Mike Husband reviews The Cemetery Club

The Cemetery Club
by Ivan Menchell
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Ron Meadows

They say never judge a book by it's cover and this could not apply more to this thought provoking, bitter sweet comedy by Ivan Menchell. Centered around three Jewish widows, it tells the story of how each of them appears to be coping with the loss of their respective husband. There is the overly flirtatious Lucille , the severely devout Doris and the Ida who is caught in the middle. Once a month, they get together to go visit the local cemetery - hence the birth of "The Cemetery Club." Lucille goes just to show her dead husband what his money has bought her, Ida to say hello to her husband and Doris to clean the grave and let her husband know she still cares for him very much. While Lucille wants to move on, Doris cannot help but hold on, and Ida is torn between her two best friends. It is when they meet Sam the local butcher and aging lothario, who is visiting the cemetery that tensions develop. Lucille naturally assumes that he is instantly attracted to her but in reality it is Ida that catches Sam's eye.

The action see-saws between Ida's living room and the local cemetery and I was very interested when reading through the programme as to how they would achieve this. Would they use a split stage, perform in-front of the tabs or take the bull by the horns and have a complete set change? Thankfully and very impressively the stage crew completed the set change in just under 1 1/2 mins and it got quicker as evening progressed. Well done to Mark Easterfield for his set design and to the well drilled crew for making it happen. In Ida's living room we were presented with a set bursting with attention to detail. There were too many things to mention but I did like the peep hole in the door, the numbered door across the hallway, the hanging coss-stitch and the small table on the landing with the flowers. It had a real feel to it.

I could see casting this play being a headache and in particular with the three main characters. Each had to be experienced and confident performers with perfect timing. Yet again we were not disappointed. All three gave very convincing performances and gelled well together. Ivan Menchell wrote a hilarious script and the cast, in particular the ladies delivered the well pointed one liners superbly. This was best illustrated in the scene when the three widows were discussing their ages.

Linda Smith's transformation from Lucille the outrageous flirt to sexual predator when getting ready for her friends wedding was hilarious. Her scenes when she went in for the kill with Sam were equally amusing. Liz Beeson (Ida) gave a very natural performance and in particular at her first visit to the cemetery which I found very moving indeed. Val Furness (Doris) showed great comic timing especially with the one - liners and worked well with Linda Smith - great double act. She reminded me of one of The Golden Girls.

You would have thought that Sam the ageing lothario, played by Roy Furness, would have relished the attentions of Lucille but unfortunately for her she scared him to death. Roy coped well with the advancing Lucille, not knowing really what to say or do despite Lucille knowing exactly what she wanted to say and do! Caroline Blair, well cast as Mildred completed the line up playing Sam's latest trophy - great accent.

Well done to Ron Meadows on bringing this all together - yet another feather in your cap.

Should any group be looking for a challenging production to accommodate their more experienced actresses then look no further.

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

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