250th Production – pictures in reviews
October 2 – Shoreham Herald – page 14 – Joe Riddle
A Southwick Theatre company passed a milestone last Wednesday, with the opening night of its 250th production. Wick Theatre Company’s performance of Chekhov’s 1904 comedy The Cherry Orchard was carried off brilliantly by cast bursting with energy and charm. From the moment the curtain went up, the audience was glued to the action.
Leading lady Hazel Starns gave a sparkling performance as landowner Ranyevskaya, portraying the character’s sorrow and grief beautifully. But laughs were abundant especially when David Peaty took to the stage as Ranyevskaya’s loveable, childlike older brother; Gaev. He delivered his lines wonderfully, with an accomplished sense of comic timing and brought the house down as he played imaginary billiards shots throughout his dialogue.
David Creedon [Simyon-Pishchik], Hazel Starns [Ranyevskaya], David Peaty [Gaev]
Graham Till was hugely popular with the audience as he shuffled and creaked around the set in the rôle of aging footman Firs. Simply his presence on stage was enough to rouse laughter in the stalls, and he had the audience on tenterhooks as the curtain fell.
Graham Till [Firs]
There was no shortage of comedy, notably from Adrian Kenward and David Creedon, who had the house in stitches with their antics as Yepikhodov, the awfully unlucky estate clerk, and Simyon-Pishchik, the penniless landowner, whose hip flask was seldom out of sight. Dan Dryer was compelling as eternal student Trofimov, delivering his impassioned speeches with intensity and vigour.
David Creedon [[Simyon-Pishchik], Dan Dryer [Trofimov]
Special mention must be reserved for Chris Parke, who was outstanding as rags-to-riches businessman Lopakhin, commanding the stage with great presence and conviction. Parke’s stand-out moment was his delivery of Lopakhin’s big monologue after buying the orchard, in which he captured his character’s change of fortunes with great passion and a real sense of joy mixed with disbelief.
The on-stage chemistry between Hazel Starns, Hanna Liebeskind [Varya] and Sophie Lane [Anya] was heartwarming and genuine. Despite her character’s lack of redeeming features, the audience quickly warmed to likeable Sarah Frost as vain housemaid Dunyasha, in her futile pursuit of footman Yasha, played with great arrogance and pretence by Tom Harris. Judith Berrill was charming and quirky as eccentric governess Charlotta.
The score and sound effects were spot on, marred only slightly by a loud buzzing sound that persisted throughout much of the play.
Wick Theatre Company was founded in 1948 and has performed at The Barn since it opened 60 years ago. Its first production was in 1951 when it performed four one-act plays.
September 25 – Brighton Argus – Barrie Jerram
Chekhov’s tragicomedy, considered to be his masterpiece, is set in pre-revolutionary Russia telling of the feckless Madame Ranevsky and her family. Refusing to face up to reality, their beloved estate and cherry orchard is sold to pay off their debts. Once sold, all will be razed to the ground and villas built. In the final scene, as the family prepare to move out, the sound of the trees being chopped down is heard – symbolism heralding the coming revolution and the fate of the landowning classes.
Despite the pervading air of melancholy, Bob Ryder’s direction manages to inject a lot of humour. His is a fine production, full of good performances. Ranevsky and her selfish, snobbish brother are self-destructive characters for whom there can be little sympathy. Hazel Starns and David Peaty fully capture their flaws and weaknesses. Chris Parke brings a more sophisticated air to the usually coarse Lopakhin, a peasant made rich through shrewd business deals, whilst Dan Dryer is full of passion as a revolutionary student.
Chris Parke [Lopakhin], Adrian Kenward [Yepikhodov]
The true essence of Chekhov is rooted in Adrian Kenward’s remarkable portrayal of the unfortunate Yepikhodov whilst David Creedon delivers fine comedy through his characterisation of an impoverished neighbour.
David Creedon – flask never far from his hand – in fact it’s his dance partner
Octoer – N.O.D.A – National Operatic and Dramatic Association – Phillip Hall – Regional representative for South East Region District 1 – Mid Sussex
This is story packed with tragedy, sadness and human folly yet written as a comedy. Bob Ryder succeeded in bringing all aspects clearly to the audiences’ attention in a very cleverly staged production.
Hazel Starns [ Ranyevskaya] sweeps forward and the cast look on
Hazel Starns was perfect as the aristocratic Russian landowner. She showed her fall from grace with great dignity combined with little shame and great resolution. Her older brother, Gaev, an interesting eccentric with an obsession with the delights of the billiard room, was delightfully played by David Peaty. His facial expressions in response to the dialogue of others were an object lesson to many an actor. It was said of David Garrick, ” …every look speaks”.
Chris Parke created a Lopakhin not, in my opinion, to be liked. His humble background clearly rankled and his acquisition of the estate from a ‘superior’ gave him a certain smugness. The Lopakhin/Varya relationship was never really resolved. Varya, elegantly played by Hannah Liebeskind, deserved better. Dan Dryer, as Trofimov, made an excellent eternal student with all the wisdom and assurance of one with no experience of the real world and brimming with revolutionary zeal. It could never have been possible that the lovely, sweet Anya could have any shared interest.
The somewhat eccentric governess, Charlotta, played by Judith Berrill is not a large rôle but Judith made it count in her scene as the entertainer which she carried off with great panache.
Judith Berrill [Charlotta]
Firs, the ancient footman played by Graham Till, was a joy. Although clearly intended as a caricature of an old family retainer, he never quite descended into pantomime with even his death scene showing a certain restraint.
The remainder of the cast were all admirable in their rôles. A local landowner, a pompous young footman, and accident prone estate clerk, a loyal housemaid and half a dozen others all came up to the standards set by the major players.
This can only be summarised as a most entertaining evening well up to the high standards audiences have come to expect over 250 presentations since 1951. Congratulations on reaching such a milestone in such style.
Hanna Liebeskind [Varya], Sophie Lane [Anya]