'Haunted' April 2003

NORTH WEST ESSEX THEATRE GUILD

Little Waltham Drama Group

Thursday 10th April

Haunted by Eric Chappell

I enjoyed reading this script prior to going to see Little Waltham stage it and I was

very curious to see how they would cope with all the ghostly appearances and the

building of suspense. The limitations of most village halls doesn't lend itself to

complicated scenic effects but I was impressed with Little Waltham's ideas and the

professional manner in which they overcame the complex moments.

Front of House

We couldn't have been treated better! The evening was bitter but the warmth from the

hail hit me as I entered and this matched the courtesy and kindness from the ron

staff The hail was about three- quarters hilt with the age range being mainly mature.

I did like the programme; very clear and effective about the performance as well as

hill of interesting background reading on Byron. The use of clipart was well done and

subtle. It was interesting to read the comments by the new members of the cast, I

thought they were very brave to tackle such large and demanding parts and to admit to

it in black and white as well! It certainly gave them the chance to gain the audience's

sympathy.

Stage Management

The evening started very promptly, the cast was also prompt with all entrances or

moments that they needed to be seen. The stealth and speed that the stage crew used

to effect the changes to the scenes was excellent and the masking of Byron to set up

his unexpected appearance was masterly. This was a very well managed performance.

Lighting and Sound

I was particularly impressed with the variety of lighting effects that the club bad used

as too often not enough imagination goes into this technical backup. The general

spillage was splendid with extra spots and strobe light picking up Byron to enhance

his ghostliness. Giving the goblet's first viewing such a strong visual importance was

good but spoilt as the actors didn't hold the goblet in a manner commensurate with

that importance. I did wonder if the lights could have reflected a more sinister mood

as Potter grew more menacing during the second half.

The sound effects were also extremely well executed and apt. I especially applaud

those that marked Byron's presence and the eeriness conveyed by the dog sounds and

the Gregorian chants. The intensity and sensitivity was of a pleasing standard.

Set and Props

I thought the set was superb, I was especially impressed with the painting of the

beams to create depth. The littering of the walls with Byron's portraits was excellent

too and matched Nigel's character perfectly. The furniture was well chosen although

the positioning of the desk made for some awkward moments, the finding of the note

in Act 2 being the most clumsy. I liked the opportunity to see through the window,

although I found it distracting at times and congratulations must go to Billie Bond on

her mural here. There was a lot of space created wit this set, well done.

The props were good; especial mention must go to the maker or tinder of the skull

goblet -that was very appropriate and of a pleasing size so that it was very dominant.

Costumes

Being set in modem day, the costumes were well chosen to mirror the character.

Nigel' s fairisle homely jumper reflected his predictably ordinary life as depicted in his

novels. Potter's austere coat and black tie looked menacing; Julia was smart and

fashionable; Mary was at ease in her smart casual wear and then very elegant in her

evening outfit and Turner was sharp-suited for the streetwise man that he is. The

contrast with Byron's period costume was very marked, I liked the opulence of his

pink velvet waistcoat and his makeup that gave him an unearthly pallor. However I

did feel that Nigel should have had another jumper as the action moved on three

months and he came on in the jumper that was still wet from when Julia threw water

over him!

Direction

This was a very slick, well constructed piece of theatre and I congratulate Glyn on his

creation. The pace throughout the evening was rapid and consequently allowed for

many excellent character relationships to develop. Careful attention had also been

given to building up a focus; the cast had been encouraged to use a good variety of

intonation, pausing and changes of pace to make the dialogues very truthful and

refreshing to listen to. The dialogue between Nigel and Byron at the beginning of Act

2 was a masterpiece of comedy, unfortunately the rest of the act couldn't quite match

the height that these two reached.

The use of timing for crucial moments was another highlight, the finding of the goblet

and the lead up to Byron's final exit being one that I particularly enjoyed as well as

some splendid reactions to the dialogue. Turner's line "pissed as a fart" was well

done, Byron's play on "figment of the imagination" was lovely to name but two from

the very many. The cast moved around the acting area with considerable confidence

and ease. I wondered if the cast could have used down stage left more as this area of

the stage was rather bereft of action and there were a few moments when there was

blocking or a move that was not easy. There was a very sticky moment in Act 2 as

Nigel was trying to get rid of Julia when the cast seemed to lose their way, the fault

could have been with the script but it did spoil the momentum. The end was

effectively staged but needed more; the argument off-stage needed to reach a much

higher pitch and go on for longer to contrast with the chair's motion. I liked the laugh.

Nigel Burke.. .Graham Pipe.

I found Graham's performance very convincing and moving. He has a difficult start

but his depressed state and despair worked well. He was especially good with his

reactions; to the dog, to the "bang" after pouring wine into the goblet, to Julia

throwing her drink over Mm, to Byron's presence, to listening at the door, to name a

few. Graham's sensitivity to timing was the hallmark of this fine performance coupled

with the speed he picked up on his cues and it was enormous fun watching the range

of emotions that he was portraying. He used his hands welt this was especially

evident leading up to his exit at the end of Act 2, although sometimes he needs to be

wary of moving too much. But it was the clarity and confidence of his lines, the

complexity and range of emotions portrayed that made this performance so enjoyable

so as he leaves the mayhem of his existence to experience the "agoraphobic's dream"

I felt like cheering him on his way- he had my complete sympathy!

Mary Burke...Christine Ketley.

This was an excellent effort considering Christine's inexperience. Mary's first

entrance was too low key and she had not been given enough to do other than stand

and say her lines. She needed to work more on her exasperation over Nigel's

inactivity and busy herself organising him. Her nervousness was evident in her next

scene when she kept fiddling with her fringe which detracted from her feelings and

she looked very uncomfortable. However, into scene two she began to relax and her

dialogue with Turner was much more convincing and her concern about Nigel held a

ring of truth. There was a lot more that needed to be developed with this part, namely

her feelings about Nigel, her own for Turner and her excitement at Nigel's success.

Christine needs to act "listening" so that she can work on her reactions more and start

speaking as she comes through the door rather than wait until she has closed it. She

built up the dialogue about Nigel 's unfaithfulness well and her description of

Carrington's reaction was convincing. I especially liked the way she built up to the

line "if he's headless, how can he watch you?" where she showed that she can time

comedy lines well.

Potter.. .Martin Final

Martin's performance was rather uneven. He looked good, pretty miserable and

sombre but he needed to have a much lower self esteem and really rim himself down

more at the beginning. This character has to build up the suspense and I didn't feel

Martin stressed the Hucknell part of the plot enough. One of the problems was that

Martin was rather hard to hear. In scene 2,1 felt that Martin was in much more

command of his character and far more sinister. The reactions between him and Nigel

were particularly pleasing in this scene, I liked the way Martin stressed "passionate"

and I enjoyed his growing madness. In Act 2 Martin used much better timing and

enunciated his lines better too, I liked the craftiness behind "the other one" and the

artfulness of" you're limping! "The used the staring quality of this eyes extremely

well here. However, his final scenes when he admits to his wilfulness were not

convincing but I feel that is partly the writing that is at fault coupled wit the problem

of casting an actor of the right size. His despair at being a nonentity didn't come over

enough for me.

Julia Phillips...Billie Bond

This was another first class performance with Billie exuded confidence at every

appearance. She made a beautifully telling first entrance and her reaction to the Erik

Bungle idea was excellent. I looked forward to seeing her more and I wasn't

disappointed. Her timing during the scene when Nigel hasn't read her play was

meticulous and it was very easy to read her underlying thinking. The end of Act 1

with the drink being thrown and then the kiss was splendid. Act 2 does not favour this

role as she becomes the predictable pushy mistress and the element of surprise with

her character is no longer evident. Her enunciation during the "flooding" dialogue was

lovely as she showed her skill in building up the comedy.


Lord Byron...Peter Travell

I loved this performance. I so enjoyed the slow, laid-back attitude that Peter used for

this character who was obviously enjoying himself hugely. Peter posed magnificently

as he watched the antics around him but it was the expressions on his face that were a

joy to observe. His development of this character with Nigel was splendid, the

beginning of Act 2 in particular, where his sense of timing and pointing up the

humour was superb. His speedy take-up on cues and the playing with his words-

especially the elongation of some of the syllables was delightful and right. His mirth

was infectious, one giggled at his comments on Lady Byron or his reputation and one

smiled at the displeasure of his final resting place. The final scene with Nigel as he

commented on the life around him that had so little action was touching and poignant.

I loved the touch of humour as he refused the drink as" he might dribble"

accompanied by the wry smile on his face. This final scene made me reflect on what

might have been and what was to come.


Turner Gould... Andy Freeman.

For a newcomer who was performing for the only the second time, Andy worked hard

at making this "agent" believable. He was on the make all the time and that is very

much how Andy made him sound. He had the look of a "spiv" with his smart suit and

his "common" accent. His performance was confident if a little lacking in vivacity;

this I'm certain was due to inexperience. Byron can see that he's after Mary, we, as the

audience should have seen more before the kiss. Turner needed to be fir more of the

slick "salesman" as he lied his way out of problems, his discussion with Nigel about

seeing the play at Brighton needed to be far more superficial and false. He needed to

be more reactionary about the possibility of losing his commission and gleeful when

events favoured him. Andy needs to concentrate now on using more emphasis to help

focus on pertinent words or phrases but it was a highly commendable performance

Tricia Stephens. April2003.


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