HAVING been hugely impressed by this group’s 2022 production of ‘9 to 5’ I did wonder how they would cope with this mammoth well-loved and long-time doyen of amateur theatre, especially as there is somewhat of a shortage of men for this group at present.

Well, any doubts were cast aside within the first scene, and I would go as far as to say that this production was even better than last year’s offering. 

What amazing talent (on both sides of the curtain) can be found in the deepest South Hams. 

This production wouldn’t have been out of place in a much larger venue and could definitely give most much larger amateur productions of this show a run for their money, with its ingenuity, artfulness, and staging. 

It was most definitely one of the best amateur productions of this show that I have seen.

The lack of men was overcome magnificently, with a female Doolittle (which not only worked but gave a new slant to the character without changing any of the dialogue) and a female playing Pickering, which was played so well that one stopped even considering that this was a woman playing a man after one scene.

This production focussed on aspects of Higgin’s egotism (after all, it is an ego trip as he transforms Eliza), women’s liberation (here Eliza doesn’t stay with Higgins but joins the suffragette movement – a much better ending), the brutality of Eliza’s drunken parents (in this production, casting as a women gave a new harder slant — less comic — one could have imagined that her mother might have earned money from prostitution). As a result, the fact there were only about 5 men in the whole show mattered not.

Eliza (Amber Burrows) was an absolute revelation. Just 17 years old but giving a performance that belied that youth. She was magnificent, but she didn’t have it all her own way because all the main principals were superb, but she was certainly the star of the show.

Higgins (Wayne Kenny) presented the characters aloofness, and egotism, wonderfully. We really only saw his softer nature when he was with Pickering (Jules McColl). This was a man’s man, with Eliza as his project. One could appreciate that here, there was scant regard for the feelings of someone from a lower class.

Pickering was played by a female, but characterised so well, that one stopped considering the casting . His/her scenes with Higgins were first rate.

Freddy was given a comic slant that I have never seen before. This worked well. This upper-class buffoon who will never have to work for a living may be lovelorn for Eliza, but one can never believe that she will end up with him, she is made of stronger stuff.

In this production, as already stated, Eliza’s father became her mother – Alfreda P Doolittle. I always love performances by this performer, and this was no exception. 

The cross casting actually, for me, rammed home the potentially abusive nature of the family dynamics. Whereas Doolittle can often be slightly genial, Alfreda had a hardness that sat well. Clearly Eliza will not be going home any time soon.

Higgins might be egotistical and slightly misogynistic, but it is left to the women to bring him down to size. Mrs Pearce was given a delightful portrayal, 

watching over proceedings, and I loved her reactions to Higgins later number about women, and her storming off after handing in her notice ! His mother relished in her one liners and put downs, ultimately siding with Eliza despite her initial misgivings.

This wasn’t a big company and the ensemble played the multitude of smaller roles, often playing two or three different characters, but there was not even the hint of a weak link. Direction of the company was very strong with lots of entertaining characterisations. The staging of the company scenes and the choreography were, as one expects from this director, of the highest order.

The multipurpose set utilised this small stage beautifully, with several playing areas, and gave the production a stylish look which was well lit. Costumes (largely from own resources) were also first rate. Visually this production would easily knock many larger productions out of the ballpark.

Musical direction was sensitive, and the six-piece band acquitted themselves well with this mammoth score.

This is a long show, all musicals from the era of the late 50s are long, and with imaginative scene changes, the running time was even longer and this production weighed in at over 3 hours, but was of such a high standard that one didn’t even notice time running on. In fact, I could have sat through it all over again.

KATS are so lucky to have the calibre of production team that they have , enabling them to run with the big boys and to present productions of the highest of standards.

You might have detected that I loved it.

NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) representative Iain Douglas