National Operatic & Dramatic Association London Region
Society : Aldermaston Players
Production : Travels with my Aunt
Date : Thursday 25th February 2016
Venue : Parish Hall - Aldermaston
Report by : Jeanette Maskell
I was delighted to be invited to review the latest offering from this affable friendly society. This was a great adaptation of Graham Greene’s Travel’s with my Aunt; the script being well written with some cracking quotes and a wealth of subtle humour which had the audience chuckling throughout. It was such a wordy piece, however the cast coped admirably and although on the evening of my visit there was some line fluffing which resulted in several prompts, it did not detract from the performance in any way. Personally I would have change the “F” word for something not quite so out there; it neither added to nor enhanced the plot. There was an audible gasp from the group on the table in front of me on both occasions it was used.
Nigel Antell/Darren Lock – (Narrators (Henry)) – These two young men worked tirelessly throughout the play; I liked the way they moved props linking the scenes whilst maintaining their character. It is a credit to both that they were unobtrusive yet seemingly conspicuous. They shared the dialogue which was delivered with good projection, great inflection and a certain eccentricity. Their movement was perfectly co-ordinated and the whole culminated in an ideal cohesion of character.
Nigel Wilson – (Henry Pulling) – In a well-rounded performance this actor went from the quiet staid dahlia growing ex banker to a thrill seeking adventurer with apparent ease. I particularly enjoyed his scenes with Tooley which had good pace and an innate sense of fun. His dialogue was easy and natural with good diction and projection. His interaction with the other cast members was spot on creating a fluidity between characters and scenes.
Tricia Goodchild – (Aunt Augusta) – What a mammoth role this is for any actress; however this was a standout performance by this talented actress. Every aspect of the complex character was pure quality. She certainly looked the part with her flame red hair, deportment (which never wavered) and body movement which was perfect as she moved effortlessly from scene to scene. She interacted extremely well with everyone on stage and built great rapport with Henry, Wordsworth and Mr Visconti. Her dialogue was forthright with great projection and super dynamics. She displayed all the traits of promiscuity passion selfishness and a certain degree of cruelty, in this whirlwind portrayal.
Chris Boott – (Wordsworth) – I really enjoyed this characterisation, although in the first instance it appeared to be carefree and full of fun, delivering little classics; “got a CTC for Wordsworth”, and calling Augusta “my baby girl” it also had a certain naivety and sadness about it. His infatuation and devotion toward Augusta came over famously as did his jealousy of Henry; and this made the rapport between them totally believable. His facial expressions; especially his cheeky grin was superb and enhanced the light hearted delivery of his dialogue.
Kerry Thomas – (Miss Keene) – This was an emotional performance which added much to the overall play. She had a delightful speaking voice; rich and resonant; delivering her dialogue with a truthful sincerity that befitted the modest reticent character she had developed.
Kim Antell – (Tooley/Girl in Jodhpurs) – As the pot smoking hippie this young lady was a smash! She was totally out there; vivacious animated and in character at all times. Her dialogue was upbeat and energetic with a credible well maintained American accent. She breezed her way through her scenes with fluid natural movement, which enhanced her portrayal. Her cameo as the girl in jodhpurs was a complete contrast being stereotypical of the horse riding country fraternity, with a brilliant “Okay Yah!” accent.
Derek Spears – (Mr Visconti/Spanish Gentleman) – If a decent authentic accent is required then look no further than this talented actor. Dialogue was clear well projected with plenty of light and shade; and he used this to great effect whilst creating a charismatic unctuous character; full of vitality charm and exuberance. It was easy to see why Augusta fell for him and the chemistry between them was excellent. Although we did not have a clue what he saying as the Spanish gentleman the character was forceful and animated as only the Spanish can be and the dialogue totally believable.
Tom Shorrock – (O’Toole) – This was an excellent tongue in cheek performance. Dialogue had a real sparkle which complemented his ebullient visuals. He carried the “Am I, Aren’t I” through to the end adding a nice touch of humorous suspense to the plot, however in the end we really weren’t sure. The character was laid back and easy going; matched by his movement which was instinctive and natural and his bearing nonchalant and relaxed.
Warwick Brown – (Police Inspector/In the Pub) – Although this young man had little to do as the man in the pub, he was visually animated and with his fellow actors created just the right ambience. As the Police Inspector he was strong, motivated and lively; which reinforced his character. He had clarity of diction that was second to none with great inflection giving his performance an edge that was a cut above the rest.
Chris Goodchild – (Richard Pulling/Vicar/Taxi Driver/In the Pub/Policeman/Colonel Hakim/Body Guard)
Karen Dignan – (Hatty/Italian Girl/Yolande)
Mary Cawley – (Frau General/Receptionist)
Cynthia Newman – (Miss Paterson) – These four actors all portrayed their many and varied characters with style and finesse. When actors have to double characters it can become a drain upon their skill and portrayals become similar; however not on this occasion. They were diverse as the play warranted and embellished the plot adding to the overall performance with an assured equanimity. All had good diction and projection and interacted well in all the scenes they were involved in bringing out the humour to the full. I did pick up on a couple of dubious accents however this did not detract from the plot in any way.
Kim Antell – (Director) – This director had cast the show extremely well and utilised the talents of her performers to put on a first rate show. She had worked hard on characterisations which were three dimensional. All involved looked comfortable natural and believable in delivering what was expected of them. Staging had been thoroughly thought through so there was no upstaging or masking. There were some great touches throughout and I particularly liked the way she had the two narrators moving props changing scenes and holding the continuity, which gave the piece pace and energy. If it was her idea to use projection to identify which scene we were in it was truly inspired and worked perfectly.
Chris Boott/Ange Boott/Cynthia Newman – (Producers) – Well done these three; producing is hard work and can go unnoticed with little thanks. They obviously work well together and had ensured all aspects of the show came together and ran smoothly from start to finish.
Chris Chapman – (Lighting) – I really liked the use of the varied colours in the super lighting plot. The stage was well lit at all times and added real atmosphere to the proceedings. The only time I felt it came adrift was when the pub was spotted and the main acting area was shrouded in blue; you found your attention was drawn to the brightly lit area rather than the main characters. The lighting desk was well controlled and there were no missed cues.
Bill Macdonald – (Sound & Projection) – Louis Antell (at rehearsals) – There was a good balance of sound which was maintained throughout and the projections were cued to perfection.
Ange Boott - (Wardrobe) – Assisted by Clare Bruton – Costumes had been allocated according to character which worked extremely well and I was pleased to see that accessories had not been overlooked. I was particularly taken with the lavishness of Aunt Augusta’s. All other costumes and uniforms were in period and keeping with piece.
Louise Marshall – (Make-up & Wigs) – Make-up had been well applied and did not disappear under the lighting. If anyone other than Aunt Augusta was wearing a wig it was so natural that I was totally unaware.
Chris Chapman/Bill Macdonald/Adrian Thomas/Roy Smith – (Set Construction) – The set pieces were sturdy well-constructed fit for purpose and ideal for the use to which they were put.
Chris Newman/Cynthia Newman – (Set Painting) – The painting of the set had been carried out with meticulous care and blended nicely with the surroundings on stage. It also lent itself to the lighting.
Properties – The stage was well dressed and all personal props were appropriate to the plot and there was nothing to cause concern to the actors.
Front of House – This team of ladies was excellent; they were friendly attentive and there was nothing they would not do for you. I thank you for looking after me so well.
Jeanette Maskell - NODA Representative - London Region - Area 13