30.