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A Fete Worse than Death - NODA Review 2017

Bath Unity Players, St Barnabus, Bath. April 2017

 

 
Reviewed by Dee Way, District 14 Representative, South West Region

 

Thank you for your kind invitation to review your production of this comic murder mystery.  As a play specifically for village hall performance, it fitted the church hall venue perfectly!  There were lovely touches of ‘fete’ décor: the beer tent (tea hatch) with the children’s ‘Pet on a Plate’ art competition on the walls, bunting, the flyers and programmes on the tables. 

 

This was the first full-length production undertaken by the Director Tom Jenkins, and he is to be congratulated on a very entertaining and puzzling evening.  The cast were disciplined and well rehearsed, with a lot of humour being generated by outrageous comments in the script - and the flirting of Violet!  The planning for the production was clearly very efficient, with no pauses in the performance and cast characters moving items as necessary onstage.

 

The stage was set with two tables for the Home Produce competition that lies at the heart of the plot.  The simplicity of the set and venue added an authenticity to the production that served it well.  The yellowish back curtains could well have formed a marquee.

 

Costumes were lovely, with Trish in a pink dress and matching wellies and Nigel dressed as a Viking, complete with horned helmet. Bunny appeared the epitome of a countrywoman with her wide-brimmed hat, married to an obsessive marrow grower in Malcolm, with his old clothes and pullover.  His rival marrow grower was the Vicar, the young Rev. Hattie, dressed in dog collar and black shirt while Violet was resplendent in black hat, glasses and red top.

 

Lighting was simple and straightforward, and well controlled.  There were some shadows down stage right and left, but with the limits on the lighting available, this was inevitable.

 

The sound was effective, with a speech played on cue and at a good volume.  There was atmospheric music at times, especially from the brass band noted as playing for the event.  Such details, mentioned in the script or to create the right atmosphere, are so important!

 

For the cast, this was a chance to play some interesting characters.  Do just make sure that the audience can see your faces as so much of hearing is lip reading.  There was a tendency for some of you to raise your heads as if you were in a raked seating venue.

 

This was a fun evening that had our ‘little grey cells’ trying hard to work out who could possibly have committed the crime.  The denoument was interesting and creative, as Violet turned amateur detective to help Ray solve the mystery.  We had a very enjoyable evening.

 

Performances

 

Malcolm Turner (Ian Cowie) was very believable as the curmudgeonly marrow grower determined to win the competition.  He played the part with belligerence, focus and energy and his death scene was really effective.  One could quite believe that his attention on the vegetables would drive his wife to seek comfort elsewhere!

 

Bunny Turner (Lynda Tucker) was a lovely, gentle role that was played with great empathy for the character.   She was highly believable as the unhappy wife of Malcolm.  I liked the pace of delivery here and the intonation that suggested meekness and discomfort at the same time.

 

Nigel (Gabriel Mulcahy) was a lovely character.  This Viking re-enactor was nicely portrayed, with his constant trips to the beer tent whenever he felt uncomfortable, though he could have been played with less restraint.  As Bunny’s lover, he did well not to be over flirtatious.  The dialogue was clear and well timed, although you may want to slow down the delivery a little at times.

 

Trish Burton (Trish Hill): Those pink wellingtons were wonderful!  This character was well played, with sustained discontent as the frustrated rival for the position of Chair of the Fete Committee.  At times lines were lost a little when looking upstage, but the characterisation was good.

 

Rev. Hattie (Cressida Bullock) played a very young, attractive and active vicar with a competitive streak.   The dialogue was always clear, well delivered and easy to hear.  At times, speaking a little more slowly would have been good, as occasionally the audience missed the joke.  However, throughout the energy of the character and their heartlessness was clear.

 

Violet Parmenter (Katrina Cowie) was a wonderful character!  This role was played with gusto and little restraint.  She became the vibrant character at the centre of the play as the murder investigation got underway.  Her flirting with Ray was beautifully done!

 

Ray Martin (David White) was nicely played as a celebrity out of his depth in real life.  One could just imagine the TV detective being at such a loss when faced with a real crime.  Perhaps more could have made of his eventual change to acting like his stage detective, with Violet’s encouragement, and he might have portrayed the character as more ‘precious’, due to his celebrity. 

 

However, as a team, the cast worked well with the script and the director’s interpretation of it.  The mix of characters was clear and, despite a few hesitations, the story line was well concealed.  The cast seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the play, which always helps an audience to enjoy it, too.

 

This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of entertainment that deserved a bigger audience.  The setting helped enormously to make the suspension of disbelief easy, while the acting and technical support worked really effectively together.  Well done!

 

Dee Way

 

N.B. These comments can only relate to he performance seen, and are solely the views of the reviewer present. performance, Saturday 16 April 2016

Dee Way – NODA South West Region Representative, District 14