Humble Boy – March 2018

Experience: 8/10

By Charlotte Jones

Directed by Paul Miller

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 29th March 2018

It was good to see such a strong production here again, after our last visit. The set was good, the performances very good and we enjoyed ourselves very much. The only downside for me was that I’m currently waiting for an appointment to get my ears syringed – until that happens everything is a bit muffled. But in such a small space, and with such skilled actors, that wasn’t a problem today. I may have missed the occasional word, but that’s normal.

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Out Of Love – February 2018

Experience: 4/10

By Elinor Cook

Directed by James Grieve

Company: Orange Tree/Paines Plough/Theatre Clwyd

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th February 2018

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. My comments at the start of Black Mountain apply equally to this piece, another co-production which bored me rigid. Same set, same cast (who did another good job), similar lack of anything interesting or new: this time I did manage to nod off. Steve stayed awake, and would have rated this play higher than me, but only 5/10.

The play concerns the relationship between two women, Lorna and Grace. Again, there were lots of short scenes which flicked rapidly forwards and backwards in time, and involved the actors playing not only older and younger versions of their main characters, but other characters as well. In this, the cast did a great job: we were always aware of who they were and roughly when they were. To be fair, the writing did help with this, but the bulk of the credit must go to the actors, who were wearing the same costumes throughout the seventy minutes. (Not the same ones as for Black Mountain, but also modern dress.) The performance style was the same as Black Mountain, and although there was more physical contact, they mainly stood and talked to each other, creating a very low energy level.

One of the girls gets pregnant, the other goes off to have a career. Their relationship is strained, but rumbles on. (I can feel myself falling asleep as I type.) Steve summed up both plays with two words – singer/songwriter. We’ve found that most singer/songwriters tend to write about their own adolescent experience, and unless they make a real effort to grow up, their songs tend to be depressingly similar and of little interest to sixty-somethings. These plays felt like that: reasonably well written in some ways, but lacking any depth of imagination, ideas or characterisation. Not our favourite day at the Orange Tree.

© 2018 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Black Mountain – February 2018

Experience: 5/10

Written by Brad Birch

Directed by James Grieve

Company: Orange Tree/Paines Plough/Theatre Clwyd

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 15th February 2018

Steve and I take the view that it’s important to support new writing, but that sitting through it can be a bit hit-and-miss. We console ourselves with the thought that the less good plays are a kind of necessary payment for the better ones. After today, we’re well in credit. Much as we like the Orange Tree and its work, this co-production left a lot to be desired. The actors, as usual, did a decent job with the scripts they were given, and the audience in general seemed to appreciate the performance well enough. We found it rather banal, with little of interest in either the relationships or the ideas.

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The Distance – December 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Deborah Bruce

Directed by Charlotte Gwinner

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 3rd December 2015

We missed this first time around – I forget why – so it was great to have another opportunity to catch it. We were even more delighted after seeing the performance, as this is an excellent play, which manages to be both funny and moving as well as raising issues rarely, if ever, mentioned in public, never mind on stage. A great spot by Paul Miller, the Orange Tree’s artistic director, who told us he’d been amazed that no other theatre had picked it up – their loss is the Orange Tree’s gain.

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Widowers’ Houses – January 2015

Experience: 7/10

By George Bernard Shaw

Directed by Paul Miller

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Thursday 8th January 2015

First of the year, and it’s another good start at the Orange Tree. We learned from the post-show that this was Shaw’s first play and while it certainly isn’t his finest work, there was a lot to like. Sadly, the theme of slum landlords is still relevant today.

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Fred And Mary – January 2014

Experience: 8/10

Adapted by Geoffrey Beevers from the novel by George Eliot

Directed by Geoffrey Beevers

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Wednesday 8th January 2014

Seasoned veterans now, we took our seats for this third part of The Middlemarch Trilogy with keen anticipation. Many in the audience were familiar to us now, as were most of the characters, though there were some new folk to get to know as well, both on stage and off. The set looked very familiar too; the yew boles were back in the left corner and there were apples in the leafy branches above. A climbing rose adorned the far corner instead of the bookcase and the furniture was set up for the Vincy’s drawing room. The props under the stools had changed, of course, and I thought I spotted a wig under one near us. We were by the far corner today, so we had another change of perspective but were still close to the action.

The play began with much the same narrated introduction as the other two – hopefully the text will be published some time – telling us about the changes that were happening around that time, the railways and so forth. Then we were in to the breakfast scene where Fred Vincy and his sister Rosamund bickered for a while before going to visit their uncle Mr Featherstone, an invalid who was expected to die soon and leave his estate to Fred. There were other relatives who were lurking in the wings, keen to see the old man’s money and lands come their way, but things didn’t work out as anyone had intended or hoped.

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The Doctor’s Story – January 2014

Experience: 8/10

Adapted by Geoffrey Beevers from the novel by George Eliot

Directed by Geoffrey Beevers

Venue: Orange Tree Theatre

Date: Tuesday 7th January 2014

This eagerly awaited second part of The Middlemarch Trilogy was just as good as the first. It wasn’t quite as funny, and the storyline might well have been harder to follow for anyone who hadn’t already seen Dorothea’s Story, but the afternoon was still very entertaining and the insights into a different set of characters were just as perceptive and witty as before. We were very relieved to learn the truth about the death of Mr Raffles – we had some concerns about the doctor’s involvement after yesterday – and the play ended just as happily, with the details of the Lydgate’s subsequent good fortune and successful marriage.

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