Saturday 18 May 2024

 "Entertaining Angels" by Beeston Players.

Round Hill School, Beeston.

Richard Everett’s bitter-sweet comedy is set in a quintessentially English vicarage garden.  It follows Grace, a recently widowed vicar’s wife coming to terms with his passing, the loss of her family home to the potential new lady vicar, Sarah, the return of her missionary sister and a daughter with her own issues.

Grace has spent a lifetime on her best behaviour. Following the death of her husband Bardolph, she is enjoying the new-found freedom of being able to do and say exactly as she pleases. But the return of her eccentric missionary sister, Ruth, together with some disturbing revelations, forces Grace to confront the truth of her marriage. At the same time, Sarah reveals some un-clergy-like credentials of her own to Grace’s therapist daughter Jo.

The sharp tongued and quick witted Grace is played by Alison Williams. Grace uses her wit and sharp tongue throughout the play to hide the general feeling of her being lost since the death of her husband, Bardolph. Alison has a lovely easy acting style, almost as if she's not acting on stage, which makes her role seem extremely believable. Grace comes out with some things that you wouldn't expect a lady of her years to come out with, which makes Grace a bit of a shocker.

Ruth is played by Nicola Adkin. Like her sister, Ruth is an energetic woman who is all business. She feels better when busy and this rubs Grace up the wrong way regularly, especially with her Flymo. She is the typical older sister and holds a slight grudge against her more freely outspoken sister. After a certain confession from Ruth, there's  some quite emotional scenes between the two sisters. The chemistry between both sisters is, at times, electric.

Bardolph is played by Paul Langston. Bardy is a mild-mannered, relaxed individual; every inch a small village vicar. He is genuinely a kindly, friendly man whose gentle good humour is an even balance to his outspoken wife. It’s a pity he’s dead. He is not dithering or silly like some TV vicars, but just a genuinely charming man. He is however not backwards at laying things out straight to Grace. I've seen Paul many times perform with Beeston Players and always nails whatever role he takes on.

Jo is played by Meghan Southan. Like her mother and aunt, Jo has an ageless youthful quality to her. She seems to have never-ending patience, and she needs it with her family. Recovering from the painful end to her own marriage, via her husband’s infidelity, she is very supportive but not afraid to point out to her mother when she is in the wrong. This is Meghan's first time on stage but looks completely at ease.

Sarah, the new vicar, is played by Ali Parnham. A strong-willed, energetic woman vicar for the modern world. All jeans, knee length boots and Bluetooth headsets. She is seen by Grace as a polar opposite to the traditional vicars she is used to and therefore the relationship is strained.

There were a couple of prompts in the second act, but this is a really wordy play.

Directed by Gary Frost, the pace of this play is really nice because there are some pauses that break up some of the faster speeches, which breaks a natural flow of how people interact. This play is something a little different for Beeston Players because there's a more serious side to this play which balances nicely the comedic parts, venturing into a darker side of drama. It also leaves the audience member to decide whether Bardolph is just in the mind of Grace, whether he is an angel (without wings but with a heavenly trowel), or just a mirage. 

The set design is by Sam Williams. I would love my back garden to look as neat and tidy, and colourful, as this set. Complete with garden arches, pots of flowers, a wheelbarrow, gardening tools and a greenhouse, as well as a river (not a real one by the way), but there is water. The garden is clinically clean and would gain respect from Alan Titchmarsh without a doubt. the set was dressed by Nicola Adkin with loads of props, thanks to Nina Tunnicliff.

Sam is also responsible for the sound and the sound effects, which were utilised well, including the sound of the stream bubbling away.

Lighting by Tom Jenkins. Simple and straight forward; no fancy effects needed.

A new play to me, and that is what I really admire about Beeston Players, they don't rest on laurels and choose predictable plays. Every play that I've seen by this group have attracted excellent audiences who faithfully support The Players. I did overhear in the interval a couple of people who were experiencing their first time in attendance.

As usual The Beeston Players did not disappoint.

I attended the final performance of this production.

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