This was a fantastic performance. In contrast to their Macbeth earlier this year, this production worked brilliantly to bring out the story and the characters, and kept us riveted throughout. The rest of the audience enjoyed it too, and with many younger folk among us, it was a great showcase for Arthur Miller’s work as well as this company’s.
Tonight we sat directly opposite our previous seats, which not only gave us a great view of tonight’s performance, but also a completely different perspective. The cast had made good use of the extra practice, and all the performances had developed nicely; although there were still a few fluffs, nothing detracted from the marvellous energy and pace with which they drove this story along, and there were some lovely extra details here and there. Sadly, the house was not full, so clearly word has not yet got out about how wonderful this production is. I’m tempted to ask my maestro of the scheduling (aka Steve) to see if we can squeeze in another viewing during the tour, but one look at my diary – we have a LOT coming up – suggests that won’t be possible. Catch it if you can.
Adapted by Christopher Sergel from the novel by Harper Lee
Directed by Timothy Sheader
Company: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Date: Thursday 2nd July 2015
This was a fabulous performance, and I’m thrilled we got to see it. The style of presentation meant that it took about fifteen minutes for me to be fully engaged, but after that we had a blissful ride through one of the most intelligent and moving stories ever written. I sniffled, I cried, there was quite a lot of humour and even a gasp, not to mention tumultuous applause at the end. A great afternoon.
This was a fantastic introduction to both St Agnes Fountain and the Hailsham Pavilion, which is a delightful small theatre space with a good atmosphere and strong audience support. We have added it to our ‘check regularly’ list. The little stage was rather crowded, with Julie Matthews on keyboard (and occasional guitar) on the left, Chris While beside her on guitar and percussion, David Hughes next on guitar and Chris Leslie on the right with an assortment of instruments around him. Behind them were three banners each showing a ship, in the style of a stained glass window, and there was an abundance of tinsel everywhere that tinsel could safely be put as well as a string of ever-changing lights draped along the row of microphones. It would be hard to miss that this was a Christmas show.
This was a fantastic performance. The modern setting enriched the detailed characterisations while the set gave us the necessary locations without being too elaborate. We had one understudy on stage today: Robert Demeger was indisposed so Jonathan Dryden Taylor took his place as the Duke.
This was fantastic! The fiddle line-up consisted of Peter Knight, Garry Blakely, Ian Cutler, Brian McNeill, Phil Beer, Tom Leary and Chris Leslie. The rest of the band were the usual suspects – a great combo.
They started off with some tunes, then more tunes – sorry, they didn’t give us the names and I’m not that familiar with their repertoire – and then Hugh actually said hello to us. He mentioned the new CD Rise Above It (we’d already spotted it, and bought our copy) and after Lochanside to Maribor*, Garry did his solo spot: Sons Of The Soil*, with Peter, High and Brian doing the backing vocals. Garry then introduced Tom Leary, who arrived with Chris Leslie, and the trio then did three tunes, with Chris playing a woodwind instrument which had a lovely haunting sound. There was a minor problem with feedback, soon sorted, and they began again. One of the tunes was called Tartan Slippers.
Another excellent performance from all the cast, with even more detail and even more laughs. No changes to report on the set or staging, although I forgot to mention last time about the Rites Of Spring dance which Amanda did specifically to annoy Elyot during Act 2. She did the modernistic choreography very well, and we learned in the post-show that Amanda’s flat was in the same street where Diaghilev’s company performed, so the choice of music and dance was both deliberate and effective.
Anna-Louise Plowman was much more kittenish tonight as Sybil, while Anthony Calf gave Victor a wider range of emotions. Toby Stephens was clearer tonight, and delivered some great lines with impeccable timing, and his scenes with Anna Chancellor showed a greater intimacy between the two main characters. The fight was still good fun too. The whole evening was just about as good as you can get with this play.
From the post-show we learned that they had deliberately avoided doing Noel Coward impersonations, which led to the dialogue sounding very modern and fresh. The director had insisted on running acts one and two together, which meant the technical crew had to work very hard to change the set in less than one minute! The cast had all contributed to the creation of each character, and had done a lot of work on the back stories too, including how they would have got to Deauville, how the cars would have been lifted off the ferry, etc. They weren’t expected to know their lines in advance – Jonathan Kent is apparently very good at creating a relaxed rehearsal room – but Anna Chancellor found that when the scene was right, the memorising would happen, not before. There were no understudies for this run – they just had to go on, which led to some stories from other productions where substitute actors had to read a part. Apparently Jonathan Kent had to go on for a missing actor during The Tempest at the Almeida, reading from the script. (You might think that would have taught him to cast understudies in the future, but obviously not.) The cast seemed to be having a good time with this production, and from the numbers staying behind tonight they were clearly doing a good job.