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The Baker's Wife

Date

18th July 2017

Society

Hessle Theatre Company

Venue

Hull Truck Theatre

Type of Production

Musical

Director

Martin Beaumont

Musical Director

Chris Maynard

Choreographer

Martin Beaumont

Report

Author: Tony Harris

This was a very good production which did great credit to the City of Hull in it’s status as the UK’s City of Culture for 2017.  The society was rewarded with full houses for all of the six performances and the audiences will surely have been impressed by what they viewed.

Set in a village in mid 1930s France the locals are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new baker and his wife.  When the wife falls for a local man this has an effect not only on her husband but on the villagers and their relationships with each other.  It also could have an effect on the future supply of bread!

As soon as I walked into the auditorium I was amazed by the set which was designed and made by society members.  Once I saw it in action I realised that it could well have been a professionally supplied two level structure with revolve that would have been at home in many much larger theatres and it was the best I have seen at Hull Truck.

The initial scene is placed in a café and the cast were on stage as we came in, immediately giving some atmosphere.  The story is simple and easy to follow although it seems rushed at times and we see very little of two of the leading characters in the second half.

The baker, Aimable, was very nicely performed by Neal Edlin and he played it in a very gentle way which, to me, suited the role and I liked his performance of If I Have To Live Alone.  Hannah Wilson, who has a super voice, gave a good performance as Aimable’s younger wife, Genevieve, and her rendition of Meadowlark, whilst moving around the top deck bedroom, was extremely strong.

Her young suitor, Dominique, was given a restless portrayal by Joe Porte, especially during his powerful Proud Lady, until, towards the end of the show and having whisked Genevieve away, he was lazing on a chaise lounge drinking a bottle of beer.  That’s when she decides, with help from some villagers, to return home.  I did think that, early on, there was some passion missing when the two of them were together but maybe it wasn’t helped by how quickly the libretto moves on.

A major quality of this society is the depth of the strength of it’s entire cast and there were some super performances of a range of parts of varying sizes.  Samantha Flanagan was the café owner’s wife and she sang and acted extremely well.  Chris Holmes just held his portrayal of the Marquis at the right level and Richard Foot as the Teacher, David Phillips as café owner Claude and Joe Spence as Antoine provided good characters.  I also particularly enjoyed Mark Jardine as Barnaby and Nicola Wilson as his hen-pecked wife Hortense along with Katherine Fitzgerald’s performance as Therese.

An integral part of the show is Pom Pom, the new baker’s cat, who disappears just before Genevieve goes and returns home when she does.  The scene where Aimable talks to the cat but is really speaking to Genevieve was quite brilliant and totally unexpected.  The cat, and Hugo the dog, were puppets which were delightfully manipulated by Sally Hague and Luke Gillingham respectively.

The music was lovely right from the start and much of it stands up perfectly well as solo pieces or as full ensemble numbers.  Amongst these were the pure showbiz of Bread, The World’s Luckiest Man and Feminine Companionship.

With a balanced band, together with good costumes and lighting, this really was a cracking show and I know that many people will agree with me.