An Abingdon, Oxfordshire, Drama Group
Here is an abridged version of Jacquie Stedman's NODA review:- Wednesday 20th March 2013
I like the idea of having a short ‘lantern show’ before the play started, making the audience aware of the time of the play and the achievements which took place during those years – a real history lesson and very effective. Quite time consuming too I would imagine!
As always you had achieved a great deal on such a small stage with regard to your set. It was well thought out and had all the trappings of a Victorian home following the death of someone living there. The black draped pictures and mirror and the black edged notepaper in the rack, presumably for answering letters of condolence, and help to set an authentic tone to the proceedings.
Although the set was very full, as was the case in Victorian homes, the cast used the space well and had adjusted comfortably to moving between the furniture, giving the feeling of familiarity. The use of the flickering fire and the ‘lighted’ candles all added to the overall feel and we were transported back to a time so different from our own now. The use of the windchimes to indicate a ‘presence’ was effective as was the knocking on the ceiling, when in actual fact it was the housekeeper. The three exits were well thought out within a small area, not forgetting the French doors which would have led out to the garden.
Lighting, although simple, was very effective and atmospheric in places. Sound effects, I think, would have improved after the first night. When the rain started it sounded rather as though there was a very full drain, but it was soon corrected and presumably worked efficiently for the rest of the week.
I was pleased to read in the Director’s notes that, in rehearsals, consideration had been given to the way people moved and sat, the way they talked and what they wore and the restrictions that undergarments would have had on the ladies in particular. All these things affect a player’s performance, in helping them to find the character they are asked to portray. The entire cast managed this well and there were only two occasions where lack of concentration showed – Ellen stood with her hand slightly on her hip and Gregory took his weight on just one leg with the other bent at an angle. Otherwise – well done to everyone in handling the speech and movement so well.
The costumes suited the characters very well and were much in keeping with the period of the play – congratulations on a very well thought out costume plot.
Ellen (Miss Julie Kedward) was a very convincing character and whilst she was never rude to Elizabeth it was very obvious from her speech and
demeanour that she had little respect for her and all her energies, over many years, had been directed towards the mistress – the Edwina Black of the title. She moved well with the use of her stick, and created the picture of a loyal retainer of that period. Her final explanation of what her mistress had done in the hope of Gregory and Elizabeth taking the blame for her death was delivered with real depth of feeling.
Elizabeth Graham (Miss Deborah Parker) was in a position which she obviously did not like and, as a companion, did not have the regard for her mistress that one would have expected, although this may have been due to the fact that she was involved with the master of the house. This relationship benefitted greatly from the death of Edwina Black, but as the play unfolds Elizabeth’s character appeared to shift and question Gregory’s motives and innocence – as, indeed, did his with hers. The dialogue between herself and Gregory planted many questions in the mind of the audience and her manner added to the building of the tension to which I refer in my next paragraph
Gregory Black (Mr Jim Cottrell) was a most believable character and, I thought, quite honest in his personality. He was on stage almost the whole time and there was not one moment when his characterisation faltered. It changed as the play progressed and at several points one could have questioned whether he did actually kill his wife. It was clear that he had married Edwina Black for her money and wished to be free to follow his own path (one supposes with Elizabeth), but the emotions that he expressed and his questioning of Elizabeth made one suspect that he could have murdered his wife. Between Gregory and Elizabeth I thought there was good handling of the dramatically eerie parts of Act 2, to the extent that at one point I couldn’t look at the stage...so congratulations on creating that tension – not an easy thing to do when you are so close to the audience.
Henry Martin (Mr Mike Davies) was the opposite of today’s fictional detectives. He was calm and quietly spoken and very thorough in his questioning. He certainly looked the part and was not giving anything away. Whilst he did not have the benefits of many of the procedures that modern poIicing has, he carried a certain authority when talking about a post-mortem. I felt that he could have given more to the character.
This was a really good evening’s entertainment and a play that we hadn’t seen before. It was well acted and directed with a lot of thought – well done to you all.
Jacquie Stedman Councillor, NODA London
By William Dinner & William Morum