The Long-awaited return to normality at the Harborough Theatre arrived in style with the staging of Skylight by David Hare. This play had been postponed due to last year’s lockdown and had been waiting in the wings. And it was worth the wait wrote Gordon Birch in the Harborough Mail.
The raw emotions of Tom (Joff Brown), Kyra (Kate Waterfield) , with whom he had an affair, and his son Edward (Alex Laurenti) are laid bare in the guilt-ridden aftermath of Tom’s wife’s death.
The wordy but naturalistic script was delivered so expertly by all three, that it was like eavesdropping on a real-life situation. Kate Waterfield and Joff Brown were perfect as the ill-fated lovers. It was impossible not to be caught up in their emotional turmoil. They were that convincing. And one simply felt sorry for the comparatively innocent Edward thanks to Alex Laurenti’s impressive debut. An excellent play superbly directed by Liz Clarke
Fools by Neil Simon
Billed as a comic farce, the script of Fools had more than a hint of panto and, at times, la leaning towards Spike Milligan’s super silliness. The bizarre characters provided a field day for the 10-strong cast. The Linchpin of whom was Nick Turrell , as dotty Dr Zubritsky, whose energy effervesced throughout.
David Martin as Leon Tolchinsky, played the latest in a long line of teachers whose aim was to educate the doctor’s daughter Sophia, played beautifully by Rebecca Matthews. Sophia was pursued by both her teacher and the cunning Count Gregor, over-acted wonderfully by Tim Hands in a cross between the villain in a Victorian melodrama and a pantomime baddie. An the audience responded with obligatory hisses and boos.
Alice Watts was an air-headed postie, David Booker as a daft shepherd, Andrew Maltman as a bonkers butcher, Barbara Lloyd as a mad merchant, Anna Buckley as the doctor’s wife and Tony Ruscoe as the magistrate, contributed equally to this peculiar, yet enjoyable production. (Edited from and article by Gordon Birch)
Studio production of Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan
Sarah Parker performed this one person interactive monologue played brilliantly. Although the play is about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love, it has many lighter moments, and there were plenty of laughter from the audiences, who seemed very impressed with the play.
Beyond Reasonable Doubt by Jeffrey Archer
Visitors to this production were given a taste of jury duty via the Jeffrey Archer Play, which dealt with a leading barrister’s alleged murder of his terminally ill wife and all the evidence was addressed to the audience as to a jury. Sir David Metcalfe, the barrister in question, was played in a beautifully measured manner by Mark Aspland. He was locked in a legal battle with his old rival, Anthony Blair-Booth QC, portrayed crisply and assertively by Mark Wood. The tension between the two was palpable. The general formality of the courtroom was relieved by the appearance of Mrs Rogers, the Metcalfes’ housekeeper, played beautifully by Nicky Mawer. Mrs Rogers claimed she had heard her employers quarreling and saw Sir David give his wife fatal medication, both of which he denied.
The second act took us back to the fateful night at the Metcalfes’ house where we saw what actually happened and how ideas of truth can vary. Teresa Quigly gave a totally credible and sensitive interpretation of Lady Metcalfe and Tony Price was charmingly eccentric as family friend, solicitor Lionel Hamilton.
Two Contrasting One Act Plays: Garden Pests by Jean McConnell, and Bull by Mike Bartlett
Garden Pests is a gentle comedy, of two keen gardeners from different backgrounds visiting a magnificent garden. Full marks to Hazel Cook, who stepped in as Helena at the last minute due to illness, as the Pompous Helena. Jan Wilson, who played the down to earth northerner, Cath, brought humour and a good sense of timing to the comedy.
Bull dealt with office politics and bullying. It was well played with a strong cast of four Thomas, Isobel and Tony were competing for two jobs in a large firm. Simon Palmer was remarkable as the downtrodden Thomas. His competitors, payed by Sarah Parker and Corin Willcocks, were equally credible, sharp and exuded menace. Ed Toone was smooth yet nasty as Carter the boss. Bull goes on to the quarter finals of the All England One Act play festival in April.
A Bunch of Amateurs by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman
Good casting and direction from Sue Waller ensured the main team of seven duly delivered this vehicle for real character acting. When fading American actor Jefferson Steel lands a part as King Lear at Stratford, his elation turns to deflation when he discovers it’s the village drama society of Stratford St John. The residents are thrilled, but he doesn’t share their enthusiasm. Paul Barrass was perfectly imposing as the US star. Howard James was wonderfully pompous as melodramatic Nigel Dewbury, who coveted the Lear role. Tim Hands as dim Denis Dobbins was hilarious and brought wonderful comedy to the piece. Kay Carpenter, as director Dorothy Nettle, probably had the most difficult role inasmuch as it was dead straight, but she provided the glue holding the play together. Teresa Quigley as Lauren Bell had a similarly straight role, which highlighted the theatrical goings-on around her. Claire McMurray was lovely as Steel’s daughter, Jessica, who eventually brought her self-obsessed father to his senses. lisa Mclean, as simpering Mary Plunkett gave the part everything. Her thorough comedic characterisation never waned. She was delightful. The eight paparazzi members who chased Jefferson round the theatre added even more comedy to this excellent and well-executed play. – Gordon Birch, Harborough Mail
Crown Matrimonial by Royce Ryton
If you thought that recent royal crises put our monarchy’s future at risk, this production reminded us that it has weathered even worse storms. Crown Matrimonial is based on the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 when he declares his intention to marry the divorced American, Wallis Simpson, who never actually appears in the play. This was an excellent and fitting production at this time of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The deft direction of Maggie Kirk resulted in a tight and convincing cast, wholse costumes outshone anything in Downton Abbey!
Nicky Mawer as Queen Mary, King George’s widow, was wonderfully regal, commanding, but still retained a mother’s sensitivity for her sons’ well-being. Bewigged Niel Lovegrove as King Edward (known in the family as David) impressed from his first entrance. His similarity to the dashing monarch was striking and his performance gave us a real tast of his dilemma. Ben Reid, as his younger brother, known as Bertie, contrasted perfectly as the less confident, stammering man who was unexpectedly propelled into the spotlight as King George VI. Helen Foreman as Elizabeth, (eventually to be the Queen Mother) portrayed his supportive wife with credibility.
The abdication issue is well documented, but this play gave an insight into how the royal family might have actually coped with it – let alone the rest of the nation and the Church.
Others in this well-cast production were Nicci Harvey, Linda Waddilove, Kevin Norris, Anna Buckley, Gemma Barder and Charles Hilsdon. (Edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail)
Ladies Day, by Amanda Whittington
Imagine four women released from their fish factory jobs to go on the razzle at Royal Ascot…frighteningly hilarious! This had all the ingredients for a right royal romp. The principals were well cast and the script was good. The cast worked hard and looked good, but the comparatively utilitarian sets did little to enhance their efforts.
However, director Christine Faulconbridge, ensured that the principals carved out four very believable characters, who revealed surprises about themselves after a few tipples. There were some hilarious lines, although a few were lost due to poor projection. Unbelievably, three of the four were stage debutantes. Sally Thomas-Frederic, particularly impressed as glamorous Shelly, who nearly had a fling with TV presenter, Jim, (Tony Ruscoe). Emma Horspool, as lonely Linda, melted our hearts as she befriends Irish jockey, Patrick (Simon Palmer). Lisa Jarvis, as Jan, shed her normally sensible image and made an amusing drunk. Theatre stalwart, Hazel Cook, made up the team as (apparently) happy housewife, Pearl. Her scene with fancy man, Barry, sensitively played by Nick Turrell, was touching. The cast was completed by Tim Hands, and Kevin Norris. It was a good end to the season with a comedy that was clearly an audience hit.
(edited from Gordon Birch’s review in the Harborough Mail)