NORTH WEST ESSEX THEATRE GUILD

 

LITTLE WALTHAM DRAMA GROUP SATURDAY 21 APRIL 2007 HAYWIRE

FRONT OF HOUSE

It is always a nice experience to come to Little Waltham and this evening was no exception. From the warm greeting at the door to receiving a complimentary coffee within seconds of the interval starting, I was made to feel welcome. Congratulations.

I enjoyed reading your programme, as always, and was pleased to note that it had a slightly more professional look to it this time.

You had an open stage before the start of the show, a device often used these days, but in your case essential. It is; however, usually better to partially light the set before curtain up so that it appears that the curtains are open deliberately, rather than as an oversight.

 

 

SET, PROPS AND STAGE MANAGEMENT

I am always amazed at how you cram so much in such a tiny space, but your imaginative integration of the forestage made this has one of the best sets I have seen this year. It was well built and solid and was dressed so well that I was convinced that I was looking at a real room. More importantly, the cast appeared to have plenty of room to move and it did not look cramped. Many congratulations on a fine effort.

 

 

SOUND AND LIGHTING

Lighting. I think that I say every time that I appreciate what limited facilities you have. Fortunately, this play only really needed uncomplicated lighting. I would only mention three points. Firstly, it would have been nice to see some light outside the window; Secondly, I wondered why you used open white to light the DR & DL forestage areas when you had a nice effect over the rest of the stage; Thirdly, why was there no difference in lighting for Act Scene 2 except that the DR white spot was out? Sound. No problems here.

 

 

COSTUME

No real problems here, either. I did wonder just how you were going to cope with the plastered ankle and the pregnant turn. In the event, the ankle worked well, but the turn did appear just a bit too round and regular. This, however, is nitpicking, as false pregnant tummies are notoriously difficult to do and I have seen worse ones than yours in television dramas!

Perhaps here I could mention make-up. This does not have a separate category in the awards system, but on this occasion I would like to congratulate you on some very good make-up all round. Well done.

DIRECTION

The main thing that lets down amateur productions is lack of pace. I was delighted to see that, with the exception of one or two small patches you managed to open with, and maintain, an almost perfect pace.

This was a true comedy (even though it had farcical overtones) and had all emotions from the heights of comedy to the depths of pathos. My only criticism would be that, whilst you maintained a good flow of the humorous sections, the areas of pathos did not really surface until the last scene. A little more contrast would have been welcome.

I would have liked to have seen a bit more sexual chemistry between Alec and Liz and perhaps a little more distance between Maggie and Alec. However, you will be delighted to know that this is just about the shortest piece I have written on Direction this year and you should feel very pleased with your production.

 

 

CAST

 

Alec (Graham Pipe) Wow! What a mammoth part. This is one of those cases where any weakness in your performance would have destroyed the entire play, but I am happy to say that there was very little wrong. Your pace, volume and diction are well­nigh perfect and you maintained them throughout. If I had to find fault it would be that I would have liked to have seen a slightly slower acceleration of Alec's character into chaos than you gave, and also, as mentioned above slightly more emphasis on the "serious" aspects of the plot as opposed to the frenetic and comedic parts. On the whole, though, this was one of the best performances I have seen.

 

Liz (Sue Walker) I am not sure what went wrong with this part, but you just did not seem to get inside the skin of Liz. I did not detect much of a sexual chemistry with, or desire of, Alec. I am not sure whether you or the Director decided on the character you did portray, but the "apologetic voice" approach just did not seem to ring true. Your performance is solid, but because you didn't give me a believable character, I tended to forget that Liz existed when she was not on stage.

 

Maggie (Wendy Padbury-Clark) You gave a very nice rounded performance and an excellent interpretation of Maggie. My only criticism is your quiet voice. Although you obviously have a good stage voice, it tends to drift away at times, and words are lost. A pity.

 

Phoebe (Sable Corrie) This could so easily have gone wrong! Actors playing people much older than themselves so often overdo the ageing process and make the character farcical and a caricature. You avoided this and gave us a superb performance of a believable character with whom we had total empathy. You had obviously studied elderly people closely and put an enormous amount of work into your preparation. This paid off handsomely. I have only one criticism; when speaking quietly when close to other characters your voice really did fade away and you were very difficult to hear. Just bear this in mind for the future. Well done!

Jamie (Adam Joyce) I am afraid that I was somewhat disappointed with your performance. It was obvious that you were not in the part, that you spoke your lines by rote when you heard your cue, and that you were not really living the character on the stage. This was especially noticeable when you were looking at the book in Act 2 Scene I and missed your cue because you were not concentrating. Finally, I am sorry to say that your diction was very poor and I was not able to understand you for much of the time because you gabbled your words and left off the ends of words and sentences.

In your defence, I am assuming that this was all down to inexperience; these points should, therefore, have been drawn to your attention by the Director. Never mind, it is all good experience and should be borne in mind for the future. Now, please do not take offence at these remarks, or lose heart. It is my job to criticise and I am a fairly hard taskmaster, but everything I say is intended to help people to improve in the future. From what I say about others, you can see that it can be done! Keep on trying.

 

Mandy (Lisa Jones) This was a very nice portrayal of the character. I was pleased to see that you coped well with the false tummy and really gave, the impression of a pregnant Mum! An excellent voice combined with a nice stage presence made this a very good performance of a relatively small part.

 

 

FINALLY

 

Congratulations on a first class production. I heard one member of your audience say, "I haven't laughed so much for a long time" on her way out. You had control of the audience and they went away satisfied. What more could you ask? Thank you for an excellent evening.

Ian Crisp April 2007

Bookshop dreams fade in comedy

 

HAYWIRE, Little Waltham Drama.

HAYWIRE, an undemanding comedy from sitcom-meister Eric Chappell, tells the sad tale of Alec [Graham Pipe] who lives over his bookshop, and dreams of romance in Marbella with his glamorous assistant Liz [Sue Walker].

But fate and his family conspire y against him. His aged mother checks her­self self out of Summer End, his wife buys a needy puppy, his daughter turns up heavily pregnant, his son with crutches and a gangrenous ankle.

Mr Pipe did a nice line in manic exasperation, well supported by Sue Walker as his slightly annoying, stridently Sibylline bit of stuff.

Wendy Padbury-Clark was his long suffering but suspicious spouse, Adam Joyce his laid-back, smirking son, Lisa Jones his feisty daughter.

Some of the loudest laughs went to Sable Corrie as the interfering old body with support stocking and a coarse cackle.

Will Maggie catch the bus to the bulb fields? Will Alec make Hay-on-Wye while the sun shines? Whatever happened to raffia?

Glyn Jones’s polished production was enthusiastically received by a loyal audience; the crazy climax of the third scene was especially well crafted.