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NODA crit for this play
Thursday 10 January 2013. Jessica Bostock
Thank you for a great evening’s entertainment. I laughed lots, saw everything and enjoyed myself hugely! I know I have been very picky, but I hope you’ll have me back!
The set was fine, very crisp and solid, which is important when there is lots of ‘business’ with doors, and it was a room with a view, and very pretty it was. I personally could not have lived with pale blue accents in a cream and scarlet room! And I am not sure it reflected the lifestyle and apparent affluence of the Condomines, they deserved better art! By the way, if it isn’t ‘artsy-craftsy’; cut the line! I was a little disturbed by the blank fireplace; especially when Ruth suggested to Charles to go and warm himself by it! If you don’t have a grate, or a lighting effect to suggest a fire, cut the line!
The doors which opened and closed by themselves were very well done; the timing was excellent and the execution perfect, Elvira’s first entrance was most efficient and effective. I thought the destruction at the end was handled very well, but I would have enjoyed it more had there been more “smash-able” things which would have made a better noise – personal preference only. Since the song ‘Always’ is so important, why did you not use the complete track and fade it out under the dialogue, rather than have it come to a deafening stop before the action it underpinned had finished?
The lighting was fine, fit for purpose and well-timed. The use of a lighting effect during set changes was a good idea and really helped cast members get off and on stage without groping around in the dark. It was a nice idea to use Edith so much for the set changes, but it would have been nicer had she still been in character and bustled about more. Also it might have been thoughtful to Edith if they had opened the doors for her as at that point they were not opening themselves and that tray was large and heavy!
Costumes, hair and make-up were all good with some notable excellences – mentioned specifically later.
There are a few general notes I would like to make before I move onto specific performances. The style of a piece like this is really of equal importance to the lines and a uniform style would have enhanced the production.
It is most important that the audience hears what is being said; that is what they came for, after all; and it is not merely a matter of volume. The enunciation and diction are paramount in a piece like this where the words are so important and enhance the whole experience. You have to remember, that by the time you come to perform the play to the paying audience, you are all very well acquainted with it, but they are not and they need to hear every word in order to enjoy the laughs. With the notable exceptions of Howard and Jean, both of whom delivered their lines impeccably and with superb diction, every other member of the cast fell into the trap of speaking loudly, but not clearly, so we sometimes struggled to catch everything.
There were times when characters seemed to be saying their line because it was the next one in the script and that was where it came, but the intonation was off because there was no motivation taken from the cue. It is not always enough just to get the right line out at the right time. It is important to be aware of the mood and action going on around you, your reactions colour your responses thus giving your performance more credence and flow, it also helps in keeping a uniform style to the piece.
Some of the scenes seemed to be a bit spaced out – geographically, not psychologically! - you were lucky to have so much space, but I’m not entirely convinced that you needed to use all the space, all the time! Madame Arcati obviously used every inch, but some of the duologues were very spread out. The séance was very good, and the table work very effective, but more peeking, collusion and silent fun at Madame Arcati’s expense could have been enjoyed, rather than everyone seeming to be a bit cross.
Note: when more than one person leaves the stage at the same time going to the same place, ensure that you all go in the same direction! Assume that you are visible until in the Green Room! Oh, and also, pause for laughter!
The last scene flagged badly despite the best efforts of Jean and Howard to keep the momentum going. Cues were not picked up quickly and the pace dropped considerably.
Edith (a Maid)
I enjoyed Edith very much. The opening scene between her and Ruth was a little gabbled, but I put that down to opening night nerves as things soon settled down, I loved your enthusiasm and eagerness to please, it was charming. I think more laughs could have been achieved if you had had to cover more space to perform your duties, there was lots of room and to have the table further from the door would have meant you could have got more of a run-up, and I would have loved to have heard you running to get the door each time, then remembering and slowing down! You were very sweet in the last scene and held up well, being still audible whilst all the kerfuffle was going on around you. There were a couple of times when you were hard to understand and swallowed some of your lines a bit, but a lovely part well played.
Dr and Mrs Bradman
Two solid performances: Martin, a little shaky in one scene but you recovered well and delivered your lines clearly. You were a bit mean to your wife – I noted it twice, and when she said ‘George, you are horrid’ I couldn’t have agreed more! Mrs Bradman was lovely; she was sweet, naïve, enthusiastic and had a real charm. She had to put up with her husband being mean to her (noted twice!), Ruth being downright rude to her (again in Act 2) and having to deliver the whole of her opening speech upstage! That said, her mood remained sunny and I liked the confidential manner of her delivery, she was a lovely contrast to the other characters.
A good performance of a lovely part and I am really nit-picking here. You looked fabulous and for the most part moved about the stage really well, if a little jerkily – whereas I always think of Elvira wafting sexily. Much is made of Elvira being ethereal, and I think if you had been more languorous in your movements that would have lent a more ethereal quality to her and would have given you more places to go when being angry or capricious as the contrast would have been greater.
You need to keep an eye on your vocal modulation at times as you started with your voice pitched quite high and a little colourless, and so had nowhere to go other than higher and whiny. ‘To hell with Ruth!’ was a lovely change and contrast, use that natural colour more, it would again have given you more places to go in your character and would have made you more. You need to watch your diction sometimes; when you pointed the lines, they were excellent but at other times you swallowed some of your words.
The vase breaking was handled well, and your exit backwards through the curtains absolutely perfect!
An enjoyable performance of the hardest role in the play, and I am going to nit-pick here, too. As I mentioned before, the opening scene went at breakneck speed until Charles applied the brakes when you settled into a good pace which you kept up well. Your volume was good, but your diction was at times unclear and we lost some of your lines. I was a little concerned as you seemed to be a bit cross throughout the whole play; there are times when she is cross, but there are moments of shared humour with Charles, which were absent, there are also opportunities for fear, shock, humour, anger and cynicism all of which came over as bad temper and so, like Elvira, you rather had nowhere to go and lost my sympathy. At one point you were even rude to Mrs Bradman!
Yours is the hardest part as you have to react to Charles’ lines, but not Elvira’s retorts; this is where drawing on the scene around you would have helped you more, as it seemed that you sometimes had to wait before delivering your next line when you could have been reacting. You moved well around the stage, looked fab in the costumes, made all the changes quickly and confidently and had the most wonderful hairdo and the colour change at the end was brilliant!! You ignored Elvira perfectly, never once seeing her or reacting to her. You coped well with all the props and are to be congratulated for continuing to feed cues to Dr Bradman until his moment of amnesia was over!
A gift of a role which you undertook with enthusiasm and executed with considerable aplomb! Your projection, pace and diction were spot on from start to finish, I heard every word and enjoyed them all! You had a nicely clipped delivery and great elocution which was perfectly suited to the style of the piece. You played a wide range of emotions believably and capably, moved well and confidently around the set managing to look both energetic, and relaxed – no mean feat! You handled all your props well, managed to partake in witty banter whilst mixing cocktails and all without being mean to anyone! Your costume changes were good – particularly DJ to PJs, and you moved well throughout. You managed to inject a range of pace to scenes and proved to be a fabulously strong central character around which the play slotted comfortably and who carried the feeling of the play through to its cataclysmic conclusion.
I loved Madame Arcati! This is a role everyone knows and you managed to bring a new characterization to her which worked extremely well! You arrived wonderfully, exploding into the scene with enthusiasm and charm; you had great delivery and projection and your movements were fab-u-lous! I liked the inference at the ‘huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’’ in your delivery, it was only pointed up a couple of times, so one was aware, but not distracted. You looked wonderful in all your costumes and moved really well about the stage. You ‘passed out’ excellently and the séance was brilliant – I don’t think there was another drop of humour to be wrung from the scene but you didn’t overdo it. I thought that the accusation of unprofessionalism was your motivation to get up, not later, but your fully justified exit speech was excellently delivered. You coped really well with all the props and food you had to deal with, and the business with Edith and the sandwich was genius! Well done, I thought you were great, a real feather in your cap!