The Dinner Party – TITCO @ The Wharf Theatre, Devizes

An Open Love Letter – To TITCO

by Ian Diddams

Most reviews are quite sombre, written in the third person with a degree of distance.  Not this one. It’s time to throw that book away and speak from the heart. This “review” is openly praiseworthy and could even appear sycophantic. Meh. Whatever. It probably is somewhat cringeworthily first person centric – always a no-no. Though I would hasten to add that while I mention “me” and “I” quite a lot the real recipient of attention is most definitely…  “The Invitation Theatre Company” a.k.a TITCO.

Some history.  TITCO was started by Jim and Mary Roberts, in Devizes, back in the 70s, based on a bunch of friends coming together to put on shows others didn’t. They both passed on in time and TITCO “went to sleep” for a while – until resurrected with a passion by Jim and Mary’s daughter Jemma in 2009. Since then, Jemma and her husband Anthony have driven TITCO on in a similar vein to her parents – a bunch of friends putting in shows nobody else does.

There’s one very important word in the above paragraph.  The F-word.

Fast forward to 2022, November. And “The Dinner Party”. It’s been mentioned that this will be the last TITCO show for a while – and the setting of “The Dinner Party” (TDP for future reference!) is a beautifully framed homage of that situation. Set as if in Jemma and Anthony’s home (complete with genuine pictures and wall art from their real home I can testify – plus their lovely dog, Wilson!)  the setting is that of a get together for “Titters” – the members of TITCO.

This is where my review gets personal, and breaks the traditions as explained above. I was invited into the TITCO fold in 2015 for “Pirates of Penzance”, was made a Titter in 2015 and have shared a stage on multiple occasions since then. The rollcall is amazing…  including “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the World’s” (WOTW)– twice. Driven by Anthony’s pride and joy “The Full Tone Orchestra” (FTO) of course.

So you see, I am part of this amazing company.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” …  As some bloke once said…
And of course, Sisters (Sister Act 2016!).

Friends.  Friends that come together and create amazing shows.

Which brings us back to TDP. Naturally.

So, the bunch of friends meeting for a dinner party naturally – this being TITCO – leads to spontaneous singing and performing as everybody takes it in turns to entertain the table or sing together in shared beauty. The evening’s menu is a mix of old and new, well-loved songs. From a starter of a few run-a-dub, London based favourites (“Last Night at the Conductors Arms”) onto a main course where some pretty serious singing came out. Promoted from his youthful renditions of Frederick, Sean Andrews gallantly moved into Major General mode – followed shortly after by “Luck Be A Lady Tonight” (A FTO Big Band speciality of his). South Pacific made its appearance (Brief History of Musicals 2015) with a heart rendition from the chaps of “Nothing like a dame” but not until after a spirited, marigolds glove tassel twirling (*cough*) performance of “Wash That Man” !

The revamped TITCO’s first musical – JCS – was paid tribute to with Herod’s song – led by the joyous Tim Hobbs – and the ladies’ exquisite “Could we Start Again Please”? Blood Brothers came to the party also with “Marilyn Monroe” by Ally Moore and an ensemble “Tell Me It’s Not True”. The “big show” additions continued with Chris Worthy singing “Forever Autumn” from WOTW …  but we were also shown little TITCO in-jokes throughout the show. Let’s just say that one Titter is NOT a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan – but succumbed to the (Hot) Mikado’s “The Hour of Gladness” …  good on ya Jemma! The main course came to its end with a couple of light-hearted pieces – “Me and My Shadow” by Chris and Anthony – somewhat a party piece of theirs, truth be told – and a fantastically hilarious version of “Pam” by Tina Duffin.

That wasn’t quite all of the main course though. As an almost surprise and wonderful lets-slip-this-in, one of TITCO’s stalwart accompanists Dominic Irving dueted with Mari Webster on “City of Stars”. Dom is one of those people that can play about a million instruments brilliantly – but I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing him sing – until tonight. Wow. Just – wow….

The night was hurtling towards its conclusion now. Five ensemble pieces completed our pudding course – with tear jerking numbers “Seasons of Love” and “Hallelujah”, and the uplifting and vibrant “Circle of Life”, “From Now On” and “Rhythm of Life”.

Then the dinner party was over, and so the guests wended their way into the night, Jemma said good night to Anthony…  who called Wilson into the garden.

Lights Out.

I started this review saying this was an open love letter to TITCO.  And it is. From your invitation in 2015 until today as a company TITCO has shown me friendship, inclusion, and provided me with every opportunity I could want in TITCO shows – and allowed me to run the show bars!.  From a somewhat fay pirate (Pirates of Penzance), to a mobster (Sister Act), The Voice of Humanity (WOTW – twice), to cow & narrator (the “cowrator” in “Into the Woods”), Albert the publican (Last night at the Conductor’s Arms ), then a hectic seven characters and twelve costume changes plus ladder climbing in two hours (Spamalot). And of course ensemble singing and solos in concerts and the FullTone Music Festival. You built me. I’ve done amazing shows with other companies, but TITCO built me. And I thank you.

I wasn’t involved in tonight’s Dinner Party – a medical procedure (a good one I hasten to add!) precluded my involvement. But I sat in the audience, watching my friends deliver another polished smooth performance. Under my breath I sang with them. I laughed at the little in-jokes. I wanted to be there with them – but then I couldn’t have enjoyed their joie-de-vivre, seen the love, the friendship oozing from their every pore. As a sign said on stage “Friends are the greatest gift in life”.

Chapeau TITCO. I raise my walking stick to you all tonight.

A final word (or ten…).  This is “the last TITCO show for a while”.  So I just want to say as I sign off my open love letter is…

From Now On …  Could we Start Again Please.

Love you all

Didds
xxxx


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