Family Spirit

Date 26th March 2022
Society Cast and Crew Theatre Workshop
Venue War Memorial Hall Canvey Island
Type of Production Play
Director Deb Adams

Report

Author: Christine Davidson

It is always good to be invited to report on a show for another district and meet such a friendly society. They gave us a very warm welcome, Martin Lepley, chatted to us proudly talking about the society and how they donate to local charities. To date they have raised £15,921.01 which is no mean feat.

Their production for March was Family Spirit by Pat Wollaston.  New to me, I was intrigued by the premise of storyline.  Arthur, an elderly gentleman has a heart attack at the beginning of the show, while he is finding out he has won a huge amount on the premium bonds. He has a adopted daughter Angela who looks after him, plus a natural daughter Sandra and her husband Steve, who have never bothered to come to visit.  Steve is a money grabbing swindler out for what he can get, who wants to sell the house, straight after the funeral. There follows another death, when Steve falls down the stairs. 

A Cherub, Grade 4, called Cassie, comes down to help them with the transition of death, followed by the arrival of a medium. This really is a modern day Blithe Spirit but with the men being ghosts.  Gentle comedy, pathos and some laugh out moments made this show a real winner.

Perry Baker playing  Arthur Scimmins, was superb as the elderly father.  Shuffling in awful slippers with a stooped body, walking stick and an unkempt look about him, his character was set.  With great humour, he really enjoyed the scenes playing a ghost, the audience loved it. I was really impressed with his stage presence and projection; an excellent performance.

Cassie the Cherub Grade 4 (Coral Baker) entered upstage left, she was illuminated by a colourful aura of light and mist as she stood in the doorway. A great effect! I just wish their stage had been a little bigger so we could have seen the full effect but the two seater sofa was blocking her entrance which was a shame. Wearing all white, even including her nail polish! She looked fantastic, her clear voice and projection was super.  She has come to help Arthur to transition upstairs.  Great use of the light and the sound of choral music each time she talked to God.  Again, another excellent performance.

Angela Scrimmins (Maxine Neil) played the sympathetic, loving, adopted daughter; you could see the love she had for him.  Tired and probably too nice she allowed herself to be bullied by the natural daughter Sandra and husband Steve.  This was a good understated performance by Maxine as she had to look fairly dowdy and downtrodden. By the end of the show we were rooting for her, hoping she would keep the money from the premium bond win.

The gruesome twosome, Sandra and Steve worked well together. Sandra, all designer clothes and common as muck while her husband, with little man syndrome, were a good pairing making us want something to happen to wipe the smile off his face. This does happen when they finally find out that Arthur has sold the house to the bank and given some of the money to Angela to help her buy a flat.

Zahna Hull as the sister acted with extreme confidence and pizzazz.  She bossed Angela around as if it was her right and was a larger than life character, it’s not till she loses Steve, when he dies, that we start to feel sorry for her and hope that the two sisters finally bond together. Towards the end there was a lovely scene between the two women and I felt both of them had worked hard to produce this final acting of sisterly love.

Steve Wilding as Steve was convincing as the bullish, little man with big hopes of making money from the inheritance. Having just got over Covid he managed very well and was convincing enough for us to dislike his character intensely.

Martine (Bernie Saxby) is the estate agent called round to put Arthur’s house on the market. A hard role to play as there is not much for this actress to cling to, in characterisation but the embarrassment on her face as she measures up the room was a picture. 

Last but not least we have the Madame Arcati of the piece – Sarah the medium. Sally Catling did a sterling job connecting with the other side.  I might have like to see her being a little more over the top when communing with the spirits as she seemed a little quiet but she looked a picture in her flamboyant clothes. I also loved her Ghostbusters bag.

The lighting and sound were really good and the special stage effects were excellent.  Ducks flying on the wall, pictures almost falling off, doors slamming. Wonderful!  The set was also extremely good with the feel of a man who had lived in the house over 38 years.  Yellowing wallpaper, old furniture, a really lovely old radio and black and white photos of Arthur and his wife. Costumes were the casts own and worked well.

Deb Adams as the director of the play had obviously worked hard to get this show ready coping with so many Covid problems. She had a great feel for this production and I'm sure she is really pleased with the end result. This group are obviously very lucky to have such a talented director in their society.

Congratulations to you all, the cast and crew for this excellent evening which we really enjoyed.