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Out of Focus - NODA Review 2016

Bath Unity Players, St Barnabus, Bath. April 2016

 

 
Review of the matinee performance, Saturday 16 April 2016

Dee Way – NODA South West Region Representative, District 14

 

Thank you so much for your invitation to see this production.  The play was staged in a church hall in Bath, a very fitting venue for this show.  The church newsletter on the table had me completely fooled, but I realised the cleverness of it as the play unfolded and the names in the newsletter matched those of some of the characters.  This set the scene really well. 

 

I gather that the group have performed this play some years ago, hence their familiarity with it.  It was certainly very aptly set in a rather run-down church hall, with no stage curtains and a dilapidated feel.  One area of the stage had been screened off to form the hall kitchen – very nicely done with a real kettle, mugs and spoons adding to the realism. 

 

The direction of the play by Katrina Cowie and Kim Cardoza used the various exits and windows to good effect, with characters opening the window to talk to the ‘brownies’.  The rehearsal of a Pantomime in the second act would bring a chuckle from anyone ever in that position: the cast who don’t want to go onstage, who are late or who cannot focus on their part.  However, I would suggest that less speaking upstage would help the audience connect with the characters even more.  Also, at one time, the people on the bench blocked the view of the kitchen, where the action was.  The play was full of surprises and the characterisations were very good.

 

The pantomime rehearsal section of the play was particularly well done.  The take-off of thigh slapping, the number of lines containing ‘Super!’ and the singing were a good reminder of village hall productions.  The costumes here were particularly good in overdoing the ugly sisters, having Linda as Cinderella and having David as the cat!

 

Indeed, the costumes were very good at enhancing each character all through the production.  The walking boots and mismatched clothes and hat for Leonard, the rather dowdy dress for Evonne, the high heeled boots for Kath and Helen’s blue uniform as Brownie leader helped to identify their personalities well.  Act 2 saw the extremes of pantomime costumes, which were lovely!

 

Lighting and sound were just right, with a feel of church hall pervading the performance, although there were heavy shadows on the cast’s faces at times.  I really liked the use of the piano for the pantomime number.  The music choice was cheerful and very suitable.

 

However, what made this production so enjoyable were the cast performances.

 

 

Performances

 

Helen Beever (Trish Hill) opened the show trying to cope with a pack of Brownies (unseen but heard).  The character was nicely played as tired, critical and alone.  If anything, I felt she was a little too nice!  There was a good degree of stillness when listening to others that worked really well.  Her scenes when flirting with David Wright were very good.

 

Sue Dixon (Sacha Clayton) played the nice young lady, coming for a badminton match, thereby clashing with Helen’s Brownies.  This was nicely done throughout, and the love interest was beautifully sustained after meeting David.

 

Evonne Duckworth (Lynda Tucker) played the harassed, put on vicar’s wife who had messed up the hall bookings.  This character was so well played that one wondered if she was really like that!  Always apologising for getting things wrong, she came into her own when drunk – a lovely bit of acting that totally convinced some of the audience.  Well done!

 

Kath Enfield (Katrina Cowie) was a more tricky part to play, I thought, but was well handled.  Always being cross with her ‘husband’ can limit the characterisation, but this avoided by the acted bossiness. The part of the pantomime fairy was delicious!  The arguments and stand-off with Bob were very well done, too.

 

Bob Enfield (David White) was the part of the flirting husband, who had come for the badminton match.  This was well played throughout, although I thought the arrival of his young love interest might have caused a bigger reaction.  Good attention was paid here to listening to the other actors when not involved in the action.  Well done!

 

Leonard Trotter (Ash Thurston) was wonderfully played!  His mismatched clothes, boots, mended spectacles and case of slides made the character a total clown – with a Mid-Wales accent.  His presence in the hall for a show of his photographic slides leads to all sorts of well-timed fun.  This characterisation was very good as man wrapped up in his hobby to the exclusion of nearly everything else.  His pantomime character was very funny.  Well done!

 

Wayne Bryant (Tom Jenkins) was the boasting playboy who was really shy and not too bright.  Again this was very nicely acted, although I did feel at times that the changes between the attitudes could have been more marked, perhaps with a change of body language.  Also, it is worth not looking at the audience while on stage in this part, as it is disconcerting.  However, the characterisation was very well done, especially the borrowing of the money and the flirting with Linda.

 

David Wright (Gabriel Mulcahy) was the policeman who had come for the badminton match – much to Bob’s discomfort.  This part was very well done, underplayed and natural.  The production of the table tennis bat was lovely!  The characterisation was a good contrast to the others, as a normal, well-meaning and helpful person, suffering the flirtations of Helen while attracted to Sue.  Just make sure you face the audience a little more when speaking.

 

Linda Hammond (Emily Hepburn) was nicely played as the femme fatale.  Her dialogue was always clear and expressive, and her reaction Bob’s brush off by flirting with Wayne was nicely balanced.  Her Cinderella act was lovely! Just make sure the whole audience can see the character when the action was in the kitchen.

 

This was a thoroughly entertaining show that was highly suitable for the venue!  I trust that the real after-show party was nothing like the one depicted in the production!

 

Dee Way