Reviews of Adel Players productions
'Rutherford & Son' - Adel Bells, October 2014
Ann Lightman writes..
I've wanted to see this play performed since reading Pat Riley's excellent biography of the playwright, Githa Sowerby.
My wish came true with an excellent production by Adel Players... directed by Pat, assisted by her husband Bernard.
Every aspect was superb - the varied characters in the play (four female, four male - an early example of equal opportunities?) came to life, thanks to the skills of the playwright, actors and costume department.
All the characters were quite distinct, but recognisable - the downtrodden curate son, the bullying father, the burly foreman, the lowly but articulate working class mother... Quite some feat when Robert Colbeck has to pass for the muscle-bound foreman of the glassworks (that coat was brilliant!) - but all made one believe in the characters, which I am sure are in all cases far removed from the actors' true personalities! I should also mention how physically and emotionally demanding such a play must have been on the actors.
The staging, props, lighting and music set the atmosphere superbly, but were soon forgotten as a separate element as one got absorbed into the emotional drama. This was helped by performing in the body of the hall with excellent viewing, aided by tiered seating all around. If anything, there was rather too much emotion for me – I would have appreciated a little more light relief, but a minor quibble. Dianne Newby and Vivienne Bate provided what light relief there was. In fact, I felt that the women had the best roles, the male characters were (in three cases anyway) obviously flawed individuals - an early example of feminism?
One theme in the play was that of child sacrifice. An ancient legend was relayed where children were sacrificed to a pagan god - and the play asked if expecting one's children to enter into the family firm irrespective of their talents and wishes was not a similar fate. The background image of the glass furnaces, bearing a resemblance to a monster, reinforced the message. A revolutionary concept, I suspect, in 1912 when the play was first performed and one that a century later is relevant, e.g. in farming, it cannot be assumed that the younger generation want to take over the family farm.
The ending of the play, where a child would be brought up to the age of 10 by its mother, and then handed over to the grandfather, could be seen as child sacrifice. But 10 was the age by which compulsory education ceased in 1885, the date the play was set (not until 1893 was it raised to 11) so it could be also be seen as giving a child a settled home with food and heating guaranteed (something one could not take for granted then, there being no state help) and a promise of a good future.
I prefer the latter interpretation and also feel that the child’s mother - who showed a steely backbone in her final appearances - could be a good influence on the bullying, and aging father.
This was a play, though, that had such depth that I am still thinking about the messages it contained, three days after seeing it, such was the impact it made.
I will be nagging Val to book for the next production, 'Relatively Speaking' by Alan Ayckbourn on 21 to 24 January 2015 - why not join us?
Ann Lightman, Adel Bells
'It Went To Sudden Death' - Adel Bells, June 2014
This was a most enjoyable murder mystery evening. The hall was laid out with tables round the edge and on the stage, full of enthusiastic viewers. They were not disappointed.
To start with, there was a quiz on each table to keep everyone busy until the main event. It was quite a difficult quiz, and we could see one or two tables trying to 'Google' an answer to a particularly obscure question.
When everyone was assembled, the play 'It Went To Sudden Death', written by Jon Holmes, began. It was staged in the round and the way the stage furniture was brought in to change the scenes was masterly. The action took place in 'Adel Golf Club' and concerned an authoress who had written a very successful first novel which included scurrilous references to local people who could easily be identified. She was now threatening to write a novel about the club and the committee was horrified to think of what she might write about them as there were plenty of skeletons in the cupboard.
The members argued amongst themselves as to how they might deal with the situation and various unpleasant innuendoes surfaced as they tried to imagine what might be written about them. Only one member of the committee (Peggy, Pat Riley) seemed to have any friendly feelings towards the authoress... Suddenly, the news came that the writer had been found murdered outside the porch of Adel Church, and the committee was gathered together by the police inspector for questioning.
At this point, our supper was served – pie and peas or quiche and salad. Much enjoyed.
We were on tenterhooks to find out who the murderer was and had some ideas of our own, but we waited for the police inspector to unravel the mystery. This she did, with the help of a local reporter who had found listening to gossip very profitable. It was the least likely person - just as we thought!
All the cast were excellent, with Mike Andrews in very good form as the outraged Golf Club president and Pat Riley trying to defend her friend the authoress, played by Dianne Newby. It is difficult to pick out any cast member as they all played their parts well, but perhaps there could be a mention of Janet Porter, the Lady Captain, who became convincingly drunk at one point.
This was a charity performance on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support and Adel War Memorial Association. All those involved either on stage, behind the scenes, or preparing the supper, are to be congratulated and thanked for giving their time and effort to such worthy causes.
The sum of £1672.14 was raised for Macmillan and £1200.25 for AWMA... Well done!
Beryl Thompson, Sylvia Halliday
Adel Bells magazine
'The Importance of Being Earnest' - Adel Bells, April 2014
I was looking forward to the production by Adel Players of 'The Importance of Being Earnest', knowing the play well. I was not disappointed. Some things you can enjoy however many times you see them. There is always something you did not remember.
It is always interesting to see who is going to take what part and the cast was well chosen. They did the play full justice with the right amount of outrage and innuendo. Algernon (Chris Andrews) was quite splendid in his insouciance, and Jack (Jon Holmes) was equally outraged at being unable to control events.
We awaited the 'handbag' line with anticipation, and Carol Crossfield as Lady Bracknell did not disappoint. Gwendolen (Helen Duce) was suitably snobbish and Cecily (Holly Davenport) very much the ingénue. Miss Prism (Pat Riley) and Canon Chasuble (David Pritchard) played their parts to perfection. Indeed, the whole performance would have done credit to the West End stage.
The costumes were of a very high standard and there must have been so much hard work done behind the scenes to make this production run as smoothly as it did.
It was a sell out as usual and the audience were most appreciative not only of the acting but the way the humour was portrayed. An excellent evening enjoyed by all! We really are fortunate to have such talent on our doorstep.
Beryl Thompson, Sylvia Halliday
'The Importance of Being Earnest' - Culture Vulture, April 2014
This review was first published on TheCultureVulture.co.uk
Oscar Wilde may have written that 'details are always vulgar'. But in Adel Players' latest production of Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest', it was the details which truly made the show. Accompanied by some jaunty music, the curtain opened to reveal a wonderfully realised set, complete with a fireplace, china dogs, a chaise longue, some golden drapery, and a vase of sunflowers and irises. So far, so Wilde.
Once the play began, the performances enlivened the backdrop further, particularly the witty ripostes thrown back and forth between Algernon, played by Chris Andrews, and Jack, played by Jon Holmes. Their fast-paced interaction was a highlight, especially as they became sharper and quicker as the play went on. Jon Holmes truly embodied the earnestness of Ernest – he even smoked in a deliberate, studied way – and also captured the character's absurdity. This was especially true in his scenes with Gwendolen, played superbly by Helen Duce, whose mannerisms, sharp inhalations of breath, and high-held chin brought to life Gwendolen's exaggerated gentility, complete with plummy accent, knowing looks, and graceful sweepings across the stage.
Chris Andrews was a great foil to Jon Holmes' more serious, but no less amusing, performance. His facial expressions – particularly when discussing his desire to meet Jack's ward, Cecily – drew much hilarity from the audience, and his ability to balance smarminess with charm was spot on for the character of Algernon. Holly Davenport performed the sweet naivety of Cecily perfectly, and her wide-eyed delivery contrasted well with the double entendres of Miss Prism, played with amusing exaggeration by Pat Riley. Her rolled 'r's and habit of exclaiming 'oh' whenever Rev Chasuble (the wonderfully deadpan David Pritchard) complimented, touched, or looked at her all added to her performance of the ludicrous Prism.
Carol Crossfield's Lady Bracknell was a study in understatement, taking the character away from the more typically booming, dramatic portrayals. When she quizzes Jack about his parentage, the little details such as waving her stick, tearing up the piece of paper, and repeating the famous line "A handbag!" twice all encapsulated the snobbery of Lady Bracknell, building to a crescendo at the end when she flounced from the room in outrage. The intermittent appearances of the two butlers, Arthur Duce's gruff Merriman and Bruce Chalmers' permanently appalled Lane, injected more laughs into the evening.
Something must also be said of the costumes. Again, the attention to detail was a treat. For the country scenes, Lady Bracknell's handbag, cravat and parasol were all in a matching Chinese crimson silk pattern; whilst Gwendolen's town and country ensembles were suitably extravagant and stylish, in comparison to Cecily's sweeter and less sophisticated outfit. Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell's hats were also beautiful features, distinguishing them as city-dwellers not suited to the simplicity of country life, as characterised by Cecily's simple bonnet.
The play was a delight to watch, particularly since the performers upped their comedic pace with every line, right up to the final moment when the lights dimmed and they all froze mid-embrace, leaving the audience with a lovely cameo image: another wonderful detail.
Sophie Franklin, The Culture Vulture
'If I Were You' - Adel Bells magazine, January 2014
Once again, Adel Players pulled out all the stops to present Sir Alan Ayckbourn's satirical comedy 'If I Were You' and provide us with a wonderful evening's entertainment.
The play pulled back the curtains on things we pretend are not happening around us - a marriage sadly going stale, a neglected wife, and a bully of a husband who adores his married daughter, but is hated by his teenage son, and looked up to by his macho son-in-law Dean.
The first half of the play portrays the characters' indifferences and allegiances to one another at home and in the workplace. All this changes after Jill, while settling down to sleep, mutters: 'God help us'. Next morning, Jill and Mal wake up in each other's bodies.
Jill is now coarse and slovenly and is bewildered by her new role and its expected responsibilities, whereas Mal changes from being a loud and obnoxious philistine to a considerate manager and sweet-tempered father.
Sir Alan's humour was skilfully delivered, the language was real, causing a few comments around me but I felt it was appropriate to the subject. There were many poignant and humorous moments in the play delivered with feeling and enthusiasm by Adel Players. Macho stereotypes with paternal expectations, devalued partners and workplace bullies, at times near overkill but well handled by director and players. The superb acting portrayed the depressing reality of marital and family bullying and relationship indifferences. The clever use of mobile phone allowed the director to introduce other characters to the audience and to demonstrate further undesirable aspects of Mal's personality.
I always enjoy Adel's presentation of 'in the round'. This time, it worked very well with this enthusiastic cast and direction. The props and stage excelled with a well-balanced 'round' including a functioning kitchen sink and embarrassing sound effects! Wings and lighting were well deployed. The layout of the home set kitchen, lounge and bedroom skilfully become the store's various departments.
From my elevated seat, I was very aware of the enlightened, shocked, bemused audience whose smirks and cringes in response to the character portrayals added to my evening's mirth. The play took me back to past embarrassments with peer/colleague encounters, making me cringe at times.
As with so many Ayckbourn plays, serious social comments emerge through the laughter. The play finished at a point for characters and audience alike to think about the future.
Well done again Adel Players.
Peter Snodgrass, Adel Bells
'Nude With Violin' - The Culture Vulture, October 2013
It's a testimony to Matthew Newby's performance that when his character, the pompous and odious Colin Sorodin, is slapped in the face by the scene-stealing Stella Garside, as Cherry-May Waterton, I wanted to cheer.
I was enjoying the Adel Players' production of 'Nude With Violin' by Noel Coward, when Colin got what he deserved.
The play is Coward's mildly satirical stab at the sometimes pretentious world of modern art; although in this case, modern meant vintage (the play being written in 1956).
Colin is the son of the late Paul Sorodin, a renowned French painter, and is one of those people who would never regard an unmade bed as a work of art. Cherry-May is one of a number of women from the artist's past, who turns up to open a can of worms.
The play itself isn't one of Coward's strongest, but it was brought to life enthusiastically by a strong cast.
Hats off to David Pritchard in particular. I lost count of the number of languages his character, valet Sebastian, had to speak, throughout the performance. And Beth Duce, as widow Isobel Sorodin, brought to mind some of those wonderful performances you used to find in the old 'Carry On' movies, by the likes of Joan Sims.
The voice of reason was brought to the stage by Rachel Newby, as the likeable daughter Jane Sorodin.
Although there wasn't a weak link in the cast, it was slightly distracting to see the stage hands bringing on, and removing, props between scenes - but there's very little you can do about that when there's no curtain to fall, other than dim the lights.
Despite this minor gripe, the Adel Players can give themselves a pat on the back. The stage was nicely set, the production was smooth, and the cast seemed to be enjoying themselves, just as much as the audience.
Despite being more a fan of Coward's 'Still Life', and despite being someone who can see the artistic merits of a pile of bricks, I did enjoy this production.
Nigel Stone, The Culture Vulture
'Ghosts' - Sardines Magazine, April 2013
This is the second time I have had the privilege of reviewing Adel Players, having been their guest for their production of Arthur Miller's 'All My Sons' last October. They certainly like a challenge and so now they are taking on that dark and brooding classic, Ibsen's 'Ghosts' (1881).
Now Ibsen famously likes to explore the darker side of human nature and so, unsurprisingly, this play is no exception. The ghosts of the title refer to past deeds and how they can continue to haunt the lives and loves of people living in the present. The protagonist, Pastor Manders, fulfils the same role as the title character in Ibsen's epic play Brand (1865), the message being in both cases, "beware the puritan". This piece also includes a character called Jacob Engstrand, who could well have been a template for Shaw's Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion (1912) - a man of few morals but who can talk himself into, and out of, any situation with great wit and dexterity. In this case, ultimately persuading Pastor Mander to sponsor, albeit unwittingly, the setting up of a new brothel in the town for passing sailors!
Now, notwithstanding the 'bog standard' village hall setting, I had been before and so my expectations were set on high. The set that greeted me was not just good, it was… well, let me try my humble best to do it justice. The view from the window of the fjord was fantastically well realised, a portion of the stage was a conservatory and it was a construction of great elegance. The set was appropriately furnished with assiduous attention to detail with the choice of ornaments etc. Now, as good as all of this was, the jewel in the crown of the set was the hand-painted Rosemaling design that was a motif throughout, especially on the wood panelling which was fabulous. The set was… exquisite.
The play has a cast of five fantastically well-drawn characters, all of whom were brought to life in this production. Helen Duce (Regina Engstrand) was the nubile daughter who was able despite, or maybe because of, her highly conservative costume to be delightfully flirtatious and exuded sex appeal. David Pritchard (Jacob Engstrand) played her 'father' and his broad Yorkshire accent complimented his excellent characterisation and brought out the humour which was much appreciated by the audience.
Rob Colbeck (Pastor Mendes) was commendable in this demanding role and his long duologue with Mrs Alving was handled with good pace and authority. Chris Andrews (Oswald Alving) played the son, doomed to an early and degrading death due to a venereal disease inherited from his father. This was a challenging part played with real sincerity.
Now I am sure that Dianne Newby (Mrs Helen Alving) must have scores of glowing reviews of her performances over the years, so this is just one more to add to the long litany of praise for this most consummate actor. Her character had by far the greatest emotional distance to travel, from doting mother to, the play’s tragic denouement, filicide. The audience were rapt in their attention as Dianne took us to the edge of the abyss and beyond. A performance of spellbinding quality.
I would exhort you to go and see this fantastic production, but sadly I was there on the last night so it is already too late! The thought of that fantastic set already being broken up is almost too much to bear. I am sure that those hand-painted wood panels have already been gifted to cast and crew, but if there was one to spare…
Adel Players have been performing since 1945 and so although you may have missed this production, there are bound to be many more so do check their website for details. Adel? It could be described as a northern suburb of Leeds, but as I plan to return, it is better described as a picturesque Yorkshire village!
John Anthony, Sardines Magazine
'Bedroom Farce' - Adel Bells magazine, Jan 2013
Playwright Alan Ayckbourn received some grief from critics for titling a play that is not really a farce, but on a particularly snowy Adel night, the audience was full of laughter at the goings on with a variety of tangled love plots.
In brief, one self-absorbed couple disrupt the lives of three others in a number of comical ways.
During the course of the play's two-hour run time, the audience heartily chuckled at the goings on, becoming so self absorbed, we even forgot about the blizzard raging outside!
'Bedroom Farce' is certainly a darker, more thoughtful piece than its title suggests – but with observational comedy rather than sight-gags to provide the laughter.
Newly married couple Kate (Carol Crossfield) and Malcolm (Owen-Carey Jones) throw a housewarming party, and among the guests are feuding Trevor (Gavin Jones) and Susannah (Stella Garside), as well as Jan (Rachel Newby), an old girlfriend of Trevor's who's left her back injury-suffering husband Nick (Jon Holmes) at home.
When left alone in Malcolm and Kate's bedroom, Trevor and Jan end up kissing, only to be discovered by Susannah. Distraught, Susannah seeks help and advice from Trevor's parents, Delia (Pat Riley) and Ernest (Bernard Riley), who are just trying to go to bed, while Trevor disrupts Jan and Nick's night to "make things right."
Kate and Malcolm, meanwhile, in the aftermath of a ruined party, share some tough truths with each other – do we actually bore each other?
I particularly enjoyed Bernard Riley's sweetly funny take on Ernest. As a man consumed with worry about a broken gutter on the house, and as half of a perhaps too-comfortable couple that's excited by the idea of eating sardines on toast in bed (and has to settle for pilchards!), Ernest's desires are decidedly modest; yet because of his son's high maintenance marriage, even those pleasures are denied him, and watching cheerful Bernard maintain a stiff upper lip while also registering his disappointments is one of the production's pleasures.
Plus, the interplay between Bernard and Pat, as the long-married couple, and Carol and Owen, as the frisky, goofy newlyweds, is also particularly enjoyable. The DIY scene in itself is one that many people can relate to (and have probably encountered!) and Carol's quick change from towel to clothes under the bedcovers was sheer genius!
Susannah's histrionics and Trevor's immature behaviour mean they are more than a match for each other! The scenes between them and the reactions to them from other members revealed a genuine care to help them, as well as ongoing irritation at their absurd behaviour! Indeed, Trevor and Susannah expose the cracks in other people's relationships. How Jan manages to fall back into Trevor's embrace (and kiss!) is particularly entertaining. Nick and his bad back add a comic humour to proceedings – a challenging role indeed to play a bed-ridden character – and played particularly well by Jon Holmes.
However, it becomes clear that the cantankerous, business-driven Nick and Jan have both settled for second best. Even the playful Malcolm and Kate, who seem the best adjusted, discover their marriage is not all it might be: he stashes his magazines in the sock drawer, while, in intimate moments, her attention drifts on to whether to stain the floorboards. With deft skill, Ayckbourn shows marriage as an institution sustained more by ingrained habit than mutual excitement.
The set was enhanced by the three bedrooms being adjacent to one another and the style set in the 1970s. Long white boots, afghan coats, Iron Maiden T-shirts as well as the music also helped to frame the time period.
There are great laughs to be had throughout the evening as the rapturous applause at the end showed. Much laughter, fun and warmth on a cold winter's eve – much enjoyed by all of us that attended and we are already looking forward to the next Adel play!
'All My Sons' - Sardines Magazine, Oct 2012
A lot of groups that like to take on some really serious plays have been waiting patiently for years for the performing rights to become available for this American classic. Well, that time has finally come!
As to the play, it is the most beautifully crafted piece of writing with not a word out of place and the exposition hidden with great subtlety into the dialogue. The themes of the play are timeless and so the issues explored resonate readily with a modern audience. As for the storyline, it grabs you by the throat at the outset and does not let go until the final denouement.
Adel Players have, as a playing space, a traditional village hall with a stage at one end. Cleverly, on this occasion they decided to perform 'in the round' and the stage was populated with audience members. The set was a delight in its simplicity and the 'broken tree' in particular was extremely well realised. The two large images of P.40 Warhawk planes displayed on the walls added to the production values.
Accents and performing 'in the round' can also have a detrimental effect on diction and audibility. However, I am pleased to report that every word was crystal clear from where I sat.
Pride of place must however go to Jon Holmes (Chris Keller) who gave a portrayal of such conviction and intensity that it was totally absorbing. The confrontation with his father at the end of the
play was powerful and delivered with great honesty. A real bravura performance!
The direction was very astute as working 'in the round' is never as easy for the director as end on. The pace throughout was excellent and there was a good variety of entrances and exits.
The other thing that occurred to me was that it took the cast sometime to find their feet and as a result, some of the movement and delivery was a little stilted early on. To be fair, by midway through the first half the entire production was running like a well-tuned Aston Martin.
Finally on the negative, there were a couple of times when the words and emotions were at odds. When one protagonist says "control yourself", then the other should have lost control.
John Anthony, Sardines Magazine