Basingstoke Gazette

Singin' in the Rain Review, May 2018 - Basingstoke Gazette

How wonderful that BATS will open the celebrations for their 60th year with such an effervescent zinger of a show! 

Don on lampost.jpg

They’ve been very wise with their choice of production as Singin’ In The Rain has it all – wit, warmth and wonderful songs – and the talented members of the society make the most of its every moment. Their production wholly captures the spirit of the original 1952 film about the move from silent films to talking pictures in 1920s Hollywood.

There is so much to appreciate: the skill displayed by the principals; the glorious dance numbers, including some irresistible tap sequences; the incredible 'wet set' complete with rain; the clever use of filmed inserts; the many laughs (which often come courtesy of the accomplished and industrious supporting cast); and the myriad costume changes.

Bryn Hughes boasts a megawatt smile and phenomenal footwork as he brings matinee idol Don Lockwood to life whilst a brilliant Kirsty Bennett channels Miss Piggy and Betty Boop as his unfortunately voiced co-star Lina Lamont. 

Anneka Wass (Kathy Selden) and William Keel-Stocker (Cosmo Brown) are making their BATS debuts and are both fantastic, utterly nailing their characters. There’s also lovely fizzy chemistry between the leading romantic pair, the key trio and best buddies Don and Cosmo, helping to fully ignite numbers such as the sublime Fit As A Fiddle and Good Mornin’.

A special mention must go to the ever-impressive Ian Moseley, who delivers both Beautiful Girl and a standout comic turn as the hapless Male Diction Coach in Moses Supposes

It must have been incredibly hard work for director Ray Jeffery, assistant director Nick Brannam, musical director Trevor Defferd and choreographers Julie Morris and Karen McCloy to put it all together, but it has absolutely been worth it. 

This winning show whets the appetite for what’s ahead in this landmark year (an Anvil concert on June 23 and Priscilla Queen of the Desert in November).

Congratulations BATS and thank you for your key contribution to the artistic life of the town. May the best be yet to come.

Joanne Mace

Spamalot Review, May 2017 - Basingstoke Gazette

The perfect escape for the world-weary currently awaits local audiences in The Haymarket. BATS have staged the Monty Python musical Spamalot – the first local production of this smash-hit show - and their sublime slice of silliness is a genuinely laugh-out-loud treat.

First time director / choreographer Gary J Myers has bitten off a lot, but it’s certainly not more than he can chew. In fact, what he has served up is quite wonderful! He’s ably assisted by Neil Streeter as musical director.

Spamalot is the tale of King Arthur (a suitably regal Colin Flaherty) and his band of knights, and their quest to find the Grail / stage a musical in Basingstoke.

Along the way they encounter surly peasants, the French, the Knights of Ni, the irrepressible Black Knight, flying cows and the rest.

The show is a huge challenge for all departments – sound, props, wardrobe and lighting – but the society has multi-tasked to the max to achieve something quite special. 

Colin Flaherty as King Arthur (Centre), Richard Bond as Patsy (Centre Left) and some Knights

Colin Flaherty as King Arthur (Centre), Richard Bond as Patsy (Centre Left) and some Knights

BATS’ talented actors also showcase their adaptability by demonstrating serious comedic ability and timing. Some of their stalwart performers (Ian Moseley, David Izzo) are a revelation and supporting players also do wonderful work in smaller parts: Ed Branch (French taunter), Tracey Gonzato (head minstrel), Stuart Baker (Dead Fred) and Grant Foyle (Kevin) are all fantastic. 

Izzo, Nick Brannam and Pete Chandler are hysterically funny throughout the plotline about Prince Herbert whilst a brilliant Kirsty Kingham demonstrates divine comic delivery – and boasts terrific vocals - as the Lady of the Lake, hilariously snarling “Whatever happened to my part” during The Diva’s Lament.

Nick Brannam (Left) as Prince Herbert and Pete Chandler (Right) as Lancelot

Nick Brannam (Left) as Prince Herbert and Pete Chandler (Right) as Lancelot

Well done to the rest of the company, too, who whizz on and off in various outfits constantly, singing, dancing, nailing punchlines and doing whatever else the show demands.  

It goes without saying that Python fans will be in heaven but there’s lots of general fun to enjoy, including references to other famous musicals.  Other standout musical numbers include the Knights of the Round Table, You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz and His Name is Lancelot. 

Only the hardest heart could resist joining in with the final sing-along to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, so partake of Spamalot’s cheeky joy while you can. You’ll feel much better afterwards!

Joanne Mace

The Full Monty review, Nov 2016 - Basingstoke Gazette

Director and choreographer Martyn Knight returns to The Haymarket this month after his award-winning BATS production of Sister Act.

He and his team, including musical director Julie Dance, now have something new for Basingstoke audiences, namely their 1980s-set version of the amateur stage treatment of the 1997 film The Full Monty, the hugely popular tale of a group of Sheffield blokes who reclaim some of their lost power and dignity by, ironically, getting their kit off. 

Its message remains pertinent, and its combination of politics and comedy may prove a welcome tonic for many after the roller coaster of the year so far. 

The men performing the opening number, 'Scrap'

The men performing the opening number, 'Scrap'

The girls performing 'It's a Woman's World'

The girls performing 'It's a Woman's World'

Kathy May-Miller is also terrific as the characterful piano player who supports the men through their dreadful early rehearsals. 

Martyn, in addition to the rest of his good work, cleverly uses his supporting cast to become the whooping audience at certain points.  

His show is obviously one for the adults due to the language and nudity (bare bottoms) but those appropriate audiences who do attend will surely find their spirits lifted by its cheeky charm!

Joanne Mace

The action takes place in the US, but retains the core message. And where the original made great use of pop songs such as You Can Leave Your Hat On, this treatment boasts all-new numbers by David Yazbek and Terrence McNally.

It’s hats off to the brave local amateur actors who dare to bare (their blushes spared at the key moment by clever lighting design) on stage for our entertainment: Paul Morris, John Eddie, Richard Bond, Ian Moseley, Bryn Hughes and Tim Bell.    

Some are unconventional leading men, but all are fully deserving of the spotlight, communicating the frustrations of these individuals (frustrations sometimes expressed through their language) and winning over those watching in both the comic and the more serious scenes. 

Gavin Brooker also deserves a mention for his bravery in the role of the performer who originally inspires the men and whose stripping routine opens the whole shebang. 

But the boys don’t have it all their own way throughout, as the show includes some lovely moments for the girls to shine; Holly Reedman, Sally Manning and Laura Newborough are brilliantly effective as the present and former spouses trying to support their men in crisis.

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