On Friday, April 12th, we went to watch a performance of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, ‘The King and I’ at the Brook Theatre, Chatham.

From the overture and throughout the show, listening to the music and singing was a pleasure, as the orchestra and voices were so well balanced that there was never a difficulty in hearing words, sung from the heart with superb quality – thanks to the masterful leadership of musical director, Martyn Clements.

Even those of us with poor eyesight must have been dazzled by the stunning costumes, the sets and scenery, so effective in the confined space the theatre affords. The choreography was splendid and never more spectacular than in Tuptim’s ‘Uncle Thomas’ play. The dancing displayed particular care for detail, for which Chloe Pemble was responsible. But, in truth, the whole production team, including lighting and technical, must be congratulated for such a high standard.

And what of the cast? This task, of choosing who should play each part had been the first major challenge, but the decisions were clearly substantiated by their performances.

There were other fine performances played by Gwyneth Loft, as Lady Thiang, who used skilled diplomacy as a go-between to Anna and the King; Samantha Grace, as Tuptim, acted a crucial role, highlighting the lingering barbarism that kept Siam back from modernity. Her ill-fated relationship with Lun Tha (played by Richard McBride) illustrating the chasm between the two societies.

Louis Leonowens, played by Samuel Loft, made the part his own and his interaction with Prince Chululongkorn (Jason Baker) gave further evidence of cultural differences. John Bishop, was so protective of the King and all he stood for, acting the part of the Kralahome, who sincerely wished that Anna had never come to Siam. Sir Edward Ramsey (Bill Clynshaw) did his best to rekindle what he thought to have been a romantic relationship with Anna, but this was soon quashed by the King’s jealous protection of his ‘servant’.

When you put a hand into your pocket, to buy a ticket for a show, you have to weigh up whether it is something that you will appreciate and enjoy or something you will regret. This is particularly true when the show is to be performed by a local, amateur company. However, when you know how much planning and preparation, learning and rehearsing, along with absolute dedication has gone into the show, it raises expectations and – in The King and I – our expectations were met in abundance. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable experience – Congratulations to the Three Towns Theatre Company … this production was excellent!

Tony Harrold (the King), an experienced actor throughout Kent over many years, is well remembered for his many leading roles, including those as Alfred Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’, Daddy Warbucks in ‘Annie’ and Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof‘. Here, as the King of Siam, he excelled in conveying the image of an all-powerful king, desperate to drag his country into the modern world, whilst being increasingly confused and reluctant to forsake many of the traditions and beliefs by which he and his people lived. His was a most believable portraya

Debbie Davies, who has been with the Three Towns for around ten years, has enjoyed leading roles as Elsie, in ‘Blitz’, Mrs Potts, in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and Mrs Lovett, in ‘Sweeney Todd’. With this, her biggest principal role, she worked really hard to overcome the daunting prospect of all the learning she had to undertake – and to what wonderful effect. In character, as Anna Leonowens, she was just as stubborn, defiant even, as the King - and supremely determined in bringing western ways – especially in respect of women’s rights and position in Siamese society – yet she, too, exhibited her own uncertainty so well, prepared to abandon this despot, yet unable to do so because of her strong compassion for him and his people. The two shared some exquisite scenes, with some comedy, some tender moments and some contrastingly explosive clashes – brilliant.

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Here, we seetThe King trying to tell Anna that she is his 'servant', whilst she is determined that he thinks of her as an employee.

She demands that he should let her live in a house, whereas he insists that she stays in the palace.

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Gwyneth T Loft

as Lady Thiang

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Samantha Grace as Tuptim

A special mention must go to the children who took part. They were so well-disciplined, acted charmingly and sang so beautifully. Well done, all of you.

Prior to this enterprise, Becci Farley had been involved with several Three Towns productions, but her only role as director was in the 2G version of Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’. This, however was a different story.

With the full support of the company, she has demonstrated that she has the all-round skill to direct a full-scale musical – and we look forward to more success of this standard.

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