The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

05 April
Comments Off on “Heroes” At The Archway Theatre, Horley….Starring The Aged P (aka Henri)…lol…(Vanity Post)

“Heroes” At The Archway Theatre, Horley….Starring The Aged P (aka Henri)…lol…(Vanity Post)

 

Review of “Heroes” By Gerald Sibleyras

Archway Theatre, Horley, Feb 2013

 

There is always a look of disbelief when I observe that annually there are more tickets sold for theatre performances than for football events. But why do we go to the theatre, a medium that requires a high element of imagination and tolerance of the “non reality”? It is not an easy activity – you are obliged to keep perfectly still, no rustle of sweetie papers, uncomfortable seats, large heads in front of you etc – but still we keep going. I know why I go. I love to be shocked, surprised, amused and to learn about the  human condition. I love to hear our beautiful English language (Tom Stoppard offers us the best) and, most of all, I love knowing that the artists are giving something of themselves to we, the audience.

 

Our “Heroes” and those mysterious ghosts who sorted out the set between each scene all certainly gave something of themselves to their audience in this production. It was a sweet and gentle experience for me.

 

The introduction music smoothly took us to the location of the play and as the curtain opened a sunny veranda was revealed. Gary Andrews, the set designer, tells us that “the hardest thing with this kind of set on such a small stage is to create a sense of distance”. Gary achieved that illusion with Liz Delafaille and Nicholas Merrick’s beautifully executed backdrop, the stone wall surrounding and lovely stone floor.

 

Eddie Redfern’s lighting and sound was subtle and appropriate. I was particularly impressed with the sound of the flying geese. I was able to “see” their flying route until they disappeared over the horizon. Not an easy task in such a small theatre.

 

The play itself is a kindly look at three WW1 veterans living in a residential home in France. We witnessed these elderly men trying to make sense of their narrow, restricted lives whilst plotting to escape the clutches of the Sisters caring for them. Their lives were made all the sweeter in their friendship,their bickering and the fact that they were the only users of “their” verandah. The knowledge that other inmates may soon occupy their space because of building works elsewhere was the impulse for the plans for escape (to Indo China or – maybe – just beyond the poplar trees).

 

On the evening I attended, the performances took some time to establish (never overlook the importance of a pre-performance warmup), but once the actors settled in, they told us a tender story with honesty and compassion. Tom Haddon’s Gustave was biting and verging on the vindictive.He made no effort to be liked, wishing his fellow retirees to know that he was superior to them. His brisk manner and beautifully cut suit camouflaged his internal anxieties. We gradually learned that he is fallible and afraid, but only at the end of the play do we actually see the physical manifestation of this. Tom handled Gustave’s breakdown as a man not used to showing his despair with enormous subtlety.

 

David Riddick as Henri, the eternal optimist, a man dressed for comfort played this character with great energy, did not overact. Henri’s age and physical fragility, and his kindness and empathy for his fellow inmates came through with charm and sympathy.

 

Philippe,performed by Clive Grieg was a jolly character and his fainting moments were convincing. It was a joyful moment in the play when we realised that his shouts when coming to from the faints did not relate to his activities on the battlefields but those at a local brothel – I half expected his bow tie to swivel at this revelation!

 

These three actors worked as a close and supportive team, comfortable with each other and their characters. This must have come from the expert direction of Yvonne Lee who will have worked to ensure that they understood their importance in the play. Yvonne moved her actors with quiet confidence and commitment and never “forced” a move or emotion that did not fit the roles or the play.

 

Hercule – well – I think the best description of his acting would be “wooden”. They say never act with animals – even those made of stone. How true.

 

Thank you to the cast and crew for a lovely evening. (PS: lovely cup of coffee too).

 

 

Sue Harrington

 

 

More about the original London production here

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12 July
Comments Off on “The Lady In The Van” by Alan Bennett Starts At The Archway Theatre Horley (near Gatwick Airport) On July 17th

“The Lady In The Van” by Alan Bennett Starts At The Archway Theatre Horley (near Gatwick Airport) On July 17th

Alan Bennett’s “Lady in the Van” was described by the Sunday Times as “One of the saddest, funniest and most distinguished offerings for years”

“It is said that charity begins at home. For Alan Bennett”, said the UK Guardian of an earlier production “it began at the bottom of his drive with a custard yellow van inhabited by an irascible eccentric who refused to budge for 15 years.

Where others might have seen an obstruction, Bennett spotted an opportunity. Miss Shepherd, who claimed at various times to be a former nun and concert pianist, gave the writer much, in addition to the task of clearing polythene bags of dried faeces from the garden. Having expanded the experience from a diary entry into a short story, a radio serialisation and finally an award-winning play, he must have come to feel that the poop-scooping was ultimately worth it.

Though the play presents a hilarious catalogue of Miss Shepherd’s foibles, it is more of a dramatic meditation on the moral justification of exploiting ourselves and others for the sake of art. Bennett was clearly in two minds over his uninvited tenant, and explores the nature of the dilemma by dramatising himself twice. A pair of identical Alans deliver a Tweedledum-Tweedledee commentary on the social issue developing on their doorstep: intellectual Alan maintains an objective, writerly interest, while practical Alan deals with the day-to-day irritation. Simply put, one finds material where the other finds only waste material.

There’s a further psychological thread to which teases out the extent to which Bennett’s obsession with Miss Shepherd was a displacement activity designed to assuage nagging guilt about his mother’s dementia.”

There are only a few tickets left for the Horley Archway Theatre production of this brilliant play which will run for two weeks starting Tuesday July 17th – get them now before they are all sold…

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02 February
Comments Off on Don’t Miss “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh at The Archway Theatre, Horley Feb 21st – March 3rd

Don’t Miss “The Pillowman” by Martin McDonagh at The Archway Theatre, Horley Feb 21st – March 3rd

The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh will be on at The Archway Theatre in Horley between Tuesday February 21st and Saturday March 3rd.

Once described as having a name more Irish than the man, Martin McDonagh usually sets his plays in Ireland (The Leenane Trilogy, The Lieutenant of Inishmore…) but they never conform to the Ballykissangel, Bing Crosby, When Irish eyes are smiling Irish whimsy so often offered up on the stage or screen. Instead he strips back the overlay of green fantasy and reveals a far more vicious and dysfunctional narrative about the emerald isle – but one that is always counter balanced with a dark, gallows humour.
The Pillowman, originally presented at the NT in 2003 follows the same twisted thread of terror and comedy but is set outside Ireland in a mythical authoritarian Kafkaesque state.

In-yer-face theatre rarely comes more shocking than this but, surprisingly, by the end McDonagh reveals himself to have a sentimental side. It takes some time for this to become apparent and a number of members of the audience with weaker stomachs failed to make it past the interval.
Katurian Katurian Katurian – not a misprint – is a writer of jet-black fairy tales that make the Grimm’s seem like Enid Blyton. All of his 400 works bar one are about children that get abused and killed and it is no surprise to learn that he and his spastic brother have suffered terribly at their parents’ hands.
When KKK’s stories start to be re-enacted in real life, he and his brother Michal are hauled in for brutal interrogation by two policemen who write their own laws. They also have a hilarious line in interrogation which leaves those with a dark sense of humour doubled up with laughter.
It doesn’t take too long to discover who is the perpetrator of the crimes. Then the real horrors in the lives of all four of the principal characters begin to emerge with gut-wrenching clarity.
Just when all seems too awful to be depicted on stage, McDonagh cleverly twists the tail of the play with great dramatic effect.
The Pillowman is extremely funny and has hidden depths that will leave the amateur psychologists in the audience with much food for thought.

Tickets are £8.50 for members and £10 for non members. Please leave a message on 01293 781059 or e mail [email protected] giving your phone number if you would like to book seats.

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19 January
Comments Off on Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

Yes, I Also Have Been Sorely Tempted To Punch Will Shakespeare On The Nose…

As a former schoolboy (a long time ago) and a teacher (now retired) and an amateur actor (still mumbling) I must confess enjoying a moment of guilty pleasure when I watch that Blackadder clip…

It came to mind when I learned a day or so back that I had just landed myself a part in our amateur theatre group’s Shakespeare spring production of “The Winter’s Tale”….not a particularly big role but, as Private Eye might say, it’s small but perfectly formed…..

I love being involved with a play, be it on or back stage. For a few weeks you are part of a joint endeavour with a group of people for one common purpose. You share all the ups and the downs, the crises and the celebrations, the laughter and the tears. Forget those familiar dividing lines of social intercourse age, sex or experience. You are pitched together like a close family battling the world. Then the set is struck and you go your separate ways. Once or twice the bonds made during a run might hold long after the scripts are filed. But more usually, once the play is done, the connections dissolve and disappear down memory lane.

The Bard, however, raises different issues for he is the broccoli of drama. We are told how good he is for us yet so many leave him on the side of the plate. Amateur groups feel he has to be performed even though quite a few tickets will be left unsold.
Shakespeare is often the amdram equivalent of a loss leader.

But he shouldn’t be. The characters are fascinating. The language is powerful and vivid. The themes are universal. He is part of every school’s curriculum.

We all have studied Shakespeare – and there’s the rub.

He is studied because he is a Good Thing. In school we have all analysed and dissected Billy S like a specimen on a laboratory bench. We have discussed characters, motives, meanings and symbolism, turned over metaphors and deconstructed references and laid bare every bone, muscle and sinew. His words are revered like a biblical text, a scientific hypothesis or a philosophical treatise. There is a vast Shakespeare industry employing thousands of actors, academics and gushing media scribblers and talking heads.

The guy’s works are being adulated to death – so here’s a thought.

Let’s turn off the tap for five years. Embargo the puff pieces. Deep freeze the academics in a cryogenics unit. Remove Stratford’s name from all road signs and sat navs. Ban Billy S from being mentioned in the school classroom. Perform the plays with zero hype. Hang anyone who dares to say “the bard”

Shift his library classification from the doom laden “Literature” to cheap and cheerful “Entertainment” – because that was how he was regarded by the noisy, bawdy riotous townsfolk who watched his plays in Elizabethan and Jacobean London.

As a schoolboy in 1950s England any chance of appreciating Shakespeare was ground out of my consciousness by hour after hour of mind numbing analysis until the very mention of the name would cause my eyes to glaze over and my brain to slip into neutral.

Then one evening in 1955 I went with my bus driver dad for our weekly cinema visit. He had misread the bill and was expecting to see a gangster movie. By the time we realised it was Laurence Olivier’s film of Richard III our tickets had already been purchased so we went in, expecting to be bored to tears.

How wrong we were. It was magical.

At the end, as the final credits rolled the audience in that packed cinema in a working class suburb of South London sat motionless and silent for a few brief moments. Then as we walked out into the night there was a massive buzz as we all began to talk of what we had seen and my dad looked at me and said “That wasn’t the Shakespeare that was hammered into me at school. That film must be the real Shakespeare….what have I been missing all these years?”

So, unlike Blackadder, it’s not the real Will Shakespeare I want to punch on the nose – it’s the polystyrene cultural idol created by the termites of the Shakespeare industry that I would like to target with my custard pie.

Mind you sometimes I do find Colin Firth a tad irritating……

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