Thursday, 27 May 2010

Players' performance

Play review
The Old Buckenham Players recent production in the village hall was Second from the last in the sack race by Michael Birch. Charles Oxley kindly wrote the following review for the village newsletter and blog.
This play was adapted from a book describing the childhood and schooling of Henry Pratt, in a world that showed him little affection. The dramatisation has pared down the book’s characters and settings to make it workable on stage, but the original book’s lack of dramatic peaks and troughs is reflected in the script and possibly inevitably in this Players’ production.
Casting 15 players for twice that number of characters can’t have been easy and some anachronisms arose; Malcolm Robertshaw had to play a much younger character in Henry’s father and Phil Butcher’s Tosser was, I think, a schoolboy. Both were competently played but being ‘out of age’ was confusing for some in the audience. Matt Butcher seemed too nice for the thuggish yokel Eric but he was a perfect Irish Liam and danced elegantly in a toga.  Robertshaw's later cameo as the sergeant major was spot on.
Henry was ably played by Josh Francis, although he was rather flat emotionally. In spite of being the leading character the other players tended to put him in the shade. This reflects the storyline but some dramatic moments were missed. His line: “You don’t let me into your lives” was a key moment but the direction didn’t allow its full impact. 
Maria McCann’s Cousin Hilda was excellent. She was also very funny as the nightclub singer with a cough although her stage presence drew the audience away from the other characters’ dialogue. Norah, Ada and Auntie Doris were in the safe hands of Chris Allen, Margaret White and Jeanette Cruickshank respectively and Richard Crawly was an amusing spiv. The younger members of the cast did well, with Fran Izzo showing great confidence. I hope the Players will continue to encourage young talent.
The play wasn’t a comedy but it was very funny in places. Sometimes the spoken lines lacked pace but the Yorkshire accents mostly came off quite well with pleasingly clear diction. The background of projected images and bursts of soundtrack were highly effective in providing backbone to the narrative. With the well-chosen costumes they put the audience right in the mood of the period. The many changes of furniture were done smoothly.Technically this was a sound and rehearsed production, most difficulties I think being due to the script rather than the Players who performed well to an appreciative audience. 
The Players should be pleased with their production.
Charles Oxley

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