North West Essex Theatre Guild
Wednesday April 27 2005
Little Waltham Drama group performed Season’s Greetings by Alan Ayckbourn
-a play about Christmas in April!
I am writing this report on a freezing cold day in May and wondering what is happening to the seasons but what can one expect when folk such as yourselves confuse the issue! Clearly, if you have a good script, the right performers and backing, go for it. It is obvious from what I have heard that I missed an impressive evening but I had told my two friends who went in my stead that they should thoroughly enjoy themselves and that the standards at Waltham were high. This report is compiled from the notes given to me by Anne Fitzgerald.
On arrival, Anne was greeted in a friendly and welcoming manner and this was maintained throughout the evening. She was given a programme which is informative as well as a touching tribute, drinks in the interval and the general atmosphere was very pleasant. Both lighting and sound were spot on with their cues. The Christmas lights that repeatedly went on and off were particularly impressive. Sound included music, doorbells, chimes and revolver shots and all these created the right effect.
The festive decorations on set which included a tree were very jolly and despite the restrictions in space, the overall impression was not one of overcrowding. The set incorporated several rooms which was quite a challenge but excellent use was made of the whole acting area. This is typical of this group. The staircase was particularly good. The puppets and their theatre were great fun and added considerably to the humour and the hot water covers need special mention as they were wonderful. I liked the puppet making photo shoot in the programme that added to the warmth surrounding the performance even for those who missed it!
The costume choice was good, all the characters dressed appropriately so that the colours and fabrics were harmonious. Anne felt that Clive needed to be dressed in a more flamboyant manner, ‘arty’ as she termed because as the author he needed greater definition. She felt this would have given him greater opportunities to project a more sophisticated air to his manners, moves and characteristics.
Bernard was suitably bumbling with an old- fashioned look and Phyllis was gaudy and happy. Her drunken walk was amusing and Pattie waddled well as a pregnant woman. Harvey strode manfully, exuding lots of self-importance and Belinda was attractively dressed although Anne thought that the outfit she wore for the opening scene was rather too sophisticated for a family meal at home, even at Christmas.
Stage Management was excellent with the scene changes quick and efficient and props placed unobtrusively. She commented on the enormity of the task of blocking this play due to the restrictions of space and how nothing appeared awkward. One minor concern was that the flour on Bernard’s face from Act 1 was still too much in evidence in the next scene. The pace of the evening was fast and furious which allowed the performers to maximise the humour and make the evening hugely enjoyable. She did feel however that the culmination of someone being shot was not reacted to enough and felt that the cast should have projected more horror at this. The family tensions and hectic excitement at Christmas was very well portrayed. The married couples gelled and were all convincing; the banter between them flowed with ease. The underlying tenderness between Bernard and Phyllis was particularly touching. The impatience that Pattie felt over her ineffectual husband came over splendidly but there was a doubt in Anne’s mind as to whether she was convinced that Belinda would be prone to marital straying. She is supposed to be attracted to Clive but her character seemed so wholesome and basically stable that she could not see her being easily distracted. There didn’t seem to be any chemistry between Belinda and Clive and Anne didn’t think he had enough power or presence to be instantly attractive to Belinda. Although the script calls for him to be shy and pleasant he needed to be more engaging with some mystery, with more sex appeal, for both Belinda and Rachel to be attracted.
Clearly the puppet show was a riotous event and the exchanges between Pattie and Bernard very funny. Anne makes special mention of Pattie’s barking as she has misheard the word ‘wolf’ and then knocked the theatre with her ‘bump.’
Apparently a gentleman near Anne was in tears at this point having been overwhelmed with the brilliant hilarity of this scene.
There was confidence with the lines from all characters with a minimal number of prompts that were taken quickly causing minor interruption.
Neville-Andy Freeman- was very relaxed and natural, very much at home with this character and projected lots of dry and wry humour. He was very amusing when he pretended to listen to his wife waxing lyrically about love whilst being totally absorbed in his mechanical repairs.
Belinda- Billy Bond- was a most attractive character who was at ease and natural. Maybe sometimes she needed to be a bit sharper, sniping and dissatisfied so that the fact that she was contemplating infidelity projected more.
Phyllis-Jenny Broadway-was loveable and very human. She managed to convey the fact that despite being aware of her failings, she had an enormous capacity for enjoyment and a zest for life.
Harvey- Martin Final- put across the menacing side of this character well but needed to show a more relaxed side when watching a film and enjoying himself. He was clearly rather intense.
Bernard- Mike Lee- was most effective as the bungling doctor and his scenes with the puppet theatre were a highlight of the show. He was also able to convey an awareness of his character’s shortcomings which added depth to his performance.
Rachel- Jackie Pitwood-tried hard with this humourless character amidst all the hilarity. Anne felt that she needed more complexity in her characterisation. The contrast between her trying to be nonchalant about Clive’ s disinterest and her collapse into tears needed to be more marked.
Eddie- Simon Tolliday-didn’t make a great impression but the script calls for him to be nondescript. Anne felt more humour in the playing would have been beneficial, maybe gormless and clumsy characteristics could have lifted it.
Pattie-Susan Butler- was splendidly convincing with her ‘seven month pregnancy’ and was wonderfully long-suffering. Although she didn’t have many lines, she brought a great deal of humour to the play; her body language and facial expressions spoke volumes. Clive-Richard Butler-was not fully at ease with this role. As an author, he needed more culture and depth, instead Anne felt that there was a comedian struggling to get out. He needed a far more magnetic personality and throughout, Anne didn’t feel comfortable with his performance.
So, I missed a treat which is a shame but you clearly gave pleasure to lots.
Tricia Stephens May 2005