The homely, intimacy of The Bank Art Centre, Eye, is ideal for Alan Huckle’s plays and monologues.
Founder of EyesWrite, he regularly presents his own work there, with experienced local actors.
His women characters were not so wicked on this occasion. But there was a feeling of sex wars, people made solitary by divorce, scenes on benches and cliff edges.
His strength is in dialogue, with few punches pulled, rather than physical theatricality.
Rob Backhouse, as a doctor with a grudge, had the kind of part that Huckle women have had. The monologue to a man he had incapacitated, in the play Life, was a highpoint.
Cherryl Jeffries, Pat Parris and Paul Baker delivered character monologues and then showed their versatility in playlets.
Alan Bolton always does a good line in expostulating bluster. Julie Bolton can play bluestocking or brassy with ease.
DIY invariably causes stage conflict, as it did in the final play Sticking Together, with Chris Strachan splendidly nerdy.
Made In Dagenham
All singing, all striking, this musical recalls the gender pay disputes at Fords in the 1960s.
Although women now run everything, from governments downwards, many still have lower wages than men.
The show is derived from the film and comes to Ipswich from the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch.
Douglas Rintoul’s production is people’s theatre, full of working class humour and vitality. Barrack room language had nothing on the women machinists’ room.
Harold Wilson (Graham Kent), with pipe and Gannex coat, and Barbara Castle (Claire Machin) live warmly again. Prime Ministerial aides were depicted as capering ninnies even then.
Rita, the main character, is a fictional figure based on several of the strikers. I doubt that the cigar-chomping American owner ever really tore her TUC speech up.
But Daniella Bowen gives a heart-on-sleeve performance, showing the determination and human cost of the strike.
See this serious and funny show at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until October 15.
Nigel Havers in Conversation
Aquiline juve-lead looks still intact, Nigel Havers charmed the Bury audience as ever in a Theatre Royal fundraiser. In conversation with Libby Purves he recalled his debut as a 13 year old Puck, his two years in Mrs. Dale’s Diary and his days as a researcher for Jimmy Young. Chariots of Fire, one of his best known films, involved five and a half months physical training. Interestingly, he said that the actors’ drinking culture was less prevalent now, with smoothies being preferred. The audience loved the name-dropping – Dench, Caine, Collins. Apparently American actors don’t speak to each other and don’t like to rehearse. He spoke highly of Coronation Street and pantos, even with 14 shows a week. He will be back in panto at the London Palladium this year. Also a stage version of The Moon’s A Balloon, with himself as David Niven. There was a nice moment when Nigel’s former nanny, Irene Pettitt, made herself known from the audience, to great applause.
Diss Film Night
Chris Pursehouse’s death brought a capacity audience to St. Mary’s Hall to see the film he narrated for Diss Museum.
For the 2006 Betjeman centenary his 1964 film was re-made using some footage from the original.
As Chris was seen in the first film he was asked to narrate the second.
His Norfolk farmer’s voice proved ideal both for the scripted material and his own recollections.
The audience was fascinated to see both the 1964 town and how it was 10 years ago.
Local people read Betjeman excerpts, including Canon Tony Billett’s heartfelt rendering of Blame the Vicar.
The second film, a drama documentary, was The Staymaker about Thomas Paine. Both films had the benefit of Clive Davies’ camera and editing skills.
Diss, Thetford, Bressingham and Old Buckenham provided locations, with the Diss Friends’ Meeting House used for interiors.
Leslie Dumbell (Benjamin Franklin), Alison Dumbell (the wife of Paine’s staymaking employer), Adrian Bailey (the French king) and Beverlee Boulton-Debbage (a slave) were among the local actors who shone.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Wilde’s title can be viewed in various ways in this subversively delightful play.
Ernest was a popular Victorian name; but went down market, with many Ernies.
So one meaning could be the fading importance of being fashionable.
Whatever, Wilde is taking a rise out of upper class wasters.
Henry Proffit and Andrew Lindfield as Algy and Jack revel in this world where smoking is seen as an occupation.
Unusual doubling is a feature of Michelle Shortland’s direction for DOT Productions.
So Dawn Bush plays both the manservant and Miss Prism, while Non Vaughan-Thomas plays Lady Bracknell and Canon Chasuble.
The gender switching brings characters up to the appropriate level of artifice, when some epigrams have been rather thrown away.
Lady Bracknell is younger than usual, but no less a harridan, if lacking that “terrible as an army with banners” quality.
The splenetic tea party between Gwendolen (Lucy Lawson) and Cecily (pert and arch Sophie Farquhar) works as well as ever.
Battle of the Somme
St.Mary’s Hall, Diss
Diss Museum helped commemorate the Somme centenary with a presentation about the local men who were there.
Helen Kennett, who did the research into the missing war memorial names in 2014, recalled the Diss men who fought and died.
One was Alfred Steggles, who died of wounds on the last day of the battle. He is buried in Diss cemetery and the museum has his medals.
The film made in 1916 was also shown, with an improvised piano accompaniment by Carol Moss.
It was a propaganda film, giving no impression of a million casualties. Mud, rats, ordure, slaughter – none of these were depicted.
But it attracted 20 million people at the time, a figure not surpassed until Star Wars.
A packed audience responded to Helen Kennett’s moving account of the local sacrifice; and to Carol Moss’s musical interpretation.
Marching songs, the thunder of the guns, moments of rest – her playing conveyed every mood in a 74 minute performance.