TWO PLAYS FROM GOD'S COUNTRY
Latchingdon Arts and Drama Society
The Tractor Shed Theatre, Latchingdon
Mary Redman was at the Tractor Shed ...
For people not familiar with the name of Lee Hall who created the two plays performed at Latchingdon, he is the award-winning North Country man who wrote the original Billy Elliott, Cooking With Elvis, The Pitmen Painters and the screenplay for War Horse plus the controversial children's operetta Beached. Beached was finally withdrawn after its language and scenario were criticised by commissioners Opera North and the children's school.
The two one act plays seen here are I Love You Jimmy Spud which dates from 1995 and Spoonface Steinberg dating from 1997.
In the intervening decades we have become much more familiar with families living from hand to mouth while people with cancer have given many more accounts of living with the disease.
The Hart Family of LADS were kept busy this evening with teenager Adam playing Jimmy Spud who is seen applying for the post of trainee angel. Firstly interrogated by a stern Angel Gabriel played by Keith Spencer, we then see him at home with Mum (Carole Hart) and his unemployed father (David Hudson) who develops cancer. Then there's grumpy on the surface Granddad (Robin Warnes) who later sheds tears with Jimmy over the death sentence facing his father.
Aaron Gardner is the bright Scout who becomes Jimmy's friend and in a hilarious scene is given sight of his robe and budding wings.
Adam is convincing in the role of someone who firmly believes that alienated beings will become celestial beings.
Kath Lang's costumes include Jimmy's intricate lace work robe and nascent wings plus Gabriel's full blown angel outfit.
All of this was accompanied by appropriate snippets from Handel's Messiah.
The North Country dialogue was sometimes a bit tricky to follow but the cast were genuinely deeply involved in this tale of an outsider.
Spoonface Steinberg, a sensation when first broadcast on radio because it is a no-holds-barred portrait of a young, autistic, Jewish girl of diagnosis, treatment and outcome of cancer. Against a background of Callas arias, specifically chosen by the playwright, she explores her reactions and attitudes to the disease and its effects. In the process bringing to life her parents, and Mrs Spud their cleaner from the previous play. A genius with numbers she has a shrewd, direct understanding of events and people despite any drawbacks from her autism.
It's a tour-de-force 45-minute monologue and Aimee Hart, who is scarcely more than a teenager herself, gave a gripping account of this play and this character who fades away before our eyes.
Directed by Arthur Barton assisted by Alan Elkins and Carole Hart it is a play that Tractor Shed founder director Peter Jones has long wanted to put on and he played a helpful advisory role in this production.
Discussing the use of the somewhat clunky revolve he is of the opinion that “we could not do it any other way”. It did, however, add a lot of wasted time between scenes. The other drawback overall seems that the prospect of two such hard-hitting plays may have deterred the audience which was small but very appreciative of LADS' efforts.