Monday, 18 July 2016

"Cause Celebre"
Lace Market Theatre.

This is one of the most enjoyable, non musical plays I've seen in a while, and my introduction to Terence Rattigan's works.

The courtroom drama about a woman, Alma Rattenbury, and her teenage lover, Percy George Wood and Rattenbury's murdered husband, Francis. Which of the two killed Francis, or was it a joint effort?

It's fascinating how Rattigan writes so powerfully for women, and in the second act shows a great knowledge of the court room and the male characters in this half are shown to be the stronger written characters.

Tamzin Grayson is absolutely brilliant in the role of the sex hungry cougar who, at first is the dominant seducer of Wood, a little like Mrs Robinson. She looks the part of a 1930's confident woman. but it's interesting to see how that confidence is wore down throughout the play.

Geoff Longbottom (Francis), again well cast as the older, wealthy, though tight husband who is the victim.

Alma's friend, who lives with the Rattenbury's is Irene, played by Carole Barton, Sticking with Alma through thick and thin but has a feeling that Wood, when he first applies for the job, may just be trouble. If only Alma had listened to Irene's gut feeling.

Aaron Connelly (Wood) makes his debut adult production and what a way to break his duck. A powerful performance which simmers to start but the confidence of Wood is played out to great affect here. A lovely arrogant character, which I'm sure Aaron enjoyed getting his teeth into.

Sarah Taylor (Edith Davenport) gives another wonderful character driven performance. Struggling with her inner self as the forewoman of the jury, but does she relent with her vote?

Edith's estranged husband, John, is played by David Dunford. only a minor part but gives an interesting background to Edith's home life with her son, Tony, which ties in nicely with her inner feelings towards Alma, and Alma's actions.

Son Tony, played by another very confident and natural actor, Sam Howitt, adds layers to the Davenport family with his own struggles between mother and father and him becoming a man and the issues that go along with that stage of his life.

There is a comical interaction with Tony's friend, Randolph, played by Sophie Owen, and Tony about his intended journey into becoming a man.

You'll find the theme of sex a constant thread throughout the play, and is one of the main reasons for the murder,a s well as a topic brought up by most of the main characters in some way or another.

I loved the posh totty character in Stella Morrison, best friend to Edith and played beautifully by Kay Haw. Some lovely period clothes for Stella, as well as Edith, to wear.

The legal side of the play was really well performed and at times you could be forgiven for forgetting that you weren't in Court but watching a play. Marcus Wakely (Judge), Piotr Wisniewski, who was responsible for writing the lovely music for the recent "A Midsummer Night's Dream" production at the Lace Market, played Alma's legal eagle, along with Nick Parvin as Montagu, who you just knew wanted to take Wood's place. Roger Newman and John Parker played the legal opposition Croom-Johnson and Casswell. Fraser Wanless plated the Clerk of the Court as well as the Coroner.

As a legal team they were all fascinating to watch because they made me believe. You can see these kind of scenes on TV but being just feet away from this sort of drama is intoxicating for an audience to watch the drama unfold.

I've said in the past that Liza Pybus is one of my favourites at the Lace Market and yet again I have reason to back this statement up. Liza plays Joan Webster, at first a hard-nosed warden who softens as she gets to know Alma. As I said, Rattigan writes so well for his female characters and, while not a major character, Liza makes this a lovable and important role.

Roger Watson plays the bobby on the scene of the murder and first to interview Alma, after the murder, and Chris Griffiths plays the Court porter. Hal Stevens plays Alma's six year old son Christopher, and Hal puts in a very mature performance in the role; this being his second for the Lace Market Theatre

You know me, i love looking for the little things that just make a production and there are many in this one. From the soundscape of the baying public when Alma is brought to court, constantly murmuring in the background, to the shouts of disapproval from behind us as the decision is revealed in Court.This being the design of Gareth Morris. The wonderful subtle sound effects and the realistic drinks in the decanters. So many little things that add that touch of realism.

Wonderful set, sectioned into three, worked really well and designed by Peter Hillier. Brilliantly directed by Gordon Parsons, assisted by Freda Burke and Geoff Longbottom. The props were apt for the 1930's period, and I love the old record player, and those costumes are just so classy and stylish. Highlighting the stage sections was a wonderful design for the lighting by Philip Hogarth,

You see there is so much to mention and with such a brilliant story, combined with some of the best acting, and actors around in Nottingham, this is one play you really don't want to miss, even if it's to find out who did murder Francis... oh and there is a twist at the end, so watch out for that.

"Cause Celebre" is at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 23 July 2016, and if Monday's almost full house is any indication to go by, you better get your ticket fast!

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