March 21, 2007

Stage Directions (One Act Plays)

The Pirton Players presented four evenings of five one-act plays between 21st and 24th March. We went to the first public performance, the Wednesday. Well, what fabulous entertainment. Five extremely different plays had been selected and were offered in a cleverly balanced order to take you from the horrifying to the hilarious, to the scary to the serious, to the experimental. Something for everyone and we enjoyed them all.

The first play, A Smell of Burnt Feathers by Paul Gisby, was a tale of two totally different sisters brought together by the death of a parent and directed by Rosie Hamilton-McLeod. Oriole (Lorna Sexton) was a control freak whose life is utterly planned, ordered and executed by routine. Jenny (Judy McDonnell) by contrast appears to be easy going but is revealed to be undisciplined in the extreme and floundering. The ghastly twist in the tale took me completely by surprise. I thought the set, a reception area in front of a conference hall, was good.

The second play, Ferris Wheel by Mary Miller and directed by Dud Gentle, was utterly hilarious. Oh how we love to laugh at the shortcoming in others but this pair of characters were played absolutely brilliantly (by Penny and Ed Picken) and I don’t think we were being too cruel to laugh at Dorie and John; we just couldn’t ourselves. Both socially inept and on the fairground ride for different reasons, we were actually disappointed at the end when they parted. You kind of hoped they would save each other, but of course they didn’t. There was a nice touch at the end with the thunderclap as John finally lit his long resisted cigarette. Understated and subtle performances and a very simple but effective set left the audience smiling.

Now the third performance, Banbury Ping, written by Sandy Hill and directed by Debbie Basnett, was a very scary affair and if I ever meet Player Two (Sue Kennedy) in the High Street wearing those boots, I shall turn tail and flee. Player One (Janet Eccles) was icy and Player Three (Ann Fausset) appeared to be the voice of reason but was all the more frightening for misleading you. The joy of this play was the humorously surprising twist at the end. Jon Newham played The Stranger, or hapless victim.

After the interval we were treated to the heavy-duty serious offering of the evening in which the two principle characters, Fender and Morry, were magnificently portrayed (by Paul Kerswill and Anton Jungreuthmayer). The Bespoke Overcoat was written by Wolf Mankowitz and Tom Gammell directed this performance. Was this drunken delusion born of guilt? Or was the ghost real? Humour to counterbalance the drama was provided by the other two characters, Ranting and the Clerk (Peter Donovan and Adam Nicoll). I was enthralled and look forward to future presentations by this cast. Wonderful set, fastidiously thought out.

The evening rounded off with an experimental piece, a bit of a brain-teaser, that felt like a workshop piece rather than a play. Red Balloon provided a light-hearted return to the real world after the emotional journey of The Bespoke Overcoat. The cast were simply referred to as a girl a man and a woman (Leanne Bradley, Michael Tackley and Clare Easterbrook) and work through the theatrical invention repeating it each time from a different character’s point of view.

Thank you to all players, directors, stage designers, costume makers, everybody involved for a marvellous evening of delight. I can only imagine that as the week went on it got tighter and faster but, in one case at least, I cannot see how it could have got any better! Well done.

[Review by: Nicola Clark (new to the village and s o o o impressed)]

A Smell of Burnt Feathers
Director  -  Rosie Hamilton-McLeod

The Bespoke Overcoat
Director  -  Tom Gammell

Red Balloon
Director  -  Adam Nicoll

Banbury Ping
Director  -  Debbie Bassnett

Ferris Wheel
Director  -  Dudley Gentle

Producer  -  Stella Turner

Cast
Clerk  -  Adam Nicoll
Dorie  -  Penny Picken
Fender  -  Paul Kerswill
Girl  -  Leanne Bradley
Jenny  -  Judy McDonnell
John  -  Ed Picken
Man  -  Michael Tackley
Morry  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Oriole  -  Lorna Sexton
Player One  -  Janet Tackley
Player Three  -  Ann Fausset
Player Two  -  Sue Kennedy
Ranting  -  Peter Donovan
Stranger  -  John Newham
Woman  -  Clare Easterbrook

Crew
Bar Manager  -  Malcolm Brodie
Costumes  -  Valmai Guess
Director  -  Rosie Hamilton-McLeod
Director  -  Tom Gammell
Director  -  Adam Nicoll
Director  -  Debbie Bassnett
Director  -  Dudley Gentle
Front of House  -  Carol Brown
Front of House  -  Jill Rogers
Lighting  -  Lucinda Rowe
Overall Director  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Photography  -  Dave Woodward
Producer  -  Stella Turner
Prompt  -  Susie Welch
Props  -  Loretta Concannon
Publicity  -  Susie Welch
Publicity Design  -  Penny Picken
Sound  -  Peter Johnson
Stage Crew  -  Brian Sommerville
Stage Manager  -  Peter Johnson

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