Keeping Up Appearances - July 2023

‘Keeping Up Appearances’ by Roy Clarke


For this delightful comedy Keeping Up Appearances, the action has moved out of its natural terrain of Hyacinth Bucket’s candlelight suppers at home and into the community centre hall for a play within a play directed for the local amateur dramatic company by her beleaguered neighbour Emmet with the assistance of his nervy sister Liz.

Under no circumstances does Emmet want Hyacinth to join them, but what noises off can be heard? Why, it is the grand entry of Hyacinth – surely she should be too busy preparing to participate in the painting exhibition in the same building. Wrong, of course! Once Hyacinth hears there is part of a lady still to be filled, inevitably she puts herself forward, and not only does she fill it but she tries to take over the director’s role too.

The cast of Keeping Up Appearances

Review - Northumberland Gazette - Sophie Towers

Hyacinth blooms as Alnwick Theatre Club bring Keeping Up Appearances to Playhouse stage

Alnwick Theatre Club have set a precedent. When you take on something as well known and iconic as Keeping Up Appearances, you have to decide whether to be original or imitate. Thank goodness they chose the latter.

As British comedies go, Keeping Up Appearances is one of those wonderful, comforting shows where just a simple word can bring a huge smile to your face. For this reviewer, ‘Sheridan!’, ‘Richard!’ and ‘Daddy!’ filled me with delight.

And so, as soon as Hyacinth’s voice came drifting from offstage, everyone visibly relaxed and the laughs began.

The story was about a play within the play; the characters taking on various roles in a murder mystery led by Emmet, a part taken by Peter Biggers. His accident prone and general sort-things-out sister Liz, was played with a gentility by Sheila Graham.

Of course Mrs Bucket (it’s pronounced Bouquet!) had to make herself known and so the story began to unfold.

I must give a huge nod to Cath Hughes, whose utterly convincing Hyacinth stole the show. Mannerisms, vocals and body language were utter perfection; if I had not known previously, I would have sworn Patricia Routledge was on our very own Playhouse stage.

Each member of the play was perfectly cast, and thanks to wonderful costumes (well done Karina Biggers and Hilary Waugh!), fabulous set (Virginia Mayes Wright, Lorna Inglis and Mick Grant did an impressive job) and sound and lighting (Matt Slack and Andy Hunt were as slick as ever), we were drawn in to the ensuing chaos.

Shout outs to Onslow, played by Ian Baulch-Jones, with his stained string vest and indifference to Daisy, played fabulously by Theatre Club stalwart Carol Lawrence; Mr ‘Milly’ Milson, a new character brought expertly to life by Matt Bush and Hyacinth’s sister Rose – “not the one with the Mercedes, Sauna and room for a pony,” played with wonderful cheekiness by Sue Catch. Smaller roles were gifted to the delightful Heather Howey, Adam Bell and Dawn Brown.

After a chat with director, Matthew Winter, I was impressed with how much passion he had for this show. He should not only be proud of his cast and crew but also of himself; this production brought a lot of smiles to a lot of faces.