Review by Andrea Moles
LADS as usual rose to the challenge of presenting a play with difficult
subjects like death in the family, mental illness, babies out of
wedlock, and the other issues of dysfunctional families. The tranquil
surroundings of the Cotswolds were convincingly and beautifully set by
All six parts were a joy for the actors to portray. A strong cast of experienced members of LADS were led by an excellent and experienced director Val Parker.
Felix Humble, played by Howard Platt with increasing confidence, was a most difficult dysfunctional character requiring a large and varied gamut of emotions. Howard was very consistent at most of these. I felt he was too well turned out in the first scene, but that from thereon his wardrobe matched his emotional deterioration into weirdness and back again. The development in the second half of the play was more helpful to the character and Howard took good advantage of this and performed extremely well.
Mercy Lott, played excellently by Christine Eckley was far more than a cameo part. A spinsterish friend who was slightly hard done by, rather ineffectual, misconstrued and in her turn misconstruing much of the convolutions of the surrounding relationships, all these factors gave great depth to the part. It was also very funny and Christine’s facial expressions and tone of voice, plus her timing of lines were exactly right.
Flora Humble, was played beautifully by Sylvia Zilesnik. Stuck for years in the lovely but stultifying surroundings of a small Cotswold village, Flora is portrayed by the dramatist as selfish, extravagant, amoral and bitchy. Sylvia played the character with great zest and the right amount of cynicism, boredom and selfishness. Surprisingly I also found her turnabout at the end, when she suddenly appreciates what she has lost, believable.
George Pye, Flora’s lover and man friend of many years was played consistently well by Foster Barnett. A difficult character to like at first, bombastic and crude, Foster never hesitated to bring his character’s true personality to the fore, swear words and all, but under all that language we were able to see the kindness of the man and his genuine care for his own family and for Flora. By the end of the play we were sympathetic to him in his dismissal by Flora and glad that he escaped!
Rosie Pye was the young discarded girlfriend of Felix., now an unmarried mother. One felt that the dramatist did not give Rosie much help in the script to establish her character. Karen Rogers did her best to portray the gauche, unlovely Rosie, still carrying a candle for Felix., though Karen herself is anything but gauche and unlovely and in trying to disguise this, her costume did her a slight disservice, the dungarees were a mistake! Her performance in the second act was brilliant, especially in the way that the many conflicting emotions ran across her face during the dinner party scene. With both humour and pathos in turn Karen showed us how Rosie had coped without the Humbles and we all thought she was better off without them!
Throughout the play we had glimpses of what appeared to be the ‘gardener’ an insubstantial character who glided in and out of the scenes without much impact on any of the players. Only at the end did we realise that the ‘insubstantial’ Jim was in fact the ghost of James Humble, the dead father! Played by Peter Gerlis, with a gentle smile throughout, this character came into his own at the end of the play when everything fell into place. Peter gave a good cameo performance of what in the end was a most important element of the play. His presence could not be laid to rest until the lifetime’s work of studying bees, that gave rise to his unfortunate death, was brought to fruition bringing the whole play full circle.
With a small cast stage there is always a danger of characters becoming static. Val, the producer saw this danger and directed her actors to use the whole stage to good effect. There was good use of the different levels though I felt the ‘sex behind the bushes’ bit would have been more effective if Rosie had been more obviously undressed.
The staging, set design and construction deserved applause all on their own. If it had been a curtained set I would have had no doubt of there being a spontaneous burst of applause when the curtain opened.. I really believed we were in a garden in the Cotswolds and the clever lighting and sound effects backed up this feeling throughout.
Costumes were on the whole very good with a few exceptions as I have mentioned. However these are minor criticisms in an otherwise most successful show.
LADS has always had a reputation as an amateur dramatic society with a professional attitude and in this production it was very obvious. Everyone from the backstage to the prompt, front of house through to programme presentation and pre production photos gave of their best
It was an exceptionally good team effort and I felt that I and most of the audience there on Saturday night enjoyed a very good evening’s entertainment. Well done LADS I hope you all enjoyed it too!