Company by FHODS
Company by Folkestone and Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society
Before starting on the production I feel it might be nice to introduce you to the ‘company’ putting on “Company”. Folkestone and Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society (FHODS) is one of the biggest and longer established amateur societies in Kent with a history going back to the Folkestone Dramatic & Music Club which started in 1902. Along with putting on shows in all of Folkestone’s performance venues over the years (some of which no longer exist) FHODS has owned its own performance space since 1952. It was that year when they established the 57 seat Ham Yard theatre space before converting a former church to become the Sandgate Little Theatre in 1963. In 2001 the society purchased the former garrison church in Shornecliffe and began the conversion into what is now a fully equipped 270 seat theatre. The theatre is complete with fly tower, scene dock, band pit and high level sound and lighting installation(and importantly for theatre goers a fair size bar for pre, mid and après show drinks).
Company is a 1970 musical comedy with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth. It was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationships. On the night of his 35th birthday, Robert struggles to think of a wish to make as he blows out his birthday candles. His uncertainty makes him question whether he should simply be happy with his life as a bachelor or if he should wish for a romantic partner. Over a series of dinner parties, first dates, and thoughtful conversations, Robert attempts to understand the pros and cons of marriage from his friends.
The timing of this production of the musical is perfect with a revival hitting the West End just a week after opening on this amateur run in Folkestone. The lynchpin of the cast is the role of Robert/Bobby. Oliver Tatt played the part so well I feel he could slip straight into the role in any professional production of the show, his character, emotion and timing was almost faultless and his strong baritone voice gave the musical numbers great depth especially in his amazing rendition of “Being Alive”. The audience was lead through the show with some great natural partnerships on the stage with the performances from Natalie Holness(Jenny) and Michael Manton (David) in their main scene with Robert in act 1 getting some great reactions from the audience (half of which seemed to be 6th form musical theatre students).
The show was generally seamless with all the cast members remaining onstage for the whole show. Cast movements were well choreographed to stop them from being a distraction when more important stuff was needing to catch the eye however there were a couple of blackouts concealing some slightly noisy prop changes. Technically the stage set was very minimalistic and it worked very well. The musicians were onstage downstage piano one stage right and drummer on stage left but other than the pianist light being a little bright they became part of the set and were not a distraction. The lighting was simple and concentrated on light changes to draw attention to certain areas although the follow spot was slow to pick up its location and the colour scrollers on some of the lights were not just noisy but also scrolled through their colours live to get to the colour they needed and should really have been faded out during their colour cycle. I do also wonder if some of the up lighting chases were needed and also don’t recall seeing a flashing light warning on entry ahead of the flashing LEDs used in “Side by Side,” (which somebody from the production side of the society might need to chase up on/check for future performances).
I did get excited when I spotted a lot of the cast wearing what looked like tap shoes and was hopeful of some tap during “Side by Side” however it never really materialised although this little sadness was just personal and didn’t affect the general enjoyment of the number.
All in all this was a very well done version of the show, so much so that I don’t feel they will be eclipsed by the professional version about to start in London and all of the cast and creative team should be very proud of the performance given.
Company runs until Saturday 22nd September at Tower Theatre. If you would like to know more about FHODS please visit their website .