24th March 2014 Cleadon Village Drama Club.
Lettice and Lovage by Peter Schaffer
Bob Lawson’s personal view.
I had seen two versions of this play, both professionally produced. I was not keen on the play as presented by either of the versions. It appeared to be wordy, long winded and without the humour promised in the publicity. Yet here we are with an amateur production by a small village company in a tiny theatre conjuring a mini-masterpiece which enraptured the audience. Whence the incredible difference? There are several very cogent reasons.
Firstly the director had to have a very clear vision of what he wanted in every facet of the production. Quite clearly Bill Dodds had this vision and it was realised by a very talented group of actors and the stage crew. The playing of the piece in the round helped in many ways in spite of the inherent difficulties of this form of presentation. Inevitably masking occurs much more than it would in a proscenium production, but this can be weakened by the actors never staying in one position for too long and yet must never wander aimlessly round the playing area. This was achieved with careful direction and the skill of the actors. The result being that all the audience could see clearly where everyone was positioned, especially when an actor was speaking.
The second reason that the show was so good was the sheer skill of the four main actors. Sonia McDonnell as Lettice was a delight. She obviously loved the part she was asked to play and it came across to every one just how much she was enjoying being on stage. She must have put an enormous amount of time in learning the lines, the movements and the expressions of face and body; but what a dividend this work paid in audience reaction. I look forward to seeing a very different Sonia in the next play she is in. Will I always see in future performances echoes of Lettice ? A wonderful portrayal of an imaginative but self centred woman, thank you Sonia.
Denise Wilson seemed on her first appearance to have an easy part to play as Lottie, the representative of the Trust who own Fustian Hall. Lottie is a real ‘jobsworth’, without imagination and understanding. But once Lottie falls under the spell of Lettice then we see a very different lady and Denise shows just what a very fine actress is. The scenes when Lettice & Lottie speak and react to each other show just how good amateur actors can become. They are a delight to anyone who likes to witness good actors whatever the roles they are asked to play.
What is a cameo on the stage ? To me it is a small part in a drama that leaves a vivid memory. Doreen Shannon as the shy, browbeaten Miss Framer leaves such a memory. A real cameo that evokes sympathy and humour together from the audience.
The other main character was Mr. Bardolph (echoes of Falstaff)the solicitor, played by Stan Dix. He was, to begin with, the voice of common sense allied to a thorough down-to- earthiness. As his interview with Lettice crept on his exasperation grew. Stan was just the man for the job. He looked right and his voice was spot on. When he too fell under the spell of Lettice, the funniest sequence of the play was to enfold. Never has a drum beat and roll been as humorous. I look forward to seeing Stan in bigger roles in future plays.
Mention must be made of the crowd of players needed in the first act. How all eight must have enjoyed trying to disguise themselves for each brief, but so necessary, appearance. I hope the three newcomers caught the acting bug, a bug that has no cure.
The stage crew dressed in black made all the needed changes seamlessly and deserve a mention for their efficiency. Where all the props and costumes were hidden in the small off stage areas, I do not know. The costumes played their part in the production and a real appreciation is awarded to all involved in their procurement.
A most enjoyable evening that should go down in the annals of CVDC as an outstanding success. I feel sorry for the many people who have not had the good fortune to obtain tickets. Norma Chapman must have had a busy, even harrowing time dealing with disappointed enquiries ! Well done everyone who has had anything to do with the production.
Bob Lawson, 26th March 2014.