Style in my City

Fashion, food, lifestyle and culture in St Albans

Guest Blog: Everything Theatre explore a spirited production at the Abbey Theatre

This is a Guest Blog Post.

I’d like to introduce Donna Clark, one of the contributors, from the popular theatre review blog, Everything Theatre. Everything Theatre pride themselves on producing a ‘down-to-earth blog’ that is ‘honest’ and ‘unpretentious.’ This candid and light hearted approach garners a dedicated following of people looking out to enjoy the London Theatre scene. I am delighted to have Donna, a St Albans local, review one of our city’s very own productions.

For more information on Everything Theatre or to read any more of their reviews, please go to

http://everything-theatre.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Julie Grant and Lucy Crick. Photos by Nick Clarke.

Blithe Spirit, The Company of Ten at The Abbey Theatre, St Albans

By Noel Coward

Directed by Nick Strudwick

Pros:  The core performances are really strong and the comic timing and relationship the actors develop between the three main characters is highly plausible.  The set design is very good and the lighting and stage direction add to the quality of the production.

Cons:  There are weaker performances, and some set malfunctions which detract from the overall impact of the play.  The air conditioning in the theatre is very noisy and the beeping (which I think may have been a hearing aid) was an annoying distraction.

Our verdict:  The Company of Ten present a really enjoyable and good quality production with some credible set and lighting design and strong central performances.  I will be keeping an eye on what’s coming up – it is great to have this calibre of theatre blossoming in St Albans.

*** 3 stars

Rory Byrne as Mr Condomine and Lucy Crick as the ghost of Elvira. Photos by Nick Clarke.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this performance of the Noel Coward classic, Blithe Spirit.  I was expecting the text to be a bit stuffy and old fashioned and the production value from this local amateur theatre company to pale in comparison to the bigger budget West End productions I enjoy.  Neither, however, was true.  On this occasion, The Company of Ten manage to pull off a really good quality and very enjoyable drama.

The play was written in 1941 but there is nothing to really date it – its themes and characters have stood the test of time and are very relatable seventy years later.  The central characters Mr and Mrs Condomine, invite their friends the Bradmans to take part in a séance orchestrated by the locally renown medium, Madame Arcati, in order to obtain material for Mr Condomine’s latest book.  As a result, his former wife, Elvira, is summoned from the afterlife and haunts the couple’s home.  They call on Madame Arcati again to rectify the situation and the result is, well, more trouble for all concerned.  The drama is interspersed with comic scenes involving the housekeeper, Edith.

Alison Wright as Mrs Condomine and Lucy Crick as the ghost of Elvira. Photos by Nick Clarke.

Mr and Mrs Condomine are really wonderfully acted by Rory Byrne and Alison Wright  – their dry, sardonic discussions really convincingly portraying a middle aged couple in their second marriage.  The comic timing here is really very good and delivered clearly and decisively – I had a wry smile on my face throughout.   Madam Arcati is brought to life with enthusiasm and eccentric aplomb by Julie Grant, although the delivery is a little quiet at times, particularly when Madam is not facing the audience.  The gossiping Mrs Bradman is suitable addressed, but I feel the performance of Dr Bradman is wooden and a bit droll.  This adversely affects the energy between the two couples, and detracts a little from the lively timing the play requires.  Lucy Crick is bewitching as the ghost of Elvira and manages to engender an ethereal quality in her performance, gliding across the set and maintaining an even, emotionless tone to her voice.  I was less convinced by Edith, I found her a little overacted with panto-like comic qualities but this can be overlooked in this minor role.

Julie Grant brings to life Madam Arcati. Photos by Nick Clarke.

The set is really very good and is an entirely convincing backdrop for the emerging drama.  There are touches of wonderful effects like the wind billowing the curtains, Elvira appearing seemingly through walls and household objects moving of their own accord.  The doors to the rear of the set let the overall staging down as they don’t behave as they should throughout. The use of lighting, particularly the bluish light that shrouds Elvira, adds to the drama effectively.  The cast use the entire set to the full and the stage direction is really very good – I love the way the new Mrs Condomine looks through Elvira, it really made me chuckle.  There is one scene where Edith sets the table for breakfast which I think is unnecessarily long – I just wanted the protagonists back on the stage and the humorous story to continue.

I was really impressed, thoroughly enjoyed this production and think this amateur theatre company should take a bow, as it is a very accomplished performance.  There is an issue with the intermittent noise level from the air conditioning in the theatre and there was some distracting noise from the audience, neither of which is a deal breaker for enjoying the show.  I was a little surprised that the demographic in the audience was heavily skewed towards the over sixties as this is a welcoming, vibrant and credible theatre group in a bustling, affluent town.  I would love to see The Company of Ten market itself a little more in the local community, and broaden its audience.  I am going to join the Abbey Theatre Club and look forward to enjoying many more of the Company of Ten’s productions in the future.  Written by Donna Clark, from Everyting Theatre.

Abbey Theatre, Westminster Lodge, Holywell Hill, St Albans, AL1 2DL
Further information on the Abbey Theatre can be found on their website http://www.abbeytheatre2.org.uk/ . I hear that a new website is in the works, so stay tuned for even more information!

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This entry was posted on November 26, 2012 by in Arts & Culture, Guest Blog Posts, Theatre.

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