Opening night of Joan and Jimmy!
A delightful mix of storytelling and music made the opening night of Joan and Jimmy a roaring success.
Bowes and Gilmonby Parish Hall was packed to capacity last night (Feb 28) with over 60 people turning out to watch the play, which now go on to tour a further 13 rural venues throughout the north.
The event started with a lively song, where the audience caught their first glimpse of actress Hayley Doherty (Joan Littlewood) Craig Haley (Jimmy Miller) Stephanie Hackett (Jean Newlove and other parts) and Lawrence Neale (Gerry Raffles and other parts). The four emerged from the back of the village hall before settling on the sparsely, yet brilliantly propped stage which became the canvass for this incredible story.
The small but versatile team, proceeded to lure their audience back to the future with a political play whose themes chime perfectly with modern day politics. The production explored the early years of Theatre Workshop, established by Joan Littlewood and Jimmy Miller towards the end of WWII when Jimmy changed his name to Ewan MacColl after deserting the army. It was a time when Britain was in the grip of austerity, poor health care, and uneasy relations with Europe, which made the timing of the production all the more poignant.
All four members of the cast showed off their versatility as actors, able not only to fully inhabit their characters but to sing, dance and play a variety of instruments at the same time. The music, penned by Jim Woodland and directed by Lester Simpson, was a lively and delightful addition to the show, which was as funny as it was informative.
Craig Haley did an excellent job of portraying a troubled Ewan MacColl haunted by the fear that his decision to desert might catch up with him. Ewan’s womanising ways didn’t prevent jealousy getting in the way between Joan and her new lover Gerry Raffles but Joan, played by Hayley Doherty used a no- nonsense approach to keep him in check. Hayley was thoroughly convincing as the dynamic Joan, giving a passionate and lively performance; bossy, free-spirited and instantly likeable.
Lawrence Neale and Stephanie Hackett showed just how much can be achieved with a small cast. Their chameleon like switches between a variety of characters ramped up the comedy and both were as integral to the production as the two leading actors.
There are plenty of chances to see this play, which will travel throughout the month of March to a variety of northern venues. To check out dates please click here; https://blaize.uk.net/joan-and-jimmy-on-tour/
And click on the video to see what director Mike Bettison had to say about opening night!
*Hats off also to tour manager and technician Gary Bridgens, Movement Director Paula J Horton, Set Designer Simon Pell and Costumier Val Carman. Great photos too by Paul Place. Good job all round!
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