The Housekeeper

Date 29th February 2020
Society Attic Theatre
Venue The Attic Theatre - Newcastle Emlyn
Type of Production Play
Director Semele Xerri

Report

Author: Matt Hampson

This was indeed my first-time visiting Attic Players and I must say it was well worth the wait. On entering I was in awe of the wonderful theatre the Attic Players own. With its quaint entrance box office, 84 capacity cinema style seating and fringe type stage, set within feet of the audience I was already in theatre heaven.

So, The Housekeeper is a darkly humorous psychological thriller exploring the nature of possession, inheritance and corruption. A woman stripped by recession of everything she has ever worked for takes a stand in another woman's living room, only to find she has disturbed a hornet's nest of unimagined proportions. We meet three characters – Mary, Beth & Hal all very different, all with their own story and all with a mountain of dialogue to learn and deliver with precision! And it was just that!

At this point I have to be honest and admit that I have never heard of the play, however on researching before my visit I was very much looking forward to seeing how the 3 characters would be portrayed and I was not disappointed. This production was fit for any stage, anywhere. Director Semele Xerri has clearly set out to make a statement with this production and like myself it was new to her, which gave a blank canvas and new ideas to work from.

The casting was excellent!  Melanie Davies as Beth was sublime in her stage presence & character. Even though id never seen the play before, there was something very engaging about her, which gave me as a new bee confidence in understanding her. Beth’s character is key to the play working well and I felt all kinds of emotions as she takes us on a rollercoaster throughout the play. Looking after her terminally ill husband for 15 years, the chance of leaving a complete stranger with him and leaving is I am sure a subject & situation that may happen in real life. Melanie reminds me of Susan Sarandon in so many ways and she is a massive asset to Attic Theatre.

Mary, played by Claire Woolley was so endearing! Randomly turning up in Beth & Hals house, children in the car asleep, nowhere to go, needs a job, gets offered a job by Beth: nursing her husband Hal and so it all transpires from there! Mary is the largest of the roles as she is never off the stage. Claire managed the NYC accent very well and didn’t drop it once which is no easy task! Her character was completely believable and left me wondering at the end what Mary would do and where would she go? I felt for her, I liked her and I understood her, which is no easy task for actors playing to an audience who largely wouldn’t have seen this before. When challenged by Hal to assist him with his suicide, I was in awe of how Claire managed this scene and delivered it brilliantly.

Hal, played by John Franks….well what can I say about this man? If I am truthful, I couldn’t take my eyes of him. His role was incredibly demanding and physical. With him acting his way through a play that requires him to portray an elderly gent with a degenerative disease must have been both physically and emotionally exhausting. His Jekyll & Hyde character made me laugh, shed a tear or two and most importantly kept me wondering what on earth is going to happen in this story. It twists and turns and with an actor like John, you’ll never be lost, unengaged nor bored. He’s wonderful and another asset to Attic Theatre.

What frustrates me, is that I wish more people could see the standard being set by Attic Theatre. With this play they have smeared the line between amateur and professional and absolutely deserved the recognition they received during the production run. I understand they produce 4 plays a year but unfortunately I am only able to visit twice a year officially but I think I’ll just by tickets for the other two plays anyway. Thank you for an unforgettable night of first class theatre.