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Our Resident Critic

February 2010

Peter Cadman gave a polished performances as the murderous maniac in "The Mozart Man" directed by Jean Fenton.  Toying with the Peter Bramall as the frustrated detective who knew everything about the criminal - except who he was - displayed a range of emotions from frustration through to despair as the plot unfolded to its shocking end.  The audience gasped as the realisation of the true horror of the story became aparent.

Wendy Smith portrayed the role of village shrew with consummate skill as her hen-pecked husband (Henry Cooper) was firmly kept under the matriarchal thumb in this Welsh comedy, "A Husband for Breakfast".  When the village "big noise" (Mike Lloyd) came at breakfast time to discuss the previous night's wager in the pub, Wendy's terrifying negotiating tactics sent him off with a flea in his ear and to the ringing sound of laughter from the audience and players alike.

March 2010

Gloria Ketchell (Director) assembled a formidable array of ladies for this production.  Ann Ellis in the role of Carolyn fended off office gossips (Jean Fenton and Pat Blaker, tea lady and cleaner respectively) as the businesslike PA with a hidden past.  Her task was made no easier by the tactless interventions of the scatty office girl, Liz, played by Eileen Cooper, who was appearing in her first role with Thespa.  Wendy Smith's cameo appearance as Carolyn's mother does nothing to help her through her busy day.

When the pregnant April, played confidently by Dee O'Sullivan arrive in Carolyn's office to see the boss, the realisation of her past begins to dawn as we learn that April is her lost daughter and is also her secret past (and that of the boss!).  April's plan to confront the father - who never appears - change when mother and daughter realise that there is a deep bond between them and a new friendship develops.

Alan Bennett - always a favourite with THESPA members - provided the after dinner treat with a performance by Mike Lloyd as Graham in a selection of extracts from "A Chip in the Sugar" from the "Talking Heads" series.  Mike's plaintiff rendering of the role - constant companion to his aged mother - conjured up the situation that many find themselves in when caring for a loved one.  This was another first class performance from Mike and was directed with skill by Peter Cadman.

April 2010

Wendy Smith (Dottie) and Jean Fenton (Rose) gave excellent performances as the lifelong friends in "Watching the Magpies".  Battling against bureaucracy, they face the prospect of their home being demolished and separation, as their hapless social worker (director Peter Cadman -  stepping into the role at the last minute) points them towards different care homes.  Dottie caring for her vulnerable companion, only sees one way out of this dilemma.  There must have been a tear in everyone's eye as the play moved towards its tragic ending.

After dinner the mood was lifted with the lighthearted romance, "A Field Full".  David (Henry Cooper) and Edwina (Pat Blaker) develop a chemistry during an over-60s singles seaside holiday that everyone can see, except them of course.  Angela (Jean Cooper - stepping into the role at the last minute) provided some diversions with some fairly "blonde" remarks, while Peter Cadman provided plenty of camouflage as the blustering major, bent on trying to seduce anything in a skirt.  Olwyn (Dee O'Sullivan) as the holiday rep had seen it all before and was only too happy to act as matchmaker.

"A Field Full" was Michael Baker's first directing role.  Sadly, a virus kept him away from the production and he was unable to see the sparkling performance of his cast!!

May 2010

Guest players, Jamie and Beverley Stonehewer who are more familiar to audiences at the International Theatre Studio in San Pedro, gave accomplished performances as rat catcher (Russ) and teacher (Tessa) in "Rats, Brats and Bureaucrats" by Neil Rhodes.  Russ uses his rodent control invention to clear "stressed" Tessa's classroom of her tormentors and also manages to win her heart as the signals from his electronic device transport her to a higher level of pleasure.  This fun and cleverly crafted production was directed by Peter Cadman.

The THESPA season was rounded off with "OAPs Rule OK" written by Marion Whybrow and directed by Jim Fenton.  Day Centre organiser, Mrs Phillips (Wendy Smith), does not like her chairs (or anything else) being rearranged.  She did not take account of the arrival of newcomer Mrs Rogers (Rosaline Brothers) whose determination to enjoy herself inspires fellow "inmates".  Adding to the fun of the jolly end season piece were Mesdames Dando, Jay and Neil (Jean Fenton, Pat Blaker and Jane Scott respectively).  The voice of "heart throb" (Peter Cadman) provided Mrs Neil with some poignant memories off-stage.

 September 2010

The Thespa season opened with two short plays from Jean McConnell's 'Deckchairs' series, 'Shoppers' and 'Late Frost' both performed by Kay White and Jane Scott and directed by Wendy Smith.  In the brief time allowed, these charming short stories allowed the development of both characters -friends who met up to chat - leading to a twist in the tale.

Following dinner Mike Lloyd made his directing debut with 'Breaking the Ice', a romantic comedy by Raymond Jones.  Retired bank manager, Arnold (Michael Baker), succeeded in persuading his lady friend, Jennifer (Ann Ellis) on a cruise, while his only surviving relative, niece Sandra (Dee O'Sullivan), looks on in horror as her inheritance appears to be slipping away.  Mike's unusual direction created an aloofness and distance between the characters which might not normally be expected from a lighthearted romance. 

October 2010

The psycholgical thriller, Mind Games, by Ian Hornby and directed by Gloria Ketchell presented the audience with a tense drama of bluff and counter-bluff.  The clues which Detective Inspector Barnes (Peter Cadman) may have thought he had in connection with his murder enquiry were swept aside with icy precision by barrister Ann Ablard (Margaret Spencer-Brooks).  The excellent cat and mouse performances held the audience in thrall throughout the performance.

After dinner the tension was broken by the romantic comedy, The Evergreens, by David Campton, was an excursion into the realms of retirment, long lost loves, doomed to remain forever unrequited.  Directed by Jean Fenton, who stepped in at the last minute to perform the role of Her and Peter Cadman (Him), finally rekindle the romance of their youth across the weekly card table.  Both performed these sentimental roles in a sensitive way, leaving the audience with a sense of joy to take home at the end of the evening.

November 2010

All is indeed not what it seems down in the potting shed in Green Favours written by Frank Vickery and directed by Peter Cadman.  Tom (Jamie Stonehewer) a green-fingered allotment enthusiast manages to get Valerie (Beverley Stonehewer) accepted as the first women to be allocated the honour of growing her vegetables within the all-male society.  However, his motives seem to be less than honourable when, at a low point in his marriage, Tom makes a pass at Valerie.  Stoutly resisting this improper approach, Valerie manages to list an increasingly feeble list of reasons why she should remain faithful within her dull marriage.  Needless to say, both succumb to the temptation of passion in the potting shed.  Acted with both humour and pace, guest actors Beverley and Jamie gave an excellent performance.

Following dinner the audience enjoyed another two-hander with the presentation of The Pleasure of Your Company written by Cherry Vooght and directed by Jim Fenton.  Man (Henry Cooper) is enjoying the tranqility of reading the newspaper in the park when Woman (Jean Fenton) appears on the scene and sits next to him.  While chattering away to him, Henry performed with consumate restraint as his peace is disturbed.  However, it is not long before they realise that they share a history from their youth.  It is not known if Jim gave any strong direction to Jean with her inquisitorial style or whether he just told her to be herself!  Either way, she gave a sound performance as always.  This charming story saw the two park visitors leaving hand in hand as the curtain came down.

December 2010

2010 was brought to an end with the "traditional" pantomime performed by members of the Thespa board.  Jim Fenton's characteristically zany script seems to have been largely ignored by the cast, who managed to encourage members of the audience to participate in the usual pantomimic way.  The appearance of the Laurel and Hardy lookalike scene shifters in the midde of a mediaeval drama may have seemed odd to some, but no one asked for their money back (apparently), so it looks as though the audience enjoyed themselves ("Oh no they didn't....Oh yes the did").

Dinner was followed by "Party Pieces" contributed by members of the audience.  Wendy Smith went for audience participation with her updated carols, while Ann Ellis and Jean Cooper each performed a politically incorrect Christmas poem.  Michael Baker performed a scene from "Brief Encounters" à la Tommy Cooper, while Mike Lloyd and Maggie performed a tribute to Norman Wisdom.  Finally Peter Cadman rounded off the evening with a performance of "The Bricklayer's Story" monologue by Gerard Hoffnung.

January 2011

Thespa opened the New Year with the comedy, "Poor Mr Pembleton" by Stuart Ready which was ably directed by Peter Cadman.  In scenes reminiscent of Ronnie Barker in "Open All Hours", Mr Pembleton (Mike Lloyd) became the hapless victim of the schemings of Mrs Deborah King (Jean Fenton) as her confident perfomance saw off the opposition lady suitors.  Mike's portrayal of Mr Pembleton's rapid transistion from "Jack the Lad" to bumbling "thumbprint" suited the role well.  These strong performances were ably supported by members of his would-be harem (Pat Blaker, Wendy Smith, Dee O'Sullivan and Eileen Cooper).


The second play of the evening "Two Wits To Woo" by John Kellly was directed with great aplomb by Jean Fenton, greatly helped by three excellent performances.  Ann Ellis (Lady Winsome) has to be admired for very adept handling of her two scheming employees, Michael Baker (James) and Jamie Stonehewer (Joseph) who have been milking the manor estate for years, Joseph selling off the vegetables grown in the estate gardens and James running a taxi service with lady Winsome’s Rolls Royce. In order to save their jobs as the manor goes into bankruptcy, they hatch a plan that one of them should marry Lady Winsome and pool their illicit gains into the estate coffers. At the toss of a coin James has to do the proposing, Michael Baker and Ann Ellis were perfect foils for each other in a very funny scene. Jamie Stonehewer's portrayal of Joseph was nothing short of excellent and the three together created a very pacy dialogue which kept everyone enthralled. 

February 2011

Thespa’s February performance departed from its usual pattern of two one-act plays either side of a theatre supper in order to present the full length “Marrakech” by Graham Swannell.  Walter (Peter Cadman) is trapped in his relationship with partner Vivien (Dee O’Sullivan).  Having given up his life as a landscape gardener, Walter endures the life of a “house husband”, while Vivien enjoys comparative success as a doctor.  This modern-day kitchen sink comedy sees Walter seeking salvation from the routine of daily domestic life.  His solution?  To leave all behind him and to escape solo to Marrakech (with half the partnership savings!)

 With strong direction from Jean Fenton, Peter Cadman brought a lifetime of acting experience to sustain Walter’s somewhat diffident character.  Dee O’Sullivan in her first major role with Thespa confidently used Vivien’s full armoury of psychological tricks to frustrate Walter’s scheme.  Throughout, the cast sustained a mood ranging from comic to tense as they explored the issues that keep relationships together…or apart.

 This was another strong Thespa production.  

March 2011

Thespa presented a guest full-length production of "Proscenophobia" ("Stage Fright") by Bettine Manktelow perforemd by the U3A theatre group and directed by Wendy Smith.

Set backstage during a failing production the plot weaved together the complex relationships between the principal characters' current stage and pas personal lives.  Millie (Wendy Smith) and Addie (Pat Blaker) skillfully traded cutting remards whilst also revealing their fondness for each other.  Edward (Peter Cadman), their mutual ex-husband, balanced the camp stage manager, Justin (Mike Lloyd) as the facts behind Millie's mysterious death (accident or murder?) unravelled and the personal torment of Addie's daughter (or ws she?), Judy (Dee O'Sullivan), led to further tragedy.

The audience enjoyed the play's mood, ranging from humour to sadness and despair.

April 2011

“Night Song”, one of Cherry Vooght’s “Seat in the Park” series of one act plays, set in an urban park outside the “Ladies” explores how rejection can be resolved when you find a sympathetic friend. Janet Norton (Agnes, the attendant) played a strong role as agony aunt and cheerleader with plenty of problems of her own, but with time to help to resolve those faced by others. Jane Scott (Rosie) played the role of a bag lady with pace and humour. Resolved to a vagrant’s life Rosie finds her night’s shelter in the doorway of the Ladies, courtesy of Agnes. Contrasting Rosie’s upbeat role was Marilyn, played by Beverley Stonehewer, displaying the despair and anguish of a young person cast adrift by life’s misfortunes – and luckily to be rescued by Agnes’s care for life’s flotsam. The play was well directed by Jamie Stonehewer in his debut role.

Contrasting the somewhat improbable scenario of the evening’s first play was “The Drag Factor” by Frank Vickery, acknowledged to be a leading writer of drama addressing social issues. Husband and wife team Jean (Ruby) and Henry Cooper (Griff) gave powerful and highly credible performances as parents coming to terms with the revelation that their son was gay. We never see the son, but the link between parents in hospital corridor and the son in a private ward was provided by Peter Cadman in the role of a slightly camp male nurse. The controversial theme raised by this play was treated with sensitivity under Jean Fenton’s direction.

May 2011

The season ended with two excellent productions by two excellent authors: Alan Bennett and Alan Aykbourn.  Before dinner we were treated to a first class portrayal of Irene Ruddock, Alan Bennett's "Lady of Letters", whose persistent and generally interfering correspondence finally lands her in prison.  Curiously being "inside" offers her a type of freedom which she has never experienced before.  Played with great sensitivity and humour by Jean Fenton, this performance was well received by the audience.  Directed by Jim Fenton.

After dinner the audience enjoyed more humour with "Mother Figure" by Alan Aykbourn.
  Neglected by philandering traveller husband Harry, Lucy (Jane Scott) has 'reverted' to being a total mother figure. She has three small children, she is always in dressing-gown and slippers, and doesn't answer the phone or doorbell. When neighbour Rosemary (Pat Blaker) comes in through the back door to tell her that Harry has been trying to make contact, Lucy is unable to treat her as an adult. Rosemary's husband Terry (Mike Lloyd) arrives, and Lucy's attitude is infectious; the couple quarrel, behave like, and are treated like, small children by Lucy, who successfully forces them to 'make up'.  This humourous piece directed by Jean Fenton was very well performed and rounded off an excellent Thespa season.

September 2011
"Villa For Sale" by Sacha Guitry is a lighthearted tale of plot and counterplot in the sale of a villa on the Côte D'Azur (not the Costa del Sol for a change).  Janet Norton admirably portraying the vendor in straitened circumstances and needs to sell.   Kay White as the Housekeeper played the rôle of comic foil to her mistress.  The prospective purchasers Gaston (Geoff Stansfield in his debut ròle with Thespa) and Jeanne (Pat Blaker) fought a battle of wills over the purchase, with the wealthy Gaston keeping his money firmly in his pocket...  Until, that is, the rich Annabel (played strongly by Wendy Smith) enters with a pile of cash and very little judgement.  The deal is done: Gaston buys from Juliette and sells to Annabel at a huge profit and walks of with a little Monet (or is that money) under his arm.
Continuing with a humorous theme, but also exploring social issues was "Jayne with a Y" by Ian Hornby.  Emily (Janet Norton) as the resident of a nursing home presents as a problem case to Nurse (Kay White).  The clever scripting of Emily's higher intellect, well delivered by Janet Norton, presents her as a troublemaker and a "challenge" to student Jayne (Pat Blaker).  Jayne soon finds herself tied in knots by Emily's clear logic.  The conflict between the "authorities" and Emily centres on her continuing sense of the presence of her late husband, who provides her with continuing companionship.  Gradually Jayne undersatnds that the "presence" of Emily's husband is what keeps her sane. 

October 2011

Thespa member, Wendy Smith, enjoyed the opportunity to take part in her own play, "The Best Laid Plans".  Set in an apartment block on the Costa del Sol, twin sisters June (Ann Ellis) and Ruth (Eileen Cooper) find themselve confronted in the apartment by a stranger, George (Mike Lloyd), who explains that he has been given the keys by their mother so that he can enjoy a holiday.  No sooner is George turfed out, than their mother arrives unexpectedly.  Is there some "funny business" going on between mother (Mary played by Wendy Smith)?  Through the twists and turns of property ownership on the Costa, we finally learn that George is the twin's father.  All are destined to live happily ever after in this light hearted tale which was well performed by all.

The interval dinner was followed by an hour of reminiscences by the well-known entertainer, Syd Wright.  Now into his tenth decade, Syd has a history in the musical and entertainment world which must be almost unparalled.  His work with famous names throught the decades was limitless.  In 1984 he moved to the Costa del Sol and that was the opportunity to stop his flow - ready for an invitation back in the future.

November 2011

This month's performances began with a two-hander, "Theatrical Digs" by Jean McConnell, directed by Jean Fenton.  The clever pun in the title refers to the polite but sarcastic interplay between two ladies who meet on the sea front one afternoon.  Pascaline Holbein (Pat Blaker) is an end-of-the-pier actress appearing in a pre-London season, trying to impress a stranger with her theatrical stories.  What she does not know is that the stranger is in fact the stranger is the experienced classical actress, Maggie Festoon (Janet Norton).  During their chat they both learn from telephone calls from their respective agents that they have both been turned down for the same leading role.  United in adversity, friendship blossoms just as the matinee is about to begin.  This was a well-balanced performance from both actresses who made full use of the comic twists and turns in the script.

The second production of the evening was "Murder Play" by Brian J. Burton and directed by Jim Fenton.  Peter and Robyn Darrell (Michael Baker and Ann Ellis) wake up in the lounge of hosts Jane and David Valentine (Jean Fenton and Henry Cooper) after a boozy dinner.  Daylight brings the realisation that they have been dismissed from their jobs in David's bookshop.  More shocks are to come when Peter finds that his wife has been having an affair with his boss and worse still that Jane has murdered David during the night.  The plot reveals that this is all a practical joke, but a final twist turns the joke into reality.  Humour blended with sinister twists produced a sound performance from the cast. 

December 2011

This year Thespa departed from its usual pantomime format to transport its audience to the the radio and TV studios of years gone by.  During the first part of the evening members performed a sketch based on a well-loved TV theme with nine rapid scene changes.  Directed by Jean Fenton the action moved along quickly, with characters delivering the one liners so typical of TV sitcoms. 

After dinner the new theme continued with members performing favourite poems or monologues, with both evergreen and Christmas themes under the watchful eye of MC, Peter Cadman.  Overall the evening was enjoyed by an appreciative audience and rounded off a successful first half of the current season.

January 2012

This month's production was a full length presentation of the popular comedy "I Spy" by John Mortimer and directed by Jean Fenton.  The play takes place at some time during the 1950s in various locations: the serving and dining rooms of the "Stag at Bay" hotel, on the nearby seaside promenade at Cold Sands and in a divorce lawyer's office in London.  Betrayed (so he thinks) husband, Captain Morgan (Mike Lloyd), instructs his Lawyer (Jim Fenton) to find evidence for divorce due to his wife´s infidelities.  Mrs Morgan (Veronica White) is as innocent as the driven snow - she just doesn't like her husband.  The hapless detective sent to expose her behaviour, Mr Frute (Peter Bramall), falls in love with her during the course of the play and she with him.  Finally they are able to provide the evidence that Captain Morgan is seeking.  Janet Norton plays the cameo role of Gladys, colleague and soul mate for Mrs Morgan.

This charming comedy was well acted by all and it was pleasing for Thespa to welcome back veteran actor, Peter Bramall, on his winter visit to the Costa del Sol and to introduce newcomer Veronica White in her debut performance on any stage!  No doubt more will be seen of her in the future.

February 2012

Leap Year's Day was the occasion to enjoy extracts from two plays on the theme of the lady proposing to the man.  In the first production - Victoria Regina by Laurence Housman and directed by Jean Fenton, Beverley Stonehewer presented a very credible young Queen Victoria.  Guest actor Peter Bramall in the role of Lord Melbourne gave a clear performance of he political background to the legendary match with Prince Albert (Michael Baker) who usurps the place of his brother Prince Ernest (Henry Cooper) to win Victoria's hand.  Peter Owen playing the cameo role of Mr Tudor added to the intrigue.

The second half of the evening was devoted to presenting extracts from Hobson's Choice by Harold Brighouse and again directed by Jean Fenton.  Seasoned north country actors, Peter Bramall (Henry Hobson) and Peter Cadman (Jim Heeler) admirably set the scene by clarifying the role of men in society and - somewhere beneath them - the role of women.  However, Hobson's eldest daughter Maggie (Janet Norton) has more oil in her can than her father allows for and propose marriage and a business partnership to Willie Mossop (Geoff Stansfield), who has always seen himself a content to stay in the Hobson workshop.  The  cast was ably supported by other friends and family members played by Ann Ellis, Jean Cooper and Pat Blaker.

March 2012

"The Play Reading" by Joan Honey and directed by Peter Owen is set in the living room of Mrs Prentice's (Margaret Spencer-Brooks) 18th century remote country cottage. The ladies from the local group group have assembled to select their next production.  Dismayed at the lack of choice and committe politics, the play takes a sinister turn when Sally (Veronica Wright) senses that unhappy events have occured in the cottage in the past.  Weaving together a creepy story, which contains more truth than fiction, through the interplay of the characters of Mrs Prentice and Sally, the story ends with us wondering what really happened in the house.  The principal characters were well cast in their respective roles and were supported by the rest of the timorous committee: Jean (Jean Cooper), Margaret (Ann Ellis), Rachel (Dee O'Sullivan) and Mrs Collett (Jean Fenton).

After the interval we were treated to "Movie of the Month" by Daniel Meltzer and directed by Jim Fenton. TV mogul, B.S. (Henry Cooper) is contemplating the ratings and what script to work with next.  He is presented with the story of "Hamlet" by Broun (Geoff Stansfield) his sycophantic assistant and general dogsbody.  B.S. does not recognise the script as the classic work it is and proceeds to doctor the text in order to pander to "the ratings".  The humorous script and well-directed slap-stick approach of classic double acts left the audience in a good mood. 

April 2012

"A Slight Accident" by James Saunders and directed by Wendy Smith finds us in the living room of the flat of Henry and Penelope (Janet Norton).  We never meet Henry since Penelope has had a "slight accident" and shot him whilst rehearsing a play.  Neighbours Camilla (Wendy Smith) and Rodger (Mike Lloyd) come to her aid, but find it difficult to work out how to help her.  Firstly she does not conform to Rodger's concept of routine behviour, but more particularly her dialogue is cleverly scripted in a way that suggests that she is continually challenging logic.  This production was presented by the U3A drama group.

The evening closed with the return of Syd Wright who continued the story of his eventful career in show business, bringing us up to date with his musical life since moving to Spain.

May 2012

Thespa took on the ambitious project of staging "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde.  This was a challenging endeavour for a play reading group with limited staging opportunities.  Nevertheless Henry Cooper, making his debut as a director, presented a first class production which was much appreciated by a good house.   Mike Lloyd in his farewell performance before return to the UK played a very credible Jack Worthing opposite veteran performer Peter Cadman.  Both avoided the temptation to perform these characters in an "over foppish" way, which can be a temptation for amateur productions.

Janet Norton have a first class performance as Lady Bracknell, delivering the "handbag" speech as well as many other with great aplomb.  Pat Blacker (Gwendolen Fairfax) and Dee O'Sullivan (Cecily Cardew) conveyed the youth and innocence of these roles, while Margaret Spencer-Brooks was wll cast to portray Miss Prism with her sinister past.  Michael Barnes gave a sound performance as the Reverend Chasuble, with Jim Fenton playing cameo roles as Lane and Merriman (manservant and butler respectively). 

September 2012

Thespa started its new season with the light hearted comedy "Madam Munday's Mystical Mirror" by Paul L. Hedge.  The action takes place in the tent of fortune teller, Madam Munday (Margaret Spencer-Brooks) at an annual village church fête in August 1977.  This significance of the date is that it is one week after the death of Elvis Presley and Madam Munday's harrassed assitant, Tracey (Pat Blaker) is keen to make contact with "The King" rather than the usual suspects that Madam Munday dredges up.  The plot gets off to a slow start, but livens up in the second half particularly when the medium summons up the character of Max Miller with a mixture of white book and blue book stories.  The irony is that Madam Munday predicts that death of someone attending the fête - little did she know that she foresaw her own demise!  Directed by Jean Fenton, this gentle comedy got Thespa off to a happy start to its season.

The second production of the evening was "Feeding the Ducks" by Michael Park.  This two-hander tells of the park bench meeting between Billy (Michael Baker), "educationally challenged" in his own words and unemployed, and Clare (Ann Ellis), a successful and adulterous business woman.  Biily's only pleasures in life are feeding the ducks in this Bristol park and the love he has for his mother.  While Clare thinks that he is the village idiot, little does she realise the dreadful revenge that he is to wreak upon her and her secret lover - both of whom have been instrumental in the dismissal of Billy's mother from her job.  Clare's arrogance soon turns to terror as Billy turns from simpleton into sinister murderer...  This was an accomplished performance by both Ann and Michael, who sustained the air of being one sandwich short of a picnic via his Bristolian accent.

October 2012

Performed on Halloween, Thespa took as its theme "dysfunctional couples", with two short play readings before dinner and one afterwards.  As the themes were about couples, these were a series of two-handers, starting with "Countdown" by Alan Aykbourn.  The theme of this short play was one of boredom with the routine of married life.  The play cleverly uses the characters to speak their inner thoughts aloud to the audience, whilst exchanging platitudes about making a cup of tea between themselves.  Both the husband and wife characters were played admirably by Jean Fenton and Peter Bramall respectively.  Sadly neither of them is able to rekindle the feelings that they had when the were first married, in spite of their earnest wish to.  Instead, with a feeling of bitter resentment, they content themselves with their humdrum lives carrying on as usual.

The second short reading was "Norma" by Alun Owen, which explored what happens when one partner seeks to break free from the routine of marriage.  The woman (Janet Norton), who is married, embarks upon an adulterous relationship with the man (Michael Baker); who is apparently unmarried.  Two months of blissful afternoon asignations shudder to a standstill when the woman's husband learns of the adultery.  Racked with guilt the woman breaks off the relationship, which she treated as "fun" - afternoons of entertainment.  The man on the other hand is in love with her, and cannot fathom out why she is dumping him.  The reversal of the architypal scenario of the married man dumping his female plaything was amusingly performed.

After dinner Michael Baker appeared again - this time with Ann Ellis in "The Border" by Graham Swannell.  In this play the married couple, Travers and Beatrice, find themselves exploring their happiness in their relationship.  She is determined to provoke a confrontation about not only his happiness but also a one-night stand that he may or may not have had.  Truth and fiction become confused as they remember their earlier happiness and contrast it with their current status - he a successful and domineering business man and she a frustrated idealist.  Her attempt to break free is dashed by his patronising insistence on routine and dismissal of her true aspirations.  This play needed careful attention to appreciate the nuances of an intriguing script.

November 2012

This evening saw the production of a full length play in two acts, "The Kingfisher" by William Douglas Home.  This was the story of a powerful romance interrupted by an interval of fifty years which did nothing to quench the passion which Cecil (Michael Barnes) has always felt for Evelyn (Margaret Spencer-Brooks).  Michael Barnes gave an excellent portrayal of the successful novelist and bon viveur, who tries unconvincingly to portray himself as treating love as something that you can take or leave.  Margaret Spencer-Brook sparked off this by dismissing Cecil's late conversion to the idea of marriage with her practical sense of what is now possible and not what might have been.  The menage a trois is completed by Cecil's butler, Hawkins (Michael Baker), who has carried a torch for his master for almost fifty years.  Michael gave an sound presentation of Hawkins many "qualities" - humility, sarcasm, and despair as the love that dare not speak its name conflicted with the love that can.

December 2012
The December meeting saw the production of two one act plays with a Christmas theme.  First up was "Two Purple Gloves" by Mike Park.  The setting for this play is a shopping mal in the run up to Christmas.  On her after-hours patrol Connie Frankin (Beverley Stonehewer), the security guard stumbles upon Harry Hollingsworth (Michael Barnes), an out of work actor who is reduced to sleeping rough.  As the action progresses it emerges that the guard and the tramp have a common interest in the theatre and their relationship develops from initial antagonism to affection and collaboration, when Harry finally agrees to help Connie with the production of a Christmas pantomime, using a script which she had found in her attic.  The hidden sub-plot surrounds the mystery box full of scripts - were these in fact the ones left by Harry before he disappeared from the family in the distant past, is he really Connie's grandfather.  These enigmas are left to the imagination of the audience.  The actors sparked well off each other and gave an accomplished performance of this gentle and happy story, which was ideal for the Christmas production and was ably directed by Jamie Stonehewer.

The second part of the evening featured "One Across" by Ian Hornby.  Director Michael Baker surprised the audience by declaring that this would be an unrehearsed play reading and "invited" actors from the audience.  The proviso was that the actors should be newcomers to the stage of, at least, only occasional performers.  After some consternation and negotiation a team of actors was found - one team from each dining table to perform one scene each.  The result was an excellent production which was much appreciated by the audience and which threw up a number of budding talents, whom we shall no doubt see in future production.

The story is one of a "smart Alec" husband who winds his wife up over his choice of Christmas present for her - she wants an eternity ring and he suggests a new cooker, lawnmower, etc.  In the final scene the husband gets his comeuppance when the wife dumps a plate of beans on toast in his lap.  For obvious reasons this scene had previously been rehearsed by Michael Baker and Ann Ellis - the volunteers would probaby not have appreciated this stunt.  At the same time the wife does get her ring after all (which in fact turned out to be Ann's real Christmas present).  This was another fun production and brought the Christmas production to a happy end.

January 2013

January saw the return of "Dock Brief" by Sir John Mortimer to Thespa's repertoire.  Last performed in October 2007 this play has often been requested by members for a reprise.  It was also an opportunity for Peter Bramall to tread the boards during his brief winter visit to Spain from the UK.  Playing the part of Morganhall, a career failure in the barrister profession, he wins his first dock brief, when he is appointed to represent the penniless criminal, Fowle (Henry Cooper).  The relationship that develops between the two is charming and was well acted by these accomplished perfomers.  The irony of the story is that Fowle is guilty of the crime, but is spared the hangman's noose and set free as a result of the incompetence of his lawyer.  This much loved story was well received by the audience.  Directed by Margaret Spencer-Brooks.

February 2013

February's production of two one-act plays began with a comic romance with a twist, "Rialto" by Richard Parsons and directed by Henry Cooper.  Professional male escort, Bruce (Peter Cadman), has set up a niche business escorting elderly ladies on once-in-a-lifetime visits in their twilight years.  His almost plausible stories about financial hardship resonate with his clients and no more so than with Clemmie (Rochelle Shapiro) who is enjoying a trip to see the sights of Rome.  However, Clemmie is no helpless little old lady and some judicious enquiries reveal Bruce for the fraud that he is.  Nevertheless Clemmie's business acumen sees a market opportunity and proposes a joint business venture where she promotes his services, he does the leg work and between them they make a good income!  This was Rochelle's first outing as an actress, following her "discovery" at the December unrehearsed play reading, and she gave a splendid performance, well supported by veteran treader of the boards, Peter Cadman.  The audience thoroughly enjoyed the play and showed their strong appreciation of Rochelle's debut.

After dinner the audience enjoyed "Relics" by David Campton and directed by Peter Bramall.  Based on the theme that "where there's a will, there's a relative", three cousins - Una (Angie Clifford), Winifred (Margaret Spencer-Brooks) and Olive (Jean Fenton) - descend on the former home of Aunt Dorothy (Wendy Smith) only to find that it has be almost stripped bare of furniture and fittings.  Mrs Parkinson (Janet Norton), a friendly neighbour makes a brief appearance in order to shed light on the mystery of the vanishing possessions - sold to pay bills.  The play explores the hostility between the cousins and their superficial concern for their dead aunt.  The text also opens up the previously unspoken family secrets which are discussed amongst the cousins and (in soliloquy) by Aunt Dorothy who remains on stage in specteral form throughout the play.  All performers contributed well to the play and the audience was delighted to welcome the second newcomer to the stage that evening.  Angie Clifford was making her return to the stage after an undisclosed number of years of absence since her schooldays.  The array of sound effects for this creepy story were provided by Steve Wright.

March 2013

The March prodcution began with a performance of "The Eccentric" by Danny Abse.  The setting is a tobacconist shop somewhere in London after WW2 where Mr Goldstein, the eccentric owner, enjoys an antagonistic relationship towrards  his customers.  Superficially there is a theme of anti-semitic prejudice running through the story, but beneath the surface it is the customers who are being discriminated against in a bizarre and humourous way.  Goldstein was performed admirably by David Shapiro, who had never trodden the boards before.  Not only was he able to introduce some additional Yiddish into the dialogue, which he had learnt as a child, his parents had owned a tobacconist shop in London at around the time of the play's setting, so this was "home" for him.  The principal unfortunate victim of Goldstein's behaviour was Mr John Smith, played by another newcomer to Thespa, Steve Wright, who fell into the role of much-put-upon victim very naturally.  Steve's wife, Veronica, played part of Danielle Robinson, as student who acts as part narrator and part participant in the play and finally establishes a bond with Goldstein that no one had previously been able to.  Completing the roll call of debuts was that of Ann Ellis, who was seen in the role of director for the first time and managed to bring the best out of the characters.

Dinner was followed by "up The Garden Path" by Paul Beard and directed by Jean Fenton.  In contrast to the bizarre  humour of the preprandial production, this play provided some good laughs to the audience in the best traditions of Whitehall farce.  Marjorie (Ann Ellis) and Henry, her husband, (Michael Baker) invite neighbour Ernest (Henry Cooper) to dinner.  Set against the background of the rivalry between the two men's prowess in growing the biggest vegetables in the garden and their respective dirty tricks, Ernest's wife is strangely absent.  Did she leave him or did he murder her?  Why does he need to have a bonfire every night during the summer and why is there evidence of bones in the ash.  The threesome did an excellent job of hamming up the humour, which was much enjoyed by th audience.

April 2013

April saw the return of Agatha Christie to Thespa with a production of "The Rats" ably directed by Margaret Spencer-Brooks.  The play set in a 5th floor studio flat in Hampstead explores marital infidelity and intrigue, with the victims being caught like rats in a trap, whence the title is derived.  It was an evening for couples to perform: Michael Barnes and partner Jean Macer gave strong portrayals of Jennifer Brice and David Forrester, as did Steve and Veronica Wright as Sandra Grey and Alec Hanbury.  This was Jean's first outing with Thespa, although she has experience of acting in the UK.  As always it was pleasing to see another audience member take to the floor.

As the April production coincided more or less with the conventionally accepted date of Shakespeare's birthday, the second half of the evening offered a "Homage to Shakespeare", devised by Jean Fenton.  Jean and Janet Norton narrated the evening with some interesting historical notes about the Bard himself as well as his works.  Taking examples from Tragedies, Histories and Comedies excellent performances were given by Michael Barnes, Henry Cooper, Rochelle and David Shapiro, Geoff Stansfield and Beverley and Jamie Stonehewer.  Following in the footsteps of so many great Shakespearean actors, the cast gave a truly creditable performance.  This was a particularly gratifying event for Jean Fenton, who had for many years wanted Thespa to perform Shakespeare and she was able to achieve this before stepping down from the role of President of the Association.

May 2013

The 2012/13 season finished with an evening of light hearted humour.  The first play, "Luck Be A Lady" by Michael Park was the story of two unlikely characters, Charles Gaunt - an escapee from a retirement home, and Debbie - a young woman abaondoned by ber married lover, who meet in the park at night beside a river.  Neither realises at first that they have both arrived at the same spot for the same reason, namely to end their days in the dark water.  Lady Luck in the form of Debbie (Ann Ellis) intervenes and Charles (Michael Baker) finds that he has a winning lottery ticket in his pocket.  The bond developed between the two leads them to decide to spend the rest of their days togethr and all ends happily ever after.

After dinner the audience enjoyed "Mr Perfect" by Alan Richardson and directed by Michael Baker.  Two middle-aged ladies, formerly close school friends have drifted apart but meet up in a stylish bar in the early evening.  Girl-next-door Elizabeth (Ann Ellis) is waiting for her bus, wheras classy Liz (Angie Clifford) is waiting for a date organised by an "introduction agency".  Elizabeth is content with the modest things of life and has never really sought a male companion, whereas Liz has been a high flyer and has increasingly high expectations of the man she wants in her life, but is endlessly disappointed.  When the date finally arrives, he is another "not good enough" and Liz leaves by the back door, but it looks as though Elizabeth has scored with Mr Perfect, who obviously takes a shine to her and vice versa.  This amusing story with a twist in the tale, was much enjoyed by the audience.

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