I, AMDRAM - AT THE CAMBRIDGE JUNCTION
Do you love or hate amateur dramatics? Hannah Maxwell does both. Well, hate is too strong a word. For this excellent performer, the AmDram stage was part of her life. In her pitch-perfect confessional show, she revealed that the Welwyn Garden City players had a long family connection; her mum, grandparents, great grandparents were or are stalwarts of what is a very quintessentially British phenomenon. Hannah lost count of the number of musicals she was dragooned into but most painful of her memories was her desire to play Freddie in ‘My Fair Lady’.
The one-hour show was pure joy and I could easily have enjoyed another sixty minutes in her company. Her script and performance were deftly balanced between painful nostalgia and family pride. At its root was a journey – both physical and emotional. Maxwell took us on the train ride from London KX to Welwyn and each stop provided a kind of scenic break in the narrative. An inspired idea. The other more important journey we were taken on was Maxwell’s own gradual discovery as a teenager of her own sexuality as a gay woman. Clearly at odds with her conventional family, the sugary confections of AmDram musical theatre came to stand for her personal turmoil; in real life there are few happy endings with beaming chorus numbers.
In the sauna that was the Junction’s studio, Maxwell packed her hour with hilarious impersonations of her AmDram past and moments of pure theatre. She used, for instance, a joke about the endless blackouts common on the amateur stage to cut out the lights and go on a poetic journey of self reflection. She successfully employed audience participation (e.g. in a silly dance routine from ‘A Chorus Line’) and a lot of creative props such as a rather magical suitcase lit from within. A small TV screen showed (I imagine) real footage from her childhood prancings on the Welwyn stage and she deployed stage candles in a simple but rather lovely way. Add into the mix a powerful soundscape including interviews with AmDram participants and songs from the shows. It was all choreographed with pinpoint accuracy; there were laugh out loud moments but also many with thoughtful insights.
‘I, AmDram’ deserves to do really well in Edinburgh – it is rich mix of comedy and more serious self analysis. Admire or hate Amdram, you will love this show.
The show will be at the Pleasance Attic, at 2pm from 31 July to the 26 August.