Tomfoolery

Our final production of the 2017/18 season was a scurrilous, hilarious, joyful delight.

Photography: Barry Parsons

Here are some of the audience reactions.

"I had the most fabulous evening last night at Tomfoolery, Sewell Barn Theatre. It has to be one of the most slick amateur productions I've ever seen - every line milked and polished to the utmost. I didn't stop grinning all night. Thanks Malcolm Robinson for making sure I got there and to Cassie, Selwyn, Angela and everyone else for ultimate sublimity." Clare H

"What a hugely enjoyable evening - Tomfoolery! Well done to everyone for such a slick, energetic and totally excellent presentation of Tom Lehrer's wildly funny work! Is there some way you can put it on again, perhaps at Christmas, as a one-off? It should be given another airing!" Frances M

"Just been to see Tomfoolery at Sewell Barn Theatre... two words... Bloody Brilliant!! Cassie, could you please say thank you & well done to ALL cast & crew from me please!" Adrian W

"This was fabulous. What a wonderful production and a fabulous cast. We all loved it." Jan H

"It really was a great show with a very talented cast. I enjoyed every minute!" Henry H

"‘Twas a fabulous show that all did love
Sing rickety-tickety-tin,
‘Twas a fabulous show that all did love,
With a fine satirical shove!" Vincent G

"Had a wonderful evening at the theatre watching the fantastic Tomfoolery cast and crew in action! Congratulations all on a fantastic show." Emma K

"What a great show we saw last night. Your actors were full of energy and joy, the music and harmonies extremely good and it was FUN. The pianist wasn’t bad either!!! We loved it." Jane K

"Tomfoolery starts up again at the Barn tomorrow and I cannot recommend it enough. Saw it last week and was blown away by the comedy, musicality and story telling. Special shout out to the Dope Peddler song which was so well conceived it was hilarious! Not for the faint of heart, but certainly for those who find joy in satire and comedy in pushing the envelope! What joyous smut it was. Well done all!!!"  Megan R

"A witty, vibrant and hilarious show! Great performances from all the cast, superb direction and a brilliant entertainment all round!" Vincent G

"Songs were amazingly relevant to today’s issues! Many true laugh out loud moments! Cast were talented - amazing voices and comedic timing! A really great evening out in a wonderful setting!" Jemma L

"Glad we [booked], as my friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She said it was so professional, and I chided: But they are a troupe of amateurs. You'd never know as was staged brilliantly with the timing of the old master himself, Tom Lehrer. Am sure he would have given it the thumbs up too!" Jack S

"Great evening @sewellbarn - #Tomfoolery is a great show with some great performances - if you’re looking for a fun night out this week do check out this show about #TomLehrer and try not to singalong - we failed on that bit!!" Sarah Y

[From our photographer after he'd seen two dress rehearsals]: "...you will truly love this musical presentation of "Tomfoolery" at the Sewell Barn this week and next. I highly recommend you see this. I've already seen it twice. Get your tickets now. Here's a few dress rehearsal photos wot I took. Get your bum on a seat, NOW!" Barry P

"I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of this celebration of the songs of the great Tom Lehrer on Monday evening, and can confirm that there's a treat in store for fans of his work. Many splendid renditions, including another show-stealing display from Gill Tichborne…" Trevor B

"If you want to laugh and have fun, if you want to see a [show] about a good American guy, go and see Tomfoolery at the Barn. It's full of Tom Lehrer's satirical songs which are just as relevant today. He's 90 now, I wonder what he thinks of this POTUS!" Etta G

"Brilliant show! Everyone was sooo good. Still chuckling now."  Becky K

"You could rightly say I'm biased when it comes to Sewell Barn Theatre shows, being one of two Artistic Directors there. You could also say I was blown away by our latest show, Tomfoolery, tonight and you would be right both times. The songs are marvellous, uncomfortable and, unfortunately, still prescient. Cassie Tillett's direction is slick and beautifully reinforces and enhances the meaning. And, of course, the musicianship and performance skills of the cast are second to none. What a wonderful way to end our second season! If you haven't booked your ticket yet, do so now! Congratulations to all!" Clare W

"....fantastic first night audience enjoying a fantastic and highly professional performance... you can trust me, I was one of them..." Malcolm R


***

And from our good friend Rob Fradley-Wilde, who as always takes the trouble to treat us to a detailed, thoughtful appraisal of the performance:

"Satire nowadays seems largely to have had its teeth drawn: politician targets have learned to join in the laughter at the ‘joke’, and the subtle force-feeding of overwhelming distractions precludes any follow-up of serious thought, let alone remedial action. And it’s arguable that for most of its history it has been equally ineffective, until power structures began to be undermined by the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and, like a tree’s roots, it found its way in to swell open the tiny first cracks. But its peak surely came in the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies, and a taste of its power and sharpness in those times is currently on offer at the Sewell Barn.

This itself is a source of pleasure to those old enough to have been part of that general cultural revolution, but some of the young generation will be aware that many of the controversial issues on which Lehrer cast his wicked eye remain topical: pornography, racism, ecology, pollution, education, drugs, religion; and above all one is reminded very forcibly that the so-called most 'civilized’ nations still hold enough nuclear weaponry to destroy all life many times over.

But then - whatever one’s interest in that serious stuff - there’s the fun - the sheer fun! The strength (and paradoxically the weakness) of this type of critique is its humour, and there’s no shortage of that in these songs, and especially in the way they are presented to us here by the director, Cassie Tillett. The humour is usually dark, sometimes black - but always bang on the nail. Lehrer was a very intelligent man, and nothing if not articulate, and the lyrics are precise and of clever, often brilliant construction. (I want to mention so many favourites, but we’d be here all night!) His music also is tuneful and memorable and fitting dramatically to the theme, even when he parodies (to great effect with Gilbert and Sullivan, for instance).

Seven talented, skilful, and admirably sure people sing and act all this to bring the audience a thoroughly happy and perhaps thought-provoking evening. In no order of preference, the often very decorative Jessica Hutchings, Sarah Jenkins, Gillian Tichborne, and Angela Rowe, show off above the lower but strongly and enthusiastically-pitched David Whittle, Peter Wood, and Matt Scantlebury. I just wish I had what they have! And the hard-worked pianist and musical director Selwyn Tillet (- only one dropped note the whole evening, a C sharp, but it fell onto a D flat so it hardly mattered) must also be praised, not least for leaving the piano to Ms Hutchings and taking the stage for a most Coward-like demonstration of his own wide talent.

The sound and light and on-screen projection, costumes (it’s worth going just to see the seven gorgeous stoles (that Selwyn stole?)), stage management, properties, etc, all well done. The Barn’s acoustic is good, but can be a bit sharp for high notes when there’s a less than full audience (as when we went), but that’s incidental and any words we missed were because of that, no fault of the cast.

Do come and see this show. If you can’t go yourself, send your friends and neighbours. There are still seats for two performances tomorrow. It really is a splendid two hours’ entertainment."

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