The 23/24 Season of plays so far

This Willy Russell classic, about twins split at birth, is more famous as a musical, but its original play format hits equally hard. The twins’ poverty-stricken mother is persuaded to give baby Edward to her employer Mrs Lyons – rich but childless. Both women discourage the boys from meeting, but it is inevitable.

The action of this heart-rending piece set in Liverpool is linked by a rhyming narrator played by Tim Hands, whose chilling delivery highlighted the play’s underlying menace. Lisa McLean exuded warmth, love and care as the twins’ mother. And Emma Horspool was equally convincing as her cold and confused counterpart. The scene in which the latter is asked to choose which boy to take was excruciatingly emotive.

Twins Mickey and Eddie were respectively played by Alastair Beeson and Norman Nickason, whose carefully observed childish mannerisms ensured authenticity. Their transformation into adulthood was seamless as their contrasting characters matured. Micky and his best friend and wife-to-be Linda, portrayed beautifully by Kate Lansdale, were wonderfully precocious yet naïve, highlighting Eddie’s rich-boy unworldliness as child and adult.

There lives went in opposite directions, but were dangerously interwoven, leading to the final shocking scene where Mrs Johnston blurts out the boys’ true relationship and gun-toting Mrs Lyons shoots them both.

Congratulations to director Howard James and the cast, completed by Ruth Fowler as the policewoman. (From the review by Gordon Birch in the Harborough Mail)

The initial impressions deceived in this well staged dark comedy, set in 1966 London. As Connie Francis’s romantic rendition of The Anniversary Waltz faded away, last week’s Harborough Theatre audiences probably thought they were in for a nice schmaltzy evening. How wrong they were! This play is about a family of dodgy builders, whose mother-from-hell marks the death of her husband with an annual gathering. Her three sons, a daughter-in-law and a girlfriend are the reluctant guests, whose frailties she delights in exposing.

The females excelled, but to be fair, they did have the best lines. Caitlin Mottram immediately made her presence felt as daughter-in-law Karen. Snappy pick-ups, easy moves and great timing. Nicky Mawer was hilariously ghastly as the mother with a tongue sharp enough to slice a concrete block. Between them these two set the pace. Emily Staff as Shirley showed versatility, transforming from Tom’s shy girlfriend to a punch-packing partner.

The characters of sons, Tom, Terry and Henry gave individual opportunities for development, seized by Edward Toone, Charlie Sinclair and Benjamin Brooks respectively. Each was desperate to break mother’s stronghold. Tom and his pregnant girlfriend were to be married, Terry and Karen were emigrating to Canada and Henry wanted to be left with his fetish for women’s clothes. Edward’s strong portrayal of Tom contrasted beautifully with Charlie’s characterisation of the damaged Terry, and Benjamin was just subtly odd as Henry.

Edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail. Photos by Andrew Wallace

This Play set in a police state and concerns a series of child murders ‘inspired’ by the stories of young author, Katurian. She and her brother, who has learning difficulties, are the chief suspects and are cross-questioned by two hardcore police officers. This forms the bulk of the plot. This production was brilliantly directed and cast by Neil Lovegrove, with Nikki Favell as Katurian, Ben Lewis as her brother Michael, Joff Brown as detective Tupolski, Dave Booker as detective Ariel. Some of the stories were mimed by Laura Westerman as Mother, Charlie Sinclair as Father and Molly Anderson as Child.

Although it is a dark comedy, with many unpleasant stories, disliked by some of the audience, the majority of comments were very positive. “I enjoyed it despite the language and violence within it.” ” Brilliantly performed, directed, great set, lighting and sound though didn’t like the play”. ” Nikki Favell was superb, outstanding in a almost every respect. The cops weren’t quite extreme enough in their portrayal of good and bad, though as a woman, my heart leap into my mouth when Ariel physically threatened Katurian. Ben Lewis had a particularly difficult role and played it very well – one was never quite sure how ‘damaged’ he really was.”

“Brilliant – in all aspects. Direction, performances, set, lighting and sound! It’s great to see theatre being challenging and not afraid to upset a few people. We’d love to see more plays like this.”

See How They Run, by Philip King

Presenting any vintage piece can be risky, but despite dating from the 1940’s it has lost none of its appeal. That said , much of its success was in the hands of first-time director Chris Raymakers and his energetic cast of nine. From the word go it was a whirling dervish of a show, full of slapstick, misunderstandings and chaos.

Set in the vicarage home of the Rev Lionel Toop, trouble begins when parishioner Miss Skillon accuses the vicar’s wife, Penelope of hijacking her harvest festival floral display. Daniel Hands and Eleanor Marriott contrasted beautifully as the Toops – he suitably vicarish and she over-the-top. Amy Bradshaw displayed versatility as Miss Skillon both drunk and sober. Lara Colotto excelled as Ida the maid, her gift of timing rewarded by the audience. Dipesh Lakhani relished his role as Lance Corporal Clive Winton, disguised as a vicar, while Charles Hilsdon’s authoritative air and voice were perfect as The Bishop of Lax. Newcomer Phil Bryson (a real vicar) was wonderfully exasperated as chaos surrounded him. And Lewis Forsythe as the stereo-typical and amusing German, underlined the play’s wartime origins. Kelly Hamill completed the cast as Sergeant Towers, trying to make sense of it all.

Thanks Harborough Theatre for Rev-iving this play – quite appropriate with all those vicars around! (taken from Gordon Birch’s critique in the Harborough Mail) Photos by Peter Crowe

Death and the Maiden, by Ariel Dorfman

The studio production of this intense, powerful, moving and thought provoking drama, was well presented. Here are some quotes from the audience feedback. ” Excellent. Though a difficult subject matter, there was good rapport between the cast.” “An absolute pleasure. Tightly acted and provocative. All three players carried the wight of the drama with real skill and conviction. A Fab. theatrical experience.”

Photos by Andrew Walker

Things I Know to be True, by Andrew Bovell

This extraordinarily moving play is set in the home and garden of Bob and Fran Price. All appears fine on the surface of this family of four adult children , but problems gradually emerge through the young adult’s revelations.

Paul Barras and Nicky Mawer gave a beautiful and thorough portrayal as Bob and Fran, bombarded by their children’s problems. He sought solace in the garden, and she gave generally unwanted advice.

Sensitively directed by Hazel Cook, the play’s passage of time was dealt with through an imaginative set, enhanced by lighting and projected seasonal views. reminding us that life goes on despite problems, of which there were plenty. Sarah Parker gave a heart-rending monologue as youngest child, Rosie, whose desperate attempt to leave home resulted in a romantic disaster in Berlin. Verity Davis as married sister, Pip, conveyed pathos with her unhappy marriage and emigration plan. Edward Toone, as brainy Ben the financial expert, caused Bob to lash out after admitting stealing cash from his employers. But it was Mark (Dan Shorley) who really rocked the boat with news that he wanted to change sex. And even that was trumped when Fran died in a crash on her way home from work.

The emotions communicated by this talented cast were immense. We felt their pain, shed their tears and identified with their anger.

Edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail Photos by Peter Crowe

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s spoof adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s story.

The prospect of casting a play featuring just three actors must be a nightmare for any director. But Harborough Theatre’s production of the Hound of the Baskervilles was a corker. In the ever-capable hands of Mark Bodicoat, the carefully chosen trio worked at breakneck speed through the hilarious script.

The talented threesome portrayed 12 characters between them and the pace was so fast that at times it seemed even they were confused – and that, too, was carried off with aplomb. Paul Beasley and Neil Lovegrove were wonderful as Sherlock Holmes and Watson and handled the subtle suggestion that theirs might be more than just a business relationship with humorous perfection. Ben Reid was so comfortable in his roles as both the ill-fated Sir Charles and Sir Henry Baskerville. All three also played yokels in scenes reminiscent of Two Ronnies sketches.

The overriding feature of this impressive season opener was the fun exuded by the cast. It was clear they enjoyed every minute of it, which proved immediately infectious with the sell-out audiences. The eerie set displayed the talents of the construction and lighting teams. It was without a doubt, a howling success. ( edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail) Photos by John Harrison