Sunday, June 01, 2008

Kelvedon Players

Not many actors have their own dresser these days, but only two generations ago wartime privations still did not mean that Sir had to launder his own smalls.

Norman - sensitively played by Andy Perrin - is the devoted servant of the title. We could he believe that he survived Colwyn Bay, or that he might end his days as a ship's steward once his master's voice finally fell silent. He was at his best in the final maudlin moments, and in his cutting confrontation with the ambitious young Irene - a promising performance from Cristina d'Andrea.

Annette Williams looked every inch the part of the long-suffering leading lady [all the costumes were carefully chosen], though she would have had a much posher voice, tobacco stained with cut-glass vowels.

Mike Nower held the stage effortlessly as Sir; a riveting performance from the broken, tearful start to the triumph in his farewell Lear. His voice and his stature changed impressively as the greasepaint and the promise of a Full House worked their healing magic.

Jan Holton was the harrowed SM, and the pathetic touring company, decimated by war, was represented by Peter Russell and Peter Redman, with assorted Knights and Voices Off.

The Dresser, dedicated to the memory of Bill Saffell, was directed by Rosemary Townsend, in an evocative set which fitted comfortably into the fading splendour of Kelvedon's Institute.

JR wrote:

Just back from my evening out watching Kelvedon Players perform 'The Dresser', the same play in which I appeared as Norman, the theatre dresser of the title, for Little Baddow Drama a good few years ago. The film starred Albert Finney and Tom Courteney.

For me it was an 'OK' evening, though I'm not raving about it. This might be because my 'appreciation' was coloured by our own production of the play - I know that we had a very good cast at all levels, whereas I was not exactly 'fussed' for those playing some of the smaller roles over at Kelvedon.

Mike Nower played 'Sir', the actor-manager of a third rate touring company during WW2 (based on the last of the actor-managers, Sir Donald Wolfit). For me he had too light a voice - I would have preferred booming 'nobody sleeps while I'm on stage' tones, the same timbred voice that Albert Finney in the film used to excellent effect to stop the departing train ! However, Mike gave an intelligent and wholly believable performance as the man who had led his third rate troupe of players round the Provinces for many years. His wig did him no favours, but then wasn't that in itself a subtle way of underlining the tattiness of his motley crew ?

Andy Perrin as Sir's dresser, Norman, quickly warmed to his part and did not overdo the camper side of the character. He was particularly 'at home' in the 2nd Act dramatic moments. Perhaps he could have pointed the subtler moments slightly better, such as the story of 'his friend' in Colwyn Bay .. or his barbed comments at Madge.

In her two main dialogues Annette Williams as 'Her Ladyship' was not entirely 'at home' .. should she not have been more sharp-tongued and venomous in her 'interval' scene with 'Sir' ?

The bustling efficiency and bristly edge of stage manager Madge was not fully captured, though her final triumphal moment when she 'appropriated' Sir's ring was well done.

The wanna-be-Cordelia-by-hook-or-by-crook Irene was given an intelligentreading by young Cristina D'Andrea. It certainly made her two friends inthe row in front of me stop their texting !

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