Splurging at Shiplake

29 Jan 2014

The Tithe Barn Theatre at Shiplake College was packed to the rafters in January as the Shiplake Drama and Music departments teamed up to put on an engaging production of Bugsy Malone.

With tickets in such high demand, two extra performances were added, yielding a tough schedule for performers of six shows in four days. This did not put the Shiplake actors off though, as they performed with infectious energy and enthusiasm from the moment the first audience took their seats on Wednesday afternoon until their final bow on Saturday evening.

Shiplake’s stage adaptation of the 1976 musical gangster film told the story of the rise of Bugsy Malone (Connor Cummings), a likeable boxing promoter down on his luck, and the battle for power between ‘Fat Sam’ (Ruaridh Sheppard) and ‘Dandy Dan’ (George Atkinson). Ruaridh did not let a broken leg suffered over Christmas hold him back, with the ‘star in the cast’ ultimately proving to be the ‘star of the cast’.

The conflict was certainly not a traditional gang war. Instead, shaving foam filled ‘splurge guns’ and custard pies were used as weapons to finish off opponents. This created a hugely entertaining spectacle, and whilst the cast remained in character throughout with some impressive American accents, the enjoyment was clear to see on their faces.

Connor (Bugsy) certainly won the hearts of the audience, but found winning the affections of Blousey Brown, played magnificently by Emily Holloway, a more difficult prospect. His quest was not helped by the meddling of Fat Sam’s girlfriend ‘Tallulah’ AKA Sixth Former Katie Webster, or his financial troubles. The latter led him into a sticky situation with Fat Sam, culminating with a dramatic car chase shown below.

Directors Mrs Unwin and Mrs Pearson did an excellent job adapting the storyline to utilise all available space in the Tithe Barn venue. Imaginative staging brought the audience very close to the action, creating a terrific atmosphere. Songs were accompanied by a live band, led by Mrs Rapple on the piano. Soloists showed off their impressive vocal ranges, notably Niranjan Rajagopal (hilariously accompanied by Lower School backing dancers) and Jordan Gibson playing caretaker ‘Fizzy’ who wowed the crowd with a storming rendition of ‘Tomorrow’.

All 88 cast members did themselves proud, including the entire Lower School who demonstrated admirable versatility to depict down and out workers, dancers, barbers, boxers and butlers!

The final scene was a chaotic melee of shaving foam, as the rival gangs converged to settle their differences once and for all. There was to be a happy ending, however, as the characters realised they could all be friends, and Bugsy made Blousey’s dream a reality by whisking her off to Hollywood.