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November 28, 2001

A Voyage Round My Father

When I was asked to write a review of the Pirton Players latest production I thought I had been approached because I was once, ever so briefly, a West End actress. However, the truth is the group were desperate and I was flattered to be asked!

Regular supporters of Pirton Players, I am sure, take for granted the high standard of their productions but as a first timer I was very impressed by the professional approach of the whole set up. It was easy to forget you were in the village hall and not in the local repertory theatre with all that you associate with it – Front of House in black tie, theatre programmes on sale at the door, the excited buzz in the bar, pre-booked interval drinks and even a lady selling ice creams!

The play, A Voyage Round My Father by John Mortimer was not an easy option for the Pirton Players to produce. It proves, however, just how sophisticated the group have become in being willing to take on such a challenge. Narrated by the son, the play takes you on a journey through his life, from young boy to married man via a series of flashbacks to reveal just how profound the relationship between father and son can be.

Roger Blackburn was excellent as the blind barrister father with many wise and amusing things to say on any subject you care to mention. As the central figure in the play, John Mortimer wrote some truly memorable lines for this philosophical and charismatic character and so it was a joy to hear his words spoken with such wit and clarity. Everywhere father went mother was obliged to follow in order to assist her rather irritable and ungrateful husband. Penny Picken was most convincing as the format wife, playing her part in such a quiet and understated way that it would be easy to miss the skill required to project such a meek character.

Jude Kerswill played the part of the son as a young boy very well. He was successful in gaining sympathy from the audience as you witness him holding his own in the company of his imposing father and batting off insults from tyrannical public school masters. Rich Sexton as the adult son had the arduous task of narrating and playing in many of the flashbacks. By the second act Rich had achieved a seamless switch from narration to flashback and as if imitating his on stage character Rich grew in confidence over the course of the play, speaking his words with more honesty and conviction than he had in the first act.

Lou Robinson gave a strong performance as the wife of the son and was particularly powerful when she challenged the Father’s refusal to acknowledge his blindness. It was at gripping moments like this that you wanted the flashbacks to continue and learn more about the main characters.

The supporting case all gave well-honed individual performances but there were a few that stood out. Kaffe Jungreuthmayer gave a bright and natural performance as Reigate the friend of the young son. Jill Rogers was very amusing as Doris the stage manager, swooning over the director. Edward Picken portrayed the part of Bousted the barrister with great relish. Dudley Gentle and Paul Kerswill brought their characters to life. Susie Warwicker and Julie Dawson were hilarious in French & Saunders mode. Credit should also be given to the children, Valentina Sexton, Molly Kerswill, Kaitlin and Cameron Warwicker. When I saw Mr Morrow played by Steve Jaynes appear in the doorway with his long scarf trailing beneath his overcoat and his wild eyes protruding from under his felt hat I gave out a loud snort which is not like me at all. He continued to make me laugh as he madly expounded how he was being drained of his ‘red corpuscles’. Have you ever tried stand up comedy Steve?

Betty Turner showed great skill in directing this challenging play with its minimalist set design and the clever use of props and atmospheric lighting. Added to this, the choice of music was perfect for the period. Congratulations Pirton Players, I very much enjoyed A Voyage Round My Father and look forward to your forthcoming production of the Mikado. [Review by Dorothy Abbott]

Director  -  Betty Turner

1st ATS  -  Susie Warwicker
1st Child (Jennifer)  -  Molly Kerswill
2nd ATS  -  Julie Dawson
2nd Child (Joanna)  -  Kaitlin Warwicker
3rd Child (Daniel)  -  Cameron Warwicker
Boustead  -  Ed Picken
Director  -  John Hayes
Doctor  -  Graham Gibbs
Doris  -  Jill Rogers
Elizabeth  -  Lou Robinson
Father  -  Roger Blackburn
George  -  Dudley Gentle
Ham  -  Peter Johnson
Headmaster  -  Dudley Gentle
Iris  -  Valentina Sexton
Japhet  -  Paul Ribbans
Judge  -  Graham Gibbs
Miss Baker  -  Valmai Guess
Miss Cox  -  Helen Walker
Miss Ferguson  -  Susie Warwicker
Mother  -  Penny Picken
Mr Morrow  -  Stephen Jaynes
Mrs Reigate  -  Susie Warwicker
Reigate  -  Kaffe Jungreuthmayer
Ringer Lean  -  Paul Kerswill
Son  -  Richard Sexton
Son (as boy)  -  Jude Kerswill
Sparks  -  Paul Kerswill
Thong  -  Paul Ribbans
Witness  -  Margaret Johnson

Box Office  -  Ted Turner
Continuity  -  Susie Welch
Costumes  -  Helen Walker
Director  -  Betty Turner
Front of House  -  Peter Williams
Hair  -  Fran Manning
Lighting  -  Derek Webb
Lighting  -  Stephen Thorpe
Lighting  -  Richard Farr
Lighting  -  Bill Steadman
Make-up  -  Julia Thorpe
Programme & Posters  -  Penny Picken
Prompt  -  Jeannie Jungreuthmayer
Props  -  Liz Gentle
Props  -  Liz Chapman
Publicity  -  Jill Rogers
Publicity  -  Sarah Farr
Set Design & Construction  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Design & Construction  -  Dudley Gentle
Set Design & Construction  -  Penny Picken
Set Design & Construction  -  Susie Welch
Sound  -  Dave Wallace
Stage Crew  -  Brian Sommerville
Stage Crew  -  Val Bryant
Stage Crew  -  Ken Walker
Stage Manager  -  Neil Shearer

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