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Blackadder II: Review

Ben Newton


SOCIETY                   Riverside Players             

PRODUCTION          BLACKADDER II            

DATE                         25TH October 2019    

VENUE                       Eynsford Village Hall   

REPORT BY              Janice Boyns-Redway 

The string of lights on the approach to the Village Hall were welcoming and the foyer decs. were noticeably in-keeping with this production of Blackadder11, one of Britain’s most popular TV comedies ever made. It is set in the Elizabethan era and is ‘peppered’  with sarcasm; cynicism; satire and humorous quotes, which to this day, remain ‘etched’ on the minds of eager followers.  

 The stage layout was innovative and enabled the actors to seamlessly move between scenes. The lighting focused the eye effectively on the duel set and the lower level of stage. The increased space worked well, allowing for spontaneity of free movement. The ‘negative’ space was used intelligently and the whole area was impressively arranged, in-keeping with the performance. The design lent itself to partially playing in-the-round, with some of the audience sitting to the side. Everyone accommodated this formation well, addressing the whole audience most of the time. The severed heads were suitably gruesome along with many other impressively thematic props. 

 Blackadder [Geoff Hillier] demonstrated his character convincingly by being the sly, self-centred, suave and sarcastic nobleman.  He was a real cynic, had clarity of speech and was perfectly cast. Lord Percy [Michael Barker] offered a ‘constipated’ personae which epitomised his role. A little more voice clarity was needed here as with Queen Elizabeth [Lorraine Slipper], she was however a Miranda Richardson clone and added a different comic dimension. Baldrick [Jason Down] offered another convincing performance as a bumbling side- kick who was not far from the real thing. Nursie [Ferne Haxby] fascinated the audience with her unusual facial expressions and she also made a good job of producing this production. Lord Melchett [Richard Gissing] was another of the actors to have offered a performance true to his character and was natural in the way that he did it. Lady Farrow and Lady Whiteadder [Julia Bull] gave spirited performances with energy and flair. Mr Ploppy/Lord Whiteadder/Guard [Paul Friett], Mistress Ploppy/Freddie Frobisher/Guard [Tony Fish], Young Farrow/Simon Partridge/Prince Ludwig [Matthew Frieacre], Geoffrey Piddle/Executioner [Lee Bentley], Mrs Higgins [KirstyAtkinson/Naomi Morgan] and Mr Higgins [Matthew Wintour] all demonstrated ‘textured’ characters, some of whom were “repulsive” individuals which suited this production admirably. Mathew’s performance as the Prince was powerful and the brylcreamed hair added to the image. Singing Wanderer [Karen Friett] added another dimension with her powerful  renditions. All showed great enthusiasm and off-stage acting maintained consistency. Noone ‘fell’ out of character. The bar staff did well in remaining discreet and they did not detract from the performance The pace throughout moved smoothly and the prompt was satisfyingly underused.Well done for continuous focus.  

 Congratulations go to the Director and all supporting crew. There were some novel and thematic touches ie the drinks’ names and the   programme on parchment .The costumes were typical for the genre; they were well presented and colourful. The innovative layout accommodated the on-the-side seating well but the smoke machine was sited too close to seating. Baldrick’s teeth could have been a little less white and Mistress Ploppy’s hair was in need of dressing as it looked very wig like. The show could have benefitted by offering a slightly toned down exuberance, without compromising its style. Less is more. The parchment listings could be confusing for the uninitiated but overall, it was a fitting tribute to this iconic show. Congratulations go to everyone involved for their expertise and skills whether they be learning lines, the ability to engage with an audience or a good level of understanding of some acting techniques. 

As it was so well cast, it was an enjoyable evening and one which left the audience thinking they were seeing the ‘real thing.’   

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Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood: Reviews

Ben Newton


RIVERSIDE PLAYERS 

ROBIN HOOD AND THE BABES IN THE WOOD 

Eynsford Village Hall 

Director – Lorraine Slipper 

Musical Director – Peter Nicholson 

Choreographer – Heidi Phillpott   

Sunday 19th January 2020 (12.30 performance) 

You can always rely on Riverside Players to produce a fantastic family pantomime and this year’s production was no exception. It was almost like writer and director Lorraine Slipper had put a tick against a check-list on how to write the perfect pantomime. We had a hero, villain, love story, comedy, ghosts, delightful dance routines, audience participation, trendy songs and of course a fantastic Dame Trott in the shape of Matt Frieacre. Not forgetting the ‘Babes’ Arthur (Finn Prior) and Sarah, (Lily Deal). All the cast were splendidly costumed. 

The band, a quartet of guitar, keyboard, bass and drums, I thought was going to be too loud, but in fact it wasn’t and I could hear all the vocals. Lighting and sound enhanced the whole experience as did the well thought out and designed scenery.  

The story is set in Medieval England and King Richard is away fighting in the Crusades. The rather comedic Sheriff of Nottingham (Jack Barker) and his villainous sister Malevola (Ferne Haxby – what wonderful facial expressions!) hatch a plan to ‘lose’ the Babes in the woods, but of course Robin Hood (Jen Armstrong) and her, sorry – his merry men are there to thwart their plans, with a bit of help from the Forest Spirit (Kerry Chesher). Who is the mysterious stranger keeping an eye on things? Why it’s none other than King Richard (Jason Down) come back to claim his rightful place. The Babes are saved, Robin marries Maid Marion, Dame Trott gets her man (The Sheriff) and all the baddies are put where they belong. What other possible ending could there be to the story?   

All of the cast played their parts as individuals,  to make this show gel. The production relies on panto traditions and talent.The script is funny and entertaining for the kids with enough topical jokes to keep the adults amused. 

Two of my grandsons came with me this year and the 8yr old was joining in with the “It’s behind you” at the top of his voice. I asked the 11yr old what he thought was the best bit, his reply “I got two chocolate coins!” Typical!  We all had a lovely afternoon’s entertainment, thank you and well done. 

Doreen Grierson 

NODA representative 

District 7 

 

And, from one of our audience members…

Brilliant panto. The musical direction was brilliant with small band accompanying but brilliantly put together. In my opinion no more needed! It was well balanced and the instruments blended well. The vocal arangements were simple and effective with good harmonies and strong voices! A strong dance number in the second half highlighted the talents of both the choreographer and some of the younger performers. The babes are cute with some great cutting asides about the ‘hideous’ audience and the main characters well established. It was nice to see a traditional set up with the principal boy and the ever so slightly confusing dame. The quick too and fro for some of the characters made the audience laugh and the sheriff is now to blame for my two children singing ‘lovely’ every chance they get! Thanks for that. One of the many highlights of the show was the interval number. It was well put together and simply staged. Well done to all involved creating that! The other stand out moment was the fight sequences. A mixture of boxing, sword play and kung fu were chorographed well and added a lot of comedy especially with the constantly drunk friar. It made me laugh and smile. My kids loved it so much they made me come twice!
 truly well done! Xstar-struck

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Songs for a New World

Ben Newton


Riverside Players are proud to introduce a new director and show for July 2020! 

Performance dates are: 17th, 18th, 24th and 25th July 2020 

“Songs for a New World” created by Jason Robert Brown is a unique piece of musical theatre. It is more of a song cycle than a story. The show unites a group of performers who all have one thing in common-they stand at moments of transition, a time of decision. We have all had that feeling – do we turn left or right. 

The music speaks directly from the performer to the audience. It is almost visceral as it is about an emotional reaction to the lyrics and the melody. 

We are looking for a group of people who will work together to stage this show. To bring to life both the emotion and the decision making process of the performance. Actors and singers who can work together as a team, seamlessly and unselfishly supporting one another from the opening to the closing. 

In order to achieve this we are holding an informal workshop, where we will introduce you to some of the numbers and ideas for the show. We will also be having a sing along before the main auditions. 

Dates for your diary:

  • Initial Workshop: Come and play some games, sing some songs and get introduced to the opening sequence from this show. We are looking to see how everyone works together. Everyone is welcome.
    Tuesday, 25th February 19:30 – 22:00
  • Sing-a-long: Come and sing through the whole show and see which role may suit you! We will be running through the entire show with the MD and director.
    Tuesday, 3rd March, 20:00 – 22:00
  • Auditions: Open to everyone. Sunday, 15th March 17:00 – 20:00
  • Auditions: Open to everyone. Tuesday, 17th March 20:00 – 22:00

For the auditions, please prepare a song from a modern musical composer.
If you would like suggestions, please get in touch and we can offer some ideas.
If you would like to perform something from this show we would love to see it.

We would also like to hear you speak a short piece of prose directly to an audience. We are looking for how you communicate naturally with the audience.
(This does not need to be from memory)

All of these will be taking place at the Eynsford Village Hall – feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

Everyone is welcome.

Trisha Gough 

Director 






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Alice In Wonderland – A Review

kmcmillan


This evening I had a truly delightful experience at the Youth Group production of Alice in Wonderland. I was transported to a magical, fun and colourful world of nonsense by a group of talented, enthusiastic and dedicated performers who were clearly enjoying every minute of being on stage. I particularly enjoyed the identity crisis of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (Zoe Giles and Mischa Booyse), the camp terpsichorean antics of the Caterpillar (James Brodie) and the firebrand Queen of Hearts (Ruby Dye). But every single cast member was at the top of their game – whether in consistent characterisation, tuneful and strong singing or confident dancing – and made this a show to remember. It was a pleasure to see the sheer enjoyment on their faces as they performed the final song.

While the kids were great, I want to highlight the real stars of this production – and the Youth Group as a whole: the organising team. It was evident how much effort had gone into drilling the kids in their dances, acting and singing – and not only did this result in great performances, it gave the kids the confidence to go out and do it all with gusto and to cope when things didn’t go quite to plan with the recorded music and sound. It cannot be easy to maintain enthusiasm and performance standards throughout the extended period of weekly rehearsals.

Then of course there are the technical team who contribute so much through lighting, sound, a colourful set and costumes, and the backstage wrangling of set and actors. What made a particular impression on me for this production was the attention to detail front of house, from the dressing of the entrance and auditorium to the costumes of the front of house team – all themed to suit the production. I didn’t experience the tea, but I heard it was a great success. A lot of work went into this and it paid dividends in creating a positive, upbeat vibe even before the curtain went up. (Not to mention the pink gin on optics in the bar!)

Because this is meant to be a critical review of the show, I feel I ought to try and be critical – which is actually very difficult. My only comments are that I felt the kids could have been given more variety in things to do during the overture – it became a little repetitive. Perhaps more of the cast could have been out in the audience interacting with us, as that worked well at other points in the show. And why was the White Rabbit dressed in black? Not that this detracted from her performance in any way!

Having said that, I want to congratulate Naomi and her team for such a joyous theatrical experience. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

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Thoroughly Modern Musicals – A Review

kmcmillan


We spent the night experiencing Thoroughly Modern Musical. It was a well-staged production that clearly showed a lot of love and effort. The set was stripped back with an industrial feel. The lights were highlighting the themes and tones of each show with simple colours and  uplighting to compliment the staging. It created a different atmosphere that was refreshing. Songs started from many different directions and sometimes from within the audience which added a different flavour and style to the show straight away. 

The band were highlighted on the main part of the stage which was great to see as they did an amazing job, moving from song to song with different styles. They played each number with enjoyment that was infectious and clear to see in the audience. Brilliantly led my Peter Nicholson they tackled difficult numbers with a variety of full band and stripped back numbers. 

The soloists were well suited to their given songs and it certainly made us consider musicals to see in the future (including some we hadn’t heard of beforehand!). It was lovely to see some new faces and some frequent favourites. A welcome and congratulation to new faces Mia and Sophie who showed us how different vocal styles both rocky and more traditionally musical theatre belong on the riverside stage with ‘I’d rather be me’ from Mean girls and ‘Legally Blonde’ from Legally Blonde. We hope they are here to stay. A surprise came from new performers Liam with ‘You’ll be back’ from Hamilton which showed evolving flair and Harry with ‘Objects in the rearview mirror’ from Bat out of hell and ‘Legally Blonde’ which showed such feeling for a new performer. Congratulations to these gentlemen who have previously hidden backstage or in the tower, we hope they don’t hide away in future. 

 Kudos should be given to the simple yet effective costuming where everyone wore the same black base with suggestions of details which helped convey the style without going over the top. Some costume sharing in the form of a simple jacket helped create continuity. In some cases, a simple ruff or hat added the detail needed and in others more complex details with a full Arthurian outfit completed the look.

A show that was unlike any other musical reviews we have seen with audience participation and a surprise hello was just the thing to help bring modern musicals to Eynsford. We would happily attend the sequel!

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You, Me & Dementia

kmcmillan


Sat 27th April 2019
1pm & 6:30pm
Eynsford Village Hall
Tickets £11 (£9 for concessions)
Includes a Ploughman’s Supper
Book Now: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/dementiacafe

Ferne Haxby and Naomi Morgan along with the rest of the Riverside Players Youth Group & friends of the Eynsford and Farningham Dementia Cafe are raising money! As this is such a great cause, we would urge you to book tickets for this event sponsored by Vitality Home Health. The event will consist of two plays being performed, a ploughman’s supper and a bumper raffle. As the cafe relies 100% on donations (no fees are ever charged), proceeds will go towards the cafe so it can continue to provide crucial social interaction and support for those living with dementia be it as a relative, carer, friend or, of course, those diagnosed with the disease. We strive to raise awareness and give support where we can.

Both Ferne and Naomi have first hand experience of the devastating toll this disease takes both on those living with it and those around them. They are fully committed to doing everything they can to ease the pathways of others.

Chocolate Muffins
Written and Directed by Naomi Morgan

The Riverside Players Youth Group shall be performing Chocolate Muffins which is a view of dementia through the eyes of a child.

Bothered and Bewildered
Written by Gail Young and Directed by Ferne Haxby

Friends of the Cafe (including some Riverside Players members) will be performing this funny and poignant tale of Eileen’s pathway through dementia with her funny ‘friend’ Barbara.

Win Big! Two Tickets to a West End show with overnight accommodation + travel plus much much more.

We have been lucky enough to have experienced enormous generosity from our sponsor and the local businesses. First prize is a bumper one of two west end show tickets with overnight accommodation and travel. We also have a month’s free gym membership from Brands Hatch Place, family tickets to local attractions, meals out for two, hampers, spa treatments and much much more. Raffle tickets will be available from most local businesses, Ferne, Naomi, the Cafe and its friends, the Youth Group. If someone isn’t selling you a ticket beforehand, you can buy them on the day at the event.

We look forward to seeing you there!

 








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Red Riding Hood 2019 Reviews

kmcmillan


The views are in!

Mike Lewin (Audience Member)

Matt Friett took the director’s chair for the first time in this year’s panto, Little Red Riding Hood, and stamped his own mark on the production, casting youngsters Neve Prior and Fred McGahan in starring roles.

It might sound risky to place so much responsibility on ones so young, but on closer analysis it makes perfect sense: they embodied the “have-a-go” spirit of Panto, engaged well with the young audience, and will hopefully inspire a new generation of actors into the Riverside Youth Group. Both Neve (Little Red) and Fred (Little Boy Blue) did excellently, giving performances as confident and accomplished as any of the adults.

They were well supported by an experienced cast including Tony Fish, Lorraine Slipper, Kirstie McMillan and Ferne Haxby, all perfectly cast and giving strong performances. Jason Down was a fine wolf, channeling his inner “Hammer Horror baddie” persona that had served him so well as Dr. Prospero in 2016’s Return to the Forbidden Planet. His velvet smoking jacket was a perfect touch, and thankfully his lewd innuendos went over the youngsters’ heads!

Jack Barker, who put in a great performance last year as “Laughalot”, saw his dreams come true this time around as he got to pull on a frock and play the Queen. He is perfectly suited for Panto, poking fun at himself and bringing the whole audience along with him. I was disappointed that he didn’t get a solo dance number this year, but he at least performed a passable floss in a well – choreographed group number.

All the components that we expect from a good panto were there, and delivered with aplomb – from the sound balancing of the mics with the tight 7-piece band to the prompt changes of the well produced painted scenery. The Monty Python references, the bad puns (ham-bush), the community sing-along and of course the obligatory “it’s-behind-you”s and “oh-yes-it-is”es.

Friett did a good job of dragging a very traditional story into the 21st century, ensuring that both Red and Grandmother were agents in their own fate and not merely damsels to be rescued. And the stand-out moment of the night was Woodcutter James Lee’s performance of the iconic pop hit Wrecking Ball . As the spotlight came on and he ripped off his burly gear to reveal a silver hot pant jump suit, the whole audience, young and old, was in equal measures surprised, amused and entertained. His pouting and swooning was spot on, and by the time he’d leapt up onto the eponymous swinging ball the whole place was in stitches. It was a genius move, perfect both in conception and execution, and one that deserves to go down as one of the great moments inRiverside history.

Janice Redway (Assistant NODA Representative)

The Village Hall provides a well-appointed venue for Riverside Players and albeit tucked away, is by no means discreet in respect of performance. An almost full house was testament to the popularity of both pantomime as a tradition and Riverside Players themselves. A warm welcome was had from front of house but the foyer would have been `hotted` up by some representation of what we were about to see. Posters; photos; pull-up banner; cardboard cut-out or any other type of decoration would have set the scene as soon as you walked in. The programmes were very lively with action photos and way-out centre pages; great inclusion of the puzzles and colourful images. NODA also had a mention but always good for readers to have a little information on what NODA is about (extra marks if you want to enter the programme competition!)

Ferne Haxby [Grandma] who directed last years’ very successful pantomime, gave a sterling and natural performance throughout and looked just the part in her costumes – great wig! A professional performance and one, which was consistent, came from Jason Down [The Big Bad Wolf]. He was fascinating to watch, using subtle mannerisms and excellent clarity of speech. He offered good comic timing and his make-upwas excellent. Tony Fish [The Evil Wizard] epitomised evil with his attire and `sweeping` movements, striking a balance between really evil and not quite so evil. Neve Prior [Little Red Riding Hood] and Fred McGahan [Little Boy Blue] added the youth element and both played their parts well. Neve sung sweetly and Fred had good stage presence. Both principal girl and boy offered good diction but needed to slow their dialogue. They were suitably absorbed by their parts especially Fred, and pace will come with experience. Neve looked stunning in her red cloak but Fred needed more blue. Lorraine Slipper; Kirstie McMillan and Finn Prior [Pigs Ant, And, Dec] added the slap-stick dimension and they warmed in the second half, going from appearing a little awkward to settling into their roles with more purpose. They were the fun ingredients and Finn especially gave this physical comedy his all by offering style and bold gestures. The noses were very effective and the costumes visually stimulating. Jack Barker [Queen Finger] and Harry Lee [King Thumb] were true to their names and well-cast, as were all the performers. Jack did well to try and maintain a high-pitched voice, which did at times, lapse into baritone. More exaggerated make-up, a pristine wig and a full skirt would have enhanced his untidy look. James Lee [The Woodcutter] played a convincing role with clarity of speech. A great voice, rich and clear. His solo in the second half showcased his versatility with some emotional moments coupled with humour. He used the `negative` space well. Heidi Phillpott [choreographer] did a good job moving the cast and the Dancers especially, were in sync. with their routines which blended with the story-line but their moves needed more feeling and positivity.

Amongst the `Oh yes he is` and `Booing` moments which suitably `peppered` the show, there were gems, like `Who Will Buy`; `Sisters Are Doing It By Themselves`; the ball and chain, which surprised; the turtle which amused; the bucket over the head; the clever play on words and the alternative Jenga which delighted the audience, especially when the boxes were miss aimed.

The musicians were in harmony with the actors and produced some good incidental music, which also helped those struggling with ad-libbing during some of the scene changes. They all managed to `pull-it-off` however and some of the audience vocalised their appreciation.

It was obvious that all involved had really worked hard and the camaraderie on stage showed. It was a lovely touch to address the audience with poetry at the end, against the backdrop of a moving windmill sail. It is always good to have the opportunity to speak to the Director and being introduced to the Musical Director and Choreographer was appreciated. Congratulations go to Matt for his debut in both the writing and directing and to all involved who gave everyone a fun and pleasant evening.

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