Fawlty Towers - Review in East Anglian paper  

Young giant-killers’ sell-out show is a towering effort!
Thursday, December 1, 2011

I’ve just been to see two episodes of Fawlty Towers performed live. That’s right, the classic TV sitcom Fawlty Towers, performed live. It was last Sunday afternoon, only three minutes up the road from me, and in Wivenhoe’s William Loveless Hall. The performance which I saw was the second of three last weekend. All shows were sold out. I would estimate that the production had managed to put between 450 to 500 rears on tiers over the whole weekend. Although, I couldn’t recall ever having heard of anyone performing Fawlty Towers before, surely, someone must have staged it in London – maybe up west somewhere? If that had been the case, though, you’d think there’d have been an attendant PR splurge and several big names involved.
I asked around and was told: “This is not a common production. We understand one was performed somewhere around 10 years ago, and another at Maldon Town Hall two years ago.”

Now, I considered it, though; Fawlty Towers. Who would dare to take it on?

The sitcom, which began in 1975, got off to a slow start but went on to immortality. There were only ever 12 episodes made. Each episode took six weeks to devise and script. In an era when the word ‘legend’ is bandied about far too freely, here was a comedy actually worthy of the title. John Cleese and Constance Booth, its writers, obeyed four essential rules most likely to endow a thing with legendary status: 1) Turn up. 2) Be brilliant. 3) Go away. 4) Refuse to repeat.

Fawlty Towers, though, has over the decades become so precious that we’re rarely allowed these days to see it on free-to-air TV.

I don’t want to waste your time here analysing why it was so good. I’ll leave that job to those media cheapskates who specialise in making TV programmes which are really only shopping lists – Your 100 Best Comedy Moments type-of-thing. I suppose this is because it’s cheaper not to make new programmes, but instead, to prattle on endlessly about why the old ones were so good.

Fawlty Towers, though. Would you trust a small town am-dram group to walk in the seven league boots of such a comedy giant? Did you trust Paul Merton to recreate Tony Hancock?

There’s a recession to be taken account of here too. Theatres aren’t having a good time of things at present.

According to some sources, this is all the Government’s fault. Well, naturally. Nothing to do with the fact that if you only stage dull or incomprehensible stuff and then charge too much for it, people might not want to come.

Listen; if you put Fawlty Towers on and charge only £6 for two episodes, you could probably stage it in a leaky tent in a supermarket car park, lit by two bicycle lamps, and the punters would still flock in. You could try other tactics, of course. You could stage the ghastly Marat Sade for its shock value and hope that the resultant protests will shoehorn a few more punters in. Or you could try to stage Fawlty Towers.

This was the course taken by Shane Diggens and his co-director Aaron Reilly. Shane is a 21-year-old Wivenhoe entertainer. He sings, he plays drums and plays in amateur musical productions. He’s more showbiz, therefore, than arts bunker.

Aaron, is still studying for his A-levels at Colne Community School in Brightlingsea and (probably because I’m quite old) he looks about 14.

These lads don’t have any Arts Council money or anything like that. They probably wouldn’t even think of applying for it.

So what do they do? They get a very lanky actor called Greg Smith, known locally for his great comic timing, to play Basil Fawlty.

Then they get another highly-regarded local stalwart, Jane Rayner to play Sybil, Fawlty’s wife. Shane then asks his sister, the singer Angie Diggens, to play Polly the maid.

Gradually, over the course of the autumn the two young giant-killers build themselves a strong cast. Then, one weekend in mid-November, with very little fanfare, they stage two Fawlty Towers episodes –The Hotel Inspectors and Communication Problems. They do this with home-built sets, and all within the plain confines of the William Loveless Hall. And they sell out.

This was a family affair. Shane and Angie’s mum, Julia, did the box office and publicity. Their nan, Mary Diggens helped with the costumes. Their dad, Neil handled transport and did the sound. There was something noble – almost Victorian – about this procedure. It was definitively in a tradition which Charles Dickens would have recognised – a noted local theatrical family and their friends putting on a well-loved comedy production.

And it was brilliant. When it had finished, as the audience exploded into applause, I felt I could have watched it all over again. Apart from Fawlty Towers being quite as funny as it ever was, it was oddly moving to realise how much work and attention to detail had gone into it. Quite frankly, I don’t think even John Cleese or Connie Booth could have quibbled with it.

Fawlty Towers, when staged as a live play is quite as impressive as anything by Wilde, Shaw or Sheridan. Shane Diggens says that he would like to take the show out on tour, next.

And I would like to march the entire British Arts Council and every theatre director in London out to north Essex and make them watch Shane’s and Aaron’s production. And then I would like to say to them all: “Beat that, you no-marks.”


My 21st birthday 

Well where do i start...

On the 2nd of september i had all the lads round from about 7pm to see my birthday in. we just talked, had a couple of drinks and lots of banter. It got to 12pm and as normal mum had the bubble wrap out and made us all jump up and down to guess wat - Happy birthday to ya!! 

Everyone left round about 1am when my dad got back from work, so me, dad and mum could have a drink together. We stayed up to about 3.30am when i thought i better get to bed as i knew it was going to be a BIG day LOL.

The next morning i was up at 9am looking forward to the day, i went down stairs and guess what was playing - Happy birthday to ya!! (You can see a repeat). Everyone was there Mum, Dad, Kath, Nan, Grandad, Angie, Brownie, Sunny, Fay and Dionne. I started opening my presents and cards, i was given so many lovely gifts from everyone and many pictures of...ME! Then guess wat the bubble wrap came out again - que song...but this time it was BIG bubble wrap. My nan really enjoyed it and we have it on video, she looked like a 10 years little girl again, so cute. 

I then went for a drink with my dad at 12.30pm at the Horses and groom. It was really nice to go for a drink just me and him. We had a laugh and talked about everything. we had our first beer of the day and a lovely sausage sandwich. Then we made a move home at 1.30pm.

Then we went to Earls Colne air field where i flow a 2 seater plane, the pilot took off then i took over and learnt how to turn left, right and 360. We went over my house and work and then headed back. On the way back he cut off the engines to show me what happens - that was nice of him. We then landed and it was an experience i will always remember. 

I then headed back home to get ready for the meal at the Rose and Crown, Wivenhoe. At 3.30pm i arrived there in my Mafia suit (Grey suit, gold neckless, gold rings, hat, gold braclet, Big cigar, gun and greased back hair). Everyone else dressed up there was Jim, Chris, Miller, Ben, Smudge, George, Lewis, Kath, Amy, Brownie and  Aaron. We had a lovely meal and couple of cheeky shots.

5pm came around and our limo awaited, we all jumped in and it was massive. I had done some cd's for the ride and got the party started. we had to pick up Zach on the way though wivenhoe and then everyone was with us. We drove around for 2 hours visiting Finton lol and having lots of drink and singing on the journey. I was given a video camera for my birthday from Mum and Dad so i got everything that happened (very funny watching it back).

We finaly arrived at the William loveless hall in which i had a mafia Party. I was welcomed by everyone and a red carpet, i felt like i was famous. The bar i built was set up and was stocked up with LOTS of drinks from strongbow to jelly shots. I had my cousins band (Stoney Road) play who were amazing. I had so many people there and i love them all, so many gifts and cards was so touching. The night came to an end and i finished the night off with me singing...sorry trying to sing New york, new york.

But was it the end...some one said about getting a taxi into town and i was in the first one. Next thing i know im standing in town having a drink in a bar i've never heard of.

so to conclude my 21st was an amazing day and i wanna thank everyone who was involved and part of it. Thank you so much i will never ever forget it.

x x x x

Young person of the year - YOPEY 

Nothing is impossible and you can do anything you set your mind to.

When I was a child I did not speak until I was four and a half, instead I made things out of old boxes and paper. When growing up I had a speech impediment and couldn’t read or write. I went to the opticians once every four months to help me with my reading, because i had bad eyes. this is why I couldn’t read or write, but I over come that with in time.

When I was seven I joined K.A.T.S. (kid’s amateur theatre society), for someone who couldn’t read this seemed a very strange activity to take up. I thought to myself if I learnt scripts and performed them I would get better at reading, which i did. I then went on to play some very challenging characters; one of which that stood out from them all was playing ‘Miss Nelly the panto dame’ at school aged 14. Many other kids would have frozen and buckled under the pressure of dressing and performing in front of the whole school, but not me, I had something to prove. When I was at school I was bullied because of my weight and the fact I did performing arts. I proved to them all that I wasn’t scared to stand up in front of them and be who I wanted to be. I also am very pleased considering the circumstances that I got a ‘C’ in English and a ‘B’ in Drama GCSE’s and for many years help at my local church teaching in Sunday school.

I have never said no to a challenge and I have never been scared or nervous to do anything, which is the message I try to pass on to the students at ADP or anyone I work with. I try to motivate them by my past experiences, nothing is impossible. When people ask me do you have to be a singer to sing or dancer to dance or actor to act, I say NO. You can always learn from what ever age you are. When I was fifteen I couldn’t sing a note in key, but I said to myself if I want a main part I have to learn to sing. So that’s exactly what I did. I joined C.O.S. (Colchester operatic society) and taught myself to sing and now I have become a well known singer and performing at peoples weddings and various events.

ADP is all about getting the best out of every individual no matter how good or bad they are. We teach singing, drama, dance and confidence building because you don’t just need confidence in performing arts, you need it in life and in general. We have many people join which normally wouldn’t even have thought about it and I like to think that’s because when they see me, they think he does it so why can’t I?

When I see them perform on stage it gives me a massive sense of satisfaction to think that I have been a part of their life and made it better for now and for the future.
I like to think I am a good role model; I work two jobs first being a full time mechanic and second being a part time barmen. I direct the shows with ADP and also do solo gigs and in my little spare time I like to arrange a game of football with my friends and anyone who wants to join. I think I am a hard worker and young people look up to me and older people respect me.

I want to be a inspiration to young people and the message I pass on to anyone I meet that have/had similar issues is - if you work hard and don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do something, you can achieve anything.

Recording studio 

29th of Jan 2011

New suit, new shoes, new cuff links, new cards, new promo photo and now after long time coming, i have got into a recording studio (thanks to mum and dad) and layed down 5 tracks.
'Cry me a river'
'Fly me to the moon'
'Aint that a kick'
'You were always on my mind'
'Peridoxe swing'

I had to be at the studio by 10:00am so night before didn't have a drink and went to bed early, so i was nice and fresh for the morning.
I got up at 9:00am and put my new suit on for the first time and done my hair. We got to the studio to be met by Dionne Holloway (who was taking photo's) then very soon after was Mark Wickenden (who owned the studio).

We got in and  set everything up and when i say set everything up i mean i gave mark my cd Lol.
Dionne took some photo's and then we got started with 'Fly me to the moon' was very strange not holding a mick but soon got in to the swing of things.
then we done some editing (and no before anyone says anything no auto tuning present).
We then layed down 'Aint that a kick', 'Peridoxe swing' 'You were always on my mind' and then with so much excitement i finished with 'cry me a river'.

Mark and i sorted the tracks out and we were sorted, he finalised the cd and now i have my DEMO woooop woooop  x x x   

My 20th birthday 

I turned 20 years old on the 3rd of september, i had an amazing day.

I saw my birthday in with mum and dad with a cheeky Jack Daniel's untill 2 in the morning, then went to bed to wake up for work at 7.00am.
Spent the day at VRS (vehicle repair solutions), was a normal day untill come 5.30pm i was cleaning myself down when some one shouted 'shane' and i turned and a bucket of water just missed me, but with no time to react another bucket about a metre away hit me head on, i was socked top to bottom and had to drive home just in my pants.

When i got home mum welcomed me with the normal 'happy birthday to ya' song, what a surprise! I had a bar full of drink, fridge full of food, pool table set up and TV ready for the england game! People started turning up and with in no time the house was full and drinks were flowing. Music was on and everyone having a laugh, England was doing really well winning 4-0 and food was about to be served - Dad's chilli (best chilli in the world). We all started singing, playing air guitar and irish dance. Night carryed on till 4:00am in the morning, which surprised me because my dad said party finishes at 1:00am but he was the one that kept putting more songs on, i didn't complane. 

Next morning my mum and dad took me up to london to see  'the phantom of the opera', we left at 3:00pm to go to the train station, got the train into london and walked to the theatre, Mum asked if the cast could sing happy birthday to me, which made me and dad laugh, she is special. We went to a pub close by for a quiek pint and then headed back to the theatre, We entered the theatre, which was strange because the only two other times i'd been there was to perfom there. We took our seats and was very excited to see the phantom come to life. I was absolutely blown away by the scenery in the first half and Phantom had an amazing voice, in the interval i went to the bar to buy me, mum and dad a drink, i had to get a loan out to buy them, they were so expensive. Second half started and was stright back into it again. I had to stop myself from singing and was close to jumping up and pushing the phantom off and 'TRY' and take over. Again the scenery was amazing but the last scene with the phantom, Christine and Raul was the best scene of them all, all there voices together gave me goose bumps. I left the theatre having giving me even more deternimation to become a west end performer.

All in all my birthday was great and i would like to thank the 69 people on facebook for kind wishes, all the bottles of Jack i was given and all the cards much appreciated.

shane  x x x

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