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Dick Barton - Special Agent
by Phil Willmott
TMWA Clubhouse, Croydon & Shaftesbury Theatre, Dawlish
July & August 2015
Director: Martin Tyrrell
Musical Director: Colin Warnock
Choreographer: Tonia Porter


Please CLICK HERE to view Marcus Ascott's photographs (Photobucket site)

Please CLICK HERE to download a .pdf of the programme

Croydon Advertiser review (unpublished)


No attempt will be made in this review to follow the many twists and turns of a tale which our hero, Dick, true to the much-loved radio series,  opens and closes in cliff-hanging situations. What happens in between involves the cast taking on many roles, changing wigs and jackets with alacrity, being careful to change their accents with their new character and trying to make the complicated plot as clear as possible.

The stage at the Mid-Whits is tiny and, ingeniously, set designer Jill Wilson included a revolving panel, a drop-down table and large double doors, bearing the initials DB, which opened to reveal Barton, strung up by his feet, threatened with a most uncomfortable extinction by the very evil Baron Scarheart. In wonderful voice for his musical numbers (particularly the newly-worded Nessun Dorma), Ziggi Szarfranski’s Baron reeked evil, boldly swirled his red-lined black coat and joined in, without reserve, as one of the lady chorus girls in the night club. Giving it equal zeal in satin camisole and black stockings was Peter Calver as Barton for real or one of the pretend Bartons. Their raunchy number, given proper glamour by Jane Kortlandt as the spy Marta Heartburn and Carly Thompson in her showgirl costume rather than as the English Rose Miss Daphne Fritters, brought the house down.

As in all Barton plays, the BBC announcer contributes sanity in clipped tones which Charles Marriott achieved with aplomb. A wig, some bright lipstick and a quick change turned him into the upper-crust hostess whose tea turned out to be far more potent that the Earl Grey she ordered. Responsible, too, for verbal sound effects, he delivered these, dead pan, to a laughing audience.

To Jamie Heath as Jock Anderson fell the requirement of a Scottish accent, achieved OTT of course, but achieved none the less!

Recognisable tunes with new words were peppered through the show with both Jane Kortlandt and Carly Thompson as real songbirds in their numbers – ‘Marta’ with the re-written words to the Mikado’s Tit Willow and ‘Daphne’ keep the original words to A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square,  as a delightful duet with Jock. It takes alert concentration not to miss anything in a Barton production, where the comedy tumbles continuously, and it was obvious the cast were enjoying themselves as much as the audience. David Morgan and Robert Critchett added more characters and Andy and Mary Holton boosted the chorus, again in many different guises.

The important music was under the direction of Colin Warnock, choreography by Tonia Porter and costumes by Anna Warnock. The whole hilarious show was directed by Martin Tyrrell.

The Mitre Players take this mad-cap venture to the Shaftesbury Theatre in Dawlish from 25th to 29th August. Anyone on holiday in that area would be wise to get tickets – if they can.


Theo Spring                      Croydon Advertiser                             July 2015