Paul Johnson | 09 May 2012 21:29pm
Grossing over £2 million during two UK tours, one can see why a society might enter Entertaining Angels into not one, but two drama festivals. This seemingly gentle comedy runs deeper than the stream it is set around and offers the actors a good opportunity to explore a range of feelings. And scenarios. As a vicar’s wife, Grace has spent a lifetime on her best behaviour. Now, after the death of her husband Bardolph, she can enjoy the new-found freedom of being able to do and say exactly what she wants. But the return of her eccentric missionary sister, Ruth, together with some disturbing revelations forces Grace to confront the truth of her marriage. Religion and comedy are not unhappy bed-fellows – The Vicar of Dibley, Father Ted, Rev to name a few. There is something cheekily appealing about testing the boundaries of convention and belief. Something this play has in abundance. As ever, I would not want to give away too much but there are a few twists along the way and these provide the ‘entertaining’ of these often sepulchral bunch. With a somewhat small cast of five, your attention remains focused on the characters and the stories they have to tell. Female heavy, Robert Dilks provided the only male character. Quietly popping out from his potting shed ‘Bardolph’ appears before his wife ‘Grace’ (Alison Bradshaw). Their scenes by the stream, cleverly lit differently to represent an air of ‘memory’. The other three ladies form a close bond, nicely played by Sue Court (‘Ruth’), Angela Wood (‘Jo’) and Natalie Jones (‘Sarah’). Murmurs of constricted playing space were uttered as the ladies clambered to sit around the bistro table, but one could argue it represented the subliminal oppression felt by some of the characters. Probably just lack of space but let’s be optimistic as it did not bother me that much. There was also the question of ‘how’ the characters were directed. Previous productions apparently had chosen a different angle for some of them, their personalities portrayed differently. Not having seen this piece before, it would be churlish to make comparisons but I did feel ‘Grace’ and ‘Jo’ could have been more a touch more authoritative. As the Vicar’s wife, she surely would have been more forthright and in charge of the situation, no matter how she might have felt inside. My final word must be for the set. I have never seen a set by the Hayes Players that has disappointed. There is always great attention to detail, an impressive feat especially considering the relatively short run. The church window, the secluded waterside hide-out. The various scenes that were needed were amply provided for and as ever, a delight to gaze upon. Plaudits to Mike Ashman. Hopefully the Bromley Theatre Guild and Kent Drama Association Festivals marks will be in their favour!
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- : 26/04/2012