Katie Crowder

Oldham Coliseum
Downstagecentre
8th September 2015
KATIE CROWDER – Theatre ☆☆☆☆4
SHOWING FROM – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2015 THROUGH TILL SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2015
OLDHAM COLISEUM – OLDHAM
Gill Whalley | Tuesday, September 8, 2015

[Katie Crowder reviewed by Gill Whalley on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 for Downstage Centre]
Complex and confused frustrations come to light in ‘Katie Crowder’ at the Oldham Coliseum.
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OLDHAM COLISEUM IS WELL KNOWN FOR ITS IMPRESSIVELY WIDE RANGING PROGRAMME AND ITS EFFORTS TO APPEAL TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY WITH PRODUCTIONS WHICH ARE CHALLENGING AND INNOVATIVE AS WELL AS FAMILY FRIENDLY.

It’s recently broadened its repertoire even further with the opening of a studio theatre, a small intimate space upstairs previously used as a rehearsal space. Local writer Renny Krupinski is launching this new Studio Season with his 2 award –winning plays Alphabet Girl and Katie Crowder which ran in the studio from the 8th to the 12th September. Both actors have a very strong presence and sense of timingThis small space, hidden away at the top of the building was perfect for this story of backstage seediness and frustration played out in the top floor dressing room of a West End theatre.

Bill Ashton (author Krupinski who also directs) and Martin Grosvenor (Ralph Casson) are both jobbing actors, low in the professional pecking order and understudying in a bad West End play. Martin’s claim to superior status is dependent on his ownership of the one line delivered in the roles they share – butlers – who briefly appear and disappear from the front stage to return to the chaos of their dressing room where they bicker over biscuits, jelly babies and card games.

THREATENED

The pace of the play is fast moving and the performances excellent. There are moments of real comedy in their constant bantering, quick-fired word games and manic desperation to outwit and out manoeuvre each other in their quest for fame. The well-worn familiarity in their relationship is threatened however when Bill suspects that Martin has slept with Katie Crowder, the deputy stage manager, (voiced by Kaitlin Howard). Katie is never actually seen in the play but her presence is felt throughout and brings to light the more complex and confused frustrations that connect the two men.

The tone of the play is constantly funny and its depiction of the backstage world of theatre is very entertaining, complete with spoof biographies of the actors in the programme. There are some wonderful comic moments at the end of Act 1 when Martin loses a word game with Bill and at the same time loses the plot, with disastrous results for his performance in the play.

There are moments of sadness and poignancy as well however, particularly in Act 2 when the action moves forward in time and the actors resume their relationship. Both actors bring to life the loneliness and frustration they share, as their game playing and point scoring continues at the same relentless pace. There are times when the notes of bitterness jar with the comedy and maybe leaves the audience unsure how to respond. Both actors however have a very strong presence and sense of timing and their physicality and quick moving delivery had everyone engaged. The intimate setting of the studio added to the authenticity of this production which is well worth catching and a really encouraging introduction to this new Studio season.

Katie Crowder ran in the studio from September 8th to 12th September.
Renny Krupinski’s Alphabet Girl is currently running until the 19th of September.