A lot of amateur theatre these days is very good, and there are reasons for that. The whole process is so time and resource consuming that unless people are really dedicated, really interested in producing an outstanding product, they tend to go and find something else to do instead, of which there are so many. The days of housebound ladies of a certain age saying ‘I’ve got nothing better to do, so I’ll have a bash at this’ are mercifully in the past.
Even by that standard though, SEDOS are in a league of their own. Last year, I had the delight of seeing them do Into the Woods, and it knocked the professional Parisian production I saw a few weeks later into a cocked Baker’s hat.
This most recent offering trumps even that. If you don’t know Legally Blonde, please try to. Adapted from the 2001 film, it concerns ditzy cheerleader and sorority queen Elle Woods’ pursuit of her high-school hero Warner Huntingdon III to Harvard Law School, where she endures ridicule and rejection before finding dignity and true love. The first act scarcely has a line of dialogue, as song follows brilliant song in a freight train of wit, style and narrative. Warner, dumping Elle, tells her of his dreams: ‘A big white house back east/All the amenities/Three kids at least/Just like the Kennedys’. With lyrics like that what’s not to like, set to pzazztastic music and endless opportunities for huge dance routines and high camp.
It does, however, present significant challenges for an amateur company. Act Two opens with a wonderful number requiring, would you believe, synchronised rope-skipping, and the scenes flip between courtroom, office, department store, and finally, unbelievably, bathroom, all having to be convincingly conveyed with the minimal scenery that can be whisked on by the cast while no one’s looking. Not only has SEDOS not ducked any of this, they built a revolving stage, for goodness’ sake, and put it to magnificently creative use. The scene where Elle enters a party dressed as a bunny girl to discover that everyone else is not in fancy dress made me temporarily hallucinate that I was watching a master auteur’s tracking shot. The skipping was done almost flawlessly (and the flaws were professionally brushed aside) and the choreography of the set-piece number of the second Act, Gay or European was infinitely more inventive than the West End version ever managed.
Invidious as it is to single out individuals in a production like this, Laura Bird’s SEDOS debut as Elle was a tour-de-force (the poor girl is scarcely off the stage) and another debutante Corin Miller played the deliciously raddled love-lorn hairdresser Paulette with hilarious aplomb.
You won’t get a ticket unless you queue for a return, but history just has to record how marvellous this was, and these people do it all for love. Thank God.