Cheshire Cats

Bath Unity Players, Rondo Theatre, Bath. May 2014



CHESHIRE CATS                            

Bath Unity Players, The Rondo Theatre, Bath

Thursday 15th May

Director: Lez Goodwin


Graeme Savage reports -

After several all-out farces in recent years, Bath Unity Players approached some more serious subject matter this year, with Cheshire Cats, the story of five women travelling from the north to tackle the Midnight Moon Walk, raising money for breast cancer charities. While still allowing room for some comedy in their interactions, and some broad characterisations (the bossy one, the flirty one, the quiet one, etc.) this seemed to suit the company’s playing style far better than in recent years, leading to a much more rounded production. The virtually bare stage and simple lighting also focussed the attention far more on the women themselves and their stories, each of the actresses taking centre stage for their moment. All of the principle players – Katrina Cowie, Trish Hill, Jenny John,  Sacha Clayton and Annie John - were clear in their diction, and handled the transition from the conventional conversation into their poems very well. Their characters were also well established, and conveyed the sense of camaraderie which one needs in plays such as this and Calendar Girls. Credit too for Ash Thurston, bravely spending much of the evening cross-dressing, but still making it part of his character, when it would have been easy to have played the part solely for laughs!


Under Lez Goodwin’s direction, the pace of the conversations moved along very nicely, in a relaxed and realistic manner. Unfortunately, at times the script itself became a little repetitive and more of an advert for the Moon Walk itself than focussing on the personal stories. However, the principals did well to still create some drama and tension, particularly around Ash’s secret, and also the twist at the end, which was nicely underplayed. Despite the simple staging, there were a couple of slower scene changes, which didn’t help the pace. The supporting company also did a good job of adding to the atmosphere of the Moon Walk, and the passive-aggressive faux competitive nature of the walkers, despite having little or no dialogue themselves. Linda Tucker, in particular, reminded us of her experience in past Unity productions with a varied collection of very different characters. Finally a mention for the excellent costumes, not only the 'Cheshire Cats' themselves, but all of the characters - creating an 'everyday' casual look, without it looking like the cast have just turned up in their rehearsal clothes isn't easy, but worked here. The only real disappointment on the evening is that there weren't more in the audience, especially given the subject matter which clearly meant a lot to all who were involved.


Well done to all involved for a thought-provoking and well-produced evening.