Under the Spotlight’ will work towards building a community of dedicated theatre lovers to share discussions and critiques based around the content of The Gaiety’s Drama programme. Think ‘book club’, but for theatre! Before a selected performance the group meet up to discuss issues relating to the play, watch the show as a group, have a quick chat at the interval to compare notes, then go their separate ways to write up short reviews on the performance.

Fancy joining our reviewers? Contact us!

42nd Street

Ayr Amateur Opera Company

“Ayr Amateur Opera Company’s production of 42nd Street has many lovely moments, alongside some excellent singing and dancing. Encourage people to tap dance along Carrick Street to enter the world of 42nd Street!”

“Lavish sets and period costume evoke the style of Broadway of that era. With a swing jazz sound, tap dancing, and big production numbers such as ‘We’re in the Money’, 42nd Street is a toe-tapper straight from the off.”

“Opening the show with the partially raised curtain revealing the tapping feet was very effective. A vibrant and energetic opening dance number also featured strong chorus singing. The comedy was very well timed and the dialogue well-paced”

“The principals all worked hard and performed well, Wendy Cannel as Peggy Sawyer was outstanding. Her singing and dancing were both excellent and her characterisation was spot on.”

“A punchy, well-choreographed, comedic display of energetic high jinks of the old Busby Berkley days.”

“This was a strong cast led by Wendy Cannell a wonderful dancer and singer, who really epitomizes starry-eyed youngster, Peggy Sawyer wanting to become a star. There was wonderful sing-a-long songs and the energy the cast put into it was a joy to behold.”

“The choreography was wonderful and the musical direction was spot on, if a bit loud, but all in all a wonderful production to transport you to a different era for a few hours.”

Stepping Out

Ayr Fort Players

“Stepping Out by Richard Harris invokes a combination of attitudes from superiority, vulgarity, insensitivity, depravity and insecurity all encapsulated within the dysfunctional group of disparate people coming together for various different reasons to take part in a tap dancing class. Within this production the Ayr Fort Players have successfully managed to clearly convey the very essence of the plot.
Even the dance teacher Mavis, portrayed by Suzanne McLellan, has her own, somewhat ill-defined, reasons for being there and taking the class; perhaps stemming from her own thwarted desire to be the leading lady. McLellan successfully conveyed the mixture of emotions her character called for, ranging from being abrupt to passionate, short tempered to patronising, from dogmatic to sympathetic and reassuring.

The various characters as portrayed within each key role worked well. From the rough and ready, blunt speaking Sylvia (Sally Rennie), to the compassionate and slightly nervous Lynne (Kirsty Gibson), the caring, yet insecure Dorothy (Grainne Home) who looks after her ailing mother, the snobbish controlling organiser, Vera (Fiona Shields) – who has no inkling that her husband, Lionel, may be up to no good with her daughter from a previous marriage, to the desperation of poor, pathetic Andy (Barbara Murphy) who takes up a variety of good causes and is possibly in a violent, certainly less than loving marriage.  The hint of “something going on” between her and the rather socially ineffectual businessman, Geoffrey (Colin Ferguson), hangs in the air.

The dry wit and excellent timing of Mrs Fraser (Shelia Dunn) worked well and always returned a lively titter from the audience. Vera’s several pointed and insensitive remarks – made in the best possible taste in her eyes – were excellently timed and delivered by Fiona Shields. Sharp and brutally honest, Maxine is well portrayed by Carol Anne McKinlay truly capturing her ‘tell it as it is’ attitude.
Whilst the Town Hall as a venue with some of its specific restrictions may have added to the difficult challenges for the performers, particularly in terms of sound quality (and some slight malfunction with microphones), praises must be awarded to the dedication of the Players, both on-stage and off.

This was a thoroughly entertaining show. Although the plot itself may be lacking a little in depth with the audience left wondering as to the truth of what is going on in the lives of the characters, the final achievement the group people all finally pulling together – by “stepping up”- to achieve something spectacular wins the day.

A sterling effort – well done to the Ayr Fort Players.”

Blithe Spirit

by Noel Coward, produced by Shoogalie Road Productions
Ayr Town Hall, Thursday 5 May 2016

When novelist Charles Condomine invites the eccentric medium, Madame Arcati to conduct a séance – hoping to use the event as material for this new book – the scheme backfires when the ghost of his first wife Elvira appears and begins to wreak havoc, threatening to destroy his relationship with his new wife Ruth, who cannot see or hear the ghost…

Overall an enjoyable production, despite some acoustic difficulties, possibly mostly due to limitations of the venue.  The cast portrayed the characters as distinctive individuals with the plot – very much of its time – coming across as well-rehearsed and presented in line with social thinking of that era.  The set was good, reflecting the period (with the exception of a 45 rpm vinyl record coming from an older style gramophone) and the costumes complemented well the personalities of the characters.

The leading character Charles Condomine (played by Ross Dougle Wight) came across as rather self-absorbed, with little understanding of the female psyche or emotional needs of a wife – although not unkind – merely content with his own thinking.

His now wife Ruth (Emma Grace Conway) is portrayed as an elegant, poised and extremely ‘correct’ young woman, intent on being respected, in appropriate circles and considered accordingly.  Sadly her somewhat genteel portrayal of the supportive, loyal wife and lady of the house, added to the poor acoustics and made it particularly difficult for the audience to hear her lines.

Edith (Kirstie Ann Paterson), the erstwhile housemaid, proves an excellent foil to her employers’ sense of propriety with her bumbling, enthusiastic, girlish kind of charm.  Her clumsy timing and delivery were excellent and provided notable moments of light amusement.

Dr and Mrs Bradman (David Parker and Emily Ashton) are introduced as being of suitable social standing – he, although allegedly respected as a medic, is clearly under the “thumb” of his rather plain, matronly, middle class wife.  She, in turn, not very worldly-wise, comes across rather like an overgrown schoolgirl, excited at being included in such an intriguing dinner evening and to meet someone like Madame Arcati (Reaghan Reilly).

The portrayal of the medium herself, is an amusing take on an almost comic character – an eccentric, slightly over-the-top, busybody, who is fascinated with all things spirit world and who delights in recounting stories of the inexplicable and dramatic.  Intent on making contact with her child spirit guide “Daphne” she recognises no concern or awareness of any possible danger or difficulties arising from her dabblings in things unseen.

The arrival in the household of Elvira (Filipa Fallow), in the form of the spirit of Charles’ first wife) shows her to have been a bit of a social butterfly, giggly, coquettish and flirtatious.  Used to getting her own way with men, she expects to be paid attention to and is delighted at having been called back, as she believes, by her husband.  Indeed she considers it her right to still be the leading lady in the household.

As the plot develops, so too do the personalities unfold, In particular the jealousies, insecurities and lack of awareness in the main characters, along with their internal desires, inconsistencies and inadequacies.

Altogether I was entertained, despite having to strain and concentrate hard to hear spoken lines.


Second Hand

By Paul Charlton
A Play, A Pie, and A Pint
Review by George Cameron

Old man Jim lives alone above his antique shop, reduced to selling other people’s junk. Recovering after a break-in which resulted in a hit to the leg with a crowbar. Absent Daughter Melissa has arranged day care in the hands of Alison – a home help who plays it by the book. Into this literally falls Ash, a young Socialist who has been living in Jim’s attic since being flung out of his Aunt’s house.

This is a situational comedy that plays on farce, some base humour and “BBC3 Jokes” with great success to get some big laughs.

However, Paul Charlton’s play goes deeper than this as it reflects on how easy it is to speak to someone on the other side of the world using Skype or “BDSM messenger” but most of us don’t know the name of the neighbour at the end of the street.

Cameron Cunningham as Ash and Finlay McLean as Jim are obviously having fun as they bounce off each other with humorous barbs. Providing ample support Elaine MacKenzie Ellis as Allison brings the outside world into the shop.

There may not be much hope left in a world where redundancy and zero hour contracts power hit the headlines daily. But like Alison’s gran used to say “Every generation has its cross to bear”.

This viewer couldn’t help being charmed by Second Hand and does wish the Echo Effect could work in this society.

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