Laying the Ghost

Date 30th September 2021
Society Billingham Players
Venue Theatre Upstairs
Type of Production Play
Director Mike Boyle and Sue Brackenbury

Report

Author: Jean Scarlett-Carr

This play was a light comedy with cast of seven who all had their roles to fill in this funny script, set in a retirement home for actors with the 2 leading ladies as best friends residents visited in one day by people of their past.  Staged in the small Theatre Upstairs, opening carefully within the current restrictions allowed live theatre to be attended in a great and safe atmosphere, to a smaller but appreciative audience.

The box set was well designed, colourful plain lounge encompassing the whole stage, with extra garden balcony, and was beautifully dressed with lovely details of a residential home decor and activities with the two residents at work at their own camp tables.

The lady of the day Margot Buchanan, who's birthday celebrations the script revolves, was perfectly played by Liz Betts, a cantankerous curmudgeon, bossy and potty mouthed lady, played with spirit, lovely character, and great timing.  Her best friend Freda Deacon, the spirit-talking eccentric, brilliantly brought to us by Thelma Russell with a no no-nonsense lady viewed by all others as gaga when she speaks to ghosts, but who becomes essential as the plot unfolds. She delivered such cutting and comedic lines, adding the character in body and facial characteristics so well, that we all fell for her. Sara Ramrekha portrayed the home's Manager Mrs Kidd, with a lovely caring character, popping in out of scenes, lighting up the room on her appearances with her energy and appeal, a part in and out, tricky to do, that was so well played. 

Margot's Ex, not liked by those, was Sir Leo Buchanan, a sleezy lecherous actor of welsh origin, played as a frenetic fop by Peter Gardiner, turns up evading yet another scandal, only to cause chaos by sudden fatal heart attack, and gives the story for Act II. Adding complication to the day is the arrival of Leo's current wife, Lady Buchanan, rival to Margot looking for the chance to lay their hurt aside, who was acted by Jackie Dunn so delightfully. Such a plum accent, pompous and graceful, becoming of the role.  Also arriving was Leo’s current lover, a young actress in the making Sadie Croft, played by the young Isabella Greenwood, who did well in the line up of experienced ladies, and shows promise for the future.  Supporting parts of Italian kissogram Superman, undertaker, and home helper was Leo Kilburn, who gave gusto to his Superman appearance, and completed the cast well.

This show was a cast coping with mixed fortunes, as the original director Mike Boyle was taken ill mid-rehearsals and forced to retire, so we wish him a speedy recovery, to then find Sue Brackenbury stepping in ably to complete the direction, that gave a play onstage with lovely characterful moments and good laughs.  The stage setting was delightfully designed, the lighting was well placed and plenty of sound effects all on cue neatly, and the costume effects of duplicated white for the ghosts worked very well. 

Presidents comment
Delighted to receive an invitation to this, my first play of my Presidential year - a perfect antidote to the doom and gloom around for the last 18 months – Well done Billingham Players