Cranford

Date 19th May 2016
Society Actonians Drama Group
Venue Iron Acton Parish Hall, Iron Acton
Type of Production Play with songs
Director Sarah McMahon
Musical Director -
Choreographer -

Report

Author: Dee Way

This adaptation of the novel by Mrs Gaskell is interesting in changing some of the original storyline so that the play almost becomes a romantic comedy rather than a period piece on changing social mores. However, that said, the production made the most of the opportunities for strong characterisations and insights into village life in 1850s.

The era was beautifully reflected in the costumes of the cast and the sparse furniture of the set. The intricate dress of Miss Matty, the gaudy dress of Miss Pole, the caps under the bonnets, and the maids dresses and aprons were really well done, and the men totally looked their parts. The furniture at that time was sparse and expensive, hence the mending of the broken chair – a lovely touch! I was not sure about the green chairs, however.

The direction of the play produced a well-organised presentation with few pauses, and drew out much to laugh at. The characterisation of the two maids in particular was excellent. The casting of the characters was also well done, in providing contrasting voices, stature and physiques. The small details were excellent, such dog-eaten lace being brown.

The set was quite simple, in a way, with only changes to the back screen indicating a change of venue. The windows down stage were very effective with their black backgrounds and the village pump was a great addition to the setting. I loved the different take on scenery, with panels of fabric made into ‘stones’ of the houses and pump wall. The turning screen at the back was a work of art, with its green tones one side and the pink floral patterns on the other. Even the clouds were made of pockets of wadding.  This was a great invention!

Lighting was good – apart from when the audience was plunged into the dark at the beginning of Act 2!  The spots on area such as the pump and the downstage bench worked very well. The sound was well done in not intruding into the action too much, yet being clearly audible. I completely missed the musical association for such characters as Miss Matty (Morning has broken), Major (British Grenadier) and Miss Pole (Onward, Christian Soldiers) used to create the atmosphere for the scenes. 

In a play such as this, it is imperative that the characters are realistic and believable.  This was well achieved by all. The humour came across loud and clear – and makes me chuckle as I recall those moments. This was a thoroughly enjoyable show that was very well produced and acted. Well done!