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.

Review of Ladies’ Day by Bob Lawson

12th November 2016 Cleadon Village Drama Club

Ladies’ Day by Amanda Whittington

Extracts from Bob Lawson’s personal view

Four fish packers from Hull decide to attend Ladies’ Day. The play itself has little relevance to racing, the drama coming mainly from the lives of the lowly four ladies. The play works best when there are only two actors on the open stage. One of the great pleasures of viewing on the open stage is the ability to be very close to the actors. One of the snags is the strong possibility of at least some of the players being masked by some of the audience, especially when more than two actors are on stage at the same time. In this play it is very evident when four or five players are on simultaneously. Bill, the Director, minimises these snags by getting the players to face different parts of the audience whenever possible without detracting from the flow of the play.

There are five male acting parts in this piece, all played by Dave Beston. Only an experienced actor can hope to get away with this as it calls for different accents, different body alignments, and different costumes. So Dave gives a mini master class in how to achieve this; I am sure that some of the audience who did not have a programme didn’t realise at first that only one actor was involved.

My favourite amongst Dave’s roles was his penultimate one, that of Barry the erstwhile lover. This low key vignette with Helen Irving was one of the most moving of the play.

Each of the lady actors had at least one chance to shine and show their skills. Jan, played by Doreen Shannon, was lovely as she milked the audiences sympathy for her toil stained life putting her daughter’s needs way above her own. Even her secret love for Joe was well portrayed.

Gemma Louise Crossley leapt out of her chrysalis as the annoyed fish packer into the beauty she really is as Shelley, the girl with ambitions for her attractiveness. The openings for her ambitions seemed doomed to failure until the finale? Gemma certainly looked and portrayed her role exactly and expertly.

Pearl, played by Helen Irving, took to her role with confidence and aplomb, dominating the stage whenever she was on. Her vignette with Jan was a fine piece of acting as she confessed on having a lover and how much he meant to her and how much she was disappointed when he failed to turn up. Then there was that lovely short scene with Barry, which as has already been mentioned, was a highlight of the play. Very well done Helen.

I’ve left Neeta Dulai’s performance to the last, not because she was least in a firmament of stars, because for a newcomer she’s become quite a supernova! As Linda, Neeta gave a really good, feeling performance. The way she showed the audience how bleak her life was with an unloving sponging mother who takes her meagre resources, was the emotional highlight of the play. Whenever Neeta was on stage her concentration was absolute (how to act without saying a word!). A lovely scene with the jockey was another joy. What a fine career in prospect on the Cleadon stage for Neeta.

I appreciate all the hard work done by Bill Dodds in directing this play, so many minor things to bear in mind such as the choice of music, the costumes, drilling the costume changes and so on, what a task.

Well done everybody.