Latchingdon Arts and Drama Society
The Tractor Shed Theatre
Mary Redman was at The Tractor Shed:
Well at least we didn't have to go up to London to see a revival of Noel Coward's comedy which he dashed off with great speed in the dark days of the Second World War. Just out into the backwoods of the Essex Marshes.
Swing music provided on record by either Victor Sylvester or a near relation set the period scene as the curtain went up on Alan Elkins's luxurious set with its comfortable, overstuffed furniture, radiogram, plentiful ornaments, paintings and a grandmother clock permanently stopped at ten past four.
In an age when additional alcohol preferably in the form of a cocktail was the cure for anything that ailed you, adoring and over speedy maid Edith was played by Michelle Kuta. Ann-Marie Stephens as Ruth second wife of widower Charles Condomine attempted to restrain her enthusiasm. This Ruth was apparently of the correct social class and reserved where Charles' first wife Elvira had been mischievous and less inhibited according to the script. It was unfortunate that Ann-Marie wasn't rock steady on her lines. By contrast Carole Hart's Elvira was impish, vindictive and thoroughly naughty with clear delivery of her lines.
An elegant Dan Tunbridge had the appropriately relaxed and bemused manner for Charles a writer researching ESP by inviting outlandish medium Madame Arcati to dine with them and Robin Warnes in dignified mode as local Doctor Bradman and Pam Burton as his giggly wife.
Nor did we need the services of an ageing Angela Lansbury reimported from America to play the actress-friendly role of Madame Arcati because Cathy Hallam tackled the role head on from her first entrance and was clearly having a whale of time in the process. Clad in exotic silken robes impossible to describe, she strode around the stage with her voice swooping here, hovering there and booming when excited. Which frequently happened.
One of the drawbacks to Alan Elkins' (assisted by Arthur Barton) production was the underprojection by most of the cast which was not helped by a very slow delivery that meant Coward's many witty lines didn't make the impact they should have done. I know the script well and even then couldn't make out what was being said especially when the action moved upstage to the sofa.
Lighting was by Sean Sullivan and Matt Refell and while the front of the stage was well lit it appeared that the lighting had been set while people were sitting down. There were great pools of grey making facial expressions difficult to read.
Costumes of the 1940s by Aimee Hart were somewhat let down by small but vital details with the maid having deliberate strands of hair hanging down her face while wearing footless tights and Mrs Bradman's 21st Century loose updo which ought to have been a tight chignon. And a proudly 1970s' coffee set with large cups made its appearance after dinner.
Graham Farrell's sound included the cuckoo calling through the open window and Always on the radiogram.
As is usual with this play Stage Management were in their element at the end with pictures, ornaments and all manner of things flying about as a manifestation of Elvira, Ruth and the Maid's anger. Even the stopped clock fell apart.
LADS' Founder Director Peter Jones continues to make good progress in hospital and should be home soon.
[pictured: the cast in rehearsal]