Me and My Girl | Theatre Review
Grand Opera House, Belfast • Tuesday 09 May 2017
By Conor O’Neill
Raise your hats and drop your H’s, it’s St. Agnes’ Choral Society’s 60th anniversary! And to celebrate they’ve laid on a show. An am-dram group like no other, not only have they picked up a Tony and multiple A.I.M.S Awards along the way, and nominated for many more, but cast, crew and production team have collectively picked up more accolades than you can shake a stick at.
This year’s production of L. Arthurs Rose and Douglas Furber’s classic Me and My Girl sees the company delivering an amateur show which proudly stands up against any professional company’s offerings. Class conflict, the hope that true love will win out in the end, 16 songs that’ll raise your hackles and touch the deepest part of your soul, plus dance routines so intricate to have you wondering how choreographer Ann Marie Morgan gets 28 pairs of legs, feet, arms and hands moving in unison, all play their part.
The plot is one that playwrights return to time and time again – transforming a base element into gold The story is reminiscent of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, but there’s no Eliza Doolittle here. Instead we have the Lambeth born Cockney swagger of Bill Snibson and his beloved Sally Smith pitted against the high and mighty of the upper classes for whom the act of getting a job and rising before noon can only ‘bring shame upon the family name’.
Just like the tale, leading man Kerry Rooney has dragged himself out of the masses to the rank of MBE for services to drama in Northern Ireland. His portrayal of William ‘Bill’ Snibson is half Bradley Walsh, half Bruce Forsythe, the other half brilliant. With his cheeky grin and elastic legs, there’s rarely a scene untouched by his presence. Tyrone’s Aideen Fox plays Sally Smith, a fish-wife whose ‘unkempt’ salt-of-the-earth manners the nobility wish to delete from Snibson’s side. At the forefront is the shifting tectonic plate that is Maria, Duchess of Deane, loudly and magnificently played by Fiona Keegan. Aghast that one from such lowly breeding could inhabit Hereford Hall and the House of Lords, the Duchess does everything in her power not only to split the childhood sweet hearts, but angles every effort to refine the rough edges of the newest Baron and Viscount of Hereford.
Thankfully, her daughter, could-be Marilyn Monroe stunt double, Lady Jacqueline Carstone has her eye firmly fixed on Bill. Giving current beau, the Honourable Gerald Bolingbroke, the elbow, she turns her affections to the money, sorry, new found love for the Cockney upstart. Both Bolingbroke and Jaqueline’s characters personify the best and worst of the upper classes. Bolingbroke, played by Gareth McGreevy, effetely screams ‘bally’ a lot. Whether it be ‘bally-hoe’ or ‘bally-gosh’ his limp-wristed character brings both laughter and disgust to the fore. Lorraine Jackson Brown’s Lady Jacqueline will be hard to forget, what with her stunning looks, tremendous stage presence and seductive voice. Her go-get attitude is admirable and despicable at the same time.
Musically, expect everything from swooning ballads to oomph-laden beats that bring many stirrings of the spirit. There’s too many big numbers to name. ‘Thinking Of No-One But Me’ is Lady Jacqueline’s triumph, while ‘The Family Solicitor’ sung by Peter Burke’s Herbert Parchester will liven up the most doom filled of hearts. ‘Once You Lose Your Heart’ sees Sally lament on her sorrowful predicament. Throw in the four-to-the-floor romp that is ‘The Lambeth Walk’ and many more of Noel Gay’s originals and you’ll be hard pushed to find a more bally-frolicking musical. The Hereford Hall Orchestra, led by musical director Wilson Shields, plays soundtrack to this heartening tale of greed, love and social division.
Will Bill gain ‘proper’ manners and retain his newly found title? Will Jacqueline’s advances get her the pot of gold or will true love prevail and real class overcome the inherited type? Why not get yourself down to the Grand Opera House and find out for yourself?
Laura Kerr, Ann Marie Morgan, Wilson Shields and all involved celebrate 60 years in the biz with style. Here’s wishing St Aggies’ Choral Society another 60 to boot.
Me and My Girl runs until Saturday May 13. For booking details call the box office on 02890 241919 or visit www.goh.co.uk
For information on future St Agnes’ Choral Society productions visit their website at www.stagneschoralsociety.com