Here I Belong

Date 28th April 2018
Society Cobham Players
Venue Cobham Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Jason Lambert

Report

Author: Jon Fox

An intimate setting in a small ante-room surrounded by audience on three sides made for a production which drew those watching right into the story. It revolved around the life of Elsie, living in the rural village of Woodside, from early adulthood through to her ninetieth birthday in deep old age. Four ladies played the role as Elsie aged over the six decades covered. Four separate scenes, each with a different Elsie made it easy to follow the plot.

In 1953, young Elsie, played with realistic youthful optimism and love of life was heavily pregnant. Megan Castle - in the role - and in dungarees was most convincing, whilst Sophie Johnstone playing her friend Dorothy, with baby Marion in her pram, was advising her - as pregnant mums do - to talk to the unborn baby. There was moving pathos aplenty as Dorothy related her story about husband George. I much liked the excitement by both players about the Coronation in this splendid scene. The 1950's television was the same type as I watched whilst still a young boy.

Moving forward to May 2nd 1979, one day before the General Election, we next meet Nicky Hall as a middle aged Elsie with "baby" Marion, now a young adult played by Beth Barrett. The friendship between Elsie and Marion's mother, now tragically struck down by multiple sclerosis, was movingly portrayed by Nicky and the punk Marion. Marion's thoughtless comment and the effect it had upon the weeping Elsie was powerful drama. Another moving scene well portrayed by both actors.

We next meet an older Elsie in the guise of Mary Taylor in July 1998 on a muggy morning. Natasha Roberts played Scarlett, the well meaning but "bull in a china shop" neighbour newly arrived in the village. The scene opened to a "Boyzone" song in the sound system with a grieving Elsie much distressed at the "thoughtlessness" of the rather "posh" Scarlett, played with much truth by Natasha. I found this scene perhaps the most powerfully moving of all. Elsie's grief was almost too painful to watch and the "revealing" of Scarlett's bathroom curtains being left open with its embarrassing effect upon Scarlett was achingly real. As the two vastly different women slowly became friends through small talk about empty toilet roll holders left by both their husbands, we in the audience felt that we were there at the table with them - which, in a way, we were. I did rather smile though at daffodils being still around in July. Admittedly,  daffodils, which were obviously real ones are of course plentiful in April, when the play was performed.   But it was more of a smile than a frown, since nothing could spoil this excellent scene, for my money!

Finally, we were in the present day (July 2016 actually) with a now aged and frail ninety year old Elsie played with well observed (and practised) arthritic hands by the convincingly aged up Victoria Franklin. Her care visitor Katie - Tanya Isaiah - was trying to persuade Elsie to use her wheelchair and showed emotional strength mixed with touching vulnerability which was wonderfully well observed. The unintentional reveal  about the village's planned celebration of Elsie's ninetieth was beautifully handled by both players. I must particularly commend Victoria's playing of the aged Elsie. Victoria, though in real life a slender and vibrant woman, well capable of playing far younger women than her own years - as I have often seen - gave a performance I will long remember.  Tanya too matched the paragon Victoria, which says it all.

As the village - we in the audience - all celebrated Elsie's birthday and sang Happy Birthday and marvelled at her fierce determination never to go into a care home, the emotion rose still further bringing a fine end to a hugely enjoyable evening.

I must commend the director Jason Lambert for the way in which he progressed Elsie's long life in Woodside. All scenes were set in the Village Hall which played such a large part in her life.

These four scenes, showing Elsie's adult life and all the main the events through it were entwined so well. The setting with minimal, but easily changed set by Alan Barlow and Charlie English worked like a treat.   Lighting was by Steve Farr and sound by Andrew Mair. Continuity was by Chris Kendall. I would conclude with my own original notes, scribbled in haste while actually watching.  These read as follows " Marvellous acting. Pace. Emotion to the fore throughout. Interesting and real. Powerful and moving play. Real team effort. Very enjoyable.