New Venture Players at the Brentwood Theatre
It must be ten years now since Maureen Lipman starred in her daughter's bitter-sweet piece about new life and liberation.
Fred Sampson's production caught some of the poignancy and most of the humour of the play. And it boasted several excellent character studies. Linda Beaney was Nancy, redundant and depressed, who stumbles into a “project” which involves disrobing for an art class run by ageing, cynical Philip [Gerry Finnegan]. We shared her improbable journey from inertia and pickled onions to bright optimism and a new beginning with “bloodhound” Max, nicely played by James Biddles, especially in the early “Job's Comforter” scene, and the moving, if wordy, dénouement. A lovely natural performance too from Sophie Howlett as Zelda, Philip's previous life model.
The “weird and wonderful” grotesques who make up the class were less convincing, depicted with too broad a brush, perhaps. The duologues were much more effective – Zelda and Nancy, Max and Nina, Nancy's long-suffering sister [Chris Wilkins].
Difficult to shoe-horn the National Gallery Café [terrible chairs], Philip's teaching studio and the sisters' suburban flat [a corridor, basically] onto the Brentwood stage, but there was some good lighting, especially the nude scene, and impressive sound effects [Bob Gedge].