Monday, May 26, 2014


Greville Theatre Club
The Barn Theatre Little Easton

Mary Redman was at Table D in the Barn ...

Ronald Harwood is well known for his accurate portraits of life upon the wicked stage such as The Dresser. This affectionate picture of life in a genteel retirement home for geriatric professionals, though peppered with theatrical injokes that were new long before Noel Coward was a boy actor, is great fun for audience and cast alike. Sample black joke about “being the guest of honour at the crematorium”.
Against the background of a cosy but elegant set designed by Jan Ford and directed by Pam Hemming, four of Essex's most experienced thespians assembled for curtain up. All playing retired opera singers who had appeared on stage together years ago.
We were treated to not just an entertainment but a lesson in growing older. Either gracefully or disgracefully, depending on whether they still had most of their marbles or had lost a few over the years, plus how nimble their limbs had remained.
Ramrod straight and smartly besuited Mel Hastings's grumpy Reginald's prim and proper, pedantic and governed by rules person, bitterly resented his treatment by the care staff on whom he wasted his vitriolic anger.
His more urbane, sex maniac fellow inmate Wilfred was given a roistering performance by Michael Gray. He created plenty of laughs from the word go with his character's delight in his own jokes and with his lecherous leanings towards Jan Ford's delightfully dotty and simple Cissie. This was a beautifully restrained performance. Wilfred's lasciviousness now confined by age to verbal “attacks” only, but resembling in looks the modern comic actor Kris Marshall. It was very good to see Michael in a comedy role so hopefully this won't be his last swansong.
Into this settled situation came an intruder. Diana Bradley's oh-so-elegant Jean, once married to Reginald and horrified by the ravages of age. With her cool exterior she came trailing ex-husbands in her wake, including of course the resentful Reggie.
They were then asked to come out of retirement to appear at a concert which led to much twittering in the dovecot but was successfully resolved with hidden modern technology.
Sound by Steve Bradley was excellently timed especially when a Doppler effect was needed as a door opened and closed on a rehearsal. It was a pity that Richard Pickford's lighting was pooled so that as the cast stood up and moved around their faces went from light into shadow.

This was a thoroughly entertaining evening. Thank you Greville.

production photograph by Adrian Hoodless

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