Love From A Stranger – March 2018

Experience: 8/10

By Frank Vosper, adapted from a short story by Agatha Christie

Directed by Lucy Bailey

Co-produced by Fiery Angel and Royal & Derngate Northampton

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Thursday 29th March 2018

Several surprises tonight. Firstly, this was an Agatha Christie story which I didn’t remember, so I was much more caught up in the suspense that I expected. Secondly, Lucy Bailey’s production had more tesnsion and was more gripping than I’d anticipated. We’d seen her version of Dial M For Murder some years ago, and really enjoyed the way she used the movement of the stage and a much looser set design to create a greater sense of suspense than usual, but although the set here was less balletic, with front and back sections simply sliding from side to side as needed, it didn’t get in the way of the performances, and allowed the tension to build. And finally, and even more surprising, was to find in our records that we saw a production of Love From A Stranger thirty years ago, at the Theatre Royal Brighton: safe to say, I have absolutely no recollection of that production at all.

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Gabriel – May 2017

Experience: 6/10

By Moira Buffini

Directed by Kate McGregor

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: 19th May 2017

It’s a good job Steve and I had already seen other plays by Moira Buffini which we enjoyed – if we had seen this one first we might not have booked for some of the others. Her inexperience shows in this, the first of her plays, through the underwritten characters, weak story and rather tepid ending. Some strong performances helped, as did some good humour, but the second half still dragged. Even making allowances for the fact that I was very tired after a hard week’s playgoing, I wouldn’t willingly watch this piece again. Steve got more out of this performance than I did, but not enough to raise the overall rating.

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Trespass – May 2017

Experience: 6/10

By Emlyn Williams

Directed by Patric Kearns

Company: Talking Scarlet

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Thursday 11th May 2017

The charms of an old-fashioned spooky play were lost on Guildford’s playgoers – tonight we were among only a few dozen who chose to spend their evening facing this stage. While this piece isn’t the best of its kind, and the production was towards the cheaper end of the spectrum, we found it enjoyable enough: perhaps a fuller auditorium would have given it more atmosphere, but maybe not.

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Guys And Dolls – February 2017

Experience: 8/10

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Based on the writing of Damon Runyon

Company: Guildford School of Acting

Directed by Samuel Wood

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: 23rd February 2017

It was lovely to attend a performance of Guys And Dolls again, and this performance by the talented students of the Guildford School of Acting was great fun and brilliantly performed. We sat front and centre (row C – to make room for the band) and enjoyed ourselves enormously, and we were not alone.

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The Merry Wives – May 2016

Experience: 9/10

By William Shakespeare (slightly adapted)

Directed by Barry Rutter

Company: Northern Broadsides

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud

Date: Wednesday 11th May 2016

We like Northern Broadsides’ no-nonsense approach to Shakespeare’s texts, so we weren’t bothered to find that this version of Merry Wives was no longer set in Windsor, but had been relocated to a country club a few miles outside Harrogate (information courtesy of a post-show chat with the cast). The costumes located the play in the 1920s (with some variations) and the set created a stylish yet simple space for all of the action, with little need to trundle lots of furniture on and off. There was a replica of a 1920s treadmill and three lovely examples of period bicycles, including a tandem, to add to the fun, and the few alterations to the text included the “old woman of Ilkley”, a perfectly acceptable substitution. Apart from that, the dialogue was as expected, and the performance fairly zinged along, with some lovely business to keep us entertained. A shame there were so few of us to enjoy the fun – the auditorium was about a third full – but hopefully they will get better attendances later in the week.

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Dear Lupin – May 2015

Experience: 7/10

By Roger Mortimer and Charlie Mortimer

Directed by Philip Franks

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Monday 18th May 2015

This was a sweet, humorous and occasionally moving story about the relationship between a real-life father and son. The son, Charles, was so wayward from an early age that his father Roger named him Lupin after the errant son in Diary Of A Nobody, though from this version of events it’s doubtful whether the original Lupin would have been able to keep up with Charles as he drank, smoked and snorted his way through his schooldays and beyond.

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And Then There Were None – April 2015

Experience: 7/10

By Agatha Christie

Directed by Joe Harmston

Agatha Christie Theatre Company

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Wednesday 1st April 2015

An excellent day to be seeing this thriller again, given the early suggestion that someone was playing a practical joke on the assembled guests at the isolated island retreat of Mr and Mrs U N Owen (unknown). Despite our familiarity with the plot, we rated this performance higher than the previous time we saw it – don’t know why that was – and with the same set and staging there’s little to comment on in terms of the production, but I will make a few notes just the same.

There was some stormy music playing quietly when we entered the auditorium, accompanied by the sound of waves crashing against rocks. When the curtain rose, a large chandelier was sitting centre stage, covered with a large cloth; the butler’s first task when he came on was to remove the cloth and use a push button on the left side wall to raise the chandelier up. This was the same control panel that the murderer uses at the end to lower the noose.

The ‘guests’ began arriving almost immediately. Marston, the arrogant boy racer, was very affected, whilst Davis, the apparent South African who turned into an English copper, was bluff and hearty. The judge said “when” before the soda siphon had even reached his whisky, which got a laugh, and I noticed this time that nobody could remember Davis’s name. The back of the secretary’s evening dress was very low-cut, and this infuriated Emily Brent, a self-righteous individual who took great delight in the divine punishment of people she didn’t like. The bitchiness between her and Vera Claythorne – the secretary – was very well done, as were the snide remarks by the housekeeper.

Some of the murderer’s actions were less clear this time round, but just as effective in reducing the population of the island, while the soldiers were being removed by whichever member of the cast was in the vicinity. Ben Nealon, a stalwart of this company, was making sure he could be heard in the back row, but as we were sitting right at the front, he was a bit too loud for my liking. I did spot some passing references to Christie’s other work, such as the doctor suggesting that another character may be an impostor, and again I was aware of how well this play has been put together. The auditorium was fairly full, and we gave them a good response at the end of the evening as well as providing lots of gasps and suchlike during the performance.

© 2015 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me