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Not having seen this play before, I wondered about the concept of a widow seeing her dead husband and talking to him – but it worked beautifully, and is a very cleverly written piece, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

It was amusing, thought-provoking and emotive - I must admit to shedding a tear as well as having a laugh – so it had all the elements of a good play.

The play was nicely directed by Jan Westgarth, the cast were well-suited to their parts, and really made sure the pace and emotion were there in abundance.

The set was well-built and painted – the leaves on the hedge alone were a masterpiece, with a charming countryside panorama through the pergola, and it all worked really well for the cast to move round.  I liked the small area where the pond was, although the water sound was a little too loud in Act 1 and masked some of the dialogue, this was considerably quieter in Act 2.  Sound effects were charming and totally in keeping with the ethos of the piece.

The lighting was good, although I did have an issue with down stage right – when Sarah was talking she moved completely out of the light, either she needed to stay in the part that was lit, or there needed to be a wider angle on the light for that area.

Pip Dowdell as Grace, the newly bereaved vicar's wife, was a very feisty character, lots of fire, sarcasm and some good laughs within the first few sentences, which set the tone for the evening.  I liked the contrasts between Grace talking to her dead husband, when she showed her softer more compliant side, then her way of demeaning everyone else – it worked very well.  There was also raw emotion there when she found out that her husband had fathered her sister's son – many facets to the character and the performance.

Grace was nicely counteracted by Viv Fairley as her sister Ruth. Nicely tanned, as a lady missionary in Uganda would be – and a much more laid back character, dreading telling her sister about her son, but wanting to get it off her chest.  The resulting rancour and vitriol between the pair was extremely well done – which made the eventual making up all the more moving.

I am used to seeing Robert Naylor-Staples in a musical role – so this was a departure for me – but I really enjoyed his performance, he looked like a typical country vicar, and you could almost believe he had passed over.  A very believable portrayal of what was essentially a ghost!  I loved the transition into a very smart gent at the end, when he was ready to depart for good – it added a bit of spice, and he looked very elegant and sophisticated.  

Grace’s daughter Jo was played by Julie O’Shea.  I liked her upfront but understanding character, it fitted in well with her bolshy mum and rather dreamy aunt.  She was matter-of-fact and well-adjusted, despite being a psychotherapist who was well-used to offering advice.  Some of the rallies between Jo and her mother were very good.

The final character was the new vicar Sarah, played by Irene Morris.  She got the slightly other-worldliness that we often associate with religion, but also the indecision and sense of a woman who has made her way in the world, despite some decisions that she regretted.  Again, a very well-rounded portrayal.

I loved the expression on Grace's face when Sarah revealed that she was the new vicar, and not her husband!! The whole play was a conduit for expressiveness and everyone got the most out of their characters.

As you may have deduced from this, I was very impressed by the cast, and the technical aspects (water accepted), giving us a wonderful evening's entertainment with high standard work produced by a small Society.

Wheathampstead Dramatic Society


Review date: 16th May 2013

Memorial Hall, Wheathampstead

Director: Jane Westgarth


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