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Shake Another Summer Cocktail

As Poole and Parkstone Productions continue celebrating their Centenary year, the company return for their annual Summer Cocktail performance. Featuring a tantalising concoction of drama and comedy from the players alongside a splash of choral harmonising from the singers, this recipe has already proven successful and the 2019 cocktail supports the standard and community feel audiences have come to expect.

As a venue, the Broadstone War Memorial Hall is quaint, decked out in cabaret-fashion with seats dished out on a first-come first-serve basis, so ensure early arrival if you want a good seat! With nibbles, cheap drinks, Pimms, ice-cream and a raffle on offer, served by a friendly crew alongside members of the choral society, a homely ambiance is created – feeling less like formal theatre and more like a family gathering!

Each half consisted of four deliberately selected scenes from plays, some well-known and some less-so before the choir treated us to well-rehearsed renditions of an eclectic selection of songs. The players were overseen by the compère Chris Burdon, who had the audience onside almost immediately with his warm personality. To ensure audiences were able to follow the scenes when removed from their context, Chris gave us a plot and character overview before launching us into the action, which on the whole worked well for the comedies (though less so for the extracts from straight drama and thrillers).

Three scenes stood out as audience favourites, each deserving of their reception. From The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Lady Bracknell (Jean Dishington) attempts to ascertain Jack Worthing’s (David Beddard) suitability as a match for her daughter. The dynamics in status, background and values here are suitably believable and the actors play well against each other to generate a cacophony of laughter. A similar response was elicited by the outtake from Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn, performed by Nick Clarke and Barbara Bone, where I expect the cheeky relationship dynamics and quips struck a chord with various married couples in the audience!

Meanwhile, in act two, I was originally unfamiliar with Visiting Mr Thomas by Ros Moruzzi but the superb facial expressions from Mr Thomas (Simon Dade) alongside the hilarious misdeeds of Gwen (Anne Paget) and Doris (Jean Dishington) ensured I left wanting to see the whole play. Other small gems included Barbara Bone’s painfully accurate act two monologue and the tense confrontation between Jack Manningham (Chris Stowe) and Detective Rough (Bob Rankin) in Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton, alongside extracts from Pride and Prejudice, Hay Fever and George and Margaret. Occasionally there were moments I felt actors needed to wait for audience guffaws to subside before pressing on with their next line. Generally, however, volume and pace were minor issues.

The choir, under the conduction of Jane McDouall and Paul Simkin, were ready to pick up where the players left off. This hall offers wonderful acoustics for singing and the Poole and Parkstone singers took full advantage, confidently showcasing their warm, velvety harmonies – mostly in three and occasionally in four parts, (achieved only through each individual’s attentiveness to and respect for the conductors), with the powerful soprano line often taking the tune supported by the more subtle tones of the altos, tenors and basses.

Although I felt nerves may have interfered in act one, by act two the choir came into their own with most members animated and generally looking like they wanted to be there! Sometimes diction was an issue, for example in Toto’s ‘Africa’, though this is not to the detriment of an exceptionally well-rehearsed cohort; a credit to Poole and Parkstone Productions. My personal favourite songs were The Carpenters’ ‘Close to You’ and ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’.

Overall, this was a pleasant way to spend a Friday evening, with director Pat Donovan’s well-prepared cocktail leaving me emotionally and pleasantly stirred rather than shaken. Last performances today, 6 July, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets £8.