Preceded by extracts from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
We were all immensely disappointed not to be presenting Blood Brothers as previously planned. However this is an occasion when an opportunity is presented through a black hole appearing to re-discover what a wonderful community the Lewes Theatre Club is.
When I announced to the cast and crew that we could not produce the show but I was offering an alternative virtually everyone said “right, the show must go on...what next”?
So we are offering an evening of Tom Stoppard for your enjoyment. The two plays featured will be the hilarious The Real Inspector Hound, in its entirety. This will be preceded by extracts from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Stoppard’s first professionally produced play, now 40 years old but with its humour and philosophy firmly intact.
There have been so many notes and calls of support and empathy from friends and members that we are confident that the production will be a major success, all we need now is for members to show their support and buy tickets. We promise to entertain you and also maybe provoke you a little.
The wonderful cast list includes well established favourites, John Whitley, Michael Bloom, Dudley Ward, Meg Depla Lake, Derek Watts, Lyndsey Meer and Paul Myles and exciting new comers, Phil Dunn, James Firth-Haydon, Lisa Bealby and Paul Wilkinson.
Director Victoria Thompson gave us a most enjoyable evening with aspects of Stoppard’s themes being explored in the two pieces - philosophical comedy and country house murder mystery parody. It was funny, engaging and thought provoking.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was a curtain raiser and served well to whet our appetite for the evening with bravura performances from Philip Dunn and James Firth-Haydon. Their duologues were one of the high points, revealing skilful timing and characterisation. Philip’s Rosencrantz (or was it Guildenstern?) was suitably puzzled and submissive whilst James as Guildenstern exuded the authoritarian confidence of one trapped in a world of intrigue fighting to survive. Dudley Ward, as the player, portrayed the character as a lost soul – penniless and without an audience. Dudley was at his best in his long monologues in which he captured the frustration and desperation of the player king. The costumes were appropriately Shakespearian. Set in front of the tabs, the play was cleverly lit to portray a range of times and atmospheres.
After the interval the critic Birdboot, (John Whitley) took his seat in the audience on the stage. The scenery was simple but effective and was skilfully painted by Arthur and Hannah Thompson in such a way that the audience was looking out at us. The second critic, Moon (Michael Bloom), joined Birdboot on the stage and the action began – with a pause. John, as the second string critic, was a master of the convoluted language of criticism whilst at the same time displaying paranoia about his role as stand in. Michael was excellent in displaying the double standards of the confirmed lecher who rationalised his behaviour with aplomb.
It was when the critics became involved in the action of the play within a play that the actors were superb at showing the ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ effect created by one of Stoppard’s classic moments where one critic answers a persistent ringing phone on stage only to find it is for his colleague, who gets up to answer it! The plot thickens!
Meg Depla Lake, as Mrs Drudge, the daily, was a tour de force, her characterisation so different from her normal persona that I didn’t recognise her. The caricature was fully realised but a little over the top. She was hilariously funny and her timing and reactions were excellent. Simon was played with heroic nonchalance by talented newcomer to Lewes, James Firth-Haydon. As the caddish lover of both of the women in the play he was suitably handsome and shifty. Lyndsey Meer’s Felicity was a nicely judged portrayal of a young lady of the sixties and she was beautifully dressed. Her rival, Cynthia, the lady of the house, played by Lisa Bealby, another talented newcomer, was most attractively dressed in a sixties frock. The critic, Birdboot, understandably exclaimed when she first appeared, 'Christ! Who is that?'
Derek Watts was suitably old bufferish as the wheelchair confined Magnus and made the most of his minor but important role in the action before revealing himself as ‘the real Inspector Hound.’ Paul Myles presented his Inspector Hound role with a good range of styles from assured control to frustrated bewilderment. The dead body was played by Paul Wilkinson with complete immobility – he deserved his round of applause.
Stoppard’s writing is so good that the director and actors can only hope to do it justice and in this production they succeeded admirably.