‘Garrick Salutes Gallipoli’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by April 10, 2015

‘Garrick Salutes Gallipoli’ is a ‘two for the price of one’ show. The Garrick is paying tribute to those involved in the Gallipoli campaign, as part of the 100-year commemoration.

The first Act is an Old Time Music Hall, and after the interval – with its free, delicious and substantial refreshment (Lyn Devenish), there was a moving and hilarious melodrama, perfectly delivered tongue-in-cheek; eminent Guildford lad, Bernard Doyle, penned this cheerful piece.

This 130-minute, fast moving and topical production can be seen every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 in the Garrick Theatre, 16 Meadow Street, Guildford. Season runs until 25th April.

 

The foyer has a splendid display of war postcards (Tom Goode, Terry Brown), the cast photos are quaint and there is a thoughtful tribute to the brave folk of Guildford, who lost their lives that we might live.

The whole theatre is strewn with bunting; flags of the commonwealth are everywhere (Robert Vincent). There is a magnificent series of sepia photos projected onto the cyc at the rear of the stage (Michael Bradford). The props are moved on and off the stage by a couple of army privates (stage managers Wendy Goodwin, Marion West). Tania Tehane’s superb costumes included evening dresses, basques and various army uniforms including nurses and that of a German Hun officer.

Geoff Holt’s lighting and sound were top notch.

 

      The Music Hall Chairman introduced us to some of the soldiers about to sail from Albany. There was young, innocent Bertie (Ben Anderson) leaving his woop woop home, and we see Willoughby (Tim Sadleir) as he sings to his fiancée, Blossom (Colleen Bradford).

      Soft-shoe nightclub dancer, Maisie (Colleen Hopkins) shows a new, young dancer, Merle (Jenna McGoughan-Shaw – great stage presence) how to please the punters. Outside the Club, pouting their wares, stand three of the world’s oldest profession. The sexily dressed, but aging girls, Sybil and Nellie (Susan Vincent, Kerry Goode) were hilarious as they struggled to entice the attentions of passing men. Is Miss Percia (Fiona Forster) the young innocent woman that she seems?

       Louisa (Barbara Brown) sits in her sitting room reading her latest letter from her only son, now on his way to Gallipoli, when Estella (Ellie Bawden) brings in the latest postal delivery.

 

      Private Ernest Birch (Alan Shaw) became the storyteller for the Second Act melodrama.

      

Directors Susan Vincent and Kerry Goode have done a magnificent job in creating the atmosphere of a heart breaking send off, the letters arriving home and a joyous homecoming. Probably all of the cast were born after World War ll, a couple of the younger members may not have heard of any of the songs nor even seen a Music Hall before the rehearsals, and yet they joined the rest of the cast in capturing the atmosphere. The whole troupe worked as one throwing all of their energies into the presentation.

There were a couple of teary poignant moments in the programme, but with Alan Morris as Chairman, the belly laughs poured forth. The live musical accompaniment from musical director Lyn Brown and her quartet of Miriam Wholer (woodwind), Robert Usaraga (guitar) and Terry Murphy (drums) all played at a sensible level to enhance – and not rule – the melodious singing.

How often have we seen a theatre chorus where half the ‘singers’ silently mime badly? Here, the whole cast sang powerfully, in tune and presented with plenty of lively choreography and movement. A magnificent cast, who really understood the confused atmosphere of the day.

I went to the theatre expecting a heavy, possibly depressing documentary; however, this spectacular was one of the most up lifting in years. The saddest thing about the show was that I knew most of the words to the wartime songs.

To have a warm welcome and a really good night out, go to the Garrick soon!

nty of lively choreography and movement. A magnificent cast, who really understood the confused atmosphere of the day. I went to the theatre expecting a heavy, possibly depressing documentary; however, this spectacular was one of the most up lifting in years. The saddest thing about the show was that I knew most of the words to the wartime songs. To have a warm welcome and a really good night out, go to the Garrick soon!