Ewhurst Players – ” A Bunch of Amateurs”
Ewhurst Village hall – 19th May 2018
This Ian Hislop / Nick Newman comedy drama had a surprising depth which became more apparent as the story unfolded. The plot concerned an egotistical, fading Hollywood film star cast as King Lear at Stratford. Unfortunately for Jefferson Steel – played with marvellous depth by Peter Bradley – Stratford St. John is in deepest rural Suffolk and not, as he thought, in Shakespeare’s Stratford upon Avon.
This eight hander, set in the present, had many twists and turns in the plot and the eventual recognition by the play’s egotistical central character of his own nastiness and contempt for “lesser talented players”, thus enabling him to gain internal peace at long last, was a sort of “Damascus” conversion. That he eventually fulfilled his “destiny” to play King Lear at Stratford upon Avon and be accepted as a valued member of The Stratford Players (Suffolk) provided a redemptive and heart warming denouement to this fascinating piece.
Director Meg Bray, assisted by Mike Richardson, had clearly invested enormous effort into the characters and casting. An experienced cast featuring only one distinctly young player brought a wealth of stage experience to bear, which must gladden the eye of any director, even one as richly experienced as Meg.
An innovative and humorous insert into the programme proper, was the faux programme given by The Stratford Players featuring a production team of such gems as these:-
Prompt Justin Tyme
Vocal Coach Ivor Lisp
Costumes Will Ittfit
and several others in similar vein. To my mind this is one of the (many) joys of watching amateur theatre. One would not find this done at Chichester or The National, more is the pity!
The set, designed by Chris Dews, was simply, but skilfully arranged as the rural Barn Theatre, with a real farm feel to it. Other scenes such as Mary’s B&B were simply but effectively set out with good use of lighting by Carl Osborne, no connection with “Phil Terr”!
Anne Lyth’s costumes were effective and realistic. Top class sound design and effects were courtesy of Bill Pilcher. These featured a number of themes from famous films, including “Superman” and “Jaws” among several others, equally well known.
Peter Bradley as Steel was hardly off stage throughout. His was a monster of a part, which he will long enjoy having played. Peter’s performance was among the very best I have seen this year. And I have seen some corkers, you may be sure!
Tricia Cooper as the tough resourceful Lear director Dorothy Nettle was a marvellous foil, her refusal to give an inch to the American tyrant providing fascinating theatre,
Molly Fraser as Steel’s daughter Jessica, modern, talented, humane and with an ability to best her father in so many ways, gave a peach of a performance in this rewarding role.
Jamie Boyes’ character Nigel Dewbury was a little more one dimensional and therefore less rewarding to play than some. However, Jamie provided the Tweedle Dee to Steel’s Tweedle Dum and their constant bickering and sword versus umbrella fight provided much of the high drama to the play. A skilfully played role!
Wendy Davies as the jealous Mary Plunkett brought her considerable stage experience to this role. Mary exudes charisma on stage and I saw her give yet another in a string of fine performances I have witnessed.
Chris Dews was the somewhat star struck, slow witted Denis Dobbins and bumbling stage manager, and most convincing in the role.
Jay Garland played Lauren Bell, the local brewery’s advertising manager and effectively, via her husband, the show’s financial backer and a resourceful and able character.
Anne Lyth played herself as the King Lear wardrobe mistress.
All in all, this was a fast paced and highly enjoyable production and I commend it, not least the excellent diction throughout.
NODA Area 19