The set (staging by Chris Scott) was excellent with plenty of colour and accommodated well the many locations required. Lighting and sound (Barry Ayres - who else) were everything you could want, and all executed flawlessly. Slide projection and animations helping to move things along nicely and whilst always a bit of a risk, added plenty to this production. Costumes (Members of the Society), Make Up (Jenny Lewis) and incidental props (Margaret Mould, Mike Cooke, David Cooper and Harry Carpenter) were all spot on.
With everyone doubling or (even trebling) up it was a challenge to keep track of who was who but, in a variety of supporting roles, there was good work from Ed Sinclair, David Cooper, Georgia Smith, Tiggie Ellison, Ian Gooda, Mike Cooke, and Claire Cooper with Reece Trott doing a nice job of the displaced heir Tomjon. Debbie Bennett was priceless (when isn’t she) as Mrs Vitoller and Leslie Judd was in fine form as her husband and the leader of the players. It is never less than a pleasure to see Liam Baker on any stage and there was something of the Danny Zucko about his portrayal of the murdered King Verence as he strutted
around the stage in a ghostly form.
In the more prominent roles, Penny Cooke (I have never seen this lady take such a significant role before) was excellent as the “Power behind the throne”, Duchess Lady Felmet, bullying and dominating her weak husband remorselessly.In the same vein, David Brammer offered us a suggestion of the original ‘Blackadder’ in his outstanding characterisation of guilt ridden murderer, Duke Felmet. Another veteran on a roll was Society Chairman, Matt Kerslake, who mixed comedy, pathos and insanity to create the Fool. He was responsible for most of the big laughs and seemed to revel in the part.
Penultimate paragraph honours have to be shared this time out. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but they were such a tight fighting unit and can only be judged as a trio. Granny Weatherwax gave the very talented Susan Power yet another opportunity to show us just how good a characters actress she is. Her range is not vast, but within it (and she is always within it !), she is one of the best in this town. The part of the matriarch witch was right where she likes to be. Cate Waters is new to me (I think) and new to the Watlington Players (I think), but as Nanny Ogg she gave the comedy performance of the three and nearly got as many laughs as Mr Kerslake. Megan Abbott is a truly awesome actress and whilst she still gets the romantic lead parts, the part of Margrat Garlick gave her the chance to show that she can do so much more. Sweet, funny and committed she was perfect as the junior witch.
Forgetting for a moment that this performance of Wyrd Sisters was hastily constructed, this really was a first class production. My compliments to Directors’, Claire Cooper and Matt Kerslake for a tidy piece of work with a complicated script and 23 scenes to create. If you then throw in the reduced planning and rehearsal time it was a triumph. My main criticism was the length of both halves. I was getting mighty fidgety during Act II, which dragged two thirds of the ways through. I have concluded that this had little to do with the director or actors but more to do with Mr Pratchett, who perhaps got a little carried away. Congratulations
Watlington… now about that Panto?
(Regional Representative NODA Eastern Region – Area 4 North)
THE WATLINGTON PLAYERS - Wyrd Sisters
DIRECTOR - Claire Cooper and Matt Kerslake
VENUE - Watlington Village Hall
DATE - October 29th 2015
Right up until a chance meeting with Penny Cooke at Downham, it was my firm belief that the 2015 Watlington play would be ‘The Winslow Boy’. It transpired however, that casting difficulties had led to that project being abandoned and leaving only six or so weeks to rehearse and present an alternative. That understudy show turned out to be the late Terry Pratchett’s ‘Wyrd Sisters’ adapted from one of his many Discworld novels. With a massive following worldwide and the passing of the great man earlier this year, I thought the substitution to be well judged, but could the fine Burgers of Watlington get it done in the time allotted …
Well of course they could, and did, and it was very, very good. The story goes a little like this - after the murder of King Verence I, his son is rescued by three witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and the junior, Margrat Garlick. Together with the dead King’s crown the child is hidden with a group of travelling players while the murderer, Duke Felmet, assumes the monarchy supported by his conniving wife. To help the hidden prince regain his rightful title the witches cast a spell on the kingdom and everyone awakes 15 years later. With the help of more magic, the Prince (who does not yet know who he is) arrives at the castle with the actors and performs a play that shows who killed Verence and all is restored.