Breezeblock Park by Willy Russell

Date 6th May 2016
Society Woodchurch Players
Venue Woodchurch Memorial Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Beth Fenton


Author: Anne Lawson

Willy Russell examines traditions and prejudices in this comedy set at Christmas time in the ‘70s with underlying sadness of the mundane existence of a working class family.  Betty is hosting a festive ‘do’ and keen to show off her new three piece suite, the cost of which rises during the proceedings. Syd her husband is poorly and couldn’t care less about keeping up appearances. Betty’s sister Reene keeps her sheepskin coat on, making a point that she has recently had central heating installed and she’s a bit chilly, whilst car obsessed husband, know-all Ted, keeps a watchful eye through the curtains checking nothing happens to his precious car parked outside. Son John, is glued to the TV, has very little conversation and is happy not to go out.  On the other hand, there is Betty & Ted’s daughter Sandra besotted by ‘posh’ student Tim, is into capitalism and now has to disclose she is pregnant! Also visiting are Betty’s brother and daft wife Vera. Great comedy action arises with Tommy’s inappropriate gifts. Betty’s reaction to a vibrator thinking it’s for mixing drinks hysterical, with steering lock for Syd when he’s had to give up driving, totally thoughtless.  A very wordy play, hilarious with poignant moments of emotion and a particularly moving monologue from Betty about council house life.

The colourful A5 programme designed by Nick Jones depicted a typical orange/brown floral settee, content meaty, colour photo of the cast posing on and around the ‘feels like sitting on a cloud’ suite,  information included not only with forthcoming events but NODA neighbours too.  Adjudication from Charles Evans of KDA was to take place on Saturday evening.

The setting was excellent and praise must go to Les Fenton and Neil Vincer for the great design and the immaculate construction (plus Dave Fogden), fitting the main stage as two respective sitting rooms and built out, a kitchen for both houses with fitted units and work top changing  frontages from yellow to blue during the interval both set with a kitchen table, tablecloth being removed for Reeny’s house, and chairs with the change of typical 70’s crockery, glasses and bottles, kettle that even contained water. Calendars on the back wall were changed. Props manager Ellie McGuckin certainly had her work cut out, changing curtains, pictures, placing of a radiator – all such good attention to detail.  Reeny’s worn – which turned out to be deliberately cut - settee was well thought through with sealing and tearing of the tape.

The Sound and Lighting department perfected timing for the interchanging action from main stage to side, but it must have seemed intimidating with a lot of business taking place being so close to the front row.

Beth not only directed this complex piece she performed her mammoth role of Betty with tremendous feeling, draining both physically and emotionally. Great timing and natural movement from all, with slow on the uptake Vera, new to the society Charlotte Maughan-Jones, using great facial expressions, causing much laughter. Casting was perfect well characterised, with costumes and colouring of the period well chosen.  Flares, leather jackets, patterned maxi dresses, tank tops, the formality of a tie, wedge shoes all good touches, so to the ladies of the wardrobe great work.