Classic musical brings a night of Eastern delight

Anna (Lynn Ireland) in 
Eyemouth Variety Group's The King and I.
Anna (Lynn Ireland) in Eyemouth Variety Group's The King and I.

Stepping into the beautifully decorated hall last week I felt as if I had been transported to Siam itself and looked forward to an evening of Eastern delight.

I was not disappointed! From the minute the curtains opened onto the deck of The Chow Phya this well known story was given the Eyemouth Variety Group treatment we have come to know and love.

Jim Watt (Captain Orton) played a worried man at the thought of leaving Anna and her son in Bangkok. Sebastian Aitchison (Louis) portrayed an innocent young boy leaving all he knows well.

Lynn Ireland was a perfect Mrs Anna, feisty yet caring. Her singing was of the usual high standard. Her stage presence led to a completely believable performance.

At this point we were also introduced to Jack Ritchie (The Kralahome) who played the menacing character to perfection. With Mrs Anna intent on staying in Siam we were taken to the King’s Palace. This stunning set proved the perfect backdrop for the King’s dancers to entertain us and this they certainly did.

On his regal dias Craig Rosie (The King of Siam) took control of his kingdom. We felt that he was indeed the king and his mannerisms and use of his strong voice were used to full advantage. His interaction with Mrs Anna, Lady Thiang, his wives and his children were believeable throughout and hey Yul Bryner move over!

Carly Robertson (Tuptim) gave an amazingly mature performance as “a gift from Burma” and her scenes with Ben Furnival (Lun Tha) were so tense you could have heard a pin drop. I don’t think I was alone in hating the King when he was threatening to whip her! Ben meanwhile played a fantastic Lun Tha who wished nothing more to run away with Tuptim. Their duets were particularly haunting. “Head wife” Geraldine Skelly (Lady Thiang) offered a great stage presence as well as a great singing voice and as the mother of Prince Chulalongkorn was in a position to offer Mrs Anna advice.

Archie Bogle (Prince Chulalongkorn) played a regal prince ready to step up in governing Siam. Archie has treaded the boards for many years with Eyemouth and District Community Youth Theatre Group and is now a mature actor with a good singing voice.

And then we come to the children ….. What a delight! From the minute they entered for “presentment to the King” they were a delight and perfectly rehearsed. They were played by Alisha Cooledge, Leah Crowe, Holly Drummond-Cowe, Grace Gillie, Paige Harvey, Mia Jappy, Skye Jappy, Zach Renton, Colbie-Kate Ross, Halle Simpson, Daniel Turnbull, Cody Watkinson, Alistair White, Demi White, Stewart White and Gemma Windram.

The children were very ably looked after by their mothers, The King’s Wives (Yvonne Combe, Julia Grey, Brooke Heary, Cara Heary, Ailsa Landels, Dawn Matthews, Linda Shardlow and Karen Short) and their nursemaids (Maureen Gillie, Lilian Smith and Janice Walker).

Also on hand to look after the palace in general were the guards and priests (Jonathon Combe, Kenny Combe, Lambaire Calis, Bill Shardlow and Jim Watt). Bill Shardlow (Sir Edward Ramsay) played the part of the dignified Sir Edward who has come to Siam to see how civilised it is and knew Anna previously.

The vocal score in the King and I is not an easy one but was handled well by both the soloists and the chorus but this rose to a new level in “Small House of Uncle Thomas”.

“The Wives” handled the difficult musical arrangement with ease with Tuptim telling the tale to the fantastic choreography by Nancy Steele featuring Rory Fairbairn, Elle Drummond, Caitlin Lauder, Hannah Combe, Allison Flockhart, Kirsten Hood, Cara Heary, Ailsa Landels, Tamara McFarlane, Leona Maltman and Lilian Smith.

The scene was incredibly complex but shown to great effect by clever staging.

There were a few tears in eyes in the final scene when the king died but the finale was happy and cheerful.

The evening was enhanced by a warm welcome from Front of House, the pleasing orchestra, the sympathetic lighting and slick scene changes which must have proved challenging. The costumes, make-up and hair were all immaculate showing the high standard we have come to expect from Eyemouth Variety Group.

Lastly but by no means least we mustn’t forget the production team of Pauline Greive, Gilly Peakman and Maureen Gillie who put together this wonderful show.

I left whistling a happy tune!

H.P.