This was an interesting choice of play and one rarely
performed, if ever. Was there something wrong with it? Did it have
difficult themes to understand? Was it badly written? Well none of those
applied. I found it informative, entertaining and, most importantly well
executed. I did some homework before I came to see it and looked up
Anton Mesmer on Wikipedia. I hadn't realized till then that he was a
real person. I had heard of the word mesmerize but didn't think what its
As usual you
get a warm welcome when coming to Lopping Hall and the bar was run most
efficiently with reasonably priced drinks - that always helps! You had
plenty of front-of -house people too, to help with any enquiries your
audience had. I loved it at the start of the play that you reminded your
audience to switch of their damned mobiles! I also liked the fact that
some rows of seats were elevated giving everyone a good view.
I thought that given the complexity of the play with all its many scenes
- it was well staged. There are no surprises with this play as such -
the explanation on the ticket flyer pretty well said it all - however it
was how this all came about that was where the interest lay.
small scenes going from one fairly small location to another as you had
to get three sets onto one stage. I'll talk about the set a little
later. This was not an action play so not a lot of opportunity to move
your actors around. In fact out of necessity it was fairly static, but
when there was a chance to add animation you did very successfully and
that came mostly from Mesmerís room.
understand that with a wordy play, to keep the audienceís interest, you
must have a story line which captures their imagination and actors who
know how to deliver - so you got yourself a reliable and strong cast
with meaty parts for all. I heard every word - diction was great and
projection perfect, which was essential as a lot of information in each
scene was given out. I think you got the best out of each of the
characters making them quite distinct from one another and by making use
had very entertaining moments, particularly in the cafe with Frau
Schwartz and some scenes between Herr and Frau Paradies, and these
contrasted well with the more intense ones. Well done - you brought out
the best in all your actors - experience will out!
It worked very well on the three levels, which meant the audience could
see everything, and it was clear where we were at any given time. The
set was minimalist if not stark and though I could see that as little
furnishing as possible was required, that that all worked well, I was
not sure about having no dressing on the sets at all. You added a dado
rail and picture rail - but no pictures all on any of the walls. This
made me curious - did you think it was going to be a distraction and
crowd the set with too much fussiness? Did you want the actors and their
costumes to be the dressing? I can understand the use of few props as
possible, but for me it left the set with a somewhat cold feeling.
placing of the furniture must have been a bit tricky because you need
the chairs to be where they were, and apart from in Mesmerís room when
he moved one forward the others stayed where they were. No problem in
the cafe scene, and in the Paradiesí room, I can see why the one that
was upstage and backed onto the cafe set had to be where it was. It
slightly obscured Foster; however the chair had an open back. Quite
frankly it would have been a pain to have to move it every time so it
was the best place for it in the end. I did notice a small modern
addition to the door in the cafe. It had an automatic shutting thingy Ė
fair enough, though most of the audience wouldn't have noticed it - but
hawk-eye here did! Sorry.
though it was an effective set and worked well.
Sound/Lighting and Technical stuff
Lighting was very good with each area covered well and not too much
overspill which is inevitable on a small stage. It all seemed to work at
the right time and with so many scenes went swimmingly. It highlighted
particular pieces of furniture when necessary - and actors too when it
was just Mesmer and Maria on stage during the prologue and epilogue -
well executed and considering the two light backgrounds on stage it was
not over bright.
was a challenge with several piano pieces as well as 'concerts' off. Was
Maria operating the on\off for her pieces? I did wonder if you had two
electronic pianos disguised as piano fortes. I did just see the wire on
the one in Mesmerís room. If she was not operating herself then the
time/co-ordination was very good. There were no moments where she was
playing and the music stopped or the other way round.
Congratulations go to the four pianists from Bancroftís by the way - it
sounded 'real' rather than taken from a commercial c.d.
Props and costumes
Minimal but effective in all three scenes - but the authenticity of a
couple of items in Mesmerís house Ė i.e. the bowl and vase which looked
to me rather modern - however getting hold of 18th century ceramics
would probably cost a fortune just in the insurance. I did like the
props in the cafe and the Herr Paradies letter looked very good. Was
there real coffee in that pot? Very nice for the actors if that was the
case, but I doubt it was real brandy!
costumes Christine did a very good job - and whoever else helped. They
really did dress the set as well the actors. I was so glad this play was
a not a couple of weeks earlier when we had that mini-heatwave! I know
how hot wigs get! The ladies had a couple of changes as did Mesmer and
Paradies and I particularly loved the orange affair and hat of Frau
Paradies, and the black and white outfit of Frau Mesmer - both striking
in their own way. And that green cloak! Mesmer looked like a magician
and was most effective. Loved the elasticated buckles too for the men,
there was a lot of attention to details on the costume front. Well done.
Backstage crew and prompt
No scene changes to contend with, which is always a mercy! Smooth
transitions from scene to scene and I saw no problems with props not
being in place and just the occasional service of the prompt, so another
good job there.
Anton Mesmer - David Stelfox
An interesting character to play and very well played he was too. Not a
particularly warm person. He was conceited and aloof with a great sense
of his own importance, however very committed to his idea of 'animal
magnatism' the creator of the phrase we still use today, thought in a
different context. You can also add insufferable to your list of not
pleasant characteristics which is what you became after the girl could
see - according to Dr. Stoerck that is. You looked good and your
delivery was crystal clear. You softened his personality at times with
Maria, but not with your poor wife - how she could stand you I don't
know. You always seemed to know what to do with our hands as well. Often
actors find it difficult to know what to do with them as part of a
character and it all added to your convincing performance.
Maria-Theresa Paradies - Sophie Robertson
A lovely part for a lovely actress; I thought you gave a really smashing
performance - a difficult part to play convincingly and most of the time
making the piano playing seem real, though occasionally a little too
much movement for the piece you were supposed to be playing, a minor
point though. I felt rather sorry for this girl. You were able to
portray her vunerability with great skill. You made me jump at least
twice with your sudden screams, when she was having one of her 'turns',
and I believed you really couldn't see - particularly when in one scene
with Mesmer he touched you on the arm and you flinched most
convincingly. She was a delicate flower that was being crushed under the
weight of her parentís relationship, going blind seemingly for no
organic reason. We might well call it today a psychosomatic illness or
elected blindness - to shut out the world of her rowing parents and to
retreat into music. I do believe that Mesmer might well have got you
back your sight, but how much you really wanted that to happen is a moot
point and very telling in your line about being 'home to the darkness
I've always loved' - an excellent performance.
Professor Barth - Roger Barker
A sturdy hand on the tiller of this character and a tricky opening scene
with the most props for you and Dr. Stoerck to juggle with coffee,
brandy and card playing, plus of course interjections of what was
happening in your card game as well as being interested in your
companionís story. I liked the cafe scenes as they filled in the story
line as the play progressed. Again heard every word, you looked very
good in your costume and rather suited the wig I thought! You delivered
your usual high standard of acting and gave flesh to your part.
Doctor Stoerck - Foster Barnett
Another stalwart of the LADS, bringing this part to life whilst telling
the story of this unfolding scandal while also drinking coffee, sipping
brandy and playing cards almost all at the same time. You and Roger make
a perfect double act each complementing one another in your acting
styles. Another chap who can wear 18th century garb and look good in it,
and another actor familiar with making sure that our audience hears what
you have to say and delivered with aplomb.
Frau Schwartz - Frances Dennis
What a lovely part, and beautifully realized. You had some of the best
comic lines in the play and you delivered them very well. Was your
accent natural? Is it possible that this very attractive cafe owner had
a fat spotty daughter and a drunken son-in law? I loved your gossipy
part and your various expressions to go with what you were saying - a
most entertaining character and you came over really well.
Herr Paradies - Howard Platt
I liked the use of a northern accent to distinguish you and your wife
from the other players. You were a fairly solid respectable couple with
a very talented but blind daughter. You stood up well from your
haranguing wife and the rows were very convincing. It was hardly
surprising that the louder the row became the more upset was your poor
daughter. This was a well rounded character, which you brought to life.
Itís always re-assuring to see certain actors who you are familiar with
doing a really good job on stage and that most certainly applies to you.
You looked comfortable in your costume and there was great charisma
between you and your wife and some light relief as well in some of your
scenes together. A most enjoyable performance.
Frau Paradies - Cathy Naylor
Loved this woman - what a great part and very well executed too. I
really believed in your relationship with your husband and your
daughter. You used the limited space well and managed during your rows
to be heard without shrieking, which can happen quite easily when you
are in the throes of acting. I really liked the scene with the hats. It
still happens today when you ask your husband about what you are wearing
and you get either negative answers or grunts etc as they are obviously
not interested at that point. A very nice scene between the pair of you,
and between you and Frau Schwartz. I thought you look fab in that orange
outfit and the hat was glorious. A sure and reliable delivery made
watching you on stage a real pleasure.
Frau Mesmer - Karen Rogers
Quite understandable why you prefer giving soirees to being with your
husband! Not exactly a marriage made in heaven and your somewhat prickly
nature was well put over. You looked very good in your costume and your
grey wig and glasses made you look about 10 years older than your
husband so that worked well. I thought the scenes between you and Mesmer
told their own story- a frosty relationship had developed over the years
- yet there were a couple of tender moments to show how things used to
be. A character well understood by you and another good performance.
This eight-hander worked really well and was a cohesive piece of
theatre, with very good ensemble playing which comes from a lot of hard
work to make this unknown play come to life. I do love it when things
work and this most certainly did. It's always good to see less popular
and less well known plays see the light of day. It's quite brave too to
have the conviction that your audience will enjoy it as well.
again Ė a very well done to you all. I am delighted that the LADS go
from strength to strength and continue putting on plays that entertain
us and which are of a high standard.