‘The Best of British’ was blighty.
While travelling overseas during a pandemic is strictly out of the question, Moreton Bay Theatre Company have adventurously transported their audiences to the other side of the world with their latest theatre romp, ‘The Best of British’.
Essentially a cabaret-style revue that featured dancing, singing, comedy and acting, this impressive line-up showcased a collection of the United Kingdom’s finest performing artists. From David Bowie to the Spice Girls, Monty Python to Rocky Horror, the work of those famously born and bred in the U.K. was successfully reimagined on the NeverLand Theatre stage.
Directed and choreographed by the talented Maureen Bowra, the evening quipped along in a series of high-energy acts and performances. Bowra’s experience in both fields was evident, as scenes transitioned like a huge dance in itself. Blackouts were timely and when one group exited, the other performers were ready to take the stage. The fusion of direction and choreography ensured tightness and pace, which cemented the audience’s engagement during every segment. Cast members handled the impressive moves and used every inch of the staging to full effect.
Set, designed also by Bowra and David Lawrence, featured a simple two-step raised platform at the back of the stage, centred by a corflute Great Britain flag, which glowed with LED striping. Entrances/exits were draped in red velvet with additional flags on either side of the stage’s facade. Lighting, designed by Bruce Noy, was a mixture of red and blue hues, that transitioned into many LED colours and spotlights for the various party anthems, skits and ballads. It was a simple design, which aided the cabaret approach of the production.
One of the most impressive feats that ‘The Best of British’ had to offer was the many costume changes the cast endeavoured through. Supplied by Kim Phillips, Bowra and cast members themselves, it was almost like the local op-shop had been raided for anything sequin-fused, velvet and sparkly. For group numbers, the cast wore unifying and synonymous red, blue and white, as a collective punk-pop ensemble. They then changed to a number of outlandish get-ups to represent the artists they were portraying (like Baby, Scary, Posh, Sporty and Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls; complete with Geri Halliwell’s infamous flag dress) to the decade the hit was from (like 60s flower-power numbers for the Austin Powers inspired segment).
While there was a nice ebb and flow to the acts, at times, and mostly due to the intimate space of the NeverLand Theatre, the sound was not effectively balanced. This meant for some segments, backing tracks were louder than vocals, which affected performance clarity. No doubt this a small issue that can easily be rectified for the next performance.
The cast featured an array of local performers – including Emily Delchau, Natasha King, Amanda Burgess, Julia Cox, Chelsea Sales, Tayla Simpson, Bonnie Woods, Jessica Beilby, Dale Shearman, Tony Ahchay, Nathaniel Currie, Peter Manias, Daniel Radlein and James Hogan – some of whom showcased their triple threat abilities.
Memorable highlights included a chilling harmonised rendition of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ by Bonnie Woods, Jessica Beilby and Chelsea Sales; Tony Ahchay’s tongue-in-cheek rendition of Scottish singer, Andy Stewart’s ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers’; and the group Act Two opening number of Oliver’s ‘Oom Pah Pah’ by British writer and composer, Lionel Bart.
While there were enough musical numbers, confidently managed by Musical Director Melissa Beilby, for any British music fan, like a Beatles or Queen medley, some of the standout moments came from the comedy skits, which were filled with dad jokes and puns. Dale Shearman, James Hogan and Nathaniel Currie were delightful in Monty Python’s ‘The Argument Clinic’ and really set the jovial tone of these acting sketches. Tayla Simpson embraced her inner Irish for a number of jokes about the lucky country; and rounding out Act 1, Ahchay and Shearman had the audience bellowing with their British humour and “punny” fruit shop segment, ‘My Blackberry is Not Working’ by The Two Ronnies.
Overall, ‘The Best of British’ was a raucous night out, especially for an audience eager to be entertained. It’s no secret the pandemic has affected the arts industry, and by supporting local businesses like Moreton Bay Theatre Company, in turn, you support the incredible talent that willingly volunteers in such high-spirited productions like this one.
‘The Best of British’ performs until Sunday, 13 September 2020 at the NeverLand Theatre. For more information visit Moreton Bay Theatre Company’s Website.