Thursday, April 7, 2011

Past Glories (Part Two) - Review- People's Theatre

Past Glories
People's Theatre
6th April 2011

Please refer to Part One of my review for an explanation of Past Glories.
Tonight we have 'Wordsworth's Sister', written by Sue Saunders and 'Keeping Up With The Joans' written by Philip Meeks.

Wordsworth's Sister is a tale of remembrance. Dora Wells has come to Rydal Mount to sketch the famous views and in search of William, but encounters his sister Dorothy
and her faithful carer Dot. Memories and tales will have an profound effect on the impressionable Dora.

The beauty of new material is not knowing what to expect. I knew fine well from the previous night's 'newness' and standards, that tonight would have to be of a similar ilk.
Upon entering the theatre we were treated to a lovely sensual viola rendition based upon Wordsworth 'The Prelude'. This was written by Sue Saunder's (tonight's playwright) brother Michael. This certainly set the tone for the wonderful acting that followed.
Situated again within a minimalistic set (who needs masses of props and scenery when you have this amount of brilliance on stage) of a couple of chairs and a table. Karen Elliot playing the very confused and muddled at times Wordsworth sister, took full advantage of the lack of props, sitting 99% of the time at the table. It was good focus, being the centre of attention for the audience. She answered Dora's questions - played by the very sweet Kelly Godfrey - with a mixture of bemusement and bewilderment, citing various quotes about herself, William and the family home.
Both were principal characters, the brilliant acting supported this, but waiting in the wings was Christine Holland - who played Dot, Dorothy's faithful and attentive carer - she tut tutted and vigilantly played her part in this serious slice of mid 1800's life. She was superb as the healing hands, eyes and mind of her client.
Elliot put in a faultless performance, her presence on stage was so engrossing. Godfrey created a very inquisitive but coy Dora, much to the delight of the unfortunately sparse crowd. Her tenderness towards Dorothy was lovely to see. It would be great to see all three of these outside of a period piece.
The play with its very cultured script, conjured up a vivid landscape of the surroundings, beautiful colours and the wondrous fells came to mind as the teller's told their stories. Words and imagination were plentiful by Saunders, her long list of credits have shown this.
The director and production team (see Part One) must be very proud of their achievements over the course of not only this play but Past Glories as a whole.
Wordsworth's Sister; a fairly serious affair - over the drama and humour of the other three plays - worked very well and was much appreciated by the crowd.

Keeping Up With The Joans is the tale of The Gimcrack Players a noted local drama group who are in preparation for an important anniversary. Two former players Zillah Mint and Kitty Feathers are holed up in Rye Hill Rest Home for Professional Ladies. Scores, memories and important decisions await. Who was the greatest Joan of them all?

Following on from Wordsworth's Sister, it was great to get back to the belly laughter, and Keeping Up With The Joans had lots in store.
Set in the dining room of the Rest Home with authentic awful plastic tablecloths and gaffer taped-up furniture, it could definitely have done with a good wipe down with a jay cloth. Maybe that is what Gary Chitterling thought of his residents. As acting chief of the place, he pulled his authority as well as pulling the wool over the eyes of Zillah and Kitty a few times.
The girls were good friends in the day, but man trouble prized them apart. They have quite happily survived almost a lifetime away from each other since.
The acting out of their re-meeting was superb, and total hats off to Philip Meeks for such a great and humourous script. His key to detail had the audience in stitches. It surprises me that most of his TV commissions have been fairly serious drama's (well I sometimes laugh at the great Emmerdale!)
The bickering between Zillah, played by the great Val Russell and Kitty, superbly performed by Anne Cater (who I last reviewed in Beauty Queen Of Leenane -  also at People's) was classic comic acting and brilliant to watch. The facial and emotive expressions from them both was plain to see that these are two very experienced actresses.
The only gentleman on stage over the four plays, Sean Burnside playing the very camp Gary was very commanding in his role, especially at the latter stage.
As with the previous review the direction and production was second to none.
This is a very funny look at what happens when you get a little long in the tooth, as we all will at some stage, with fading memories coming back to bite or haunt us. Brilliant viewing.
These plays have been some of the best that I have come across. I feel very honoured that I have seen them before they hopefully go on to do their playwrights justice in the theatrical world. Go and see them !!!

Michael Hunter

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