#chesterculture – TipTop Productions find a new home in Wrexham

Celebrations with a musical flavour have been held to mark a local theatre company’s latest milestone achievement.

Members of Chester based theatre company Tip Top Productions gathered to celebrate the acquisition of their new Wrexham premises, the former Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Park Street. The venue, now known as Park Street Studio will provide enhanced rehearsal facilities for the group.


img_0823The Studio was officially opened by The Chairman and founder of Tip Top, Peter Swingler OBE. Members were then invited by musical director Simon Phillips to join in the first “sing through” of songs from the musical “Oklahoma!” which is being performed by the company at The Forum Studio Theatre in Chester from 11th – 20th August.

Speaking about acquiring their new premises, Peter said “When I established Tip Top in 1989 my dream was to set down our roots in our own premises; that vision has materialised today with the purchase of these superb premises in Wrexham. We look forward to continuing producing our work at the Forum Studio in Chester and other venues including Theatr Clwyd in Mold and Storyhouse in Chester while we rehearse our shows in Park Street Studio, Wrexham”.

Tip Top has also announced that auditions are to be held on 5th June for budding T-birds, Pink Ladies and the iconic roles of Danny and Sandy for Tip Top’s upcoming production of the smash hit musical ‘Grease’ which will be staged at Theatr Clwyd in October.

Full details about Tip Top Productions, upcoming shows, audition opportunities and how to get involved can be found at www.chestertheatre.co.uk

#chesterculture – Talking Heads at The Forum Studio Theatre – 12th to 21st May 2016

Alan Bennett sealed his reputation as the master of observation with a series of 12 groundbreaking monologues, Talking Heads, originally filmed for BBC Television. At once darkly comic, tragically poignant and wonderfully uplifting, Talking Heads is widely regarded as a modern classic.

This May, Tip Top have Andy Jordan directing a production at The Forum Studio Theatre from 12th-21st. 309

Alan Bennett’s characteristic wit and subtlety allows us to see into the lonely, helpless worlds the narrators are trapped in. His monologues are wonderful observations of humanity, and always go beyond what is apparent at face value

As we learn more about these lives, the humour serves the dual purpose of entertaining and deepening the pathos of the situation.

Tickets can be booked online here or by phoning the box office 01244-341296 Tuesday-Friday 10.00am -1.00pm.

Talking Heads
The Forum Studio Theatre
12th to 21st May 2016
Tickets are priced at £11 or £7 on the opening night.

#chesterculture – Abigail’s Party at Tip Top – 21st to 30th April 2016

Cheese & pineapple, gin and a squeamish feeling of an evening falling apart.

Mike Leigh’s ‘Abigail’s Party’ will be performed by Tip Top Productions at The Forum Studio Theatre from 21st-30th April 2016.

cf735tausaaf_bzBroadcast on television more than 30 years ago, this play shows the audience a group of people whose lives are steeped in rancour and sadness. Beverly (Rachel Sumner) taunts her estate-agent husband Laurence (Stuart Evans), while he patronises her. Tony (Theo Spofforth) behaves with thuggish violence towards his wife (Sally Angelsea), while Susan (Anne Crowther), a middle-class divorcee is fleeing her punkish daughter’s party, suffers wilting inertia that partly explains her isolation. Despite its bleak undertones it has timeless themes of relationship and human interaction, as well as being unexpectedly funny and well observed.

Directed by Simon Philips, who recently had great artistic success with Tip Top’s musical ‘Rent’ in February, has cast newcomer Anne Crowther in the role of Susan. A difficult role to play, Anne has to convey to the audience exactly what she is thinking; she is the person who would rather play with the cat at a party than have another snowball!

An oral historian by day currently living in Liverpool, Anne is no stranger to the stage having performed previously with Challis Media, Valley Theatre Liverpool and in Terrence Rattigan’s “Separate Tables” as part of the Port Sunlight Drama Festival.

Simon Phillips has been keen to direct the play differently and bring an alternative view to the audience, so whether you have never been to an ‘Abigail’s Party’ or are a returning guest, you’re sure of a very entertaining evening out.

Abigail’s Party
The Forum Studio Theatre  
21st to 30th April 2016
Tickets £11. Concessions: £9
Book here

#ChesterCulture – Tip Top Productions presents ‘Hi-de-Hi!’


Tip Tip Productions presents a stage adaptation of the hugely popular British TV series, which revisits the 1950’s and Maplins Holiday Camp with its host of colourful characters, adapting scenes and storylines from episodes of the television series including A Night Not To Remember, Trouble and Strife and Maplin Intercontinental.

Directed by Rob Stevens.

The Forum Studio Theatre

Thursday 17th – Saturday 26th March 2016

Tickets: £11 full price; £9 Concessions; £7 for certain performances; please contact Box Office for Under 30s Special Offers available. 

RENT raises the bar at the Forum Theatre

Last night the young company of Tip Top Productions blew the roof off the Forum Theatre with their sharp and powerful school’s edition of RENT the musical. As the title suggests, the story focuses on the hardships of tenants in New York, roommates Mark and Roger. Over the course of a year, friends and lovers, some new and some old, will face whatever life throws at them at the turn of the nineties, right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.

Connor Grace anchored the entire musical as narrator and central character Mark, whose turmoil over his ex girlfriend Maureen, now turned lesbian, battles against his dream of being a professional filmmaker. His roommate Roger was portrayed by Jake Hankey, and the pair sang superbly with authentic rock and roll voices and impressive American accents. Josh Hankey took the role of Benny, their up-and-coming young landlord, ever demanding the rent, and his stoic characterization present a stark contrast between the bohemian tenants and the new wave of cyber-capitalism sweeping the nation.

Catriona Hogg took on the role of Roger’s new flame Mimi, whose heroin addiction and struggle with AIDS results in a wild and impetuous lifestyle. Catriona was sultry and feisty in the part, with great charm and vocal talent. The role of Joanne, new girlfriend of Mark’s ex, Maureen, was Abigail Sherratt’s duty, and she performed the more mature role of a New York attorney with gravitas and great characterization. Maureen, in all her totally mad glory, was portrayed by Brogan Craine, who belted out some incredible notes, particularly in the anthem ‘Take Me For What I Am’.

For me, however, the standout roles of this particular production belonged to Alex Aram as Tom Collins and Dominic Melluish as Angel. The relationship between an MIT dropout and a drag queen who drums on the streets was played out tenderly and with great emotional depth. Dominic’s Angel was enigmatic from the word go, lighting up the stage with an electric presence that demanded attention. Coupled with Alex’s understated yet deeply emotional portrayal of Collins, both in love and in grief, this perfect pair were a powerhouse of talent.

The production also contained a superbly talented supporting cast, who used every inch of the clever staging to fill the small studio theatre with sound and motion. Sian Baines was particularly hilarious as TV mogul Alexi Darling and Leah Dovey-Evans was delightful as Mark’s overbearing Jewish mother. Every voice in the cast was unique and melodious, and the combination of the whole company singing together is an unmissable treat. Directors Simon Phillips and Laura Roberts have outdone themselves with this slick and highly professional standard production, so be sure to get down there before all the good seats are taken.

RENT the musical continues at the Forum theatre until February 20th. Grab your tickets at http://www.tiptopproductions.co.uk/

Review: Love Story at the Forum Theatre

Last night saw the opening of the latest musical production by Chester’s own Tip Top theatre company: an adaptation of Erich Segal’s timeless novel Love Story. Set in various locations of New England, USA during the 1960s, Love Story chronicles the first meeting of college students Oliver and Jenny. Born to different worlds with very different ideologies, this unlikely couple fight for their love amid family pressures and economic struggles, until tragedy cuts their young marriage short.

Love Story was presented with beautiful musical numbers by Tip Top’s live orchestra, a small but mighty collective of talent directed by Tim Jones. We’re introduced to the melodious voice of Dani Frey, who played the role of Jenny with sympathy and a resolute light-heartedness despite the loss of her dreams, and eventually her life. By her side was leading man Rob Lyon in the role of Oliver, a Harvard boy who suffers a fraught and pressured relationship with his high-powered lawyer father. The majority of the tale revolves around the disowned and penniless duo as their feelings about the endurance of their love are explored in song.

Fans of the highly popular 1970 film adaptation will find much of the same exchange of cutting banter, tension and romance between Jenny and Oliver. The cast made an admirable effort with their American accents, and setting and costume all helped to achieve the mid-sixties vibe and the class differences prevalent in the North Eastern USA. The staging and transitions between scenes were noticeably slick, with minimalist set pieces that were thoughtful and well used. Never has a small space full of people looked so dynamic as in the hockey game and wedding scenes, where every member of the ensemble was perfectly placed and giving it their all.

Particular highlights for me included the sudden delight of some superb singing by Laura Roberts, after her stint as Jenny’s cancer physician. Clare Thompson also gave us heartfelt and melodious moments as the apparition of Jenny’s mother, proving that small parts can have a big impact when they’re done just right. Personally, though, the standout turn was given by Bill Robertson in the role of Jenny’s father, Phil. His Piano Song in particular was dynamic and gutsy, breathing energetic life into a humorous and very likable character.

Love Story continues at the Forum Theatre until Saturday October 24th, and it’s well worth a watch for any fan of romantic dramas. This polished and professional production was very enjoyable to watch, and co-directors Peter Swingler and Rhian Underwood deserve to be proud of their creation.

Find out more and book tickets at: http://www.tiptopproductions.co.uk/

Habeas Corpus- Chester Theatre Club! Starts this Sat July 4th.

Oh We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!
Chester Theatre Club are inviting theatregoers  on a trip to the seaside as they present a fast paced and colourful comedy which will bring their current season to a close.

“Habeas Corpus” by Alan Bennett, directed for Chester Theatre Club by Mark Newman is set in Brighton’s well-to-do district of Hove takes and a wry look at the sexual revolution of the 1960s and its effects on the Wicskteed family, the seemingly respectable but sex obsessed GP Dr Arthur Wicksteed, his sexually frustrated wife Muriel and their hypochondriac Son, Dennis plus a whole host of other stereotypical, larger than life characters including the lecherous and appropriately named Vicar, Canon Throbbing, the Wicksteed’s charlady Mrs Swabb and travelling salesman Mr Shanks. Unwanted amourous advances, mix ups and mistaken identities make for a wonderfully riotous romp, in the finest tradition of British comedy.The play’s Director, Mark Newman said “It’s been a great play to work on, the cast and crew have had a ball in rehearsals and we hope the audiences will have as much fun watching it as we have had putting it together. We have a wonderfully talented cast and the set builders and painters have done a fantastic job in creating a vibrant and colourful set, it feels like your actually in one of  Donald McGill’s famous Seaside postcards”.

With its nod to the much loved comedy of the Carry On films in their heyday and the famous british”nudge nudge wink wink” sense of humour, “Habeas Corpus” is a celebration of Alan Bennett’s wonderful writing as he takes to task the attitudes towards sex and the permissive society of 1960s Britain with full comedic effect.

The play runs in the Auditorium at Chester Little Theatre in Gloucester Street, Newtown, Chester from Saturday 4th – Saturday 11th July. Tickets are £8.50 with £7.00 concessions available for the perfomances on the first Saturday and Monday and Tuesday evenings and can be booked on 0333 663366(booking fee applies) or online at www.chestertheatreclub.co.uk where full details of Habeas Corpus and all upcoming shows and events at the theatre can be found.

press release: Paul Crofts

Attachment: Photo1 (HC1) Shows: Mrs Swabb (Sally Dillon) tries not to eavesdrop as Mrs Wicksteed(Marian Newman) arranges a secret liaison in a scene from Chester Theatre Club’s production of Habeas Corpus which runs at Chester Little Theatre from 4th -11th July.
Photo 2 (HC4) shows: Mr Shanks (Ray Bengree) gets to grips with Felicity Rumpers(Natasha Hale) as (from L-R) Connie Wicksteed(Julie Blagrove) Dr Wicksteed(Malcolm Gledhill), Mrs Wicksteed(Marian Newman) and Dennis Wicksteed(Dan Ellis) look on in disbelief.
Photo 3 (HC2 Jane Barth(centre) as Lady Rumpers with (from L-R) Andy Hutchings as Canon Throbbing, Julie Blagrove as Connie Wicksteed, Malcom Gledhill and Marian Newman as Dr and Mrs Wicksteed, Natasha Hale as Felicity Rumpers, Dan Ellis as Dennis Wicksteed and Sally Dillon as Mrs Swabb in a scene from Chester Theatre Club’s production of Habeas Corpus which runs at Chester Little Theatre from 4th – 11th July.
PHOTO CREDIT: Stephen Cain at www.eventphotographysc.co.uk
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The Forum Studio — and a new season begins


Written by Paul Crofts, Tip Top productions

A Chester based theatre company run solely by a small band of dedicated volunteers has announced an ambitious new season of plays and other productions at The Forum Studio Theatre in the city centre.

When local theatre company Tip Top Productions moved in to the former Chester Gateway Theatre building back in 2007 initially for just 12 months prior to the building being demolished to make way for the Northgate development, no-one could have predicted that 8 year later they would be still producing plays, musicals and other events in the building’s studio theatre, playing to packed houses and hosting numerous local community groups, visiting companies and professional touring shows each year since.

The group recently held a social event complete with funfair style games and hotdogs to launch their new season of productions at the theatre which has been dubbed “Chester’s hidden gem”. The evening was opened by the Chair of Tip Top Productions, Peter Swingler OBE who welcomed everyone  before handing over to Artistic Director Steve Davies who outlined details of Tip Top’s exciting and ambitious 2015/16 Season.

 Opening the season and running from 17th – 26th September is comedy drama “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling. With its all female cast, the play was adapted into a highly successful film in 1989 starring Dolly Parton and Julia Roberts. Musical theatre then takes centre stage from 15th – 24th October with a production of acclaimed musical “Love Story” with musical numbers by Howard Goodall of Vicar of Dibley theme fame. Based on the film of the same name, the musical received rave reviews when staged in the West End, directed by Michael Ball.
Following “Love Story” the theatre will once again echo to cries of “He’s behind you!”as Tip Top stages Chester’s very own traditional family Pantomime, now a firmly established favourite in the City’s calender of festive events. This year the company are staging “Dick Whittington” at the theatre from 4th – 30th December and with tickets already on sale, producers are urging panto fans to book early.
Musical theatre and comedy are amongst the highlights for the first half of 2016 with a Youth production of the hard hitting Tony Award winning Broadway musical “Rent” to be staged 11th – 20th February, following the company’s critically acclaimed staging of their first ever youth production, “Les Miserables” earlier this year. A much loved comedy classic takes centre stage from the 17th – 16th March as Tip Top say “hello campers!” with a production of the BBC TV comedy “Hi-de-Hi”, featuring all the characters from the iconic show.
Other highlights being produced by Tip Top Productions at the theatre during 2016 include “This is my Musical” a musical theatre compilation show, a production of Alan Bennett’s “Talking heads” and a concert version of much loved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma”. The theatre will also once again be playing host to a number of visting professional and touring shows yet to be announced.
Tip Top Productions  Artistic Director Steve Davies said “We are delighted to be annoucing our new season of live theatre in Chester City centre at The Forum Studio Theatre and we hope that there is something for everyone whether it be comdey, drama or musical theatre. There are lots of volunteer opportunities for people to be involved in helping to run the theatre, be it backstage, performing in show or being front of house, if you have a love of theatre and would like to be part of producing a vibrant mix of high quality productions in the heart of Chester then why not come along and say hello”.
Full details of the 2015/16 season and how to get involved at the Forum Studio Theatre can be found at www.chestertheatre.co.uk where tickets can also be booked online. Alternatively, contact the box office on 01244 341296.
With Thanks from Tip Top and The Forum Studio Theatre
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