Review of Summer End by Bob Lawson

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.

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Summer End – Photographs

Here is a selection of photographs courtesy of ID Event Photography:

Summer End, Little Theatre Cleadon dress rehearsal

To see the complete set of photographs click here:

Review of Natural Causes by Bob Lawson

22nd June 2014 Cleadon Village Drama Club

Natural Causes by Eric Chappell

Bob Lawson’s personal view:

Recently there has been some controversy on TV news programmes and in the press about the possible recommendations of the Independent Commission on Assisted Dying. This seems to be a strange sentence to begin a report on this play, but it does have some relevance. The play is a black comedy, but in fact it is much more a farce. As such it is to be expected that at least the playing of some characters must be OTT.

Exodus purports to be an organisation that, as a service, will arrange death for a person wishing to die. Walter Bryce engages Exodus to perform this service for his depressive wife. Vincent is the agent who arrives at the Bryces’ country cottage with the poison to perform the deadly service. Walter is only too keen to have his wife dispatched discretely so he can continue his affair with Angie, his much younger and very attractive secretary. Thereafter the play shows confusion after confusion as all the characters find themselves close to supping a drink which contains the poison. Into the mix comes Withers from the Samaritans, who blunders his way into the proceedings producing mayhem where only confusion reigned.

Frank Ditchburn plays Exodus agent whose manner changes from bluff carefulness to nasty blackmail as he realises the real idea behind his visit. Frank’s long experience on the stage comes to the fore as his character clearly shows his lack of true education, with the oft repeated line about his only leaving school at sixteen being almost unnecessary. Frank dominates the stage whenever he appears but his skill is such that he gives the other players room to play their parts effectively.

The part of Walter Bryce is the most important one in the play and Ian Reah gives the audience full value for its money with a no hold barred array of histrionics as he ranges from delight with prospect of going to Montego Bay with his lady love, to being terrified at the prospect of death with his wife.

Nicola Michelle Airey acts the part of Angie with the confidence of a seasoned performer. Her’s is really the only straight part in the play. With her looks and ability she will be an asset to Cleadon Drama for many years to come. I look forward to seeing her in a much more demanding part.

Gillian Crossley always looks on stage as if she is really enjoying playing her part. As Celia Bryce, Walter’s depressive wife, Gillian looks just a little cheerful in the role except of course near the end when her husband’s real affections are exposed. But it’s always a joy to see Gillian playing on the Cleadon stage, whatever her role may be.

Withers, the Samaritan, was played by Chris Bradley. That touch of manic enthusiasm which the role demanded, Chris caught exactly right. His attempts to persuade any character away from suicide were some of the finest moments in the play. Well Done.

The audience seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the play, responding to the many funny situations, innuendos and wise cracks.

Corinne Kilvington has done a great job in directing the piece. I hope we see her many times in the future. The rest of the support staff may feel well pleased with themselves for a sleek production with no apparent mistakes on or off stage.

Natural Causes Starts Monday 16th June at 7.30

The upcoming  June production is Natural Causes by Eric Chappell.

A dark comedy acclaimed by the national press at its premier in 1984 as a highly original comedy thriller, full of mistaken identities, hilarious consequences and some great laughs.

Nicola Michelle Airey, Chris Bradley, Gill Crossley, Frank Ditchburn and Ian Reah star in our last play of the  season directed by Corinne Kilvington.

Click on images (courtesy of Craig McNair):