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Previewed 17 September 2012, Opened 27 September 2012, Closed 5 January 2013 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
A major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy play A Chorus of Disapproval in London starring Rob Brydon, Nigel Harman and Ashley Jensen and directed by Trevor Nunn.
The Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society's production of The Beggar's Opera is going off the rails, that is until a handsome but shy young widower Guy joins the group. An instant hit with the company's ferociously zealous director Dafydd and the show's leading ladies, including Dafydd's wife Hannah, Guy soon gets more than he bargained for as he discovers that all the best action happens off-stage. Classic songs fill the air as the drama on stage is mirrored by the romantic rivalry and small town squabbles causing a stir in the wings of this ambitious local show.
The cast for this production of A Chorus of Disapproval in London stars Rob Brydon as 'Dafydd', Nigel Harman as 'Guy' and Ashley Jensen as 'Hannah along with Teresa Banham, Daisy Beaumont, Georgia Brown, Rob Compton, Matthew Cottle and Steven Edis. The production is directed by Trevor Nunn with designs by Rob Jones, lighting by Tim Mitchell, sound by Fergus O'Hare and musical direction by Steven Edis. Alan Ayckbourn's West End theatre credits include The Norman Conquests, Relatively Speaking, Communicating Doors, Bedroom Farce, Woman in Mind, How The Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular and Absent Friends.
"This blissful evening begins with a flash-forward finale: bad wigs, a dodgy dance routine and wobbly scenery giving way to applause, hugs and a darkening stage. The rest is an explanation of why the leading man can't join the cast at the pub. Like the Mafia, the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society does not forgive. Early on, one of the less-gifted cast wobbles through the 18th-century line from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera: 'Be the author who he will, we push his play as far as it will go.' Trevor Nunn does just that in this beguiling revival of a 1984 comedy by Alan Ayckbourn. Rarely performed professionally, this is one of Ayckbourn's finest... There are plenty of stage in-jokes, but there's exuberant incidental comedy too... Ayckbourn knows just how long to milk a running joke and when to drop it, and has sexual misunderstanding down to a painfully fine art. The lighting-plot scene combines sadness and hilarity fit to choke you both ways." The Times
"Trevor Nunn's revival... benefits hugely from a rather standout performance by Rob Brydon in his West End debut. No, it's not much of a stretch for the likeable Welsh comedian - he plays Dafydd ap Llewellyn, a Welsher-than-Welsh director of a small-town amateur dramatics society - but he pulls it off with brio, panache and perfect comic timing, while rapturously relishing any occasion that calls for him to break into song... Ayckbourn certainly nods towards the quiet personal tragedies of his cross-section of society who include put-upon housewife Hannah and leopard print-wearing suburban swinger Fay. But the play doesn't seek to say much about class or society and it can't help but feel rather slight. For me the best comic moments occur when Brydon is on stage and without him much of the humour often feels dated, of the old-fashioned sitcom variety. The overall feel is of an Eighties period piece." The Daily Express
"Sir Trevor Nunn and Alan Ayckbourn manage to bring out the very worst in one another in the first West End revival of A Chorus Of Disapproval... There's very little contrast between the am-dram parts and the 'real' characters, all of whom are dull stereotypes. Even Ayckbourn's skilful interweaving of 'real' life and fiction feels laboured and obvious, and a full-blooded comic climax fails to materialise... Only Rob Brydon shines as Dafydd: a loudly theatrical, cheerily crass, and yet obviously depressed Ayckbourn bully. Once a professional actor, 'mainly in Minehead', he appears to find time spent playing let's pretend in the theatre much more manageable than confronting the painful realities of his dull job as a solicitor and his sexless marriage to Hannah. The scene in which he sings Guy's audition piece in gloriously soulful Welsh - providing the descant as well as the main part - is a rare moment of comic bliss." The Mail on Sunday
Alan Ayckbourn's A Chorus of Disapproval had it's London Premiere at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre in August 1985 were the cast featured Bob Peck, Michael Gambon and Imelda Staunton, this production then transferred to the Lyric Theatre in the West End in June 1986 were it run for nine months.
"A Chorus of Disapproval had a curious start," explains playwright Alan Ayckbourn. "I wanted to write a play about an operatic society. My first idea was to pen something for a large cast, using professional principals and a supporting cast of dozens of amateur singers. The latter would be seated in the auditorium, to all appearance like members of the audience, but they would from time to time during the action stand up and sing some linking comment or other like an operatic Greek chorus. I planned to base the play around a presumed production of The Vagabond King... Several things conspired to thwart the original idea. The Rudolph Friml Estate, fearing for their play, refused to release the rights. For which I don't blame them one bit. Simultaneously, those members of the local Scarborough Operatic Society whom I had approached seemed reluctant to accept anything but leading roles, for which I didn't blame them either; and finally Equity declared the whole idea of including amateurs in this way unacceptable. Which forced me into swift solutions, all of them, it transpired, blessings in disguise. First I decided to work with an entirely professional company and thus with a much smaller cast; sensible and far more economic. Secondly, to avoid further copyright problems, I found an author who had been dead so long that he and his relatives no longer cared. Which lead me to a musical play I greatly admired and had always wanted to produced, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Which in turn provided the missing piece to the whole venture. Gay's play had a plot which echoed almost perfectly the one I intended to write and provided the perfect mirror image on which to build my own dramatic structure."
A Chorus of Disapproval in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 17 September 2012, opened on 27 September 2012 and closed on 5 January 2013