Review: Entertaining Angels

23rd May 2015

This deep and somewhat unsettling comedy drama by Richard Everett was one I had not previously seen and with only 5 actors on stage it was a huge challenge for Ewhurst Players – however, they met the challenge head on and what a show it was!

The central character of Grace, inhabited, rather than acted by Patsy Mortimore, was the widow of the recently deceased vicar Bardolph – known as Bardie. Unwilling to let go of the past, Grace conversed with the ghost of Bardie (played by Barrie Heathcote in suitably gentle and scholarly way), pottering about in the greenhouse and visible only to her.

Their daughter Jo, played by Jay Garland, was with her mother, supporting her in her grief.
Come to visit her new home was the new vicar, Sarah, played by Catherine van’t Riet.

Grace’s missionary sister Ruth (Jane Biggins), down to earth and sensible, had also arrived to console, though much of the time seemed to be taken with sisterly bickering, childhood grudges coming to the surface – all beautifully timed and delivered by both ladies! However, in a wonderfully enacted scene, she then revealed that after a moment of rashness 30 years previously, she had borne a son, Jeremy – fathered by Bardie! She eventually revealed that she was the one who did the seducing!

This crushing revelation, central to the plot, and its ramifications gave the five actors great scope to show their talents. Patsy Mortimore was superb as Grace. She was on stage most of the time and the role was enormous. Her range of emotions and the depth of her acting ability were the cornerstone on which this mighty evening’s enjoyment was built.

Barrie Heathcote as her ghostly husband was a splendid foil to his wife’s waspishness, utterly believable as a bookish vicar, though emotionally unable to comprehend fully the depth of his wife’s distress. Their scenes together were delightful throughout.

Jane Biggins’ Ruth was played with great depth, defiance and guilt ridden angst mixed together.

Jay Garland was the worried daughter Jo, trying so hard but failing to keep the peace with an authenticity which was almost unnerving; a good person caught up in a ghastly situation not of her making.

Catherine van’t Riet, played the new vicar come to take over the parish, who was uncertain whether she could accept the position after all that had occurred, pitched Sarah perfectly

Throughout there was a real understanding of all the emotions which flowed through – guilt, anger, remorse, revenge, bewilderment and eventually love and redemption. Add to this some gems of dialogue – laughter and pathos flowed seamlessly.

Set in a rural quintessentially English vicarage garden, the set was fairly simple with centrally placed wrought iron chairs and table, with a greenhouse on one side and french windows leading into the house on the other. Upstage was a brick wall with an opening through to a backdrop of a typical rural scene of fields and hedges.

Staging was sensitively handled with use of freezes in shadow, spotlighting the relevant part of the stage where the action was taking place. There was an intimate feel which drew one into the action, agog for the next revelation! The sound effects were well handled, bird song and the rippling of the all important stream where Bardie died (or was he killed?)

The Director George Yates’ notes informed us that this play was a great success at the Chichester Festival Theatre (featuring a huge set and a real stream!). Having now seen this superb production, I can fully understand why. George thoroughly understood the great depth of this play and his five talented actors did him proud. Ewhurst Players, I salute you for providing a superb performance.

I, and my partner Sue, greatly enjoyed the whole evening and may I thank the Company for their now customary warm and attentive hospitality. The food and wine in the pre-show supper were almost, but not quite as good as the performance!

Jon Fox
NODA Representative

May 2015