HAUNTING JULIA by Alan Ayckbourn

HAUNTING JULIA SCARED ICE FACTORY AUDIENCES. - Review by Geoffrey Wildey

Teignmouth Players’ latest production, “Haunting Julia” a suspense chilling psychological thriller from Alan Ayckbourn’s pen certainly gripped the Ice Factory audiences.

This three actor and one female voice-over piece was skilfully directed by John Miles who created the perfect atmosphere from the play’s opening to its exciting finale.

Of the three male actors (and this was definitely a team play) Phil Wesley-Harkcom gave a thoroughly convincing and emotional performance as Julia’s troubled father. His facial ex- pressions and the dramatic pauses conveyed his inner feelings and turmoil providing a master class in “close stage” acting.

Garry Freemantle as Andy, one of Julia’s fellow university students and her boyfriend [on the whole] gave a well-controlled portrayal of a confused young man requiring answers to Julia’s death. He displayed his anger and disbelief of supernatural events and beings con- vincingly. [It was in his early duologue delivered downstage right when he needed to use the knack of just turning his head away from his listener and add slightly more projection to his dialogue delivery.]

It was left to Gordon Frow as the former janitor of the student residence to fill in some of the cracks in Julia’s story. He gave an excellent character study [but he also needed slightly more projection as he narrated his important role] throughout the play but I must add that in Act 2 he really shone and gave a compelling performance.

The voice-overs provided by Jaz Brown provided a most important part of the plot and alt- hough well delivered in the earlier act needed to be set at a higher volume so the audience were not required to strain to hear them perfectly so they knew and heard what and why Julia’s father and Andy were reacting to in their excellent “silent” role play.

The setting and costumes plus atmospheric music and lighting were all well chosen but it was the powerful effects that proved the most effective.

I have seen this play a few times before and it was most interesting to see John Miles’ ver- sion of the play come to life and to listen to the interval and after show comments and reac- tion to any theatre presentation, which is always the sign of how well the audience has been entertained or thrilled in this case.

Before I close my review, I would like to thank Barrie Wilson publicly for recommending“Haunting Julia” as a classic piece of theatre which merits a place in any theatre pro- gramme and John Miles, his cast and production team certainly did Alan Ayckbourn’s play justice and should be proud of their work.

Thank you all,

Geoffrey Wildy

One Act Play review

What a great couple of evenings we had at the Ice Factory with our two one-act plays ahead of their entry to TADDFest.

“Allergic Audience” by Joan Greening was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016. Our interpretation, directed by Dave Davies, saw the part of Barbara, the long suffering volunteer front of house manager in a provincial theatre played most convincingly by Pauline Dean whilst the part of the seemingly unemployable professional actress who is yet to get a part in any production any- where was admirably portrayed by Tricia Sandford. It seems many of the audience were some- what confused or bemused by the constant references to a hessian bag, Barbara seemed to have some form of allergy to hessian and as a result was somewhat fixated on the subject. Pandora meanwhile just didn't seem to realise that her acting ability was rather one dimensional and in spite of knowing all the lines to the play that was supposed to be being staged at the theatre, plus vari- ous bits of Shakespeare thrown in for good measure, it was highly unlikely that any director would want to select her for a role! Having got off to a particularly prickly start, the two ladies eventually found some common ground with Pandora offering to help the hapless Barbara find a man. Dave Davies put in a sterling effort to bring this play to stage and the actresses both gave of their best but, in hindsight, the script was rather weak and totally overshadowed by “Nuts”.

And so to “Nuts” written and directed by Jef Pirie and with a stellar cast, this play was a winner from the off. The clever use of the television to show activity outside the hotel room immediately gave the impression of something a bit different and intriguing. Once in the room we were almost in the land of Brian Rix and the great British farce, whilst some of the foreign accents adopted by the ac- tresses would not have gone amiss in ‘ello ‘ello! This was a fast paced comic romp that had the audience virtually crying with laughter from very early on to the end. It was easy to see why, just a week later, Amy Burton Smith would be awarded Best Actress at TADDFest whilst both Lisa Fletch- er and David Warren were nominated for Best Actress and Best Actor respectively. All three gave flawless performances and screwed every last ounce of comedy out of the situation. Not to be out- done, Roger Tarrant entered right at the end as Nigel’s (David Warren) police inspector partner who was completely bemused by the fact his partner had a pair of ladies’ knickers on his head and two drunken and scantily clad women in his hotel room, what is the world coming to? This was a masterful piece of comic theatre and Jef really showed his prowess for comic writing. Well done all.

Supporting both plays from a technical perspective was our very own Daniel Saint whilst front of house and bar duties were arranged and carried out by the regular faithful, thank you all for your continued support without which the actors wouldn’t get chance to act!

If you missed these performances there will be opportunities to see Nuts at the Exmouth Drama Festival on Saturday 13th April and at the All England Drama Festival Quarter Finals on Saturday 4th May in Sherborne Dorset.

Festival Successes for Nuts!*

What a team! Not satisfied with winning TADDFest and get- ting Best Actress for Amy Burton Smith, Jef Pirie and the Nuts team went off to the Somerset County Drama Festival last weekend and scooped the Cely Trevillian Cup for the Best Production of an Original Play, in addition to being nominated for Best Overall Stage Presentation. Both Lisa Fletcher and David Warren had also been nominated at TADDFest for Best Actress and Actor respectively, whilst Jef was nominated for Best Director. The team are off to the Blackmore Theatre on 13th April for the Exmouth Drama Festival and we wish them all good luck for that.

Having won TADDFest, the team will be representing TP at the quarter finals of the All England Drama Festival to be held at Sherborne, Dorset on 4th May, we wish them all the best for that too.

The Nuts team:

Snake in the Grass - September 2018

Review by Geoffrey Wildey

Snake in the Grass by Alan Ayckbourn

Performed by Teignmouth Players at The Ice Factory Studio Theatre

“Snake in the Grass” at The Ice Factory Studio Theatre, Teignmouth from 25thto 29thSeptember, was a great play that really kept the audience anticipating how it would end.  It was certainly in a different “plot” style to other Alan Ayckbourn plays.

The director, John Miles, definitely pulled out all the dramatic twists possible to make this play work and create the atmosphere this play needed.

The above would not have been complete without the trio of accomplished actresses.  Top of my list goes Karen Allen for her performance as Annabel Chester, the sister who emigrated to Tasmania to escape an abusive father, she conveyed every mood swing required in this dramatic role, which in parts, many actresses would have tended to overact but Karen’s control was near perfect.  The only alteration I would have liked would have been some “Tasmanian” accent.

Very close behind with a most convincing portrayal of the over-burdened sister was Nichola Aldridge (making her debut with Teignmouth Players – I hope it won’t be her last). She played Miriam Chester taking the audience with her through her life of painful drudgery caring for her abusive father, until the final twist.

Last, but by no means least, Esther O’Brien showed her acting craft to perfection in the smaller but equally important role as the scheming nurse, Alice Moody.

The multi set was skilfully designed giving a striking feeling of depth plus extremely clever décor for this small acting area.  Daniel Saint had created some most effective atmospheric lighting with some mysterious sound effects by Ken Swan, which all added to the success of this production. Anyone who missed it failed to see a wonderful piece of theatre.

Geoffrey Wildey