Fading Hollywood 'star' arriving at Barn Theatre for A Bunch of Amateurs

Jim Markey as Jefferson Steele in A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

Jim Markey as Jefferson Steele in A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: John Davies

With its audiences glad to be back, the Barn Theatre gets into the swing of its new season with a play that could have been written with the Welwyn Garden City venue in mind.

Opening next Friday, A Bunch of Amateurs, co-written by Nick Newman and Have I Got News For You team captain Ian Hislop, is described as "a love letter to amateur theatre and a celebration of the overweening absurdity of Hollywood stardom".

Jim Markey as Jefferson Steele and Charlotte Collingwood as Dorothy Nettle in A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre

Jim Markey as Jefferson Steele and Charlotte Collingwood as Dorothy Nettle in A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: John Davies

It’s adapted from the 2008 film, starring Burt Reynolds and Imelda Staunton, which wasn’t well received, despite being chosen for the Royal Film Performance that year.

The stage adaptation, which premiered at the Watermill Theatre in 2014, was a huge success, proving perhaps that a piece about the redemptive power of theatre, belongs on stage.

Keen to boost his flagging career, fading Hollywood action hero Jefferson Steele arrives in England to play King Lear in Stratford – only to find that he is not in the birthplace of Shakespeare, but in a sleepy Suffolk village.

Adam Dryer as Denis Dobbins, Will Smith as 'a Mechanical' in A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

Adam Dryer as Denis Dobbins, Will Smith as 'a Mechanical' in A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: John Davies


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And instead of starring alongside Sir Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench, the cast are a bunch of amateurs trying to save their theatre – a converted barn – from ruthless developers.

Jefferson’s monstrous ego, vanity and insecurity are tested to the limit by the enthusiastic amateur thespians he finds himself sharing the spotlight with.

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As acting worlds collide and Jefferson’s career implodes, he discovers some truths about himself – along with his inner Lear!

Bob Thomson, assisted by Belinda Gee, has assembled a really terrific cast for his production which, set in a converted barn, is conveniently site specific.

The cast of A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City.

The cast of A Bunch of Amateurs at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: John Davies

Jim Markey, who takes on the role of Steele, played Lear in Simon Wallace’s memorable 2012 Barn production and, more recently, at the Pump Theatre in Watford.

He returns to play it again – sort of. "How could I resist it?" he asks.

Thomson’s experienced cast includes ex-Barn Youth member Hannah Humbles and exciting new talent Charlotte Collingwood and Neil Harrison, who will be making their debut on the Barn stage.

A laugh a minute and stuffed with Shakespeare, the show includes music, courtesy of musical director Rachel Thomas, who also plays Mary, romantically inclined towards Steele.

Tamsin Goodwin-Connelly makes a welcome return to the Barn stage in the role of Lauren Bell, masseuse and wife of production sponsor, and Adam Dryer plays Denis Dobbins, Steele’s ‘entourage’.

Expect spectacular video and special effects from Andy Barker and Tim Lee.


A Bunch of Amateurs runs in the Barn main house from Friday, October 15 to Saturday, October 23 at 8pm, with a matinee at 2.30pm on the second Saturday.

Tickets cost £13 and are available from the box office 01707 324300 or online at www.barntheatre.co.uk


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