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October 18, 2016 / basabbott

Night Must Fall

Review

Night Must Fall

Thrillers tend not to survive their era, as new fears replace them.
Emlyn Williams 1935 play is well served in this Salisbury Playhouse production at Ipswich theatre.
The Thirties live again in the bungalow without electricity or phone. Plus-fours, a short sleeved pullover and tie, the Inspector’s coat and hat, all add to the period.
The ugly duckling becoming a swan is a cliché of the time. But Niamh McGrady subtly shows her growing attraction to the murderer.
The glasses come off, the dress is more feminine, her hair comes down; and she covers for him. There is almost a physical moment between them, a clinch before he goes off to the Old Bailey; and she is left lamenting.
Will Featherstone has an ingratiating charm as the fruitcake with a head in his bag. It is believable that the wheelchair-bound harridan (Gwen Taylor) would warm to him.
Mandi Symonds, the cook, and Daragh O’Malley, the Inspector, create great characters.

Basil Abbott

October 11, 2016 / basabbott

Casanova

Review

Casanova
@Palgrave

Lover, alchemist, writer, salesman, prisoner, spy, gambler, lottery deviser, Freemason – you could not make Casanova up.
For Spinning Wheel Theatre, writer/director Amy Wylie’s problem must have been what to leave out.
Her device was to have the randy Venetian tell his own story. Telling can save years of showing.
A jaunty, jape-filled life is depicted, a kind of Carry On Casanova in colloquial English – “Right. Great. Cheers.”
This includes multiple amours, a brisk lesson in Cabalism (religion via maths) and the quickest Grand Tour ever.
Joe Leat has a winning charm in the title role; but also a feeling for the downside of the pleasure-seeking life.
Lucy Benson-Brown has her work cut out playing many of the women in his life; and managing to make them all colourfully different.
Samuel Norris plays everything from oily Italians to English aristocrats and even appears in a Pompadour wig as one of the female conquests.

Basil Abbott

September 30, 2016 / basabbott

Sticking Together

Review

Sticking Together

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.

Basil Abbott

September 24, 2016 / basabbott

Striking Show at Ipswich

made-in-dag-1
Review

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.

Basil Abbott

August 26, 2016 / basabbott

Nigel Charms As Ever

Review

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.

Basil Abbott

August 21, 2016 / basabbott

Diss Films

Review

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.

Basil Abbott

August 15, 2016 / basabbott

The Importance

Review

The Importance of Being Earnest
The Oaksmere

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.

Basil Abbott