Performed 3rd – 8th April 2017 by Cleadon Village Drama Club
Summer End by Eric Chappell
Extracts from Bob Lawson’s personal view
As most of the audience are hardly in the first flush of youth, they can appreciate and feel some empathy with at least one character as portrayed.
Producing and directing a play is a hazardous business, so it gives me great pleasure in saying that Sonia McDonnell in her first attempt at directing has done a very worthwhile job. Whilst she has had very able assistance from Bill Dodds, the final responsibility has been hers. The Cleadon stage is very small and to accommodate two beds and room for other furniture, including a wheelchair, into that area, must have been a director’s nightmare!
The stage crew have done a very good job in building everything needed and, helped by their efforts, have created an authentic room in an old people’s care home.
The newcomer to the Cleadon stage, Philip Holland as Alan, fitted in well, and looked every inch a policeman. I look forward to seeing him in more demanding parts in future. Gillian Crossley as Mrs Lang takes this kind of role with the consummate ease of an experienced actress. Her metamorphosis from smooth trouble shooting manager to greedy villain was every bit a key ingredient of the climax. Jessica Henderson is serving her apprenticeship on the Cleadon stage very well. As Sally, she was the Aunt Sally of the play, having to bear all the recriminations when things either went wrong or were not to others’ liking.
Now to the two main players. I have left them until last because their two characters and the way they were played are the rocks upon which the play depends. It must be said that Pat Thompson as May and Kathleen Dodds as Emily were both an absolute delight. I am sure that no amateur theatre in the North could have bettered these two performances and I speak as one who has seen hundreds of plays in amateur theatres. One of the key aspects of the show was in the first half of the first act when only the two principals were speaking. The timbre of their voices was a harmony in itself regardless of what was being said, one higher pitched one mature and deeper; one so well attuned to the relentless pessimism of Emily and the other to the much more caring May.
Pat Thompson has been a stalwart of Cleadon for many years and recently has only taken lesser parts, but here she has taken a big role which must have taken a great deal of physical and mental effort. It was a joy to see all the old skill being shown for all to see. I especially liked the part when she was displaying her feelings at the neglect of her son and his family.
Kathleen Dodds, since her renaissance on the Cleadon stage, has taken a number of major roles but none have been printed on my memory as strongly as this one has been. Emily’s acerbic tongue was straight from acquaintances which many of the audience will recognise! Eric Chappell must have heard these tones and sentiments in the old people’s homes when he researched the play! The audience loved the dry humour of the piece as well as the setting which must be familiar to many.
All those associated with the production of the play must be congratulated on offering such a course which must surely be ranked as one of the best of recent years. It is certain that the audience went homeward with that feeling of satisfaction at such a dish being offered by such a minute cookhouse in such a small refectory.