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A feast for the eyes – indeed a wonderful set, beautifully dressed as a very interactive flower garden – nicely achieved, which really did set the scene for a charming and at times funny, at times touching play.  I enjoyed the fact that the cast moved the props/furniture on and off, which meant that apart from a short blackout to mark the fact that time had passed – there were no noticeable breaks, which I feel always engages the audience more, as they don't have time to let their minds drift off somewhere else, and are fully involved from start to finish – nicely done.  

The central beehive was a good stand-out piece, central to the story, and looked very realistic.  There were some first rate sound effects, the droning of the bees etc, and lovely lighting effects, including the clouds in the sky, and also the lowering of the lights to depict the fact that the sun had gone in and possibly rain was on the way.

I thought the costumes all worked well, and were suitable for the characters.  I loved Rosie’s beautiful French plait, and Flora's lovely wig – and whether it was meant or not, the way that Felix's hair almost mimicked his mother's!!

We were treated to some very good characterisations, firstly from Marlon Gill as Felix Humble – the Humble Boy of the title – with his intermittent stutter (no doubt caused in part by his mother's dominance!), and his timidity and reticence, but then his rampant sexuality when confronted by Rosie and her needs.  Nicely refined.

Karina Bygate gave us a lovely study of the widow Flora, a snob, who needed to look good, I would have liked to have seen a little more evidence of her nose job to start with – as her bruised eyes were mentioned, but her demeanour as a controlling woman, her relationship with her lover, and the eventual realisation that her dead husband meant more to her than her lover – were all accomplished well, so that we saw all sides of this complex woman.

Dave Simmonds was great as the rather common George, who delighted in tormenting and demeaning Felix, whilst imposing himself on Flora.  A great part for Dave, that he delivered with gusto.  He was so typical of macho man, that I just loved it when Flora turned him down!  The word ‘discreet’ was applied to George at one stage, which appeared so far from the truth that it was very amusing.

I was a little confused by Jim the gardener at first, then suddenly realised that he was in fact Flora's dead husband – I thought originally that Tony Bradburn was underplaying him – but then realised that he was supposed to be dead, and only appearing originally to Felix, so then it made sense!!  I thought his final speech was well-delivered and very poignant.

The part of Mercy Lott, the rather down-trodden friend of Flora gave Dilly Bellingham a real chance to get a contrasting character to the other ladies, which she accomplished, adding another element to the production.  I particularly liked her ‘Grace’ at the lunch table, and then her realisation that she’d sprinkled James ashes in her Gazpacho!!  Lovely moment, and very funny.

The final character was Natalie Bailey-Trist as Rosie, the forthright ex-girlfriend of Felix, and daughter of George – a chip off the old block in some ways, but also mindful of Felix, his feelings and the fact that she truly believed he was the father of her child.  Another complex but full-on character, which I enjoyed.

There was quite a bit of theoretical stuff for Marlon to get his head round – which I thought he did well, it really sounded as if he understood it all.... perhaps he did!!

Once again – I enjoyed a good production, that was interesting, amusing and thought-provoking in content, it also looked good, so fulfilled all requirements for a fine evening’s entertainment.

Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company

THE HUMBLE BOY” review date: 26th Sept 2013 Boxmoor Playhouse

Director:  Mariam Gaballa-Gill


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