A LAUGHING MATTER by April de
Aldermaston Players, Meadow Brook Farm, 13/14 July
Reviewed by Hugh Terry.
The show must go on. If ever
an an old cliché summed up a bravura performance in hostile conditions, this
was it. As the curtain went up on the Aldermaston Players’ open-air production
of A Laughing Matter in a field at Meadow Brook (halfway between Reading and
Newbury) the heavens opened and we were treated to a prolonged cloudburst.
Nevertheless on the show went, virtually
inaudibly at first, but soon becoming clearer as the rain relented.
If the opening scene of April
de Angelis’s witty farce (an ‘irreverent version’ of real life events) was more
or less drowned out, you got the gist of what was happening and it was most
amusing. Set in 18th-century London, the play revolves around impresario David
Garrick, his company of players and their rivals, and the controversial
question of whether to mount She Stoops To Conquer, a new play by Irish writer
Oliver Goldsmith which may or may not be too ‘low’ and vulgar…
The Players assembled a
populous cast with varying degrees of experience, some ‘doubling up’ to play
more than one role. As Garrick, the greatest actor of his generation, Graham
Jerome was suitably ‘theatrical’ where necessary, as was Tom Shorrock in a
hilarious depiction of the winning, impetuous Goldsmith.
This pair were ably supported
by Chris Boott as Boswell and Nigel Wilson as Dr Johnson; there was an
affecting performance by Chris Faulkner as hapless Charles Macklin (Garrick had
stolen his thunder!) and a well over-the-top cameo by Tricia Goodchild as the
lubricious Lady Kingston.
commendably, Cath Hannon deserving a special bouquet for her superb comic
timing and perfect diction in the roles of Hannah More and Mrs Woffington. Even
under the trying conditions, she held it together.
The staging, beards, wigs and
costumes were brilliant, even if the front row of the audience were sitting
more than the length of a cricket pitch away from the stage; and the play
itself highly diverting and original, with historical characters mouthing
modern idioms at times to great humorous effect.
The result was a superb
evening’s entertainment that began in a rainstorm and ended with moonlight on a
muddy moat (well, almost). The old adage from the stage that you should always
leave the audience wanting more may well be correct; however on this occasion,
while the the play itself was long, its run was sadly short, as punters were
only offered two chances to see this production.
I would urge the team to
seriously consider a re-run at the earliest opportunity – this time perhaps at
an indoor venue? Anyway, as winners of this year’s NODA award for Best
Newcomers, whatever this resourceful group of performers chooses to put on in
the near future should be well worth watching.