‘Double Trouble in Little Rock’
performed by The Maltings
Junior Youth Theatre
stop me when this starts to sound like the most flat out mental stage show ever. Ready? A miner with a bearded wife and 14 children; two sets of Sister Sledge loving baddies; a horse who is actually two separate U.S. Marshals in disguise; an old timer who is constantly mistaken for donkey.
You’d probably be right if you stopped there, however I haven’t yet mentioned two deputies playing out a high camp “bromance” and Chris Maud, Euan Steady, Rory Hamilton and Charles Lawrie performing a dance wearing inflatable horses. What’s more this is the third story to be set in the town of Little Rock.
Every inch of this script is a genuine riot of creativity and is bursting with memorable lines and the woman responsible is none other than the show’s director Wendy Payn (who is also currently directing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and probably hasn’t set foot in her own house since early March)
To explain the show’s intricate plot – involving prospectors, bringing the train lines to the town and double dealing baddies and goodies – would require the drawing of a flow chart and the creation of a third pull out section in the paper, but Wendy’s young charges delivered focused performances that kept the audience right where they needed to be as they waited for the next bizarre twist to be unveiled.
Leading the ensemble cast is Chris Maud as Mayor McLusky whose amiably mobile face contorted and twisted like plasticine as he lurched from one comic moment to the next with his dignity barely intact. It’s Chris’ cheeky charisma that draws your eye and marks him out as one to watch for the future.
Iona Frame was also good playing his daughter Constance with a sweet innocence while relishing her character’s hilarious passive-aggressive asides.
Her love interest however, Rory Hamilton as Deputy Ray, seemed to be in a competition for “campest cowboy in the west” with his partner Deputy Doo Da and together proved to be an excellent comedic double act.
Down in the local saloon; Natasha Brooke as Slime Ball Sally played her role with more sass than I have on my bacon roll. Frazer Gorvett also impressed as Undertaker Joe with his worrying habit of measuring people up for burial before they had actually died.
Meanwhile up in “them thar hills” Hillbilly Willy (Dexter Keenan a talented boy who has the extraordinary ability to speak 17 times faster than any normal human being) was rooting around in his mine looking for treasure much to the chagrin of his bearded wife Ma Willy (an hilarious turn by Katie Dyson.)
We also had his one and only son Big Jessie played confidently by James Roake and his fleet of daughters played by half of Spittal!
We haven’t mentioned our baddies yet so... now I will because they were brilliant. Charles Lawrie as duplicitous sheriff Luke Jackson was like Woody from Toy Story “gone Darkside.” Xenia Garden played Priscilla Pongalot (The “T” is silent) with an unusual tenderness that almost had you feeling sorry for her despite the fact she was a dirty crook.
They were given incredible support from Mary Davenport (as sure-footed “Bucky”) and Isla Frame (as the professional mentalist “Roo”)
Scene stealing performances came courtesy of a band of Mexicans (oh, if you could hear the accents!) by James Postle, Lewis Murray and (in particular) Danny Flannigan as “The Rude, The Mad and [a very British] Jeremy.”
The music – under the firm control of Alison Coates and her gang – took in everything from ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ to ‘Hannah Montana’ (Get MY gun) alongside some original compositions written by the cast and an airing of ‘Dixie’ ripped from the heart of ‘Bourbon Street’ (Berwick’s very own Jazz Musical that has nothing to do with biscuits.)
Technical duties were handled brilliantly with the use of back-projected scenery (See, no need for a fly-tower!) and a brilliant saloon set by Jimmy Manningham and Stephen Percy.
All in all another terrific show by one of the most consistent young theatre groups in the county. A big hearted and kind spirited show that has me itching to go back to Little Rock again and again.