The MHDS 2017-18 Season So Far
Our Season started with an hilarious farce which was well received by all the audiences in the full houses. The first performance was a Charity Gala in aid of New Futures Nepal. The author, Neil Simon, said of this play, “I wanted to write an elegant farce, because the farces in Moliere’s days were generally about wealthy people. These aren’t extremely wealthy people, but they are well-to-do. So I decided to dress them in evening clothes. There was something about having them dressed in evening clothes that I thought was a nice counterpoint to the chaos that was happening in the play. And so I picked a reason for them to be dressed elegantly, and it was a 10th anniversary.”
Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail said of it: ” Appropriately, Harborough Theatre presented The Diary of Anne Frank the week following Remebrance Sunday. – The limited stage space was the perfect setting for the claustrophobic conditions where eight people and a cat hid. – Jess O’Brien totally lived the part of Anne as the one ray of sunshine in this desperate situation. Cameron Smith as Peter Van Daan impressed as a master of physical and facial expression, conveying the awkwardness of youth. Mark Aspland and Kay Carpenter as Anne’s devoted parents brought stability to the scene, briefly shattered when mother lost control. Director John Foreman steered clear of Dutch accents, allowing Ian Spencer’s northern twang to help establish his characterisation of Mr Van Daan. His fur-coated wife, played by Teresa Quigley was a perfect foil. Abigail Carter was a charming contrast to Anne as older sister, Margot, and Chris Raymakers was perfectly irritating as fellow stowaway Mr Dussell.”
This Satire by Ben Elton, reflected the ‘Loadsa Money’ period of the 1980s and 90’s; although the message is portrayed on business ethics worldwide is still relevant today. Steve Daniels was unerringly strong and confident as Sir Chiffley Lockheart, head of Lockheart industries. His two ghastly yuppie managers who marketed a machine that produced clean air, Philip played by Chris Raymakers an over-enthusiastic ideas man, and Sandy, Nigel Pierce as a spineless yes-man. Christine Richardson smouldered magnificently as marketing manager Kirsten, playing off Philip and Sandy against each other. Hazel Cook, Simon Cook, Linda Waddilove and Alan Palmer (who gave a simple, but strangely moving vocal solo) complete the cast in a variety of small parts. The witty script was unflinching in its depiction of those Thatcherite days. Edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail.
It is always a challenge when young people have to ‘age up’ to play older characters, both for the actors and the audience. it requires an extra level of performance skills from the young actors and more ‘suspension of disbelief’ on the part of the audience. Thankfully, the teenage actors (and younger) who get involved with Harborough Theatre productions come fully equipped wiht the skills they need from Claire’s ‘Parsnips’ Youth Theatre. The cast of ‘Who Calls’, under John Foreman’s experienced directing, rose to the occasion. The audience was, therefore, able to sit back comfortably and watch the story unfold. The well-designed set and lighting added to the claustrophobic atmosphere of the old scullery, before the ghostly visitor made her appearance.
This powerful play uncovers some of the hidden truths behind domestic abuse and needed careful, sensitive handling by its cast and director, Andrew Nelson. Andrew had a very clear vision of what he wanted to achieve. The set was minimal, as befitted the play, but served to support the hard-hitting storyline and the strong performances of the actors. Mark Aspland had the particularly challenging role of Billy, and delivered a frightening portrayal of the man as the abusive husband/father, while contrasting that with flashbacks to Billy as the boy abused by his own family when he was young. When questioned by police and psychologists after Billy’s death, his wife and daughters simply said, “We don’t talk about that”. Plays like this, however, give us the chance to do just that.
This iconic, ever popular 1920’s thriller, by Arthur Ridley, is not that easy to stage or to get the audience involved. This production had a very well designed and made set, portraying a rundown railway station waiting room. The technical side was also very well done with atmospheric lighting, and the passenger train special effects were terrific. The acting was strong overall, with good stage presences and voices. The relationships between the various characters were very nicely established, (a group of strangers who had just met through force of circumstance), as well as that between the two couples, one newly married and the other in conflict. The tension built progressively throughout the play, as the situation became more and more alarming when the criminal characters masquerading as an over anxious niece searched for by her supposedly worried uncle and doctor (apparently come from a dinner party), invade the waiting room. Not until the final scene is the ‘silly ass’ man revealed as a special branch detective and the illegal arms dealers’ scheme foiled. An extremely entertaining evening enjoyed by the audience. Well done all.
Life throws up problems and people deal with them differently. This was the theme of Quality of Life, a very unusual play. The cast of four, superbly directed by Mark Bodicoat, comprised married couples, Dinah and Bill and Neil and Jeannette. The former, born-again Christians, were bereft after their daughter’s murder. The Latter were coming to terms with Neil’s terminal illness and the loss of their home through fire. On the surface both couples seemed accepting of their circumstances, but there were still challenges. Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail also said that at times it was as though we were watching real-life rather than a play. Such was the ease and professionalism displayed by the cast. Newcomer Nicky Mawer was suitably sweet as Dinah, who loves Jesus and handicrafts, but a few puffs of pot showed a different side. In perfect contrast, Mike Allen was stiff and dour as Bill. Kay Carpenter was totally believable as the easy-going slightly flaky Jeannette. Joff Brown portrayed Neil, accepting his situation, but willing to challenge Jeannette on her decisions in a relaxed but strong way. Full marks for the truly imaginative set by Chris Hole, haunting music by Steve Frost and for a most thought provoking play.