Season 2022-23 The Season so Far

The Heiress, by Augustus and Ruth Goetz.

How refreshing it was last week to see the Heiress. The wordy script by Augustus and Ruth Goetz is based on Henry James’s novel, Washington Square. Set in 1850s New York, it tells of the wealthy widower Dr Austin Sloper, whose only child, Catherine, does not live up to his expectations. She finally finds love, only to be wrecked by her father’s belief that her suitor is a gold-digger.

The script deftly delivered by the tight cast of nine, who were pacey, clear and engaging throughout. Rebecca Humphrey was outstanding as Catherine, who transformed from wilting wallflower to double bluffer. Richard Grant was perfect as her protective yet scary father and Nicci Harvey was an ever-welcome presence on stage as his larger-than-life sister Lavinia Penniman. Anthony Pollard impressed as handsome smoothie, Morris Townsend, Catherine’s love interest. His angry outburst with the doctor was beautifully handled. Amy Bradshaw, Helen Foreman, Lara Colotto, Charlie Sinclair and Maggie Kirk completed this efficient, interactive cast.

The elegant and charming set was designed by Nick Lewis. The play was director John Foreman’s swan-song and he’s gone out on a high.

(edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail)

Photos by Andrew Wallace

People, by Alan Bennett

Did you know that a porn movie was filmed in Market Harborough last week and capacity audiences watched it at the town’s theatre? True – but it wasn’t quite as you might imagine. It was all in the safe hands of Alan Bennett. His comedy, People, deals with issues around securing the future of an ancestral home. Hiring it out to a porn film company was an option.

As is customary with Bennett there were some sparkling turns of phrase and witty comments. Although by and large the 13-strong cast, directed by Neil Kitson, delivered them clearly, some seemed to rely on the words selling themselves. Consequently, some of its cut and thrust was lost due to a lack of timing and sharpness. This may have improved after the first night.

There were some impressive performances too. Christine Faulconbridge and Nicky Mawer as Lady Stacpoole and her ‘companion’ Iris, were an excellent double act whose sense of timing was exemplary. Tony Price wallowed in the glorious language of his role as Ralph Lumsden, of the National Trust. Joff Brown set the stage alight with a lively performance as porn film director Mr Theodore. Amy Bradshaw and Colin Jaycocks, as porn stars Brit and Colin, also caused a few titters.

The attractive and flexible set was designed by Ron Kirk. The Enthusiastic cast was completed by Howard James, Lin Hinnigan Leach, David Quayle, Ben Lewis, Teresa Quigley, Andrew Maltman and Charlie Sinclair.

Review by Gordon Birch in the Harborough Mail

Photographs by John Harrison

The Girl on the Train, by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel

The curtains opened to reveal an eerie, misty figure and the haunting sounds of Magpie, by The Unthanks. And I was captivated. This tense drama, based on Paula Hawkins’ novel, focuses on Rachel Watson’s obsession with other people’s apparent happiness. Ably directed by Paul Barrass, the action takes place in several locations, achieved by one of the theatre’s most effective sets.

Claire Bower was truly amazing as Rachel. I have rarely seen an amateur actor so immersed in a part. And her professionalism seemed infectious. Tony Ruscoe, as Tom, her ex, was chameleon-like, changing from caring to violent. Catherine Couchman Reynolds as current wife, Anna, expertly stoked the tension between the pair. Rachel’s envy of others’ lives focuses on a couple, whose home she passes on her morning train commute. But envy turns to horror when the woman goes missing. The show’s hypnotic techno music helped push emotions higher and Edward Toone, as Scott, went from one extreme to the other in the search for his wife, Megan, played so sensitively by Robyn Forsythe.

Nick Turrell was convincing as kindly but careless therapist Kamal Abdic. Mark Aspland was the one constant as Det Insp Gaskill. Verity Davis and Benjamin Brooks completed the cast in silent, but animated police roles in this play, which stands out in the current season. ( from the review in the Harborough Mail by Gordon Birch. Photos by Andy Wallace.)

It Could Be Anyone of Us, by Alan Ayckbourn

This hilarious whodunnit, directed by Hazel Cook, features six characters with varying degrees of eccentricity. Mad musician, Mortimer Chalke sets the cat among the pigeons when he announces he’s leaving the family pile to his former student Wendy Windwood. To make matters worse he invites her to stay and meet the family. Thus kicks off a succession of unexplained accidents, spooky goings on and eventually murder.

Charles Hilsdon made a marvellous Mortimer, throwing his weight around in a pompous manner until he came to a sticky end. And therein lay the question of whodunnit? Everyone was under suspicion. There was Mortimer’s artistic brother Brinton who, in the hands of Steve Wilson, was something to behold! Slightly more normal sister, and surely the least likely murderer, Jocelyn, was confidently and calmly played by Helen Foreman. Her daughter the punkish, awkward Amy, was beautifully portrayed by Ava Hall – a study in teenage body language. House guest Wendy was so perfectly and comfortably played by Pam Cousins that you could never suspect her of murder. Finally there was Joycelyn’s partner and amateur detective Norris, played briskly and reliably by Tim Hands.

Within the plot were some wonderful lines, none of which were wasted and all of which were, thankfully, clearly delivered. (extracted from the Harborough mail review by Gordon Birch) Photos by Peter Crowe

Kindertransport, by Diane Samuels

It was clear from the chilling title that there’s be few laughs in this play, but the absorbing script, perfect casting and interesting set combined to keep us hanging on every word. Beautifully directed by Jan Wilson, the play dealt with the transportation of Jewish children from Germany to England just before the Second World War and the immediate and subsequent emotional turmoil.

The story continually flitted from past to present, which can be confusing, but it was achieved with seamless perfection. The central character, Eva Schlesinger, appeared as both child and adult, played by Rebecca Humphrey and Liz Clarke respectively. Both were totally convincing. The former gave a most moving performance as the petrified child who resented being separated from her family; the latter, now a mother herself, still struggling with the past.

Alison Kennerdell as Eva’s mother, Helga, expertly created a rather sad character, whose motherly care was misinterpreted as cruelty. and her action was the crux of the piece. Sarah Parker was excellent as Faith, Eva’s own daughter, who refused to let her mother’s past rest, echoing Eva’s own frustrations. Maggie Kirk was lovely as Lil, Eva’s peace-making English north-country ‘mother’. And in total contrast was Simon Palmer as The Rat-Catcher – the eponymous book character who lured children away from home with his music. His creepy delivery even had me quaking. (edited from Gordon’s Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail. Photographs by John Harrison)

Photos by John Harrison

Clara Bow, by Michael B Druxman

The Studio production of Clara Bow, saw Christine Faulconbridge perform a Tour de Force as the middle aged actress, Clara, reminiscing about her life. A packed audience were thoroughly enjoyed this play, directed by Paul Barras, his directing debut for MHDS. The play was set in Culver City, California, in July 1962, and in the mind an memory of Clara Bow. She was the American silent movie ‘IT’ Girl, screen goddess film star from Brooklyn, although she said, “sex symbol is a heavy load to carry when one is tired, hurt and bewildered.”

Photos by Peter Crowe

Blue Stockings

This play by Jessica Swale, directed by Liz Clarke, is set in 1890’s Girton College Cambridge. Here women started to find their voices with a desire for education to degree level, but could not graduate. The brave women faced ridicule and the were often considered ‘unnatural women’. ‘ Wendy Lomas, as lecturer Miss Blake successfully combined an air of leadership and empathy with her students. Nicci Harvey was imperious, yet understanding as Mrs Welsh, the principal. Millie Whicher, was perfect as Tess, who struggled to choose between study and love. And one sympathised with Maeve (Judith Riley), who had to return home to look after her siblings – just because of her gender. Will Crabtree was convincing as Tess’s two -timing suitor, Ralph. Pete Lewis, as Lloyd was nothing short of scary in the bid to halt the women’s march of progress. Well done on producing a truly educational piece.’

Edited from Gordon Birch’s critique in the Harborough Mail

Photos by Tom Clark

Dracula an A-musical

A full-blooded comedy send-up of Dracula – The Amuse-ical, adapted and directed by the theatre’s own Mark Bodicoat, loosely based on Bram Stoker’s story was last week’s hilarious opener to the Harborough Theatre’s Season. The super script was liberally littered with the corniest of puns, and the busy cast did it justice as they portrayed 23 characters between them.

Paul Nicholls was hilarious and clearly enjoyed being eccentric Van Helsing. Steve Wilson was scarily weird in the title role and Daniel Creedon was contrastingly ‘normal’ as solicitor Jonathan Harker. Lynne Millward and Ben Reid were wonderful as wayward aristocrat Lucy Westenra and twittish Lord Holmwood. Lisa Hilton’s contrasting characterisations of Lady Wesenra and Frau Grossen-Blaumen were impressive. Other members of this well-chosen cast were Claire McMurray, Ian Denness, Chelsey Wilson, Matt Wright and Georgia Bennett.

From the Harborough Mail review by Gordon Birch 13th October 2022

Photo by Tom Clark
Photo by Tom Clark