"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Friday, June 21, 2013
Hoc Players at Brentwood Theatre
Chi to the the tune of Jerusalem is only the start of it. Tim Firth's
funny, feel-good play follows six plucky members of the W.I. as they
plan, pose, and then market their alternative calendar.
Sheard's production for Ad Hoc stresses the ordinariness of these
nervous but determined women, contrasted with the snootiness of their
out-of-touch chairperson [Lisa Mathews].
sustained character work from Sharon Sims as Cora, church organist
and single mum, with her Beatles T-shirt and down-to-earth emotions.
And from Chloe Lewis-Brooks as the desperate golf widow who dresses
like a tart, drinks like a fish and needs bigger buns …
whose husband [Paul Ganney] dies from leukaemia, sparking off the
whole settee scheme, is played with sincerity by Shealagh Dennis –
they share a lovely tender moment over the sunflower seeds. Her
friend of 400 years, Miss October, is Pam Shrimpton, who makes a
rousing speech to Council before being dazzled by the television
lights and the lure of fame. Jessie, retired schoolmistress, [Debbie
Shears] speaks tellingly of growing old, and even reticent Ruth
[Susie Purkiss] finds the strength to see off her beautician love
sunflowers planted in May bloom, in back projection, in late summer,
and al fresco Tai Chi is followed by portions of chips.
Firth's play of 2008 – and the calendar of 2000 – have returned
to their charitable, community roots, with over 500 amateur groups
fighting for a chance to perform it, raising money for Leukaemia and
Lymphoma Research and aiming for the Guinness Book of Records.
Hoc packed the Brentwood Theatre for their version, directed by Wendi
Sheard. The set combined Village Hall and a hill in the Yorkshire
Dales, and the large cast clearly enjoyed telling the now familiar
story of the W.I. women who bared all to buy a settee for their local
more than the giggly school-friends [Shealagh Dennis and Pam
Shrimpton] who between them set up the fundraising scheme and see it
through to fruition. Chloe Lewis-Brooks made a lovely loud lush, bane
of the Golf Club, and Sharon Sims lit up the stage with her brassy
of the ladies has a back-story, some hilarious lines, and carefully
crafted speeches. A snappier pace, better projection and a more
confident approach would have made the evening more enjoyable. And
the crucial photo-shoot, while ingenious, struggled to convince, with
no tripod, flash and desperately deployed reflectors. Clever use of
props, though – knitting for schoolmistress Jessie [Debbie Shears],
conserves for Ruth [Susie Purkiss] and barely adequate buns for Celia
addition to a percentage of the ticket price, there was an
enterprising calendar, featuring tasteful shots of these plucky
calendar girls in all their glory.