A Tomb With A View

Date 11th October 2019
Society Leighton Buzzard Drama Group
Venue Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Mike Ward

Report

Author: Ian Worsfold

Ultimately people get involved in theatre to entertain people and LBDG did this handsomely on Friday and the local community is a better place because of it.

On arriving at the theatre, we received a very warm welcome from the front of house team, we then had time for a drink in the bar and a chat with Mike Springthorpe who was a fabulous host and provided some history on the society and the theatre. The stand out point was that the theatre is on the second floor of the library and all scenery has to be taken up two flights of stairs and into the theatre, just one more headache for the stage manager and set design team to think about when designing the show.

I had no previous knowledge of this play and so was very intrigued and excited as I took my seat in a pleasantly packed auditorium.

As the house lights dimmed the curtains opened on an excellently constructed and furnished set, full marks to set designers Mike Ward and Colin Delamore and to Stage Manager Bob Kempster and his team for the very smooth running of the show. The fact that this is a one set show gave the team the opportunity to be a bit more lavish in their plans, something they took good advantage of!

Added to this he work of Sheena Ward and Barbara Springthorpe with the wardrobe and Ann Dempster and Colin Delamore with properties, this show was a sumptuously lovely show to watch.

The lighting was simple but very effective and I had no issues hearing anything on stage so congratulations to the technical team of Dave Miles on lighting and Tom Davies and Emma Davies with the sound.

First impressions from the cast do count in a show and a sterling start was made by Tony White in the role of Hamilton Penworthy the family solicitor. He commanded the stage throughout with a slight air of a posh Stanley Unwin without the made-up words. Tony’s portrayal throughout was exactly as he started, no deviation from the character at all and totally believable throughout. An enthralling performance.

Next to grace the stage was Colin Aldous in the role of the blustering Lucien Tomb, Colin entered the stage with a certain style that Brian Blessed would have been proud of and continued in this vein throughout and no doubt would have required a hot lemon and honey drink in the interval to soothe his vocal chords. The character of Lucien was basically outraged at everything and everyone and Colin never let this outrage slip from his grasp and was totally convincing in this role. I particularly like the ruddy cheeks, a lovely finishing touch to this portrayal and a well done to Emma Brown and Mary Bleese for the excellent make up Tony and indeed the rest of the cast, very appropriate for all.

Next to enter was Dora Tomb, delightfully played by Barbara Springthorpe. The character is a batty old dear with a penchant for poisoning people and drinking sherry. Not only are excellent acting skills required to be convincing in this role without crossing into the realms of panto but also very precise comic timing. I’m pleased to report that Barbara’s portrayal of Dora was finely tuned and contained great finesse in her mannerisms added to this a comic timing that was, at worst, very good and at best sublime, the end result was, by a slim margin, my favourite performance of the night.

Next entrance to the stage was from Caroline Page in the brassy role of Emily Tomb, A no nonsense straight to the point character played fabulously by Caroline. She was constantly in everyone’s face letting them know how she thought about everything, A relentless performance with just the right amount of aggression and intimidation.

Next up was the surprise package for the audience, the appearance of Mark Croft in the role of Marcus Tomb, dressed and pretending to be Julius Caesar. The character is totally out of place in this play for a minute or two until Lorna Daggett arrives in the role of Anne Franklin, Marcus’s ‘carer’. A very difficult role to play as there is almost no genuine interaction with the other actors just the following of orders from them, something Mark carried of very well.

Lorna was very good in the role of the carer and played the role with genuine affection for the ward in her care. There was a definite air of Polly from Fawlty Towers, trying to keep her composure with madness going on around her. Towards the end of the show when there is a lot of interaction with Peregrine Potter played with great aplomb by Rob Taylor it did, for me, have a feel of Fawlty Towers about it, a panicking Peregrine in a manner not unlike John Clease as Basil Fawlty being calmed and coerced in the right direction by the Polly-esque Lorna.

The final member of e the family we get to actually meet, there is one more sibling who we don’t get to meet who thinks he is a werewolf and is locked in the dungeons below. The role of the man-eating Monica Tomb was played with alluring brazenness by Kim Aguiar. Her open pursuit of the new man in the house Peregrine was delightfully played and brought out the right amount of comedy in the pursuit without over acting it or turning it into a farcical part of the show. Kim got the balance just right on this character.

Perhaps the hardest role of all in this show is that of the supposed author Freda Mountjoy, whilst murder, mayhem and eccentricity is going on all around, Freda has to maintain an air of professionalism as an author in the face of crazy people doing crazy things, Ann Kempster in this role kept the dignity of the part beautifully throughout.

Finally, we come to the part of Mrs Hammond the housekeeper, played almost with a duel personality by the excellent Jan Delamore. One half is a reverse doom and gloom merchant as she believes that the late Septimus is not actually late but most definitely in the present and warns with an almost Fraser from Dad’s Army morbidity in her voice that to not follow the master’s wishes is not a good idea. After making her gloomy proclamations she snapped wonderfully back into housekeeper mode and proclaimed with a casual air when the next set of refreshments would be served. Jan had this role spot on, and you could sense the gladness in the audience around me every time she took centre stage.

Including the interval, this show lasted the best part of three hours, something that some would say is too long, I on a different occasion might be inclined to agree, however, for this production I do not agree, the cast and crew constantly hit the audience with twist after twist that kept the audience changing their minds throughout who was the murderer at a high pace that made the evening seem significantly shorter than the actual running time.

The only slight negative comment I could possibly make was that during the closing stages when the mayhem was at its’ peak, there were just a few lines that got lost with actors overlapping lines.

As a complete package this was a wonderful evening of theatrical entertainment with wonderful characterisations all round and tremendous credit must go to director Mike Ward for finding and tapping into and bringing out the best of a highly talented cause.

My sincere congratulations go to all concerned with this excellent production.