Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Woking Drama Festival - Day 6

Continuing my reviews of this year’s WDA Festival of One-Act Plays.

Pyrford Little Theatre presented Pity About Kitty by Jimmie Chinn

A play which tells of a naive nurse being stripped of her job by a twisted tribunal. The imposing table, populated by both real people and wooden dummies, hinted to us what Kitty, the innocent victim, barely suspected.

Rita Warren as Nurse Kitty Curtis was excellent. Her open-faced, wide-eyed innocence meant that we were with her all the way, knowing that she was genuine in thinking that her old 'friend', Sister Strong, was in danger of losing her own job, rather than being the instrument of Kitty's downfall. An incredibly well-judged performance.

Sheila Stewart as SNO Cross was also very good, as were Mina Crowe as Sister Strong and Brian Beamish as Sir Cuthbert, though these last two actors did stretch their performances slightly too far from realism and occasionally crept into the realms of stereotype. Luckily though, not too far and not too often to spoil the overall effect.

A couple of missed lighting cues were unfortunate and served to distract slightly and I also thought that the staging was a little too flat the chairs at either end of the long table could have been set a tad more downstage to improve the picture.

Overall though, this was an excellent production and, having seen a few efforts from Pyrford Little Theatre in recent years, this was certainly the best of the lot.

Herald Players presented Mountain Language by Harold Pinter

Late period Pinter plays are tricky fellows. Intensely political and layered with meaning, yet with sparse dialogue which takes expert directors and actors to interpret meaningfully.

Even after mulling it over for a while, I'm not sure if Herald Players' production succeeded completely. Set on a bare stage with simple plastic chairs, a table and telephone, creating the required effect of a cold, impersonal institution. The use of lights to differentiate locations was sporadically successful, though there were occasions when actors found themselves unlit at points when they shouldn't have been (there is one deliberate instance of a voice calling from the darkness).

I think the main problem for me was the performances and costumes of the soldiers. The characterisations veered towards stereotypes, especially for the Sergeant and, less so, for the Officer. The costumes seemed half-hearted as if we were being asked to accept that a khaki jersey was sufficient to turn a man into an inhuman being. A fully realised uniform for each of the soldiers would have helped us to suspend our disbelief as well as helping the actors to get into the parts.

On the other hand, the performances of the Young Woman (Amy Yorston), the Prisoner (Simon Hurst) and the Elderly Woman (Elaine Brace) were excellent. In their hands, long pauses, designed to give us huge amounts of information, which were handled clumsily in the early scenes of the play by the soldiers, really sprung to life.

A brave attempt at a difficult play and one that, with more work, could be very good indeed, but I certainly enjoyed what I saw.

Brooklands Theatre Company presented The Opposite of People by Andrew Smith

This play concerns a fraudulent talent agency, out to take credulous wannabe actors of their money. Played by actors of around 17 or 18, for the most part we were able to believe that the two men (Matt Lapinskas as Mark and Harry Feltham as Barry) were suave con-men in their late-twenties or early-thirties.

The other major part (Jo, played by Charlotte McCormack) of the waitress talked into handing over her life savings for a shot at stardom was very well realised.

The male actors did have an unfortunate tendency to gabble and swallow their words when speaking fast. If they can control this habit, but keep up the breakneck speed and style of acting they will be very good indeed, as shown in the scene where Mark talks gently to Jo. Fine teamwork and excellent communication between the actors.

I found the setting of the chair downstage from the main desk to be problematic. Often actors where turned upstage to face their partner. Not a problem with volume as their voices were all strong and well projected, but I missed being able to see their faces!

Overall, an exellent production which the whole audience thoroughly enjoyed.

It was good to see that the evening's show was the most consistent in terms of quality. There was nothing to let the side down!

More reviews for you on Thursday.

I must stress that I am not a professionally qualified reviewer or adjudicator. My opinions are wholly subjective.

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