The Cat and The Canary

Date 16th May 2024
Society Tyldesley Little Theatre
Venue Tyldesley Little Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Jenny whur
Written By John Willard and Adapted by David Muncaster

Report

Author: Liz Hume-Dawson

The Cat and The Canary originally a silent film in 1922 by John Willard. Billed as a gothic horror comedy has had various remakes - 4 times - including the 1927 film starring Bob Hope. David Muncaster adapted the play to be seen as a radio play.

The set is revealed and is cream walls with brown/wood dado rails around the set. Stage Right chairs are up against the wall and on some of the back wall broken with a table with water jug and glasses for refreshment. An entrance door on the back wall. The studio was set up such that the acting area was Stage Right and taking over half the stage was the area where the Foley sound effects were made. A large table in the middle and another table set Stage Left. At the back cabinets and Stage Left a dummy door that opened and closed for sound effects. The tables were then strewn with various things to make sound effects of people fainting, Bodies being dragged, clocks being wound up and striking, drinks being poured, envelopes opened, telephone ringing - the list goes on. Set construction and decoration Andy Haymes, Peter Hood and Eddie Stanley. Period Props Andy Haymes, Peter Hood, Eddie Stanley and Paul Whur. The Marconi type microphone, one on a stand for the actors and the other on a swing arm dropped from the ceiling was impressive, to pick up the sound effects. This was researched, designed and engineered by Andy Haymes, Peter Hood, Eddie Stanley and Paul Whur with assistance from Sue Haymes. Lighting and Sound by Pete Gower, Paul Whur, Harry King and Jenny Whur. Wardrobe by Margaret Speakes.

Jenny Whur directs and in the programme note states she had for a long time an interest in this play and wanted to direct it. So, when the chance came to direct David Muncaster’s adaption as a radio play Jenny took on the challenge.

The cast of six playing the actors who tell the story of the The Cat and The Canary end up short of actors who don’t turn up for various reasons, so have to take on multiple roles with script in hand. I did have a thought and just my idea that if they had a small prop of a hat or apron to add to the character, it would have added to the confusion and if playing a female part to alter their voice, also helping us keep up with the story. I know it’s radio but it was presented as a visual for us. This is not to take away from what they presented and what the actors did.

Jenny Ackerley and Paul Hilton had all or nothing doing the entire sound effects through-out the show and being present on stage all the time. They were either full pelt or sat reading, drinking the sound effects or eating a sandwich I character. All done with deadpan faces. Just doing their job. Very funny.

Alex Sangster plays the Swindler Charlie and Karen Ward plays Susan Silsby who always has a lot to say for herself and has a queer feeling about the house and will tell anyone who will listen to her - a bit of a Debbie Downer really.

Ian Hunter takes on the role of Mr Crosbie the lawyer and Elowen the maid and comes to a sticky end as Mr Crosbie complete with sound effects.

Daisy Clark takes on the role of Ciciley and Elowen, by now she is the third person to take on the role of the maid and a third accent which adds to the comedy but she slows it right down and delivers a black county accent. This was a great contrast.  Hilarious.

Andrea Peters starts off as Elowen with west country accent and then is Annabelle. Loved when not speaking she went a got a drink. Her maid Elowen with great attitude. Well-played.

Joe Taylor must have been exhausted and had identity issues when he had finished this play. Taking on several roles and accents, heightened received pronunciation (RP), Scottish, Welsh and French. His face when he had to take on another role was hilarious often having to have a conversation with himself. He committed fully and the result was very funny. I loved the French doctor characterisation. Bien-cuit!

This play kept the cast on their toes and the audience and I love when we are challenged surely that’s what live theatre is about. The programme notes are littered with information that is clear Paul, Jenny and team had fun in researching. I for one am a great radio play listener and found the information informative.

Thank you to Tyldesley Little Theatre for the invite, the hospitality and the nostalgia from my guest Matthew and I.

 

Liz Hume-Dawson

D5 Rep