Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm
As a vicar's wife, Grace has spent a lifetime on her best behaviour. Now, following the death of her husband Bardolph, she is enjoying the new-found freedom to do and say exactly as she pleases. But the return of her eccentric missionary sister Ruth, together with some disturbing revelations from the past, forces Grace to confront the truth of her marriage.
With sharp-edged comedy and probing wit, this absorbing play asks whether God can be trusted to do anything right at all, or is the whole thing a divine exercise in trial and error?
Richard Everett's thought-provoking comedy was first staged in 2006 at Chichester. The version that you will see here at Lewes was first performed at The Theatre Royal Bath in 2009, with Penelope Keith in the lead role of "Grace". The production was very well received, the Daily Telegraph writing "An evening of pleasure, a funny, touching, and genuinely thought-provoking comedy". While the Sunday Times said "Richard Everett has written a warm, glowing, serious comedy, like an Ayckbourn play finished by J.M. Barrie". The play went on to complete two sell-out U.K. tours.
The cast includes two newcomers to Lewes, Chrys Tarr and Graham Stapley, and also some more familiar faces with Dilly Barlow, Lindsey Holledge, and Kirrily Long. I count myself very fortunate to have been able to assemble such an experienced and highly competent cast, and feel confident they will get the best out of this well written play, presenting the audiences with an absorbing and enjoyable evening's entertainment. Well worth the trip to the Theatre!
Adrian Bowd Director
Playwright Richard Everett began his career in 1970 as a professional actor, making regular appearances on TV, in the theatre and in films such as the 70s cult classic If... starring Malcolm McDowell. He is now the author of eight produced stage plays which have been published and translated into several languages, and are regularly performed in the UK and abroad. Entertaining Angels, starring Penelope Keith, opened the Chichester Festival season in 2006 and has had successful UK tours. It opens in the autumn of this year in New Zealand. Richard has also written plays for BBC Radio 4 and scripts for animation.
The phrase “entertaining angels” refers to the practice of treating all guests - be they kings or peasants - as if they were visiting angels which is a challenge set to Christians. Playwright Richard Everett is clearly a practising Christian. On the Dean of Guildford Cathedral’s website there is an interview with him and a piece he wrote about a modern day soldier being visited by Jesus after his resurrection.
Entertaining Angels is a play about faith, loss, family secrets, confession and forgiveness. These painful, thought-provoking themes are played out against the seeming calmness of suburbia, set in an English country garden (in this production well designed and executed by Adrian Bowd and his crew).
In one of many funny and perceptive lines, recently bereaved vicar’s wife Grace sums up her life so far, “I’ve made four thousand six hundred medium-sized quiches and personally baked two tons of light crust pastry. And for what?” As she contemplates her life of devotion and duty, she wonders what the future holds and, unable to move on, talks to her dead husband Bardy who appears in his beloved garden mostly via the potting shed. ChrysTarr in this challenging role, made it all her own. This is a compliment in the wake of Penelope Keith, the original Grace, whose trademark voice I couldn’t help hearing during this production, almost as though the play had been written for her. I liked her spiky, no holds barred quality very much, and it was interesting to experience the empathy an audience can have with a character as divisive and angry as Grace is during her journey. It paid off when Grace finally found the strength to forgive and move on. Congratulations to director Adrian Bowd and Chrys Tarr for pulling this off.
The new female vicar Sarah arrives to view her home and reveals her own personal traumas to Grace’s daughter and struggles with whether she is ready to take up her first ministry. Kirrily Long was funny, touching and totally believable as Sarah who, having had an affair and abortion when newly married, subsequently learnt what real forgiveness meant from her husband.
Grace’s daughter Jo, a counsellor, is going through marital problems while being exasperated and upset by her mother’s bitterness as she mourns her father, Bardy. Lindsey Holledge whose work I enjoyed in Flarepath and Importance of Being Earnest is always watchable and truthful. She was a calm and convincing intermediary between the sibling madness of her mother and aunt while juggling her own grief and problems.
The return of Grace’s earthy missionary sister Ruth who lives in Africa and uses her faith in a very different world of ‘Aids, abortion and domestic carnage’, leads to the disturbing revelation that Ruth and Grace’s beloved husband Bardy had a brief liason which produced a son now 30 years old. As is later revealed, Grace finds this particularly upsetting as she miscarried a son around the same time. Dilly Barlow was perfectly cast as Ruth - quirky, warm and truthful with a playful, mischievous side - the perfect foil for her controlled sister Grace.
Graham Stapley had the perfect quality for Bardy, the English vicar, whose calm, spiritual, empathetic exterior is to the fore while he counsels his bereaved wife and helps her let go so he can (literally) leave his beloved garden. Graham’s talent for light comedy meant he served the script well. He also captured the confusion of a man who had struggled to do the right and Christian thing in his own personal life.
In reviews Entertaining Angels has been likened to Ayckbourn plays. Indeed it is a very cleverly constructed play with real heart, authenticity and lots of well written humour. It was clear that this play really resonated with the audience. A woman behind me was there for a second night running. Adrian Bowd and his cast brought out the themes of the piece as well as the intricacies of the relationships and did justice to the comic writing. I really enjoyed this production.