A "Bloody" Good Show
An Apple A Day by John Hewer
The Riverhead Theatre Louth
Friday 13th August
Pulham Down is in crisis. Their conniving GP is feathering his own nest. Its saviour may just be their new junior doctor, John Hewer's raucous musical comedy was performed for one night only at Louth's Riverhead Theatre.
Every year the Riverhead Theatre plays host to a summer workshop programme allowing young performers to dedicate two weeks of their summer to learning a show from start to finish and staging the final result to their audience of family and friends. Traditionally, this has been a highlight of the summer with a huge cast learning to sing, dance and act and wowing crowds every time. This year is only a slight exception. Having intended to stage Sweet Charity, the dreaded COVID culled the potential number of participants, and at very short notice due to uncertainty about the pandemic, a lack of participants meant that plans had to be changed at the last minute.
Director John Hewer, along with Musical Director Christopher Peters and choreographer Chloe Goldby decided to stage a small scale jukebox musical written by Hewer himself/ With a mixture of original songs, pop hits and songs from musical theatre, the small cast managed to weave a story of treachery and intrigue, peppered with some of the corniest gags you could ever hope to hear on a stage - a signature of John Hewer's comedic taste.
Zac Lewis presented us with a roguish Dr Lethanial Ostrich and his assured stage presence and confident vocal ability were accompanied by some slick dance moves, proving what a strong, all-round performer he is. His comic timing and double takes helped to keep the pace of the piece flowing as he became increasingly manic as the play thundered forward.
His erstwhile nemesis is Dr Scott Free, a freshly qualified junior whose idealism and wide-eyed optimism gave the audience a hero to root for. Joel Howard, fresh from Black Saturday at the Riverhead Theatre, was funny, charming and a sweaty nervous mess just as required by the part.
He also provided a focus for the lovestruck attention of Holly Golightly, a hypochondriac desperate to be noticed and appreciated, played by newcomer Tzara Pudsey. Tzara sang and danced with ease and delivered Hewer's comic lines effortlessly. As with most of the cast, doubling of roles was necessary and as well as playing Miss Golightly she also played local yokel, Dan alongside regular Rebekah Hardy as his partner Fred.
Rebekah also played both Geraldine the Mayoress and Mrs Knickerbockerglory, the village gossip with some very swift costume changes and the need to differentiate each character just as swiftly. She makes it look easy as she slips from on persona to another in the blink of an eye. One minute an ambitious, self-appointed mayoress and the next an ancient old gossip!
Also impressive given the array of characters portrayed was Freya Young. Freya proved to be an excellent singer and dancer and found a variety of comedy characters to present to the audience, from the villainous Jack Tibett - Minister for Health to PC Frederica World, the obligingly dim police presence in Pulham Down. She also played Mr Deeper, the village undertaker.
Stalwart of the summer project
Erin Ramsay, gave us a shameless femme fatale in Kate Plunger, Dr Ostrich's personal secretary whose vampish ways were put to good use in a plot to discredit the young Dr Free. Erin also designed the lighting on the project showing the true versatility required on a project such as this. Erin is a renowned talent backstage as well as on stage, and is highly valued bringing her vital skills to this production.
And finally, making up the numbers was John Hewer himself. Performing two highly contrasting roles of Father O'Four the village priest, replete with Irish accent and as the blood thirsty butcher Stanley Hackem, parading all over the stage, chewing scenery and flashing his enormous chopper (You had to be there!). Although a reluctant performer, the shy and retiring Mr Hewer made every effort to deliver his songs and the role itself with great relish.
Is An Apple a Day great theatre? Of course not! Is it a riotous night of frivolous silliness and reckless insanity? Absolutely!!! The effort to stage a small-scale musical can be just as demanding in a short period of time and every effort has been made to ensure that the audience will leave with smiles on their faces, having groaned their way through some terrible puns and one-liners and tapping their feet or clapping along to some great tunes. Hats off to the Louth Playgoers once again.