This week, in the first of our two play readings, we tackled A Chorus of Disapproval by Alan Ayckbourn. The play was familiar to a couple of long-standing ALP members, who were involved when it was staged by the group nearly two decades ago.
A Chorus of Disapproval begins with a youngish widower, Guy Jones, joining the Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society as they begin rehearsals for The Beggar’s Opera. The play follows Guy as he manages to progress through the cast, all the while negotiating love affairs and the internal politics of the group.
There were far more laughs had from this play reading than from the previous two Ayckbourn plays read over the last few months (Relatively Speaking and How the Other Half Loves). People enjoyed the imagery and the fact that there were lots of small parts, which made the play feel inclusive. While there are two or three bigger parts, it was felt that each actor would have a place in the play where they and their character could shine.
There was a question raised about whether an audience would get as much enjoyment out of the play as those reading the play within the ALP; the setting and some (though, we hasten to add, not all!) of the internal struggles within the group were recognisable to us and were therefore funnier as a result. However, the group came to a consensus that there is enough humour not particular to an amateur dramatics group to be accessible to a wider audience.
Although people felt it would be a great play to be involved with, a couple of difficulties did present themselves. One was the issue of the staging; several scene changes are quick and it was agreed that the play did not lend itself to the traditional box set. No complete solutions were mooted at the reading, but it is clear that any staging of A Chorus of Disapproval would have to be planned very carefully and cannily.
Another point raised was that of the singing – several tunes are included within the play, most from the group’s staging of The Beggar’s Opera. As the group is an amateur one, the singing would not have to be perfect, but someone quite rightly pointed out that it would need to be of an acceptable standard in order to keep the audience entertained. The character of Mr Ames, the piano player for Palos, was suggested as a role for the MD for the production.
Despite the difficulties in staging A Chorus of Disapproval, people were generally optimistic about the play. It seems that the humour, warmth and good pacing that Ayckbourn injected into the piece were able to overcome the difficulties putting on the play might present.
What do you think? Let us know if you’ve read or seen A Chorus of Disapproval and want to agree or disagree with anything written here.
Future play readings:
- And a Nightingale Sang by C.P. Taylor – Thursday 29 August, 8pm