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Behind The Scenes

Date

26th October 2018

Society

Wellworth Players

Venue

Needingworth Village Hall

Type of Production

Play

Director

Abi Pearson

Report

Author: Julie Armstrong

It is always a pleasure to be invited to see a production by The Wellworth Players. They consistently turn out a good standard of work and this play promised good things, being based around an amateur theatre group as they attempt to put on a show. So, we have an amateur theatre group putting on a play about an amateur theatre group putting on a play! This could either be a recipe for disaster or hilarity in the making.

I was shown to my seat, which was front and centre, with a table - as there was a fish and chip supper in the interval. I felt like Simon Cowell and was very sorry for the poor actors who could not help but see me watching them and making my notes. All of the other long tables were placed at an angle, and it was packed as the house was sold out (it is lovely that the whole village comes out to support) and there was the NODA rep, front and centre, facing the stage, like a judge in a talent show!

The set was very well appointed, with some lovely details: signs on the walls, sockets and light switches. These small details make a big difference. Once again, we are in a village hall watching a play that is set in a village hall. Perhaps the most impressive part of this is that there is no stage in Needingworth Village Hall and the whole thing has to be built from scratch. This also means that there is no wing space, other than that which is created by the construction team. That being said, it also means that there is nowhere to hide backstage and once or twice we could hear the odd whisper behind the scenes. However, I am very aware that I was seated right at the front and I’m sure this was not audible at the back of the hall.

Well directed by Abi Pearson in her directorial debut with this society, this production gave us a stellar cast, all with much experience. Geoff Durrant as Mr Harris gave us a wonderful caretaker, full of woes and worries, until he found God thanks to the bumbling vicar, Reverend Pat, played  beautifully by Phil Bailey. The physicality of this character was superb and a delight to watch. Simon West played the self monikered role of Simon with a self assured air that comes with great experience and made the audience feel comfortable and relaxed. His relationship with Anna, Karen Bays, was sweet and it was a joy to watch the two characters together. I would have liked a little more projection from Karen (perhaps from the whole cast) in order to reach the very back of the hall - I was able to hear with no problem, however if any dialogue was directed upstage I do feel that the rear audience would have missed out.

Linda, played by Eve Redgrave, was a formidable character who did not suffer fools gladly. Eve portrayed her well, with a gutsy performance. I would have liked her character to take more of a journey, perhaps mild indignation at everyone else’s failings initially, building to the anger and frustration that we witnessed from the start. This would have made the ending, where she rediscovers her husband’s love for her, even more poignant for her character. 

Francesca Mann, as Rosie, and Paul Silver, as Clive, both did a good job. Perhaps Rosie could have been more materialistic, more of a social climber. She has an affair with Linda’s husband and ends up with Clive for his money, so I felt that there was room to develop her further so that the audience disliked her more. Francesca, you are just too nice! Clive’s advances on Rosie were initially spurned, until she realised he had money. Clive and Rosie were perhaps an odd pairing and I’m not sure that I truly believed that he had feelings for her. A little more character development here would have helped, but overall, a good job.

There were some lovely moments when the characters were performing Aladdin as their am dram group. The am dram overacting was spot on and made it easy for the audience to appreciate our actors’ non amateur skills - although I suspect that some of the audience at the back would have enjoyed the projection here! Likewise there were some lovely special effects, such as the fireworks and the bubbles - and the sound effects worked well too. A beautifully directed scene depicting the performance of the panto in fast-forward comedy slapstick style was nicely choreographed and worked well, skipping through Aladdin in record time whilst giving us an indication of the mayhem that was happening backstage.

The pantomime horse was brilliant, plaudits to Chris Thompson and Leon Mutter who brought the house down with their choreographed routine. Equally, the sand dance from Mr Harris and Simon had everyone in stitches. There is always such a lovely atmosphere for The Wellworth Players’ productions and with a packed village hall, filled with friends and family, it was great to see everyone enjoying themselves so much and being thoroughly entertained. With Rachael Barton as Julia, Maggie Redgrave as the clown and Mrs Baker, Marie Quick as Sally and Mary Chapman as Joannie, this was a very successful production and clearly everyone packed into Needingworth Village Hall had a fabulous evening. 

And that is what this is all about: an amateur theatre group putting on a production in a village hall, about an amateur theatre group putting on a production in a village hall, purely for the entertainment and enjoyment of the local villagers, friends and family. Did they achieve this? Yes, they most certainly did - congratulations to The Wellworth Players on another highly successful production. I look forward to the next.