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Game Show. Caxton Theatre, Grimsby. 02 March 2024.

Updated: Mar 10





Audiences heading to the Caxton Theatre are assured of a very different experience this week when they go to see Gemma Dodds' production of Jeffrey Finn and Bob Walton's Game Show. This is not a show where the audience is encouraged to sit passively observing what is going on, on-stage. This is a show where the audience is encouraged to clap, cheer, wave and even appear on stage in the show themselves. So, if you go to the theatre this week and fancy joining in, don't be shy - just come on down! Game Show does exactly what it says in its title. It offers a live game show as part of the comedy being performed by the Caxton Players. The play itself, is the tale of backstage shenanigans and machination with lots of unexpected twists and turn that I have promised not to reveal until after the final performance next Saturday, so do pop back for Review 2.0 of the Caxton Players' Game Show next week.



Game Show within the world of the play, is a TV competition fronted by popular show host, Troy Richards and produced by award-winning producer, Ellen Ryan. They are ably assisted by warm-up man who keeps the audience engaged during filming, Jenny Wilderman, the devoted PA and two rather inept camera operators Joe and Jerry and floor manager CLiff runs operations from the tech desk. We also hear offstage voices of Penny, the overly-emotional secretary, Tyler Scott a channel executive and producer/bigwig Isaac Spellman. These character s manage to create a credible show world through scenes that intersperse the actual quiz show sections of the play. A nice, simple yest functional set splits the stage between an office and a TV studio and for any audience members brave enough to venture on stage there are sets of rules scattered among the seats to explain what they are letting themselves in for, should they volunteer. And there are actual prizes for those who join in the fun. Everyone else is expected to whoop and holler like the audience of The Price Is Right and other such shows. Nobody is cajoled into participating and its all a bit of fun, the idea is not to mock the contestants - have no fear!



Leading the show is Jack Scott, as Troy Richards. Richards is a smarmy host who knows how valuable he is and that without him, the show might suffer and so plays this fact to his advantage as we learn he is in contractual negotiations having announced he is to step down at the end of the current season. Scott is wonderful as Troy, he has charisma and charm, as well as the right degree of sleaze necessary. His quick wit and ability to improvise comes in very handy, as no two audiences for the show will ever be the same and it makes tremendous demands on him as a performer. A lesser performer could crumble when receiving heckles or shouting out from over-enthusiastic quizzers in the audience who seem to forget that they are not at home shouting at the TV, but Jack Scott gives a towering performance of brash bravado and showbiz pomposity in Game Show. You will not want to miss it.



Another well-established performer is Louise Blakey as the monstrous Ellen Ryan. Blakey is another comic performer who is never afraid to go big in a role that calls for OTT behaviour and raises many guffaws and belly laughs from the audience as she attempts to manipulate the show and the network to her own ends. She has created a memorable man-eating beast whose voracious appetites are quelled by seducing men and manipulating them to her own ends. I am really delighted to see Louise Blakey getting the recognition she deserves as her career with the Caxton continues apace. Hopefully, we will soon see her demonstrate her dramatic side, so beautifully presented in the recent production of Macbeth at the Caxton Theatre, too.



Our first contact with the show and the cast comes in the form of warm-up man Steve Fox, played with great confidence by James Lusty returning to the Caxton stage after his winning debut in The Railway Children. Long gone is the innocence and naivety of his previous performance, instead we meet a swaggering, aspiring young comedian keen to make it big in the business called show. Lusty also has to demonstrate quick wit and improvisational skills as it is his role to bring the audience into the show and encourage them to forget that they are watching a play by providing on-going humour and enthusiasm during the breaks in filming and to bring audience members out on to the stage, reassuring them that all is well and that they are just quizzing as part of this show. Even allowing for trepidation and opening night nerves, Lusty was excellent and will grow in confidence now that he has worked his first audience. I was really impressed by his performance.



The fourth principal performer is the mousey, but devoted and competent PA Jenny Wilderman portrayed brilliantly by Lily Catley. She brings a wonderful vulnerability to the role and the audience sympathy is garnered early and continues throughout the show - even when her enthusiasm for quizzing and Game Show borders on obsessive/compulsive and Super Nerdy. Catley creates empathy so easily, the audience will love her and it is a terrific debit for her at the Caxton Theatre. I look forward to seeing what else she will do next.




The two camera operators Joe and Gerry are played by Connie Banks and Abbi Coppock, both having featured in recent productions at the theatre. These are the eyes and ears of the show, watching the production as well as filming it and playing a way bigger role than at first expected in the malarkey that follows! Both Banks and Coppock make the most of these smaller roles and play them with credibility and relish, whilst literally operating cameras filming the studio on stage talk about being multi-skilled.



And then there are the stars of the show, the unwitting volunteers willing to participate in the quiz on stage and with ten names to remember, I must confess I forget what they were all called but they too were fabulous, doing exactly what is called upon them to enhance the show and showing great general knowledge and good humour to boot. Every night the show will feature a completely different set of questions just in case you fancy seeing it twice, which I might just do, to see how different each interactive performance can be.



Game Show runs from Saturday 2nd - Saturday 9th March 2024 at 7:30pm and tickets can be purchased on the door or booked online via caxtontheatre.com or through the usual outlets locally.


Andy Evans 03 March 2024

REVIEW 2.0


I promised the director I would not reveal one of the plot twists during the run of the show but that once the show closed, I would dedicate a specific addendum to my review. The best kept secret of the show was that despite calling up volunteers from the audience each night, one such willing volunteer was in fact, a plant. And a VERY talented one at that.

Unbeknownst to the audience, sat among them was a member of the cast ready to persuade the audience that they were anything but a cast member. That person was Jane Webster, who if you looked REALLY hard was credited as prompt in the programme and yet was sat among the audience to be called up as if a volunteer. She played her role to perfection every night and there were audible gasps when eventually the subterfuge was revealed and that she was, in fact, a character in the play itself.

She was utterly convincing as an embarrassed, self-deprecating, slightly nervous volunteer. She utterly sold the notion that she was called upon against her will and made to feel awkward by the goings-on within the play - especially the smarmy, slightly lecherous Troy Richards. In reality, she was an ally of Steve Fox lined up to undermine the show and to help propel him into the limelight. With no headshot/biography for Jane in the programme, she fully deserves this postscript to my review. She was wonderful, and despite her insistence that she has no desire to play larger roles, I maintain that I would love to see her in a larger role in the future. Thus, I conclude my review and doff my cap to the supremely talented, yet modest and lovely human being that is Jane Webster. Bravo!


Andy Evans 09 2024

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