Woman In Mind

Date 7th June 2023
Society Wick Theatre Company
Venue The Barn Theatre, Southwick
Type of Production Play
Director Mike Wells

Report

Author: Kay Rowan

Woman in Mind – Alan Ayckbourn’s comic drama first performed in 1985 revolves around the central character, Susan. She is a housewife who, finds it difficult to live with a neglectful husband, Gerald, and his live-in sister, Muriel, and her son is living in a commune.  She often revels in an imaginary world where she is happy and surrounded by a perfect family. Everything that appears on stage is seen by Susan and the audience whether real or imagined; consequently Susan is on stage throughout.

The creation of the garden set on two levels gave the actors a good space to work in.  The upstage entrance onto the patio was significantly used and gave height and depth to the scene.  Whilst the actual garden is tiny during the play there are periods when the set represents an imaginary large estate with lakes and tennis courts.  The set was very well dressed and the movement of furniture on and off very smoothly achieved.  The lighting and sound in this production were both very important as they needed to indicate not only changes in the time of day but also the transition between the two worlds.  In addition, the actual sound effects had to be spot on.  This production achieved full marks for all those aspects.  They obviously have a great team.  One cannot comment on the wardrobe without referring the fantastic juxtaposition of Muriel from frumpy down at heel sister-in-law to the sexy French maid.  Both the fantasy brother, Tony, and the imaginary daughter were dressed as befits those attending house parties   The whole costume plot was well thought through and accomplished.

With such a complex plot it would be so easy to emphasise one aspect rather than another however the very experienced director, Mike Wells, did not fall into any traps - the whole evening was a delight both visual and emotional.

Emily Dennett gave a magnificent performance as Susan, flitting from her fantasy world to her real-life one with consummate ease.  As the play progressed the tension became even greater.  Her diction was superb; every word could be heard even when she was near the back of the stage. She must have been absolutely drained after the last, totally surreal scene. A fine performance.    Susan’s real-life husband Gerald played by Dan Dryer, was a very convincing man of the cloth. His facial expressions and body language were so believable.   David Peaty was the epitome of a bumbling country GP, Dr Bill Windsor, and produced a very sound portrayal.    Susan’s ‘delightful daughter’ Lucy, such a goody two shoes was well played by Gala Orsborn.  In contrast there was the fantasy brother, Tony, who was creatively played by Giles Newlyn-Bowmer.  His effusive and slightly over-bearing manner was maintained throughout.  The imaginary father & husband, Andy, with all the traits Susan’s real husband lacked was quietly and effectively played by Barry Syder.  Rosy Armitage played the part of the sister-in -law, Muriel, with no difficulty - she had the asides and mannerisms fine-tuned and went effortlessly from a frump to a French maid with a swift change of costume.  The last cast member to appear was the estranged son, Rick played by Sam Masters.  Rick had arrived home after not speaking to his parents for some years Dan Dryer played the role convincingly particularly when communicating that he had no intention of letting his mother meet his wife.

The play has a rather strange and often disconcerting concept however there is also humour which was indicated frequently by the very appreciative audience.  The production was extremely well cast, and they had all worked exceptionally hard to achieve the extremely high standard of performance that I witnessed. 

Congratulations to the whole team on a very smooth rounded performance of this complex play.