Chris Avery reviews Summer End

Summer End
by Eric Chappell
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Chris Shinn

Generally speaking, it's the aim of every cast and director to persuade an audience to suspend disbelief and enter into the world of their play - but there was a lovely moment of recognition during "Summer End" when Emily, a cantankerous resident of the eponymous retirement home, was describing a Christmas performance by a local concert party. She wasn't impressed, even though her room-mate May pointed out that the show had been put on at a specially reduced rate. "Never mind a cheap rate," she sniffed. "They're amateurs. They should do it for nothing."

Unfortunately, every drama group has to pay its way and there can be no such thing as a free lunch - but no-one minds the small outlay on a ticket for a show by the excellent WCP. Once again, they demonstrated the range of talent at their disposal with this production of "a light hearted murder mystery" by the author of "Rising Damp". Directed by Chris Shinn, and with impeccable technical backup provided by Mark Easterfield, there was much for the audience to enjoy. A well designed set depicted the shared bedroom and sitting room of Emily (Caroline Blair) and May (Suzanne Holland), and although we didn't get to see Emily's much vaunted moquette three piece suite with its plush cushions, the rest of the furniture was very much of the kind brought by elderly ladies to their sunset homes. There were a few staging problems occasioned by the need to place two armchairs down right, and a play which requires at least one of the characters to spend most of her time in one chair will always give a director pause for thought - although, as we later discovered, Emily was not as immobile as she liked to make out. Costumes were well chosen, with the single exception of Emily's wig - even Margaret Thatcher's blue rinse was never that blue! Both the major roles were well played, with the actresses convincingly portraying the stiff joints and bent backs of the elderly. Inevitably, their laboured movements around the stage slowed the action a little at times, but things livened up considerably with the entrance of their carer Sally (Kayleigh Orrock), a sulky and world weary young woman bent on dragooning her reluctant fiance into matrimony. The exchanges between these three, with Emily's sardonic one liners providing the cut and thrust while would be peacemaker May tried to pour oil on troubled waters, made the audience chuckle. Paul Lockwood as Alan, Emily's son, took a while to hit his stride, but picked up authority when revealing himself as a police officer investigating the dubious death of a former resident. The cast was completed by Rosie Wilson as Mrs Lang, proprietor of Summer End, and the eventual villain of the piece.

Personally, I felt that the script rambled somewhat and would have been better for a little more tightness in the writing. However, a good sized audience was well entertained by this play, which I'm sure will help to consolidate WCP's appeal to its local audience, as well as those coming from further afield.

Waterbeach Theatre Company
All performances at
Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023

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