Waiting in the Wings

Date 10th July 2019
Society Portable Theatre Company
Venue Felton Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Lynne Lambert Arlene Cadman Sally Pumford

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Author: Kathryn Curry

This is the third production for the ‘Portable Theatre Company’ and they are to be congratulated for going from strength to strength to the point of being so well thought of and established that they sell out and have waiting lists for their productions. They are a small company with their aim to take theatre to the smaller villages for locals and visitors to enjoy; they certainly have achieved this.   In this production of ‘Waiting in the Wings’ by Noel Coward it was lovely to see old faces and new ones to cover the many parts. The play was extremely well cast. The action was on the floor and the audience were raised and I wondered how this would work but it was very effective and it was actually really good to look down into the room of this excellent set, which was obviously so well thought out to accommodate chairs, tables, lights, piano (which was functional) sofa etc. to accommodate the many needs of the ladies in the ‘The Wings’ home for retired actresses. The numerous props were authentic and were controlled seamlessly by the various characters and these, added to scene changes which were accompanied by the wonderful music of Noel Coward meant that we soon became very quickly engrossed in the plot with its twists and turns. It was easy to be transported to the style and period of the piece which aimed to give us an insight of how these ladies had to learn to live with each other and sprinkled with a few lively men and the wonderful ‘Sylvia Archibald’ the superintendent of the home this was sure to be a winner and a super choice for this company to perform.  As the plot unfolded the characteristics of the residents were fully exploited by this talented cast of ‘Old Pros’ as in the sense of their parts!

What a range of personalities there were in this play, from brash to demure, feisty to sweet and then deluded and with all the other conflicting personalities it would be hard to single out individuals as far too many to mention individually in depth. ‘Sylvia Archibald’, Lynne Lambert was perfectly cast and gave a stunning performance as the no-nonsense but subtle, caring and diplomatic manager of the home. Lynne kept the pace going whenever she was on stage trying to facilitate the needs of these diverse characters. She was ably assisted her maid ‘Doreen’, Antonia Hoskins-Brown. I loved her characterisation of the part and the way in which she tripped in and out of the action. ‘May Davenport’, Arlene Cadman as ever gave a stalwart performance showing what a wonderful experienced actress she is in that she can interpret any part she plays in depth; in this she clearly portrayed she had a bit of a chip on her shoulder and was intent on settling an old grudge she had with ‘Lotta Bainbridge’. ‘Lotta’, Sally Pumford arrived to the home with aplomb and glamour and was open to making new friends and a desire to make peace with ‘May’. She played the part perfectly and with her usual sensitive stage presence despite wanting to be the centre of attraction in the home. She strived to make amends with ‘May’ but was mostly rejected when trying to build bridges. This age-old feud between these two was the main dramatic element of the plot and both these ladies played their parts with sensitivity finally settling their grudges which were the result of a misunderstanding. The implication that residents were not aware of this feud was a little innocent for me as it surely had to be over a man where in the theatre world where there are few secrets; with final confessions the pair became friends. Woven around this feisty ‘Feud’ were the diverse characters in the home all adding their individual creativity in acting to enhance the action. ‘Bonita Belgrave’, Barbara Naylor keen to establish herself as a former success showing her skills were still strong as she showed she could still sing when asked to sing her favourite song in the second act. Accompanied by pianist ‘Maud Melrose’, Sarah Purvis who showed she was still very capable when asked to play the piano as well as singing a very pleasant ditty of her own. The Christmas section was lovely and quite emotional as the ladies were gently cajoled by ‘Maud’ to join in and was one of my favourite scenes. This was followed by the rather temperamental Irish character ‘Deirdre O’Malley’, Carol Robson. She was hilariously funny but at the same time quite a tyrant. I loved her wicked use of her stick and her Irish blarney and in particular the Irish Jig she performed with ‘Perry Lascoe’, Peter Biggers who was the home’s secretary. Peter was a real star in the part and a darling of the ladies portraying energy and compassion for their needs. Passing by on occasions was ‘Mr. Osgood Meeker’, Gary Brown who visited his unseen idol with flowers and gave a very sweet and tender performance. ‘Sarita Myrtle’, Olwen Thomas, was excellent in her role as the rather vague lady who had a penchant for lighting matches and was slightly dangerous in this activity resulting in setting light to bedroom curtains. She was delightful in her role and one of the stars for me. The smaller roles played by Claire Teasdale, Sophie McDougall and Cora Clarke were well thought out and acted with thoughtfulness to their characters. Cameo roles by Mick Grant and Jan Turner were very nice introductions at the end.

This was really a very gentle or genteel ‘Coward Comedy’ which I thoroughly enjoyed and it was a delightful evening of Summer entertainment giving us a vivid  insight into these complex characters of the home all with a story  to tell and as one would expect an elegant tale as their lives unfolded during the evening.  Overall this was a wonderful reflection of those who trod the boards and those of us who still do and may well have memories to tell in the future!  Well done to all involved in giving us a treat of frothy, witty and poignant moments with some lovely music and songs thrown in for good measure.