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Plays /Productions

Hi Jinx production

The Adventures of Sancho Panza

review by Evelyn Richardson.

Ten Times Table

by Alan Aykbourn

review by Judith Crompton

Priestley at Theatr Fach

review  by by Ben Ridler

Snow White and Ye Seven Pirates

by David Walker

From Here to Absurdity

Very Hard Times

Cambrian New s Review

Ladies in retirement by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham

Cinderella  Adaptation by Sally Kirkham

The Visit and The Prize by Chrissy Moore-Haines

Match for  Alan John

Drowning Fish Productions

"I'm on the train"

Oz by Chrissy Moore-Haines

Duggie Chapman

The Other Woman by Paul Swift

The Long Way Home by Charles Way

Poetry & Prose Reviews

'The Many Faces of Love

'Our Christmas Card'.

The Unfurling of my Love

Births, Deaths and Marriages

Laughter and Tears (Postponed until August

More Scriblings from the Pen Pals

The Spirit of Christmas

Nostalgia Isn’t What it Used to B

 the Seven Deadly Sins

 Wealth & Poverty

 Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea

 Telling Tales

 Poetry in Motion – the Rhythms of Life

  Remembrance of things past (November Poetry & Prose)

 Food Glorious Food

 Education, Education, Education

 All Creatures Great and Small

 Let's face the music and dance

 Water, water everywhere

 Curiouser & Curiouser

 For Harry & St. George,

A night to remember

 This   thing called love

Your Favourite Poems (January Poetry & Prose)


 All reviews are written by society members who attended the productions reviewed and contain the opinions of those members. If you would like to submit a review for the theatr fach website please write your review in 500 words maximum and submit it, with your name and e-mail address, by e-mail to:-  subject line; reviews plus the title of the production and the date you attended and your review will be published here.

The Reviewers are

Debbie Ashton

John Bond


Bronwen Dorling

Brenda Gibbons

Chrissy Moore-Haines

Dai Morgan

Richard Paramor

Ben Ridler

Richard Withers

Ruth Owen


Judith Compton


Evelyn Richardson

 The Adventures Of Sancho Panza

By Evelyn Richardson

Performed by the HIJINX THEATRE on 10th October 2012

It was good to see the Theatre Fach almost full for this production, a chance for those of us who live in out-of- the-way places to see new and challenging theatre. Hijinx have performed before in Dolgellau, but for some reason I missed them. However I will try to ensure that their next visit is highlighted on mycalendar.

Miguel de Cervantes' novel whose full title is "The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha" is huge, published between1605 and 1615, and is regularly named as amongst the greatest works of fiction ever published. I must confess that I have never read it, though many of us who haven't will be aware of the word 'quixotic', which is now part of our vocabulary and means either 'extravagantly and romantically chivalrous', 'pursuing lofty but unattainable ideals', and what I think is its most common application, 'ridiculously impractical, preposterous, foolhardy.'

The play looks at the story from the point of view of Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's servant who is recruited to attend him on his attempts to revive the ancient chivalries. The action begins in the present day but swiftly moves to the time of the book, and reenacts some of the quixotic adventures, such as tilting at windmills, traveling far and wide, fighting

lions and defending the name and honour of Don Quixote's lady love.

It is made instantly apparent that Sancho is more grounded than his master, but cheerfully follows him in the expectation of becoming a ruler of an island. However, when he doesachieve this lofty role he finds its restrictions cumbersome and wisely rejects it for such creature comforts as a glass of red wine and a burger. That very briefly is the story.

Now those of you familiar with Theatr Fach know the stage is small and restricted; this didn't deter the actors who, with the minimum of props and scenery, were clambering over mountains, trudging across deserts, fording streams and hiding in caves. Much ingenuity was used, so we had a double bass being used to depict a horse, a ukelele was Sancho's lowly donkey, tables and chairs became mountains and a seemingly endless supply of paper became practically everything else. It is amazing how quickly one can be transported into a different world by the simplest of devices.The actors had no difficulty in bringing the characters to life in words, song and music showing an wide diversity of talent; they even got us singing after a rather bizarre vocal warm up session. I must say that our contribution nowhere near matched the talents of the actors.

The ensemble acting worked well, the lone female doubling as stage hand with one or twoasides to the audience about how put upon shewas.

The actors playing Sancho and Don Quixote looked uncannily like the familiar illustration from the book, a tall thin Don and short sturdy Sancho; the other three provided a wide variety of supporting roles to further the plot.

The play was quite complex in the respect that it encompassed three time zones, the distant past as told in the book, the modern home life of the young Sancho and the actual time in the theatre when the audience were involved. It is amazing that we were guided through those times without losing or interrupting the flow of the play.

The play also seemed to have three themes: books, fantasy and dreams.

Books figured largely, in fact the set contained many piles of books which during the play became stepping stones, birds leading or accompanying the actors. Early on in the action Sancho retrieves a hidden book which his mother seems to have banned him from reading, and this is the key to the dream fantasy sequence when he becomes Don Quixote's squire.

To me the play works on several levels, at the same time being entertaining both aurally and visually and also putting forward thought provoking themes. Many excellent plays do the former quite easily but don't challenge the audience to think deeper than the obvious story line. Plays which stimulate us to consider other things challenge us to consider our assumptions about aspects of life and develop us as well; they are not just an interesting spectacle for an evening's entertainment.

Hijinx are a company who work extensively with people with learning difficulties, that two of the actors were obviously challenged in this way but enthralled us with their skilled, sensitive acting performances, every bit equal to the performances of the other actors shouldn't come as a surprise but once again challenges us to look at our own pre-conceived perceptions of people with learning difficulties in the same way as the para-olympics did in the summer. The actors were very ably supported by excellent lighting and sound effects; these, plus some scary puppets, enhanced the mood and action of the play.

Congratulations and thanks to all who were instrumental in bringing this play to Dolgellau; a most entertaining and thought provoking evening.




Ten Times Table

By Judith Crompton

Alan Ayckbourn's gift for exploiting the humour within the commonplace is evident throughout his work, and 'Ten Times Table' is no exception. First staged in 1977, its plot concerns a group of committee members in the fictional town of Pendon who plan a pageant, re-enacting the 200 year old massacre of the 'Pendon Twelve', local farmworkers led by Jonathan Cockle and William Brunt, who demanded higher wages and paid with their lives. All seems to begin amicably enough, but cracks soon start to penetrate the veneer of middle-class respectability as prejudices rise to the surface.

This production by D.A.D.S. at Theatr Fach, Dolgellau ran from Wednesday October 17th to Saturday 20th October. 'Ten Times Table' is not the easiest of plays to perform, as the majority of the action takes place in the committee room, and is followed by a descent into complete mayhem on the day of the pageant. In the wrong hands, this could be a recipe for disaster - among any audience, there must be many who can recall sitting frustratedly through over-long, monotonous meetings where even a matter as trivial as setting the date of the next meeting is fraught with difficulties. However, under the skilful direction of director Julian Jones, armed with a strong cast, Ayckbourn's witty dialogue is brought to life.

From the start, events conspire to disrupt the proceedings. Some are extraneous - lights are switched off without warning, plunging the committee room into sudden darkness, and carpet-layers threaten to drown out discussion with their hammering. Meanwhile, the various acutely-observed characters begin to emerge, as do their tensions, problems and disagreements. No-one escapes Ayckbourn's satirical eye, although the humour is gently mocking, rather than unkind. The orderly, conventional world of the chairman, Ray (played with expert comic timing by Richard Withers), is soon disrupted, goading him into uncharacteristic and hilarious outbursts of indignation. Donald, played with just the right amount of straight-faced earnestness by Ifor Davies, is a stickler for the formalities, despite the somewhat disconcerting presence of his elderly (and ostensibly deaf) mother, Audrey - a delightful performance by Ruth Nicholls. The moody Marxist Eric, convincingly played by David Walker, sees his chance to resurrect the revolutionary leader, Jon Cockle, as a mouthpiece for his rhetoric. He quickly antagonises the snobbish Helen, whose disapproving eye is firmly focused on the shortcomings of the other members and on the world in general. Christine Jones brings to the role a delicacy of touch which prevents it becoming mere parody. Beneath the absurdity of these characters lies pathos - we sense their underlying vulnerability. The increasingly intoxicated Lawrence, for example, is wrestling with the collapse of his marriage. No longer able to find much sense in the world around him, he must come to terms with his loneliness. Equally fragile is the gentle, romantic Sophie who falls for Eric, only to be abandoned, not for the first time, it appears - sensitive performances by John Bond and Jacki Evans respectively. Newcomer Vaughan Davies succeeded admirably in his portrayal of the vague and troubled Tim, who metamorphoses into a half-crazed militarist on the day of the pageant: ('Anyone wearing a jerkin - clout him!') Sally Lister's debut performance as the mousy, perpetually stitching Philippa was a delight, while Gareth Pugh put in a brief but memorable appearance as Max Kirkov.

Passions simmer, then erupt, and the growing division between the committee members results in the formation of two rival factions.

The ill-fated pageant day becomes a microcosmic Civil War. The cast coped extremely well with the riotous simultaneous action of this challenging scene, and provided lasting memories of some of the funniest moments of the whole production. Among them was the sight of Lawrence, as the Duke of Dorset, tumbling in slow motion, wig askew, from his 'stylised horse' - imaginatively designed and constructed by John Bond and drama students from Ysgol y Gader. Then there was the wounded Eric, rising from behind the piano (played continuously throughout the scene by Audrey, oblivious to the manic goings-on around her) and bellowing in pain. Her surprised reaction: 'What's the matter? Don't you know the words?' met with huge appreciation from the audience. Equally entertaining was the carrying off of Helen by Max, as the burly Brunt, and her later reappearance, dazed and dishevelled, after undergoing what was apparently a life-changing experience. Peace is uneasily restored at the end. There are no winners - Ayckbourn himself does not take sides - he pokes fun at both the smallmindedness of the Helens of this world and at the overblown declamations of the Erics in a play which is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s.

With admirable performances from the cast, ably supported by those behind the scenes, including Dave Collins (lighting and sound) and Pat Gill (prompt and sound effects), 'Ten Times Table' marks another resounding success for D.A.D.S. Long may they continue!




  Priestley at Theatr Fach


It is not surprising that, after ‘An Inspector Calls’, J.B.Priestley’s 1938 comedy ‘When we are Married’ has remained one of his most often performed plays, both amongst amateurs and professionally.  (A West End production featuring stars such as Roy Hudd and Maureen Lipman did very well some eighteen months ago.)  Although set as long ago as 1908, its treatment of the themes of class and hypocrisy is still penetrating as well as funny, and gender politics will perhaps never become irrelevant.  The presence of a press reporter and photographer even gave us some laughs in the context of the current Leveson Enquiry into the power of the press.

Having said all this the play presents a formidable challenge for an amateur company, and director Ruth Nicholls (following her success with ‘Ladies in Retirement’ at this time last year) is to be congratulated for taking it on.  The consensus after a well-attended first night at Theatr Fach on Thursday 31 May was that she has again succeeded triumphantly.  (Four more performances followed at Theatr Fach over the Jubilee weekend, culminating in a final one at Theatr y Ddraig, Barmouth on Tuesday 5 June.)

The challenge lies in the depth of casting required.  Out of a total of 14 characters no fewer than six can be described as leading, with two supporting roles and six cameos.  What was remarkable was that all participants ‘delivered’ (and knew their lines!), and one did not have to make allowances for the amateur nature of the enterprise.  Indeed there were moments of hubbub when the director had the confidence to let the actors ‘motor’ as it were on their own, and each one seemed spontaneous and convincing.

The essentials of the plot are easily summarised.  Three couples have assembled at the home of Alderman Helliwell and his wife in Clecklewyke in Yorkshire to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary and have a photograph taken to match the original wedding photo of 1883.  Unfortunately it transpires that, for technical reasons, they were never actually properly married in the first place.  It is not hard to imagine the mayhem, at a time of Victorian/Edwardian values,  that ensues.

A splendid set, dominated by a large photograph of Gladstone, provided just the right ambience.  (Set construction  -  John Bond and the Chain Gang.)  Julian Jones and Jacki Evans played Joseph and Maria Helliwell, and seemed authentic hosts in the former’s liberal dispensing of port and the latter’s difficulties with maidservant Ruby Birtle and housekeeper Mrs Northrop (vivacious cameos from Judith Crompton and Evelyn Richardson respectively; Mrs Northrop was played three times in the run by Ruth Nicholls herself.)  Richard Withers gave a barnstorming rendering of full-time bore Councillor Albert Parker, and Sally Kirkham brought just the right mix of brow-beaten deference and muttered retaliation to the role of his wife Annie Parker.  The third couple, Herbert and Clara Soppitt,  were an even greater source of comedy, and were played with expert timing by Ifor Davies and Lesley Holland, she viperish (a real ‘her indoors’),  he blossoming (once freed from the bonds of a so-called marriage) into an assertive tyro.  (His stubborn clinging onto a glass of whisky in defiance of his no-longer wife was a moment to savour.)

Yorkshire accents were securely in place, and in contrast the cut-glass inflections of cream-suited Gerald Forbes (who reveals the crucial mistake) got the evening off to a fine start, ably supported by Megan Jones as his ‘squeeze’ Nancy Holmes.  Press reporter Fred Dyson was played jovially by Robin Crompton, and photographer Henry Ormonroyd (the Roy Hudd role) by David Walker.  The latter’s inebriated alliance with scarlet woman Lottie Grady (Christine Jones, elegant and assured to a tee) supplied a necessary life-affirming counterpoise to the pinched hypocrisies of the three supposedly ‘superior’ couples.  John Bond as the Rev Clement Mercer made the most of his unexpected display (catching the general mood) of aggression.

With a strong back-up team (not least Dave Collins on lighting and sound) this production showed Theatr Fach to be in rude health, and it makes one look forward to its future offerings.



Snow White and ye Seven Pirates at Theatr Fach, Dolgellau (January 12th-14th).

Review by Bronwen Dorling


“Snow White and ye Seven Pirates” was an astounding pantomime.  Cleverly written by David Walker, it seamlessly fused a traditional tale of dastardly pirates and buried treasure with the old story of a beautiful young girl and her wicked stepmother.  David and his co-producer Richard Withers kept up a lively pace throughout the production, and also worked most successfully to keep the audience engaged with and responding to the fast-moving action on stage.

The cast was  truly star-studded, and the actors' commitment to the production was very evident.  

Lauren Parkinson as Snow White was enchanting; she had an excellent stage presence and a wonderful sense of timing; her lovely clear voice was a delight to listen to, especially in her touching little love song, which she very appropriately sang several times, as her search for love progressed from day-dream to reality.

Richard Withers, who could command the whole audience with one twitch of an eyebrow, smirked and glared his way through an utterly dazzling performance as the wicked stepmother, doubling many a neat entendre as he went.

It was nice to see the almost defunct role of Principal Boy revived, and Sam Jones was lively and charming as  Powder Monkey Pete, even providing us with a bit of thigh-slapping as she gained her true love.

David Walker's lively and athletic Buckles kept us up with the plot, and got us singing along energetically; John Bond played Deaf Pete very skilfully – it takes good timing to be deaf when you feel like it but not when you don't – while Julian Jones was every inch an old sea-dog.  

Jackie Evans was an excellent Squire Treloony, robust, commanding and haughty but not averse to a bit of romance at the end.  This was a role not conventionally played by a woman in pantomime, but Jackie made it work very well.  

Interestingly, there was so much cross-dressing in the play that at one point more than half the characters on stage were playing a member of the opposite sex.  Well, why not?  Pantomime is a world of craziness and fantasy, and never more successfully so than at Theatre Fach last week.

Sadly, there is not room to mention all those who deserve it, but we must not forget Ruth Nicholls' excellent musical

support, and all the young pirates treading the boards for the first time – well done!

“Snow White and the Seven Pirates” will, I am sure, go down in the annals of Theatre Fach as an utterly unforgettable production


Reviewed by Ruth Owen

Pirate Panto inspires Old Hand!

I’ve been a member of DADS since 1993 and until 2000 an active one both on the committee and on the stage. Since then I’ve been to a fair number of pantomimes in Theatr Fach over the years but to me this one was special. It contained all the elements one expects to find in an amateur theatre production and something extra; the presence of a relatively new member David Walker.

     David wrote the script, co-produced the show, narrated the story on stage as Buckles and roundly exhorted the audience to join in the pantomime responses and the singing.

     The usual high standard of the performances from experienced thespians Richard Withers as the Wicked Stepmother and Julian Jones as Long John Slither made an excellent framework for the rest of the cast to succeed in bringing this interesting take on a well- known story to life.

     About Lauren Parkinson, who delightfully portrayed Snow White, all I can say is “watch this space people of Dolgellau and beyond there are more exciting things to come from this talented young person!”

     As to the rest of the cast; they couldn’t have done it without you!  Keep listening to and acting upon the continuing advice that you are receiving from the old hands at DADS and next time I write a review I may be mentioning you by name and praising your performing skills.

     It just remains for me to thank everyone involved for a very enjoyable evening in Theatr Fach and to warn you all that the experience has inspired me to restart my amateur thespian activities!



… but not everyone was quite so elated….


Comments from Richard Paramor

To be honest I was disappointed by the pantomime.  Not by the performances, but by what had happened to David Walker’s script.  

     I was lucky enough to read David’s original brilliant script; it was a pantomime version of the sort of humour that came to the fore about half a century ago … it was laden with ­double-entendres and therefore had both an innocent face and a saucy face.  Being a father himself, David had written his script with great care – for children the innocent pantomime story unfolded in traditional style and the rude side of the double-entendres would not have been understood.   Certainly the script needed some tightening-up, but did it really need hacking about so much that a lot of the sharpness of the humour was lost?

     I mention by way of example a character in the original script named Mr Bates.  No doubt to avoid causing offence to delicate ears the character became Mr Blates in production – thus becoming meaningless and losing the potential for several double entendre opportunities.  I trust those who objected to having a Mr Bates in our pantomime also refused to watch Downton Abbey on their televisions with its similarly named major character.  And I shall not cite the many Shakespearean examples of double entendres far more vulgar than any in David’s script.

     Interestingly enough a similar situation has happened at the 600-seat Shanklin Theatre on the Isle of Wight – its Cinderella contained double entendres a-plenty, which resulted in just one letter of complaint in the local paper from a Mr Giles – followed by dozens of letters along the lines of: ‘Mr Giles needs to get a sense of humour’, ‘ Get a life, Mr Giles’, and ‘if you can understand the rude side of the double-entendre what does it say about you Mr Giles!’       

     I do agree that giving the originally-scripted name ‘Schizophrenia’ to the person with whom the pantomime-dame conversed so often in her looking-glass might have caused offence, but how many people actually heard or understood the alternative name that was used?   As a deaf person myself, why don’t I object to the character Old Deaf Pew, and the blatant sending-up of deafness on his part.  Clearly the objection to certain double-entendres does not extend to certain double-standards.

     Does the answer lie in the impossibility of having more than one director for any production?  Having joint-producers is often a way to benefit from two people’s different skills, but the end product should be the manifestation of one vision of how a thing should be; I doubt if any two people come up with the same vision very often.

     Plenty has been said in Bronwen’s and Ruth’s criticisms about the excellent aspects of the show, and I agree with them entirely.  Lauren was obviously a ‘wow’ factor in the production, but three performances that I admired particularly were Julian, a highly experience actor in a lead role but never guilty of up-staging the less experienced (except where the script called for it); Jacki who convincingly played a cross-dressing role without detracting from the male-character or bursting into a chorus of Burlington Bertie; and Jamie-Lee who has the advantage of height and a ‘character-full’ face. [OK, not a matinée idol; but then likewise John Thaw or Pete Postlethwaite … look where they got].  Jamie-Lee has joined DADS as a member, so we’ll no doubt be seeing him in plenty of future productions.

     Personally, I find pantomime tedious.  I am aware of its origins; I know the hero and the heroine have to fall in love; I know there has to be an authority figure; I know there has to be a villain, and I understand that all the cross-dressing is steeped in history, traditional, and ‘fun’.  Fun? – to me the ‘pantomime dame’ concept is ghastly in the extreme; even when translated into classical ballet it is no better – the Widow Simone character in La Fille mal Gardé is really nothing more than a bog-standard, clog-dancing pantomime dame.  But we can’t all like the same things or the world would be very dreary.

 Very Hard Times

The Publick Transport Company

Review by Debbie Ashton

 A good and great participative audience last night for Publick Transport Company's 'Very Hard Times' last night at Theatr Fach, incredibly funny melodrama, with brilliant timing etc. Well done to the cast! Thoroughly enjoyed by all, and very much needed humour in these 'Very Hard Times'!


Un-attributed Review in The Cambrian News 17/11/2011

  The Publick Transport Theatr Company from Bristol brought their production 'Very Hard Times' to Theatr Fach, Dolgellau on 9 November and played to an almost full house.

  The action began with Phil Booth production director and actor, outlining his yearning and zeal to regenerate interest in the genre of Victorian melodrama.

  The involvement of the audience was another was another noticeable feature of the production; indeed at one stage two of the three members of the cast left the theatre, thus encouraging the remaining actor to recruit willing participants from the audience.

  In short this was a lampoon of Victorian melodrama.

  The comic highlight, and there had been many through both halves of the play, was the finale with the death of a young woman and her reunion with her angel baby.

  The cast of three performed magnificently to a highly appreciative audience.

  It cannot be long before Publick Transport Company returns once more to Theatr Fach.


  From Here to Absurdity

From: John Bond


The visit of the 2 Absurdity Theatre Company to Theatr Fach produced side-splitting, gales of laughter from the rapt and enchanted audience.   

     The company at the Southernmost edge of their “Anywhere but the South” tour, and only recently acclaimed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, mixed the absurdity of political correctness and poked fun at the pretentiousness and tensions of modern day life.  Topics as diverse as ageism, education, sexism, health care and divorce all fell victims to their wit and scurrilous comment.

     The cast of three ably supported by one sound and lighting technician, presented some thirty short sound-bites with scarcely time to pause for breath.  With the aid of little more than the occasional clip-board as a prop, some supermarket carrier-bags, a white coat and an undertaker’s top hat, they roamed almost seamlessly from one issue to another.

     Mercifully, for the aching sides of the audience, there was an interval, before the humorous assault on posturing and contrasts between the life of yesteryear and today began again.   

     The show, written by various contributors to “Private Eye” was a total success.  Everyone present will hope that the company will return again next year to enchant and delight an even larger audience with their latest From Here To Absurdity revue.


 Ladies in retirement

Review by Ben Ridler

Visitors to Dolgellau over the Bank Holiday weekend had the option (and many took it) of brightening their evenings at Theatr Fach with a first-rate production of 'Ladies in Retirement' by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham.  The rather sedate title of this play (first presented on Broadway in 1940, and filmed a year later) belies the gripping nature of its content:  it's a dark thriller based on real events that took place in France in 1885.  Director Ruth Nicholls (who also played the key role of Leonora Fiske) describes in a programme note how she has always wanted to stage the play ever since seeing it as a child; her 'mission' was certainly vindicated here, for it has an excellent script and held audiences in its spell over a full three acts.

With a generous set, stylish costumes and meticulous attention to detail in terms of props, sound (including music) and lighting, everything was in place for the actors to allow the story to unfold and to develop their characters in considerable depth.  A subtle tension was established from the start between Miss Fiske, owner of an old Tudor house on the marshes in the Thames estuary, and her lodger Ellen Creed (played by Moira Welstead), the former poised and sharp-witted but also self-indulgent, the latter anxious to oblige but deeply driven by her desire to find a home for her dependent (and slightly loopy) sisters Louisa and Emily.  These were given wonderful characterizations by Christine Jones and Lesley Holland respectively,  moving in their naivety yet also offering numerous moments of bizarre comedy to offset the tension being generated elsewhere.  Lightness of touch was also a feature in the performance of Richard Withers as Albert Feather, Miss Fiske's nephew,  to whom the script neatly (since he is a petty criminal) gives the role of detective as he gradually unravels the mystery of his aunt's disappearance.  His self-confidence (both as character and actor) imparted itself to the servant he beguiles into being his accomplice, Lucy Gilham, brought vividly to life by Jacki Evans in her debut as an actress.  Another valuable Theatr Fach debut was provided by Pat Gill as Sister Theresa from the neighbouring convent, a small but important role in that it reinforces the significance of the candles burning (almost) throughout at one side of the stage.

For in the end it is conscience that proves the main driver of the denouement, and here Moira Welstead's fine performance fully came into its own.  It is no exaggeration to say that the pathos of her final scene had something of the quality of the demise of Lady Macbeth; she certainly touched her audience, and left them (as did the whole production) enriched by a rounded experience of the kind only theatre can give.  Word to this effect no doubt contributed to Bank Holiday Monday's full house.


  Cinderella at Theatr Fach

Review by Ben Ridler

THIS year's performance of Cinderella at Theatr Fach in Dolgellau has been hailed a success.

The recent production supplied a satisfying evening's entertainment, and gave pleasure to children and adults alike.

The set was minimalist but the costumes bright, and Sally Kirkham's new adaptation kept clear focus on the story and provided its key characters with a lively script, much of it in rhyming verse.

Cinders(Samantha James), Buttons (Julian Jones), The Baron (Debbie Ashton), Fairy Godmother (Moira Welstead) and Prince Charming (Christine Jones) all played their parts with conviction and there were some neat strokes of modernity.

The pantomime element was supplied in abundance by the wicked Stepmother (Richard Withers) and Ugly Sisters, Della (Dave Walker) and Bella (Alastair Harrop), who improvised splendidly in response to some very vociferous children.

The latter often had hands raised as if in class, dying to be first with an answer. And they came up with some good ones.

When it came to the 'slapstick' cake-baking sequence, Stepmother asked in best schoolmarm style; "Now children, what do we need to bake a cake?" Quick as a flash came the reply: "Wash your hands!" (Stepmother obliged by smearing her hands over a rather grubby apron.)

The smooth running of the occasion was ensured by good all-round support, not least from technician Dave Collins.

Pianist Ruth Nicholls was given a rather limited supply of tunes to work with ('Blue Danube wears thin after a while), but  what there was came over well.

Richard Withers did a good job of directing the production and realising Sally Kirkham's adaptation in style.


 THE VISIT AND THE PRIZE   by Chrissy Moore-Haines - Theatr Fach, 6th/7th/9th October

Review by Ben Ridler

Theatr Fach is fortunate - so is Dolgellau - in having its own resident playwright, an asset not every small community can boast. Chrissy Moore-Haines has already created scripts for numerous Christmas shows. Here for the first time she provided material for the `autumn slot', one often filled by comedy - on this occasion however it was good to experience an enjoyable evening that did not depend primarily on humour for its momentum, although it was by no means without humour. `The Visit' and `The Prize', two short plays linked by theme and to some extent by character, explore truth and identity in ways that foreground skillfully the paradox for theatre and film people of making a living out of unreality.

In `The Visit' we see scriptwriter Dorian `Dolly' Westlake (Richard Withers) leaving New York for Hollywood and the Oscars ceremony. His partner Ben Layman (John Bond), an actor, is   left with a dilemma - whether or not to tell his daughter Susan (Christine Jones), who is about to visit and whom he has not seen for twenty years, that he is gay. He confides in an actress friend Caroline Schofield (Sally Kirkham), who at first sight appears to be pregnant. Her `pregnancy' turns out to be a costume device being run in for an upcoming stage performance, a device that gives rise to some entertaining misunderstandings - not least when it transpires that daughter Susan is pregnant for real.

A fifth character makes up the dramatis personae, Susan's friend Bobby (Moira Welstead). It does not take long for the genders of those present to force the issue for the vacillating Ben, and a resolution of sorts is achieved. All five actors made the most of their opportunities and within half an hour an interesting and contemporary human situation was sketched in deftly and convincingly, an achievement supported and enhanced by a backdrop evoking a snapshot of the Manhattan skyline (set design by Richard Withers and John Bond).

Set design played a significant role in `The Prize' also, with some simple but glitzy effects (including lighting and sound by Dave Collins) conjuring up the brittle sheen of Oscars night. The storyline of the relationship between actor Ben and scriptwriter Dolly ran on into this second play, and supplied in due course its pithy closing line - “There are some things best left unsaid”. But in this instance the story's wrapping shone with more theatrical colour than the story itself, and some splendid entertainment was to be had along the way. Ruth Nicholls as singer Lola Phillips gave a poignant rendering of `Send in the Clowns', and the author herself as Jewish stand-up Ruthie Silverman granted the audience a generous laughter-break. Prizes were announced with aplomb by Debbie Ashton and Leslie Holland, and presented in style by `Hollywood stars' Pat Jones and Steve Holland. (Props, shiny Oscars and all, by Debbie Ashton.) Suitably `luvvy' guests were played by Moira Welstead, Sally Kirkham Christine Jones and Julian Jones. This was a great team effort, and whilst John Bond and Richard Withers faced and met the greatest challenge in terms of characterisation, it was the polished ensemble work and overall impact of the two plays together that made the evening such a success, and a credit to its directors - Ruthie Silverman and Dolly Westlake.


 Alan John’s Match for Match.

Review by Richard Paramor

Champagne flowed, conversation bubbled, and spirits were high for the world premiere of Alan John’s Match for Match.  It was planned to be a rather special celebratory night and so it was, and the cast played to an almost full house.  Clearly such a special, successful and enjoyable opening night must be considered for future productions.  

     But then, the next night just eight people turned up - the audience was two-thirds the size of the cast!  A lesson to be learned.  Friday night is not a good night for a production because so much else is going on locally. [We’ve learnt that lesson: the next stage production - Chrissy Moore-Haines’ two one-act plays The Visit and The Prize will be performed on a Wednesday Thursday & Saturday basis].  

     Come Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday and we were back to more than satisfactory numbers.

     The accolades were many.  Our stalwarts, Ruth Nicholls, Julian Jones and Richard Withers gave their usual strong performances;  Christine Jones gave a particularly interesting portrayal of a property developer - normally a bossy male, but portrayed here as a quietly-spoken female; Christine Speake’s performance as ‘an old faithful of the cricket team’ was very convincing indeed.  It was good to see Samantha James, and Sophie Petford who had appeared on the Theatr Fach stage last December in Chrissy Moore-Haines OZ.  Sally Kirkham, new to our stage, gave a convincing performance [and will soon be co-ordinating our programme of drama workshops], whilst Lesley & Steve Holland and Dai Morgan gave their usual excellent performances.    

     John Bond directed the play, Debbie Ashton looked after the props, Moira Welstead was prompter, and - of course - sound and lighting was in the hands of our invaluable Dave Collins.

No doubt about it, Match for Match achieved high on the score board.



 Review by Bronwen Dorling

A series of nice surprises, a great deal of pleasure, and some serious thinking - these three elements sum up my experience of going to Theatr Fach to see “I’m on the Train.”

     The nice surprises?  Firstly, there was a full house, which always gives a buzz to the atmosphere.  In fact, for a few awful minutes it looked as if there was a full house without David and me, but in true Theatr Fach style more chairs were produced and we were squeezed in.  Secondly, the chairs were the NEW CHAIRS, splendidly crimson, free standing and COMFORTABLE. Hurray!  Thirdly, we realized that we were about to experience Theatre in the Round, always exciting.

     But on to the actual play.  “I’m on the train” is a new work, staged by Drowning Fish Productions, itself a new company, and written by the producer, Carmel George.  We were invited to follow the lives of three women, leaving hospital at the same time after treatment for breast cancer.  They find themselves meeting up from time to time at out-patient appointments, and over months we watch the roller-coaster of their emotions as their hopes are raised or their fears grow.  They are three very different people; Bernie is a warm, loud and lively Liverpool lass, deeply embedded in her family life; Ceri is a wealthy single business women, ambivalent about commitment, and Sally is a quiet and lonely person, with the shadow of a dead sister hanging over her.   At times we see them giving support to each other, and gaining strength through their friendship; at times we see them when they cannot cope with any involvement.  

     It is a poignant play; two of the three women lose their fight.  It was very well acted; Jo Newton as Bernie was outstanding and was ably supported by Nia Pendrell as Ceri and Caroline Oakley as Sally.  At first, I found the faces of members of the audience across the “stage” distracting, but as the play progressed I realised that this was in fact a strength of the production; we were all, actors and audience alike, “on the train.”  Most of us have known friends or family members with breast cancer, or have feared breast cancer for ourselves or a loved one; the audience was, in a way, part of the play.  The production was excellent; the movements of the actors were cleverly managed so that we never felt cut off from the action.  A poignant touch was the regularly changed vase of flowers on the stage, which was a hospital waiting room, showing the seasons changing and time passing as the women’s’ health regressed ...... or improved ..... or regressed again .......  

     Congratulations, Drowning Fish Productions, on an excellent play; I hope there are many more to come and that they will all come to Theatr Fach.


   Oz by Chrissy Moore-Haines

Reviews by Brenda Gibons, Richard Paramor, Ben Ridler

Once again, Dolgellau Amateur Dramatic Society  -  DADS – has produced a delightful and entertaining Christmas Show. This year it is Oz, based on the Wizard of Oz, the story by L Frank Baum, not the subsequent musical film. It is written by DADS member, the talented Chrissy Moore-Haines who has been responsible for many previous successful shows and directed in his debut as a director for the society, by Julian Jones.

  The show opened on Wednesday, 16 December to a full house audience in the Theatr Fach, Glyndwr Street, Dolgellau. All the well known characters were in the production. Dorothy was played by Marielouise Smith, also in the cast with splendid parts, were  the scarecrow, the tin man, the cowardly lion, munchkin babes, winkies, witches, good and bad, not forgetting Oz himself. Dorothy`s  dog Toto, was played on alternate nights by real dogs, Poppy and Gem, both of whom gave excellent performances. The narrator was Steve Holland

  The performance was characterized by much fun and laughter in which the audience wholeheartedly participated, and was a most enjoyable evening for all. Costumes, scene painting, and lighting were all of a most professional standard.

  Theatr Fach stages several shows a year, as well as popular monthly poetry readings. The theatre is at present in process of upgrading its seating  and it offers a pleasant and comfortable venue for its productions. Membership is open to all who would be interested. .



Review by Richard Paramor

“I like the scarecrow best, he reminds me of my mum” were the overheard words of one young member of the audience enjoying the Theatr Fach production of Chrissy Moore-Haines’s Christmas Show ‘OZ’ last week. Certainly, the scarecrow, played by Scott Wilson, was one of the endearing characters, and one wonders if Scott actually has any bones in his body such was his lithe performance; and the same applies to Emma Kelly’s performance as the Cowardly Lion, whom nobody could resist loving. Llinos Llewellyn-Ford, Sian Russell, Samantha James and Sophie Petford splendidly played the Munchkins, who helped guide the story, based on L Frank Baum’s book ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ to its eventual happy conclusion, not helped by the Wicked Witch – portrayed with fearsome reality by Moira Welstead – but thanks to the magic of the Good Witch brought just as convincingly to the Theatr Fach stage by Lesley Holland. Marielouise Smith, with exact and appropriately demure acting nuance, played the role of Dorothy whose silver slippers led her through the wonderland adventures accompanied at all times by her dog, Toto, played with consummate canine skill by Poppy and Gem in alternate performances. With Richard Withers as the Tin Man, Ed Penney as OZ, and Christine Speake as OZ’s gatekeeper, the show was narrated throughout by Steve Holland.

Lighting, sound and set-construction were by Dave Collins, costume co-ordination by Christine Jones, properties we arranged by Evelyn Richardson, scene painting and stage design was by Leslie and Steve Holland, and Glenys Lawson; and Paul Baker handled the scenery changes.

Julian Jones, the director of the production said afterwards, “We’ve given five performances, and although the weather affected audience numbers on just one evening, the theatre has been very pleasingly full for the rest of the run. I’ve been extremely lucky to have exactly the right actors, for exactly the right roles, and the result has been a magnificent show. And what must be a record for any amateur company – our prompter did not have to prompt once during any performance”



Review by Ben Ridler

Anne and I (like everyone else, I think) enjoyed it very much. Lots of really good theatrical moments. The dog (Sat night) was amazing, I enjoyed our CMD student Scott Wilson's Scare Crow, Emma's characterisation as the CL was terrific, and Richard's derusting sequence unforgettable. Congratulations! Julian & co. did a really good job.


Thanks for the memory

‘Music hall to variety"

An illustrated history variety stars of the 1930s and 1940s

Presented by Duggie Chapman

Review by Richard Paramor

  It was a very appreciative audience at Theatr Fach that enjoyed Duggie Chapman’s presentation Thanks for the Memory – Music Hall to Variety last month.  

  Duggie Chapman, theatrical impresario and musical hall authority - himself a variety theatre performer previously – had enormous success with the show at the Blackpool’s Grand Theatre, and although billed as an illustrated history of variety stars of the 1930s and 1940s, Duggie’s superb presentation covered a much wider time span, and included a phenomenal collection of film and television clips that started with some early television advertisements.  Within two minutes the audience were singing the along to Beanz Meanz Heinz and several many more jingles.

  But the Heinz Beanz were just the warm-up act; it was the clips of the music hall and variety stars linked so interestingly by Duggie’s own recollections that were to give such delight.  

  Quite obviously some of the clips and recordings dated back to the early days of cinematography when quality hadn’t been perfected, but this authenticity made the clips even more interesting.  In addition to the seeing the acts themselves, the audience could appreciate the work of unsung pioneers amongst the film-engineer and cameramen community.  

  Listing all the artistes and doing justice to their performances is impossible, but it could not be doubted that the audience were wallowing in rich and magical nostalgia.  Who could not have been moved to see film of – for example – George Formby, Little Tich, Max Miller, Lily Morris, Nat Gonella, Issy Bonn, Gus Ellen, Ella Shields, Gracie Fields, Norman Evans, Teddy Brown, and such performers as Wilson Kepple and Betty, and Billy Cotton with his band?

  A clip of a ‘newcomer’ showed a young Des O’Connor, appearing - close to the bottom of the bill - at Finsbury Park Empire, and some very moving amateur footage of the last performance of the Crazy Gang at the Victoria Palace, showed Bud Flanagan enticing the retired Chesney Allen from the audience to sing Underneath the Arches.

   Seeing film shot even as recently as the 1960s makes one realise how filming capabilities have developed in more recent years, and even accepting that the latest equipment of their time was being used, it is a tribute to the lighting technicians and cameramen that such quality material was produced.   

  Likewise, being able to witness the entertainers in close up, endorsed their supreme skills in timing, and with their every smallest movement.  Attention to detail proved the professionalism of the performers and also of unseen stagehands and support staff.  Norman Wisdom’s slapstick performance was clearly choreographed and timed to the smallest inch and to the shortest second, and likewise Tessie O’Shea’s movements were honed to perfection as she wooed the audience with saucy words and a huge smile whilst, without looking away from the audience, taking her ukulele from a stagehand at the side of the stage and playing the accompaniment to the song she was already singing - all within a split second.  Even anyone not totally besotted by the – yes, admittedly, often very dated – styles of performance, could not deny the intrinsic professionalism.    

  It is gratifying to know that this archive material is preserved, and, thanks to Duggie Chapman (and his very capable technician/manager), is still available for the public to enjoy.  

  Appropriately, the last film clip was of Bob Hope’s final appearance at the London Palladium, singing Thanks for the Memory.

  In June 2009, Duggie Chapman was awarded an MBE for services to Light Entertainment and Charities.

  Duggie writes about Music Hall on his web-site  His biography is also available there.


 The Other Woman. by Paul Swift

Review by Dai Morgan

  A well attended Theatr Fach appreciated "The Other Woman" by Paul Swift performed by the Hijinx Theatre Touring Company  and directed by Louis Osborn, on October 21st last.

  During the 1st World Was, in rural Wales a young wife with her husband left for the Front, a new baby and a broken plough, finds life hard. Then the sudden appearance of a desperate young man, a conscientious objector, sets it topsy-turvy.

  A story of the other side of courage, with comedic moments, even a necessary transvestism (thus the other woman) illustrating virtues and flaws of human nature at a time of transformational change.

  A consummate performance that likely left the audience in reflective mood.


 The Long Way Home

by Charles Way

Review by Richard Withers

Theatr Fach hosted Hi Jinx Theatre Company from Cardiff on 20th October for a performance of ‘The Long Way Home’ by Charles Way. Directed by Louise Osborn, ‘The Long Way Home’ is a traditional folk tale from the heart of old Europe, brought magically to life through towering physical storytelling and music. A beautifully poignant story of friendship, danger and humour as two travellers face many hazards on their long journey. An old woman, recently widowed, decides to walk home to the seaside village of her birth, a journey which will take her through dark woods, fertile plains and over snow-capped mountains. She encounters a young boy in the forest whose only means of communication is to bark like a dog, and the two become unlikely travelling companions. This old woman, beautifully played by Alex Alderton, dressed all in black is taking the long way home. This is an exceptionally moving performance. Award winning playwright Charles Way’s story is a fascinating one and Louise Osborn’s clever direction allows the story to develop fully in this enthralling production. The old mother is the heart of this story, her crumpled figure moving around the stage through the mountains until she reaches the sea, commenting on and helping all who cross her path.

    The story begins with a howl to the moon. The four cast members filled the little theatre with an edgy harmony in a strong chorus that brought us to the edge of our seats. Then we see Dogboy wailing to the skies and in an extraordinarily athletic performance actor John Norton brought this character to life. He becomes the first chapter in Old Mother’s story, a young boy who is convinced he is a dog, a frightened and dangerous dog. He snaps and growls at the old lady but here her wisdom and humanity are revealed, she looks beyond the dog and sees the real boy, she wins his confidence and they journey on together. Zoë Davies and Darren Stokes act as narrators linking each of the scenes and play the entire series of protagonists that Mother and boy have to face on their way. From the role of the Old Mother’s late husband to mountain bandit, apple grower and wooden post maker Darren is animated and convincing. Zoë Davies has a hard edge as a bandit and brings softness and vulnerability to the role of café owner who eventually becomes the wife of the young man that Dogboy turns into. The production gives us so much from its small, picturesque and very portable set which has to be reasonably easy for the cast to pack away in a van to enable Hijinx Theatre to continue its mission to take theatre to small places like Theatr Fach.




 Poetry And Prose

The Many Faces of Love review by Bronwen Dorling

On Friday February 15th, Ruth Nicholls showed us 'The Many Faces of Love'. And there were certainly many faces. 'Love as yet Unspoken' was illustrated by extracts such as the moving dialogue in 'Twelfth Night' between Orsino and Viola – who cannot reveal her love while she is posing as a young man. In 'Love Impatient' we heard one end of an agonising phone call as the caller begs, urges, implores the person on the other end to pick up the receiver – but in vain. 'Love Celebrated' included a touching extract from 'Golden Wedding' by Joyce Grenfell, as a couple look back on their lives together, and another 'Telephone Call', also by Joyce Grenfell, illustrated 'Love Renounced' as the caller painfully abandons her lover in the name offamily duty. And 'Love Rejected' was delightfully illustrated by a reading from 'Emma' by Jane Austen in which Emma tells  Mr. Elton exactly what she thinks of his proposal. In all, a splendid set of readings, splendidly read.



On Friday 14th December Julian and Pat Jones presented us with 'Our Christmas Card'. Review  by Debbie Ashton

The evening was a festive celebration, with many of our members contributing to the entertainment. The theatre was looking very pretty as our technician, Dave, who gives so much to us, had set the mood for the occasion by putting up Christmas decorations and fairy lights. Thank you Dave, for this; you are so generous with your time and effort. We do really appreciate you!

There were too many contributions to visit individually, but the ones which remain in my mind are Evelyn Richardson's rendition of 'No-one Loves a Fairy When She's Forty' . (I do like the funny ones best!) and the two pieces which Sally Kirkham had prepared, both humorous; 'Christmas Thank Yous' by Mick Gowar, thank you letters for gifts received, which I am sure we could all relate to, having received gifts in the past which left us questioning the sanity of the donor, but still having to thank them in the customary way. The Welsh Learners' choir joined in the proceedings and this was lovely, with audience participation encouraged and enjoyed by all.

At the end of the evening, we had a few words from Julian. He paid tribute to Richard Paramor, who had been a very active and highly organised member, whom we sadly lost in tragic circumstances, earlier in the year (8th October), by reading a passage from Noel Coward, whose work Richard particularly admired:

 I’m here for a short visit only

And I’d rather be loved than hated:

Eternity may be lonely

When my body’s disintegrated,

And that which is loosely termed my soul

Goes whizzing off through the infinite

By means of some vague remote control;

I’d like to think I was missed a bit.

We do miss him and his contribution to our theatre, and we are finding out just how much he did for us, now that he is no longer with us.

So this evening was for you Richard, and thank you so very much for everything.

The Clubroom looked a picture when we went through for refreshments during the interval, with festive table decorations made by Bronwen. Julian and Pat had made mulled wine which went down a treat with the festive cakes and mince pies donated by members for the occasion. Thank you to all who made these, they were delicious!

Thank you to Pat and Julian who bravely took on the task of organising this, at a busy time of year, and to everyone who managed, against the odds, to pull the programme together.



'The Unfurling of my Love',

review  by Ruth Nicholls

There were three excellent Poetry and Proseevenings in the last six months.

On November 16th 2012, Ben Ridler presented 'The Unfurling of my Love', a birthday tribute to his mother, the distinguished poet and playwright Anne Ridler. This provided an evening which will long be remembered by all of us in the unusually large audience. 'The Unfurling of my Love', the poem which gave the evening its title, began and ended the programme, and, as Ben wrote in his very helpful notes, 'it contains some of (Anne Ridler's) core themes – the mystery of love in its many forms, erotic, familial, maternal, love of nature …..' These themes were amplified in short poems and in 'Evenlode', the Greek myth of Alpheus and Arethusa, transported to the landscape of Oxfordshire through which flows the river Evenlode. Throughout the programme, the listener was aware that his role could not be a passive one, but when intellect engaged with the voice of the poet, the subsequent rewards were rich indeed. In a contrasting lighter vein were Anne Ridler's recollections of her childhood reading, and an amusing account of the eccentric Miss Nickel of Downe House School. For many, a highlight of the evening was the inclusion of extracts from the verse play, 'The Trial of Thomas Cranmer', commissioned for the quartercentenary of Cranmer's death and broadcast on the anniversary by the B.B.C. I think that none of us at Theatr Fach in 2012 will forget David Scutt's interpretation of the role of Hugh Latimer, shortly before his execution. In its integrity and immediacy, we were confronted with this man in a most poignant way: not as a figure in history but as a human being of flesh and blood. One felt a personal response, and perhaps this was the keynote of the evening: the recognition of the universality of human emotions expressed in phrases of illuminating beauty.



     Ruth Nicholls programme Births, Deaths and Marriages in March was the usual brilliant programme we’ve come to expect from Ruth – plenty of Shakespeare (King John, Hamlet, Henry V, and Cymbeline), Pat Jones was a spell-binding Jane Bennett and Mr Collins in a piece from Pride & Prejudice, and Ruth Nicholls read a second Jane Austin piece – from Emma.   Richard Withers’ skills were shown to best advantage in the range of pieces he read including Louis McNeice’s Prayer Before Birth; Carol Ann Duffy’s Last Post; a hugely entertaining piece, including a cackling Betsy Trotwood from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield; and a side-splitting Father of the Bride by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall.  No Ruth Nicholls Poetry & Prose Evening would be complete without something from Joyce Grenfell – this time read by Pat Jones – Golden Wedding.  Other items were from the works of  Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin, Anne Ridler, W.H. Auden, and Owen Sheers.  A fabulous evening all round.

   Owing to the ill-health of David Scutt who had devised and compiled the February programme, Laughter and Tears has been postponed until August 17th.

 The January evening was the least-well attended of any of our recent Poetry & Prose evenings which was a shame because the readings of their own works by the Pen Pals Writing Group was a fascinating collection of works by amateur writers.  Both halves of the programme were opened and closed by humorous pieces by Brenda Gibbons, with other light-hearted pieces from Bronwen Dorling, Ed Penney, and Tanya Betty Sayce; whilst thought-provoking and more serious pieces were from the pens of Janet Baker, Glenys Lawson, Lesley Rogers and Pat Foley.  Other writers whose works were included in the programme were Pat Gill, Mavis Wainman, the Late John Reece, and Richard Paramor.

In December, Pat & Julian Jones brought us The Spirit of Christmas, the original script of which was first performed at the Old House, Brentwood, Essex.

As the programme notes told us ‘so multifarious, miscellaneous and many are our readings and musical snippets that it is impossible to offer a meaningful list of the items offered’: how clever that was of Pat and Julian – they were able to drop in extra items, or leave things out according to whatever festive pleasure took their fancy.  The result was a superbly relaxed entertainment, one hundred per-cent festive and hugely enjoyable.

   In November, David Walker presented us with a selection of readings entitled Nostalgia Isn’t What it Used to Be, which he had skilfully broken into two halves, one depicting the people and places we knew, and the other the things lost and gained.  The variety within the programme was excellent with writings by –amongst others – Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas, Emily Brontë, John Lennon Gillian Clark and Bill Bryson.

     For the October programme, Ruth Nicholls delved rapaciously into the Seven Deadly Sins, and having dismissed some of the seven deadly ones as not being sins at all, introduced an eighth – Mischief Making.

Ruth’s rendition of Harry Graham’s The Postman and the Life set the evening off well.  We were especially lucky on this occasion to be joined by Glyn Churchill from Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor who gave some stirring readings of works by Charles Dickens, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Browning, and William Shakespeare.  With Jacki  Evans, Sally Kirkham, and Ben Ridler also on the reading team, pride, envy, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust, wrath, and mischief-making were well expounded!


   Devised and compiled by Bronwen Dorling, Wealth & Poverty, the September programme, attracted more than a ‘full house’ audience (an eclectic collection of chairs appeared from the dressing room!).  Together with just over a score of readings, musical items included the North Country folksong Poverty Knock, and an Irish folksong the Praties they Grow Small sung by Ben Ridler with his guitar, with three more musical items sung by Ruth Nicholls and Pat Jones.  Readings covered all aspect of Wealth and Poverty from Arthur Hugh Clough’s decadent How Pleasant it is to have Money to Padraic Colom’s An Old Woman of the Road.  Tom Sawyer drew attention to the value of an apple core when negotiating the painting of a fence, and Flora Thompson’s tales of Lark Rise and Candleford highlighted the wily ways of travelling salesmen with china tea-sets.  Glenys Lawson’s robust Lancashire accent ensured that Marriott Edgar’s story of Blackpool Tower and Noah’s Ark, Three Ha’pence a Foot, would be a high spot.  Classic pieces from Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of being Earnest, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and Charles Dickens’ A Tales of Two Cities all added to a wide-ranging study of the haves and the have-nots.  To end the evening, Moira Welstead read Tennyson’s Merlin and Vivien.


    August brought us Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea which examined aspects of going off to the seaside, being at the seaside, rough seas, working at sea, messin’ about in boats, running away to sea, and fat ladies in thongs.  David Walker accompanied himself on guitar and gave a moving performance of Scarborough Fair, and a hilarious rendition of The Problem with Prawns


    Daffni Percival’s Telling Tales in July included works by Thomas Hardy, Roald Dahl, Mathew Arnold, and GK Chesterton and an abundance of characters and creatures including a forsaken merman, an Irish terrier, a dead man telling no lies, a Russian penguin, Tess of the d’Urbevilles and a speed-dating dog!


    June brought us Evelyn Richardson’s programme Poetry in Motion – the Rhythms of Life.  Between a prologue and an epilogue, the programme skilfully divided the passage of life into a journey; this sporting life; mating games; whimsy; hard work; and the rhythms of the seasons.


   In May, Peter Dudman presented us with a selection of readings entitled A Comedy of Many Errors.  Amongst the highlights were a piece by an anonymous writer telling hilariously about God’s exasperation with ‘the surburbanites’; Keith Waterhouse’s Dylan Thomas send-up Drunk’s Christmas in Soho; and Alan Coran’s The Hell at Pooh Corner.  Amongst more serious pieces was Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade.


 It is difficult to describe the emotional tension in the audience at the climax of Ruth Nicholl’s  superb Poetry and Prose programme  Remembrance of Things Past last November, when Christine Jones and Richard Withers read extracts from Christabel Bielenberg’s The Past is Myself.  Writing about it cannot achieve even the remotest impression of the impact of the words and the poignant way in which they were read.  Christine Jones’s soft tones balanced against Richard Withers’s guttural and Germanic tones produced an unbelievable frissance; and how clever of Ruth to have placed them at either end of the table so that the counter-balance of voices and character portrait should be so acute; and how skilful, too, of her to have broken the impact of Christabel Bielenberg’s words with Pat Jones’s reading of Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘Everyone Sang’.  Magic – pure magic.

    Nor can one over-state Julian Jones’s moving reading of the account of the second battle of Ypres 1915 as described by Private Albert Bromfield, of the 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Regiment.  The description of the gas attacks over the dug-outs left one silenced.  The account by mill worker Kitty Eckersley of recruiting in 1914, read so movingly by Pat Jones, underlined the intense stresses put upon ordinary people at such extraordinary times.   Pat also read from the diaries and letters of Queen Victoria.  Several other writings by Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rudyard Kipling were given by John Bond .

  Although the first half of the programme, which included Joyce Grenfell’s superbly sad Mulgarth Street; mysterious items such as Rudyard Kipling’s The Way Through the Woods, and the delightful Blackberry Picking by Seamus  Heaney and My Last Duchess by Robert Browning, was vital to the overall balance of the programme, it is the war items in the second half that carried the greatest impact.

  Ruth Nicholls’s thoughtful programme has to be acclaimed one of Theatr Fach’s best Poetry & Prose evenings ever.  


 Food, Glorious Food.

The October Poetry & Prose programme was planned to be part of the Taste Dolgellau food & wine celebrations and was entitled Food, Glorious Food. This was both a high and a low for us. Anticipating that Taste Dolgellau would bring us larger than usual audiences we planned performances for Friday evening, and Saturday afternoon. Furthermore they were to be held in the theatre rather than the Clubroom. The Friday evening event was a huge success with many visitors to Dolgellau in the audience, but Saturday's attendance was disappointing with so small an audience that the proceedings were transferred to the Clubroom.

For Friday evening, cheese and wine refreshment were provided by the Bernard Lanz and his team from the Royal Ship Hotel, with tea and cake planned for Saturday afternoon.

The programme had been devised and co-ordinated by Moira Welstead and the team of readers comprised Christine Jones, Ruth Nicholls, Ben Ridler, Richard Withers, and Moira herself. Which of the pieces offered came top of the Bill of Fayre? Might it be Ruth's culinary inept bride whose first cake was flour-less, or the bickering of a man and wife over what to eat - a piece made richer still by Ruth's superb French pronunciation than the dishes themselves; Moira's calorie conscious chic-lit offering, or her tongue-in-cheek description of the joys of picnicking; or was it Richard's marvellous reading of W. Somerset Maugham's Luncheon, or his rendition of Thackeray's Bouillabaise, or Ben's literally mouth-watering description of the delights of chocolate cake? Ben further demonstrated his aptitude as a connoisseur of the finer things in life with his scrumptious rendition of Ed Penney's Chips With Everything (including the sauce); and then, to bring some decorum to the whole riotous proceedings Christine finished the programme with Betjeman's treatise on fish knives, crumpled serviettes, replenished cruets, pastry forks, trifle, and soiled doileys, with hushed reference to toilet requisites, and assurance that the logs have been switched on in the grate - indeed everything needed to show How to Get On in Society.

Those who were unable to get to this highly nutritious recital of Poetry & Prose missed a feast.


 Education, Education, Education

It is difficult to know how to start a résumé of Bronwen Dorling's September Poetry & Prose Evening. Education, Education, Education was notable in that it followed our newsletter entreaties for members of our loyal audiences to step-forward and compile a programme. Bronwen stepped-forward and the rest just happened. The programme was skilfully shaped to move through various aspects of education from the First Day at School as told by Roger McGough, and by Laurie Lee in Cider With Rosie [Richard Withers adopting a Gloucestershire accent]. We followed contrasting education experiences, with pieces by Chaucer, Angela Brazil, and Charlotte Bronte - topped by Richard Withers singing Allen Sherman's Camp Grenada [American accent this time]. Muriel Spark's recalcitrant Miss Jean Brodie was brought to us by Edinburgh accented Ruth Nicholls, and recalcitrant schoolboys came with Peter Finch's The Tattoo, and Charles Causley's Timothy Withers. John Bond read some Harry Potter adventures in the Chamber of Secrets, as well as some Kipling, D.H. Lawrence, Barry Tebb's School Smell, a extract from Blackmore's Lorna Doone, and Vernon Scanell's Ageing Schoolmaster [not intended as a reflection on John's headmastering career in Dolgellau and Cornwall!]. We had a Major General, a Mock Turtle, and much more, but it was Richard Withers' gentle, but stirring reading of Mike Jenkins' He Loved Light, Freedom, and Animals that brought greatest impact. This stunningly beautiful, yet simple piece recalling the disaster in Aberfan clearly moved the audience and readers alike, and bore an unexpected poignancy when it was revealed that John Bond - one of the readers - had been a Red Cross volunteer ambulance driver at Aberfan on that terrible occasion.

Certainly Bronwen's planning had taken us through a vast spectrum of times, moods, and situations, in a well constructed, well executed, and well received programme that we shall not easily forget.


 All Creatures Great and Small

Bill Welstead's collection for the August Poetry & Prose Evening, with the theme ,All Creatures Great and Small brought us a varied programme both in style of writing, and extremes of mood. Steve Holland's renditions of a couple of Edward Lear pieces brought a couple of light-hearted moments, and he also read works by Isherwood and Gerard Manly Hopkins. It was especially good to welcome Sally Kirkham to the team - Sally read pieces by Gillian Clarke and Gwyneth Lewis, including Gwynedd Lewis's Red Kites at Tregaron. Other pieces were read by Ruth Nicholls, Moira Welstead, and Bill Welstead himself, including as a special treat our own Sandra Congleton's poem Buckets and Bottles which tells movingly, yet amusingly, of her relationship with her family of goats reared at her local small-holding in Hermon, high-up from Dolgellau.


 Let's Face the Music and Dance

Ruth's programme for the Poetry & Prose evening in July, appropriately entitled Let's face the music and dance included ballet reminiscences by Margo Fonteyn, Ninette de Valois and Rudolph Nureyev; two extracts from Vikram Seth's An Equal Music; some of the writings of Paderewski and Dame Nellie Melba, some Tennyson, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Hilaire Belloc, and - as we had expected - no less than five of Joyce Grenfell's masterpieces. Obviously, whilst Stately as a Galleon had us entranced, and, indeed endanced, the finale piece Artist's Room read by Moira Welstead, Christine Jones, Richard Withers, and Ruth herself was a masterful way of drawing a truly magical evening to a superb close


 Water, water everywhere

June was a case of Daffni Percival v England.  Water, water everywhere.  Despite the England v Algeria match being screened on the same evening, Daffni’s evening of poetry and prose attracted a faithful audience and was well worth it.

     Unlike the football match, Daffni’s five-a-side team of herself, Brenda Gibbons, Chrissie Jones and Bill & Moira Welstead gave sparkling performances throughout the evening starting with Moira’s dramatic reading of part of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner through Kipling, Gillian Clark, Cynan Jones, William Golding, Shelley, Longfellow to Kipling’s wonderfully amusing The Beginning of Armadillos which, read as an ensemble piece, closed the first half.

     The second half opened with Moira reading Ian Hughes’ Marchlyn and proceeded through a fine selection of works by Charles Causley, Douglass Dunn, W.B. Yeats, Mathew Arnold, Tennyson and David Foster Morgan.  Daffni’s reading of her own poem “Two Bridges” was inspired.

     The content of the evening was well thought out and very enjoyable.  As for the football match well, nowhere near so enjoyable.


  Curiouser & Curiouser

May brought us Curiouser & Curiouser and what an evening it was! With Ruth Nicholls reading from Winnie the Pooh as starters, the whole programme was sheer delight, with extracts from writings by James Thurber, Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, Alan Coren, Earl Ferrers, Richard Mallett and more, interspersed with a spot of Shakespeare and plenty of Dickens.  The reading team gave us a marvellous evening, and included Ruth Nicholls, Christine Jones (who had also planned and co-ordinated the evening so magnificently), Julian Jones, Pat Jones, Christine Speake, Samantha James, Sophie Petford, and Steve Holland.  During the evening we heard two of Ed Penny’s hugely entertaining poems Poddlegob & Co in the first half, and his Two Cell or Not Two Cell bringing a stunning evening to a magical climax.


For Harry & St. George,

There is not a lot that can be said about the Poetry & Prose evening in April - it was on the 23rd of the month, Shakespeare’s birthday, which also happens to be St. George’s Day, and was co-ordinated by Richard Withers.  It could only be superb.  And it was.  

     Entitled For Harry & St. George, clearly the programme would include plenty of Shakespeare; but the readings were wide ranging, entertaining, and well presented with the particularly marvellous intervention of Otto Freudental on the piano adding gilt to the gingerbread.  This was a very relaxed, yet especially uplifting Poetry & Prose evening.


 A night to remember

March 19th

The March Poetry & Prose was themed ‘A Night To Remember’ - with ‘night’ including ‘knight’ thus enabling Pat and Julian Jones, who had organised the event, to include a healthy number of Noël Coward pieces including Lie in the Dark and Listen, The Boy Actor, Star Quality, and the very moving closing piece When I Have Fears.  Having opened the programme with Laurie Lee’s Town Owl, Christine Jones read from Alice through the Looking Glass and also treated us to a wonderful retelling of James Thurber’s The Night the Bed Fell (on Father).  Amongst the pieces read by Pat Jones was her own dramatic recollection of the Canvey Islands Floods in 1953, as well as Leigh Hunt’s Abu Ben Adam, Alfred Noyes’s Ballad of Dick Turpin and an hilarious rendition of the Biby’s Epitaph - in a genuine cockney accent - telling the sad tale of the poor baby (the biby) ‘what's gorn darn the plughole’.   Decorum was maintained by Anne Anslow (it was delightful to have Anne reading) amongst whose readings we heard Emily Bronte’s Spellbound, A.E.Hoseman’s Stars, I Have Seen Them Fall, and John Betjeman’s Churchyards as well as works by Robert Louis Stevenson, F.W.Bourdillon, and an extract from Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat.  Gentlemen in the reading team were Julian Jones and Richard Paramor.  Other pieces in the programme included works by Winston Churchill, Laurie Lee, Tony Benn, W.S. Gilbert and an extract from Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser.  

     It certainly had been A Night to Remember.



February 19th

Despite decidedly inclement weather our stalwarts fought through blizzards and howling gales to enjoy Chrissy Moore-Haines’s Poetry and Prose Evening devoted to ‘This Thing Called Love’.         

     Chrissy was joined by Emma Kelly and Dai Morgan and read almost three score pieces concerning various aspects of love, from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s placidly delightful How Do I Love Thee, by way of two Shakespeare sonnets; Lord Byron’s So We’ll Go No More A Roving and plenty more delightful offerings through to Jake Thackary’s Bantum Cock, and Chrissy’s own wonderful rendering of Victoria Wood’s Let’s Do It - read as a poem we hasten to say, and not sung.   

     The programme started well, and appropriately, with Emma’s dramatic reading of W.H.Auden’s Tell Me the Truth About Love, but it was Chrissy’s reading of her own story, The First Kiss, that raised the greatest applause.  Teasingly, Chrissy read her story in two halves - one each side of the interval - and so subtly vivid were her character portrayals one might suspect her of having been a nun in an earlier lifetime.  


The January Poetry & Prose evening was a collection of poems nominated by Theatr Fach/DADS members, friends and visitors.  It was an eclectic collection of 31 items, and Richard Paramor who had co-ordinated the evening remarked on his surprise at the emphasis in the nominations of poems of a serious nature, rather than more light-hearted or traditionally sentimental works.  It was, nevertheless, John Betjeman’s Diary of a Church Mouse that held the audience in thrall, and Pat Gill’s mouse-like rendition was superb.  

Particular praise has to go to Pat Jones for her reading of the lengthy Intimations of Mortality by William Wordsworth.  Apparently, it took Wordsworth two years to write the poem. Pat Jones’s very sensitive interpretation took almost a quarter of an hour – but every moment was perfect.  

The programme ended with Richard Withers expounding Andrew Marvell’s protestations To His Coy Mistress, appropriately counter-balanced by Moira Welstead giving a spirited reading of Wendy Cope’s Bloody Men.

Other poets included in the programme were Christina Rossetti, Rupert Brooke, Dylan Thomas, Sir Henry Newbold, John Milton, Robert Frost, William Shakespeare, T.S.Elliot, Anerin, Alfred Noyes, Roald Dahl, Coventry Patmore, Anne Ridler, Carol Ann Duffy, Thomas Gray, W.H.Auden, W.B.Yates, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Hilaire Belloc, D.H.Lawrence,T.E.Hulme.