NORTH ESSEX THEATRE GUILD
FULL-LENGTH PLAY FESTIVAL 2012-13
Production: Smalls Talk by Sue and Clive Read
Adjudication Date: Sat July 21, 2012
Adjudicator: Liz Mullen accompanied by William Hooper
A nice little comedy concoction, which utilised much of the group’s female talent. That’s what LWDG laid before us on this summer’s evening.
It is always refreshing for your Guild panellists to see a less familiar play, so we came to Smalls Talk with fresh eyes. Given that the play is a bit of a one-trick pony, it certainly didn’t out-stay its welcome, starting at 7.45pm and getting us out in one hour 25 minutes including interval. It almost left me wanting more!
Front Of House:
Despite us having made you anxious by arriving with about two minutes to spare, everyone was still smiling and efficient, with very nice people on hand to usher us to our seats and to conjure up interval refreshments in lovely china cups etc – served in our seats.
I always enjoy Little Waltham’s programmes, with their use of colour. This edition was particularly readable, with its history of lingerie and mock mini-biogs from the characters rather than the actors, complete with designs of appropriate undergarments.
In fact “smalls” were liberally sprinkled throughout the programme, and the little caricature of directors Kathy and Viv was very comical.
SETTING & PROPS:
Always a boon to a group when only one set is needed, and in this case it was Rex and Linda’s lounge, where a lingerie party is to be hosted - in the (reluctant) absence of Rex.
This looked a comfy and lived-in room, with flowery wallpaper, and dark red chair and settee, plus extras chairs and pieces of furniture. The rather deco-looking picture of dancers showed that Linda and Rex (well, probably Linda) had some aspirations to good taste.
The folding screen looked fine and provided a changing space for the makeover.
Thanks to the apron at the front, the party provider, Dawn from Lady Lacy, was able to wheel her rail of undies to and fro without too much trouble.
Plenty of alcoholic props!
LIGHTING & SOUND:
No drastic time changes required, so the lighting crew could concentrate on indoor evening lighting. It would have been rather fun if the transformed Emma had emerged from behind the screen in a star-struck spotlight, though!
Doorbells were rung on cue.
All the ladies looked right for their characters, from raucous Carole’s casual top and cropped trousers, to glamorous Jessica’s well-designed neatness. Hostess for the evening, Linda, wore a smartish but safe dress – denoting a woman who does not dress “hot” to please her husband, or has just given up trying.
Dawn of Lady Lacy was, of necessity, smartly dressed from head to toe.
As the odd one out, frumpy Emma was beetle-browed, plain, and utterly undesirable, so her transformation into a gorgeous creature in a shapely dress was a real delight.
Dot, in her black dress and suntan, somehow looked exactly like a Dot! And Rex gave the impression of being a typically suburban bloke who only swaps his casuals for smarter gear when he absolutely has to.
Linda: Susan Butler got the pace going from the instant she walked on stage. She and Ken Little really “hit the ground running” as they say, with an offstage squabble continued convincingly onto the stage. Susan was a commanding figure throughout. Her excellent projection ensured the bar was set high and the rest of the cast duly followed.
Rex: Slightly hangdog, slightly henpecked (but holding his ground) and slightly stupid to think his lust for neighbour Jessica went unnoticed. That sums up Rex, and Ken Little gave us all that in a well-timed and natural performance.
Carole: As Linda’s jollier sister, Karen Allen gave a confident performance, and her increasing tipsiness was very well developed – as indeed can be said of the whole female cast.
Dawn: Deliciously buxom and gushing, Julie Cole had real fun with this role. Her initial professional insincerity mellowed after a glass or two of wine and she was soon absorbed into the sisterhood.
Jessica: My companion and I suspected that the character of Jessica might have been intended to be a perma-tanned nouveau riche TOWIE type, but casting it as a glacially posh woman of well-heeled perfection worked well. Vicky Weavers delivered Jessica’s cutting honesty to great effect.
Dot: Annette Michaels was confident and gave the role a defined stamp of individuality. And, like the rest of the female cast, gave us a lovely downward slide into inebriated jollity.
Emma: Having seen Kim Travell in roles more akin to her very nice-looking self, the transformation was less surprising than the initial dowdy, fashion-free zone that was poor deserted Emma. Kim portrayed Emma’s frumpiness well. Once made-over as a sexpot, Kim gave a hilarious “acting class” in how many ways it would be possible to say: “Hello, Kevin,” first in a breathy voice and then simply miming. The accompanying poses caused much amusement.
We were impressed with the slick pace of the production and the good projection right across the board.
For sheer dramatic effect, it would have been good to take a bit of a liberty and only to let us see Emma from the back once she’d been made up and until she comes out dressed as her new self – then, with the added artistic licence of a spotlight (all in the ladies’ imagination) the moment would have had even more impact
Thanks to Kathy Jiggins and Viv Abrey for providing such an endearing and entertaining evening. Short but sweet.