National Operatic & Dramatic Association London Region
Society : Aldermaston Players
Production : Don’t Dress for Dinner
Date : 23rd September 2021
Venue : Aldermaston Parish Hall
Report by : Rob Bertwistle
Many thanks for the kind invitation to attend the Aldermaston Players production of Don’t Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti and adapted by Robin Hawdon.
I was standing in temporarily as the rep for District 13. My guest and I received a very warm welcome on the opening night in the charming setting of Aldermaston Parish Hall.
How lovely to be back seeing ‘live’ theatre again after such a long and enforced absence.
This play is a typical farce with many twists and turns as the characters dive and weave to extricate themselves from all manner of tricky and embarrassing situations.
This play was a long time in the production process according to director Kerry Thomas after all manner of production complications and of course the dreaded COVID!
The tabs parted to reveal a beautifully constructed and realised set designed by Chris Boott and Sandra Faulkner. Although the set occupied a very small stage the overall effect was one of space and the clever placing of doors and furniture made the playing area seem quite manageable even when characters had to stagger drunkenly in and out of the playing area. The construction looked solid and was well used by the cast. I was impressed with the painting and overall look of the set which certainly set the scene well for the action to be played out in. The confines of the stage did leave one or two moments of ‘where can I go?’ but generally the cast coped well with the limited space.
Directed with flair and a good eye for comedy this was a triumphant directorial debut for Kerry Thomas. She got some good performances from the exhubriant cast. The nature of the play and its complex plot were well handled and the pacing was generally good. A few first night nerves did slow down the action on occasions but this certainly didn’t detract from an excellent evening’s entertainment. The socially distanced and therefore (I’m guessing) smaller audience responded well to the action.
Costumes by Ange Boott looked generally in keeping with the period and style of the production although I thought the character of the mistress the actress/model would have looked more in keeping with the character if dressed rather more stylishly. A long evening gown maybe? I liked Bernard’s interesting array of costume changes as each was soiled in various ways.
In the same vein I felt that while the characters hair and make-up by Louise Marshall was generally fine I would have liked the mistress, again, to have had a more stylish hair design. Just a personal note and one which probably never became an issue.
The set dressing and props by Elke Darmstader and Barry Woodley certainly filled the bill and made the set look very realistic.
The sound and special effects courtesy of Tom Shorrock and Chris Boott all happened on cue with no noticeable glitches. While lighting and sound effects were in the capable hands of Douglas Faulkner. The simple lighting plot, as is usually the case in one set interiors, effectively enhanced the painting effects and set dressings.
No listing in the programme as to the programme designer but the menu style format worked well although this limited the inclusion of the familiar cast biographies and photographs. This of course was in no way detrimental to the production and could be a handy way of keeping down costs.
Chris Goodchild is listed in the programme as DJ but I’m afraid – and with no intended disrespect – I was not aware of his contribution to the action.
Nigel Antell gave an assured performance as the philandering husband and scheming lover Bernard. He had good comic timing interacting well with fellow cast members. Nigel also produced some very funny facial expressions. As with all the cast he projected well and with good diction.
Karen Dignan played his equally duplicitous wife Jacqueline. Karen, who, after a tentative start soon began to relish her characters foibles. She rescued some tricky moments of line aberration (I like to call it) and made an impression. She used the stage well and interacted believably (if the farcical situations can be called believable) with the other cast members. Clear diction and good projection were also present.
I was very much taken with Darren Locks portrayal of the hapless and seemingly innocent Robert somehow caught up in his best friends machinations (although not totally blameless himself as Jacqueline’s lover!) Darren gave an assured interpretation of a man slowly spiralling out of control as each new plot twist emerged. He used the stage well and was always aware of the positioning on the stage.
Kim Antell was good as the mistress Suzanne. With some fantastic facial expressions and a wonderful sense of world weariness as she was taken for the cook. Kim delivered her lines with conviction and seemed to be really having a lot of fun in this comedic role. Again we were treated to very clear diction and projection.
I think Paula Stenson had the most fun in her role as Suzette the cook/mistress and used some excellent stage craft to maximise the comedy. She had good comedy timing and some wonderful facial expressions especially when extracting more ‘cash’ from the gentlemen.
Derek Spears made a memorable cameo appearance as George the formidable and quite scary jealous husband of Suzette. He certainly commanded the stage and his projection and diction was impeccable. A nice interpretation though a long time waiting to appear so a definite need to make an impression I would have thought! Well done!
And well done to you all. I have mentioned projection and diction quite a few times but it is one of my ‘things’. If people can’t hear the lines they soon turn off and as I’ve said in many reports the cast all know the lines but the audience only get one shot at hearing them. You all came up trumps in that department.
Finally thank you to all concerned in bringing the production to the stage and congratulations on providing a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable evening’s entertainment.
Very best wishes,
Covering Regional Representative
Tel: 07731 642 907
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