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Adventures Of Sancho Panza
by the HIJINX THEATRE on 10th October 2012
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
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,
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
and defending the name and honour of Don Quixote's
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.
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.
ensemble acting worked well, the lone female doubling
as stage hand with one or twoasides to the audience
about how put upon shewas.
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.
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.
play also seemed to have three themes: books, fantasy
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.
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.
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.
and thanks to all who were instrumental in bringing
this play to Dolgellau; a most entertaining and
thought provoking evening.
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.
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.
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.
simmer, then erupt, and the growing division between
the committee members results in the formation of
two rival factions.
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.
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!
at Theatr Fach
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
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
White and ye Seven Pirates at Theatr Fach, Dolgellau
by Bronwen Dorling
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.
cast was truly star-studded, and the actors' commitment
to the production was very evident.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
there is not room to mention all those who deserve it,
but we must not forget Ruth Nicholls' excellent musical
and all the young pirates treading the boards for the
first time – well done!
White and the Seven Pirates” will, I am sure, go down
in the annals of Theatre Fach as an utterly unforgettable production
by Ruth Owen
Panto inspires Old Hand!
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
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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….
from Richard Paramor
be honest I was disappointed by the pantomime. Not
by the performances, but by what had happened to
David Walker’s script.
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?
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
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!’
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.
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.
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
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.
The Publick Transport
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'!
Review in The Cambrian News
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.
action began with Phil Booth production director and
actor, outlining his yearning and zeal to regenerate
interest in the genre of Victorian melodrama.
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.
short this was a lampoon of Victorian melodrama.
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.
cast of three performed magnificently to a highly appreciative
cannot be long before Publick Transport Company returns
once more to Theatr Fach.
Here to Absurdity
visit of the 2 Absurdity Theatre Company to Theatr
Fach produced side-splitting, gales of laughter
from the rapt and enchanted audience.
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
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.
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.
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.
by Ben Ridler
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.
at Theatr Fach
by Ben Ridler
year's performance of Cinderella at Theatr Fach in Dolgellau has
been hailed a success.
recent production supplied a satisfying evening's entertainment,
and gave pleasure to children and adults alike.
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.
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.
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.
latter often had hands raised as if in class, dying to be first
with an answer. And they came up with some good ones.
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
smooth running of the occasion was ensured by good all-round support,
not least from technician Dave Collins.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
by Chrissy Moore-Haines
by Brenda Gibons, Richard Paramor, Ben Ridler
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.
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
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.
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.
WIZARD CHRISTMAS SHOW
by Richard Paramor
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.
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.
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”
by Ben Ridler
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.
for the memory
hall to variety"
illustrated history variety stars of the 1930s and 1940s
by Duggie Chapman
by Richard Paramor
was a very appreciative audience at Theatr Fach that enjoyed Duggie
Chapman’s presentation Thanks for the Memory – Music Hall to Variety
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
the last film clip was of Bob Hope’s final appearance at the London
Palladium, singing Thanks for the Memory.
June 2009, Duggie Chapman was awarded an MBE for services to Light
Entertainment and Charities.
writes about Music Hall on his web-site
His biography is also available there.
Other Woman. by Paul Swift
by Dai Morgan
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
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.
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.
consummate performance that likely left the audience
in reflective mood.
Long Way Home
by Richard Withers
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.
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.
Many Faces of Love
review by Bronwen Dorling
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.
Friday 14th December Julian and Pat Jones presented
us with 'Our Christmas Card'.
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!
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.
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
here for a short visit only
I’d rather be loved than hated:
may be lonely
my body’s disintegrated,
that which is loosely termed my soul
whizzing off through the infinite
means of some vague remote control;
like to think I was missed a bit.
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.
this evening was for you Richard, and thank you
so very much for everything.
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!
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.
of my Love',
were three excellent Poetry and Proseevenings in
the last six months.
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.
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
to the ill-health of David Scutt who had devised
and compiled the February programme, Laughter and
Tears has been postponed until August 17th.
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.
December, Pat & Julian Jones brought us The
Spirit of Christmas, the original script of which
was first performed at the Old House, Brentwood,
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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
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.
POETRY AND PROSE
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.
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
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.
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
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.