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The Thrill Of Love

Date

21st March 2018

Society

Huntingdon Drama Club

Venue

All Saints Church, Huntingdon

Type of Production

Play

Director

Sandra Birnie

Report

Author: Don McKay

We received a warm welcome to the unusual venue for this thought provoking play by Amanda Whittington from the Front of House Team. All Saints Church was indeed very atmospheric and worked perfectly well for the sombre subject matter, which was presented in the round. Working in the round can be very satisfying for both cast and audience, but of course, it does present challenges that you would not have to face on a traditional stage, however HDC embraced the difficulties and produced an excellent piece of work. Sally Fuller’s subtle lighting design and operation  perfectly captured the mood and intensity. The sound design by Jason Austin relied mostly on projection by the cast, which sadly in the case of Louise West, who played the lead Ruth Ellis, was unfortunately lost in some of the quieter poignant scenes. The musical interludes were perfectly pitched and the SFX were very effective, particularly the traffic noises. I do think that the gunshots could have been louder so as to shock us into the horror of the crime. The prop design was minimal but well considered and all managed by Wendy Chappell. Having such a minimal set, appropriately designed by Bronte, does make life easier for the Stage Manager, however I am sure that Lola Harling would have had a hand in the way that the cast changed the scenes so seamlessly. The costumes were spot on and of the era, well done to Kirsty Flanagan for her design. There were some tricky on stage costume changes and all of them were carried out with confidence and ease.

Louise West gave a very good performance as Ruth Ellis and was in the thick of it for almost the entire play. Her first entrance was almost ethereal as she dance around in the space and dressed herself ready to carry out the murder that was to be the reason for her conviction and subsequent hanging. Phil Lewis as Jack Gale gave a solid performance, however he did block the action from the audience occasionally. It is difficult not to block in round but you have to consider the audience sightlines at all times and not stand too close to the action that you have no dialogue in. You also need to be aware not to cross in front of a spot especially when it is the only source of light for your opposite cast member, that aside, Phil was very believable in the role. Hayley Kendall as Vicky Martin, made her carefree and full of optimism and hope for the future, which was typical of youngsters in late fifties, having come out of the war and the dreaded rationing. Hayley’s transformation from the plain talking working girl to the west end “it” girl was apparent and well played. Stephanie Dickenson as Doris Judd is a wonderful actress, you actually forget that you are watching an act because she plays the character so naturally, you believe she is a real person. I look forward to seeing Stephanie in, I hope, many more roles in the future. I have seen Sharon Reed grow over the years into the confident and accomplished actress that she is today, and her performance as Sylvia Shaw was superb.

Sandra Birnie, in my humble opinion is a first rate director. She is sympathetic to the characters and the story that needs to be told. She allows the humour of the piece to be the light relief without it being pantomime. Her direction in the round was very good indeed. I especially enjoyed the courtroom summing up towards the end, when the actors were turning in a clockwise motion almost symbolising the quick passage of time from conviction to the gallows.

This was an excellent production from HDC and I would like to congratulate all concerned.