The Lion in Winter

Date 29th February 2020
Society Billingham Players
Venue Billingham Upstairs Theatre
Type of Production Play
Director Norman Austick

Report

Author: Jean Scarlett-Carr

This play by James Goldman was a very clever piece of drama telling the treachery of the royal family in 1183 when Henry II and wife Eleanor have different opinions as to which of their sons is to be the next King, and their 3 sons have their own ideas too. 

This 7 character cast from Billingham Players was a really lovely piece of theatre to watch. The written plot was full of twists and turns with a verbose flowing script that each character gave without dropping a word. Andrew Stockdale as "Henry" gave a superb powerful performance with a fierce character and great wide range of emotional states portrayed. His dutiful imprisoned wife "Eleanor", played by Thelma Russell, who is let out of her castle captured existence for the Christmas holidays, was soon found to be the powerful force of the family and not the weak woman as initially introduced. Very calm, collected, and cunning, but with a secret sorrow, and with some very dry witty lines well delivered, a super performance too.

Their rival in authority was French king "Philip", a young monarch that Henry believed he could manipulate easily but played by Kevin Witherspoon-Sudron he showed he too could play the power game and brought his own twists too to the plot. His sister "Allais", given to Henry as a child for marriage to their heir in the future, was now his lover and beautifully brought to us by Abby Dennison, with heart wrenching characterisation, showing childlike vulnerability and yet strength in her own determination. 

Eldest son "Richard" was played by Cameron Nunn with his father-like fighting fierceness and the backing of his doting mother he played his role wonderfully well. Middle child "Geoffrey" was as such always the looked over child and portrayed by Joshua Dixon who gave a clever characterisation of this man carefully cunning he showed has devious depths as the plot twisted and turned throughout. Youngest  son "John" was the father's favourite for king, but was soft, spoilt and soppy. Beautifully brought to us by Daniel Taylorson, with child-like tantrums and reactions adding comedy to his character. 

Added to these performances was the beautiful fixed set, designed also by Norman Austick, of arched castle walls, dressed with fine drapes, and wooden furniture that were subtly moved and dressed to create the different areas within the castle. The lighting added ambience and effects, my favourite scene being the dungeon with lovely lighting through the jail gates. The costumes were in period design and beautiful colours and clever creational shapes, contrasted with modern footwear. 

The play flowed at a fast pace, with well delivered dialogue, smooth scene changes, and added atmospheric music that made the evening a joy to watch, and thoroughly enjoyed by all watching. 
Well done to all in this production team of Billingham Players.