Eastern Branch

The Eastern Branch welcomes enquiries from budding and new group organisers to our existing family of over 90 members in the Branch which covers Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, Suffolk and the London post code areas of London E, N and NW.





All Members, please advise the Membership Secretary if your email contact details have changed since you first joined the AGTO - this is most important for continued contact and Membership updates.


The Branch Committee


Joan Hanks - Branch Director

Maria Maltby - Secretary

Linda Nicholas - Treasurer

Yvonne Hodson - Web Page and sub editor

Maureen Hardingham, committee member

At the Branch Meeting on the 19th October the following Eastern Branch members were co-opted on to the Committee until the AGM takes place at the Showcase Weekend in February.

Enid Pamment  -  Acting Chairman

Catherine Skeggs  -  Vice Chair

Committee Members  -  Jackie Ames, Elizabeth Cauldwell, Graham Scrase

Tony Wright  -  Official Branch Photographer






AGTO Magazine

Dear Members,

Just a reminder to send the details of your trips to Yvonne Hodson, AGTO magazine co-ordinator, Branch Webpage . Other members are really interested in your events and look forward to hearing from you. Send them to yhodson@gmail.com




Falsettos at the Other Palace, London (until 23 November. Box office: 0844 871 7622).


The musical, which has won awards on Broadway, is set in the 1980s and tells how a Jewish man leaves his wife and son, Jason, to live with his male lover, Whizzer (Oliver Savile).  Marvin (played by Daniel Boys) wants to stay involved in his son's life
 - an outstanding performance from young Albert Attack as Jason on the day I went - and is particularly keen on the organisation of his bar mitzvah.  Trina (a lovely performance by Laura Pitt-Pulford) goes to the psychiatrist, Mendel (Joel Montague), recommended by her husband,  and the two fall in love.  Marvin is most unhappy at losing his therapist.  The sung-through musical is bright and funny with lots of energetic singing until it suddenly changes to a sombre look at the advent of the AIDS virus.

Well-written with some witty lyrics, with good singing from the cast, the play exposes some truths about being a real man and the importance of different types of relationships.

Rating ****



In gloomy weather like this and with the clocks changing so that daytime is shorter and darker, many of us look to the theatre to provide some light relief! These plays will, I trust, make you laugh!


First, we have THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (Wyndham’s Theatre, London until 11 January 2020, Box office: 0844 482 5120)


This is a real farce with lots of humorous moments and inventive action. Based on the 1950s comedy, which became a film starring Alec Guiness, it has been adapted by Sean Foley, who is renowned for his witty productions. It is now set in 1956 and tells how dedicated scientist, Sidney Stratton (Stephen Mangan) invents a material which never wears out, doesn’t stain and never needs cleaning!

But, of course, this is no good for big businesses and as efforts are made to stop Sidney’s invention becoming a reality, the action becomes more frenetic.  Sidney is aided by Daphne (Kara Tointon, who, making use of her Strictly skills, even dances!)  Both Tointon and Mangan and, indeed, the rest of the cast, perform with vigour.

Director, Sean Foley, fills the stage with physical gags and the actors put their effort into making sure that each one works well. There are a number of musical numbers played and sung by members of the cast. While the emphasis is on the visual sight gags – and there is great design by Michael Taylor - there are a number of topical gags to make the show relevant to our present times.

Rating ****


There are no topical references in NOISES OFF (Garrick Theatre, London until 4 January 2020, Box office: 0330 333 4811).  Instead this is a farce in the old-fashioned Whitehall farce manner and even includes trousers falling down! Director Jeremy Herrin gets every inch of humour from the bustling comedy, and his actors do him proud.

Taking place both backstage and on-stage during a provincial run of a play with a rather inept cast, we have a number of characters running on and off, dealing with various props, all of which succeed in helping the actors to make even more mistakes.  There is a constant theme of plates of sardines being taken on and off the set at mostly the wrong times.

Of course, Michael Frayn’s farce has become a classic and some of you will have seen it before.  It is, however, worthy of a second – or even third – look.

The cast of characters in the play within-the -play that we are watching includes the hopeless housekeeper (beautifully played by Meera Syal), an estate agent (the stunned-looking Daniel Rigby) and his girlfriend (Lisa McGrillis), the two owners, who return unexpectedly and Simon Rouse as an alcoholic actor playing the part of a burglar.  Our sympathies are with Poppy (Anjili Mohindra) and Tim (Adran Richards) who play the stagehands trying to keep track of props and actors.

There are lovely scenes where people pop in and out of rooms, narrowly missing each other.  Other scenes have actors arriving at the wrong time or not at all and other nightmare happenings when the poor actors just flounder as they wait to be rescued from the terrible disaster in which they find themselves.  If you are after a real belly laugh…go to this with your group.



TICKLE (King’s Head Theatre, London, Box office: 0207 226 8561) is only on for a very short run, but it is worth catching if you can or when it comes on elsewhere which it surely must!  The King’s Head is a lovely little theatre set in a Victorian pub so you might fancy taking a small group to another show there!

Based on a real endurance competition, the little musical comedy shows two guys (James McDowall and Ben Brooker) being recruited, by the lure of lots of money, to take part in a tickle competition.  They find themselves at odds with the way the tickle competition is being run by the diva, Tina Tickle (the outrageous Richard Watkins) and his assistant Davina Diamond (Amy Sutton).


The actors do wonders with the huge pink feather fans and all sing well.  There is even some choreography.  Chris Burgess has written the book, lyrics and music and the it is directed by Robert McWhir. The show is amusing and lots of fun!

Rating ****


Not quite in the same category as the above comedies, but A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG (Trafalgar Studios, London until 30 November. Box office: 0844 871 7632) has many laughs in spite of the fact that it deals with such a tragic theme.  Although it is some 52 years since the play was first presented in the West End, it is still emotional to watch.  How Peter Nichols was able to write this play when he himself had a severely disabled daughter is amazing.

The play deals with the on-going difficulties of a couple struggling to cope with bringing up a daughter who is so disabled that she hardly moves and only makes sounds rather than speaking.  The way the couple cope is to make fun of their situation; they speak the words that their daughter should speak and comment in a humorous manner on their day to day dramas.  They act out in little role-playing scenes various scenarios that have or could occur. But their coping mechanism obviously has an effect on their marriage, and they are now straining to come to terms with what is happening.

From the first moment Bri, the husband, played by Toby Stephens, addresses the audience, we can see that the character is a real person.  Claire Skinner is also brilliant in the role of the mother/wife Sheila.  And there are telling performances from their friends who visit.  As played by Clarence Smith and Lucy Eaton, we see how they find the interaction with Joe very difficult and Sheila just wishes to leave.  There is a lovely cameo from Patricia Hodge as grandmother to a girl she wishes could run like others.  Good, too, to see a disabled actress as Joe.  It is a relief to hear her address the audience in her own voice to announce the interval.

A strong play by the late Peter Nichols, it is well worth a visit.



Carlie Newman





Consider first THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (the RSC Stratford on Avon production at the Barbican Theatre, London until 18 January 2020, Box office: 0844 482 5120 and then touring around England until April 2020)*


The main thrust of this production is the reversal of all roles.  All the male characters become female and visa versa.  Aiming to rectify some of the misogyny connected with the usual performances, we have Katherine (Joseph Arkley) as a young man, petulant and difficult but still with the same name. He has a younger brother, Bianco (James Cooney), who is a beautifully sweet and docile young man, beloved by many women who would like to marry him.  But nobody wants Katherine and Baptista (Amanda Harris), their mother, insists that her older son, Katherine, must be married before the younger one. It appears that Katherine is jealous of his mother's love for her preferred son, Bianco.

Amongst Bianco's suitors is the older Gremio.  Sophie Stanton is very funny in this part.  She does the gliding walk as originated by Mark Rylance at the Globe theatre when he played a woman. The audience laughs every time she moves.

Everyone is amazed and delighted when Petrucia (Claire Price) comes to Padua and hearing of Katherine's riches, takes up the challenge of wooing him. The humiliation of Katherine follows as Petrucia woos and then marries him, depriving him of food, sleep and messing with his mind until he is truly 'tamed.'

Changing genders certainly makes the play more acceptable in this modern age.  We can appreciate the torturing and submission of a male rather than feeling uncomfortable when it is a woman.

Good to see the deaf actress, Charlotte Arrowsmith on stage and Biondella, the servant to Lucentia, one of Bianco's suitors, is played in a wheelchair by Amy Trigg.  With her wild hair and great striding walk and air of command, Claire Price embodies the female Petrucia and is well matched by the at first aggressively foul-mouthed Katherine of Joseph Arkley and then the two come together in an almost affectionate manner.

This is a real comedy with lots of humorous moments and inventive action. It is still a battle of the sexes, but the gender flipping makes it more appealing to the modern audience.

Rating ****


At almost the opposite scale of production is ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL at the tiny but almost perfect Jermyn Street Theatre, London, Box office: 0207 287 2875)

Directed by Tom Littler with a cast of just six which includes two who play on two pianos from time to time. Helena (Hannah Morrish) really loves Bertram (Gavin Mowler) who has known her since childhood.  When Bertram leaves for Paris, Helena follows him.  Armed with her doctor father's medical knowledge, she is able to cure the sick queen (Miranda Foster). The Queen is so grateful that she offers her a husband. Helena chooses Bertram and the Queen gives Helena to Bertram as his wife. He is most displeased and tells the queen he doesn't love Helena.

Bertram leaves Helena, announcing that he won't acknowledge her as his wife until she is pregnant by him and has his ring to prove it. How she manages this is most imaginative and the play and its production is beautifully constructed.

The small cast fulfills all that’s required of the actors and the piano playing adds to the ambience – I would have liked to hear more.

Also just opened at the Barbican in London is the RSC’s touring production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE (see below for details of touring dates).  There are no major gender changes here.  Actors from the company show their versatility by taking on new roles here.


Shakespeare’s play has a similar change of lady as in All’s Well That Ends Well.  When the Duke of Vienna (Antony Byrne) leaves his deputy Angelo (Sandy Grierson) in charge, he little knows that Angelo, who closes brothels and tells everyone to behave in a moral manner, is himself corrupt.

A young man, Claudio (James Cooney) is put into prison and told he is to be executed the following day because he has got his girlfriend, Juliet (played by Amy Trigg, who uses a wheelchair) pregnant.  His sister, Isabella (Lucy Phelps) is persuaded to plead on his behalf.  When she goes before Angelo, he falls for her and says he will grant Claudio’s freedom if she gives up her body to him. As she is a novice nun, she tells him she values her chastity above her brother’s life and refuses. The Duke, now disguised as a priest, tells Isabella that she can seem to succumb to Angelo but still keep her virginity.

The story, as it takes place, is very clearly explained in this production, which, as with the other two plays in this Shakespeare season on tour, starting at the Barbican after Stratford-upon-Avon, is accessible in its exposition.

There are interesting characterisations from Grierson as Angelo and a luminous Isabella from Phelps.  The whole company plays exceptionally well in addition to working together in a meaningful manner.



*2019/20 TOUR







12 - 22 FEBRUARY 2020










UNTIL 4 APR 2020



UNTIL 18 JAN 2020

Carlie Newman