Paul Johnson | 07 Nov 2012 17:51pm
The Anniversary is something of a paradox – it is a play that relies on the most unlikely of premises and stretches belief and credibility in its outline, but at the same time affords the opportunity of well drawn and distinctive performances to all the cast of 6, with marked differences in all characters. To expand on the credibility aspect, it is somewhat hard to believe that adult mature family members would have accepted the regular volleys of bile, insults and offensive attitude thrown at them by the central character, the domineering Mum (she is never referred to by name) for so long without reaching an impasse, even given that Mum holds some trump cards in her continued oppression and dominance of all family members. It is thus to the credit of Epsom Players that they transcended the basic shortcoming of Bill Macilwraith’s play to present a fine evening of drama with well-judged performances and in the main believable characters. The play was originally written in the 1960s and made into a film shortly thereafter – this society staged a production of the piece in 1977! – and the director Paul Falconer elected to pitch the play in its original period which gave rise to period clothing and hairstyles, all browns, aubergines, floral patterns and back combed and swirled hair – the look was authentic and plaudits are due to Laura Falconer and Melissa Fox in charge of costumes and props. I did feel that by updating the period the awkward sounding line relating to buying a house for £12,000.00 could have been avoided and made more credible with a realistic figure as the play need not be set in that time – but this is a very minor point. The Myers Studio within Epsom Playhouse is intimate but miniscule – from an audience viewpoint the staging is not fully satisfactory as the sight lines are not necessarily clear if you are more than two rows back – I wonder if a central setting for the stage affording theatre in the round look is possible – it would have enhanced the production here, especially as the essential placing of a settee at centre stage robs the set of any feeling of space – the actors looked at times cramped in their possibilities for movement. The text revolves around the domineering matriarchal Mum – mother to the three brothers all of whom work in the family building business, ruthlessly controlled by Mum and all with their own agenda – the youngest, Tom, eager to assert his independence and freedom from the shackles of Mum by announcing his engagement, Terry the middle brother looking to pluck up the courage to tell Mum of his soon to be effected migration to Canada, and eldest brother Henry a gentle transvestite. I could not fault Sandra Grant’s reading of Mum – a lovely performance, all snarls, waspish observations and manipulations, looking faithful to the period with hair piled high and back, and a glamorous classy outfits to complement her standing and superiority. Sandra upped the emotion level a few notches at key points in the text in a very effective and skillful fashion to give the play added punch where appropriate. Melanie Beggs was suitably chippy and patiently sarcastic and caustic as the daughter in law on the receiving end of many of Mum’s barbs – and as mentioned earlier looked great in a mini dress in the style and colours of the period. In the scene where it seems possible that Karen’s children have been hurt or worse in a car accident, Melanie’s anguished reaction and wailing gave resonance and power to the exchanges. As the youngest and most irreverent of the brothers, Tom, Toby Jones gave a well judged portrayal of a cheeky young man and came across as very believable;I also liked his execution of a change in mood and persona when becoming in turn exasperated by his mother and then his fiancée Shirley. Chris Goldhawk had quite properly elected to play Terry, the would-be Canada emigrant, in a cowed low key fashion in the shadow and overall influence of his mother. As such it was a neat performance but a touch too low key I felt – we needed to see his anguish and dilemmas and divided loyalties as the play progressed rather than melting ever more into the wall paper. Similarly Steve Cox as the elder brother had elected to drift through the piece as a benign and gentle presence whose persona contrasted fully with the essential oddness driving his life; I feel he would not have been quite so divorced from the drama swirling turbulently all around him and that we would have perceived in his character a little of the strangeness of the man which discomforted Karen so. So all in all a finely worked production with congratulations to the 6 actors, to Paul Falconer for direction and all concerned back of house whose sterling efforts underpin the whole production in a vital way.
- : admin
- : 03/11/2012