A Man For All Seasons - by Robert Bolt 
29th, 30th, 31st March 2012

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Cast        Production Team
Alice More Karen Rogers   Director Jean Cooper
Margaret More Taylor Keegan   Production Assistant Babs Oakley
Woman Camilla Steel   Stage Manager Cathy Naylor
Thomas More Andrew Rogers   Assistant Stage Manager Sophie Robertson
Thomas Cromwell Howard Platt   Properties Liz Adams
Norfolk Jon Gilbert   Assistant Properties Camilla Steel
The King David Stelfox   Continuity Mary Lowe
The Common Man Iain Howland   Costume Christine Eckley
Wolsey Roger Barker   Costume Assistant Sylvia Zilesnick
Richard Rich Dan Cooper   Set Design & Construction Garry Cooper
Will Roper Tom Donoghue   Sound Design Lisa Maule
Chapuys John Haylett   Sound/Lighting Operation Frances Dodd
Canmer Martin Howarth   Programme Design Howard Platt
Chapuys Attendant Richard Foster   Production Photos Garry Cooper
 

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Review

It was with great pleasure that I attended my third LADS production on the evening of 29th March 2012.  Robert Boltís ĎA Man for All Seasonsí was a play I had read some twenty five years ago, but had never seen performed.  My first impression, as always, was of a warm and friendly welcome from the front of house and bar staff.  I am very fond of Lopping Hall because of its history and ambience and was pleased to see that that the recent alterations had improved accessibility without detracting from the atmosphere and quirky charm of the building.  It was great to see disabled patrons attending which no doubt they would have been unable to do so in the past.  The programme was clearly laid out and provided helpful background information.

Whilst the chairs remain uncomfortable, the full audience settled down quickly with perhaps just a little trepidation at the length of the performance (over two hours)!  However, any fears were quickly allayed as the piece was engaging and generally well presented, with the story being told in a clear and economical way.  Scene changes were minimal and a fast pace was maintained, with no interruptions for prompts or apparent dropping of lines, etc. The cast did an excellent job in maintaining the attention of the audience and I felt fully engaged in the story and the characters.  Having met the cast and crew afterwards and learned about the very short rehearsal timetable, I am truly impressed with what LADS has achieved in mounting such an ambitious piece.  Andrew Rogers in particular should be commended for taking on such a huge role!

In view of the same, any criticism seems churlish, but I have conveyed to the cast and crew that in my view early decisions about the stylistic language of the piece would have helped overcome the apparent discord at times between those characters played in a more naturalistic style and those presented more as caricatures or devices.  The staging, blocking and scenery could have in my view have been more stylised to point the audience in the direction that the piece was leaning towards the didactic as opposed to the naturalistic.  This may have allowed the piece to better tune with the Brechtian motifs such as the ĎCommon Maní character and the epic narrative and made those more caricatured characters (which were certainly well played) sit more comfortably within the whole. 

I felt the cast could have benefited from a more thorough warm up, as the first scene took some time to get going and voices settle down, and I made the point that all performers do a warm up - it is up to them to choose whether they do it before the performance starts or in the first scene!  Act One certainly had more pace than Act Two and my impression was, that with such a challenging and long piece, energy may have been flagging slightly towards the end, but not seriously so.  Some scenes felt quite hurried and emotional moments in the second act would have benefited from some room to breathe and stillness.  Personally, I believe the piece could have been 20 minutes longer but whether the audience would have tolerated this is another story!  An alternative, of course, is cutting but I gather there are problems with doing so in relation to the performing rights.

Costumes were very well put together and the scenery seemed well made.  The performersí faces occasionally dipped into shadow up stage and on the raised rostra and the rippling effect for the waterside scenes didnít seem to work as intended.  But the overall impression was of a well staged performance.

With regard to individual performances, in addition to commending Andrew Rogers for his performance as Thomas More, I would like to mention extremely strong performances by Roger Barker as Wolsey and David Stelfox as the King.  Roger is, I gather, a seasoned performer with LADS and his performance was superb.  David brought great fun and brightness to the role of the King, assisted by some delightful writing of course.  Ian Howard played the Common Man role very well and the audience enjoyed the connection he made with us.  I liked Howard Plattís performance as Cromwell, which he played like an archetypal villain.  The other supporting characters all did an excellent job.

As usual I really enjoyed my evening with LADS and am very impressed with what the Society has achieved.  I am very much looking forward to visiting again in future seasons.

Jeff Banks

 

I had never seen the film or play, A Man For All Seasons before but knew the story of Sir Thomas More and his refusal to annul King Henry VIIIís marriage to Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Under the direction of Jean Cooper, Loughton Amateur Dramatic Society did a wonderful job of portraying Robert Boltís award winning play.

This historical drama focussed on Tudor England and essentially portrayed the life, trial and ultimate execution of Thomas More. Andrew Rogers, as Thomas More, was superb throughout. This was a very demanding role, especially as he was on stage for most of the play, but he gave a sensitive performance. His breakdown in front of his family as they plead with him not to take a moral stance was very moving, and the wit and humour of the character shone through, especially in some of his exchanges with his friend Norfolk, a fine performance by Jon Gilbert. Taylor Keegan conveyed Moreís beloved daughter Margaret with an equal balance of strong will and compassion. Karen Rogers as his disgruntled wife, Lady Alice gave a credible performance.

Iain Howland as the Common Man showed his versatility as he played a number of characters including the innkeeper, boatman jury member and the executioner. His wry humour and monologues drew the audience into the story. I noted that although More never changed with the seasons the common man did as the play progressed. Howard Plattís portrayal of Thomas Cromwell was splendidly sinister and Machiavellian at times as he engineered Moreís downfall and the corruption of Rich. As well as the fall of Lord Chancellor Thomas More the play focussed on the rise to power of Richard Rich, well played by Dan Cooper. This was noticeable in the coats and clothes worn by both men, Rich admiring Moreís ornate gown at the beginning finishes the play in much finer robes whilst Moreís are noticeably shabby.

David Stelfox played the younger King, Henry VIII, with the right amount of wilful childish temperament and cheerfulness. Amongst other superb performances by this excellent cast Roger Barker as Cardinal Wolsey deserves a mention.

The wardrobe team ensured that the wonderful costumes did the play justice, giving an authentic feeling of time and place. The set design was impressive. I particularly liked the way the fact that Jean Cooper had directed her cast to make good use of the space and different levels Ė the stage was never crowded. The Common Man, Iain Howland, in his many guises, moved props and furniture around seamlessly so the pace was maintained.

Although a lengthy play on paper, it didnít feel like it. I found this production very moving and the cast are to be congratulated for a wonderful portrayal of this historic drama.

Cheryl Barrett (Sardines review)