Cockney cracker from Hawick opera society

Bill Snibson, Adam Sherwood; and Sally Smith, Natalie Paterson.
Bill Snibson, Adam Sherwood; and Sally Smith, Natalie Paterson.

Hawick Amateur Operatic Society has once again polished the silver, readied the Rolls Royce and geared us up for the decadence of the 1930s for its production of Me and My Girl which last graced the town hall stage in 1997. A few things have changed since then but the gusto and panache with which the society performs remains very much alive.

From the beginning the company’s crisp, and rather spiffing, rendition of ‘A Weekend At Hareford gets them off to a flying start. We’re whisked off to the grand country estate where we are met by the family comprising Maria, Duchess of Dene; Sir John Tremaine; The Hon. Gerald Bolingbroke; Lady Jacqueline Carstone; as well as Lord and Lady Battersby. They eagerly await the arrival of the long-lost heir to the Earldom of Hareford.

Lord and Lady Battersby are a comical couple played by Michael Scouler and Alison Seeley. They work very well together and her Ladyship certainly keeps her lord in check

The discovery of the heir has come as a bit of a blow to Gerald Bolingbroke, who is engaged to Lady Jacqueline, and his chance of scooping up the inheritance. Merijn Scepens has taken this role and made it his own – complete with foppish hair and affected accent, he plays the toff splendidly.

Lady Jacqueline, played by Amanda Blacklock, however, doesn’t think twice about breaking her engagement as she swiftly returns her ring in the hope of snaring the heir to keep her in the life she has become accustomed to. Amanda exudes confidence and ambition in this role and hits all the right notes along the way.

On his arrival, the heir turns out to be Bill Snibson, a likely lad from Lambeth who can’t believe his luck. This bubble is soon burst when he learns that there are certain conditions to adhere to – which even stretch to his love life. This spells trouble for his girl, Sally Smith, who is instantly dismissed as unsuitable for his newly-acquired rank and title.

Adam Sherwood and Natalie Paterson’s portrayal of Bill and Sally are fresh and playful as we see them survey the potential of their new home at Hareford Hall. Their performance of the eponymous song, ‘Me and My Girl’, further proves this point. They are both well rounded performers who sparkle together on stage.

Appalled at the potential Earl-to-be, the family desperately seek the advice of the family solicitor, Cedric Parchester. His lilting, light-hearted number reassures the family for the time being with the suggestion of further study of the conditions of the inheritance. David Paterson’s portrayal of this role is top-notch with his flair for comedy and impressive singing range.

Neither Bill, nor his new-found relatives, think he’s up to the job, except the Duchess who is determined to whip Bill into shape whether he likes it or not. Marie McSherry’s Duchess is a force to be reckoned with and is most definitely the voice of authority.

Lady Jacqueline is still on her conquest to capture Bill and boy does he feel the heat when she performs ‘You Would If You Could’. She owns the stage and there can be no mistaking her intentions for poor red-faced Bill stuck in the middle.

As Bill learns more from his rich relatives, there is a gap created between he and Sally and she is made to feel she has nothing to offer him in his new life. However much she loves him she knows she must let him go – we find out just how difficult this is for her with Natalie’s sweet and moving performance of ‘Once You Lose Your Heart’. Natalie has shown time and time again her ability to perform to a high standard and this song packs an emotional punch

The first act comes to a close with Sally’s last-ditch attempt to prove to Bill that she doesn’t belong in his new life. She gatecrashes a soiree organised by the Duchess, accompanied by her colourful friends from Lambeth. Bill, however, is only reminded of his love for the life he’s always known and he proceeds, along with Sally and the Lambeth gang, to show the upper crust how to have a good party. ‘The Lambeth Walk’ builds into a lively fun-filled finale to the first half, leaving the audience on a high anticipating what is yet to come.

The second act starts in similar fashion with the jolly song and dance number, ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’, with the effervescent and energetic Gerald Bolingbroke, complete with troupe of dancers, basking in the glory of the English Summer.

However, all is not sunny for Sally, who despite her best efforts to persuade Bill – and herself – that she’s best to leave him, Bill is having none of it. Even a reminder from the Duchess and his ancestors of his obligations as a nobleman can’t change his mind. This strong and striking number is performed with great aplomb by Marie McSherry and the ancestors who give it their all.

Bill, it seems, is not the only one who is sick of the Duchess’s meddling. Sir John Tremaine, played by Iain Scott, and Parchester have had enough and agree that they need to stand up to her. However, neither seem to have the stomach to face her without some Dutch courage. This scene is hilarious in both script and the athleticism of the players, with Sir John and Bill drinking themselves into a sing-song where Bill and Sir John tell us that ‘Love Makes The World Go Round’. However, Sir John is not quite beaten yet.

Before Bill can say Jam Jar (car), Sally has been escorted back to Lambeth and he is hot on her tail. When he arrives in Lambeth he is told that Sally has gone but refuses to believe this, so he waits on the street, leaning on a lamppost just in case his certain little lady comes by. Little is he aware that Sir John has already made arrangements to give Sally a fighting chance to be reunited with the man she loves and an opportunity to improve herself.

‘Leaning On A Lamppost’ is a beautifully sung number which is further enhanced by the dance break in between. Adam and Natalie flow across the stage effortlessly, while the chorus create the lively ambience of Lambeth.

Bill is left downhearted at the prospect of never finding his girl, spending countless hours and money trying to discover her whereabouts, to no avail. His efforts to live up to the role of Earl of Hareford just can’t compete with his heart and he decides to leave it all behind him to return to Lambeth.

However, all is not lost as the result of Sir John’s efforts become apparent to all at Hareford Hall.

The finale is the cherry on the top of the cake with a medley of some of the show’s cracking tunes and the impact of the full cast’s strong singing voices to bring the show to a triumphant close.

Me and My Girl is a fun-filled show with a feast for the eyes and ears which the cast and production team can be justly proud. So why not bring along your China plates (mates) for an evening full of bubble baths (laughs) – you’d be a right lump of school (fool) to miss this knees up!