Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

cranford ladies


The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


Imagine if you will, a time when Victorian ladies called upon one another for tea, shared the village gossip and the only copy of the local newspaper.

When life moved at a tediously slow country pace, and menfolk were to be mocked at and kept well out the picture. That then is the location and setting of Cranford, an adaption by Martyn Coleman, formed from the basis of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1850s novellas.

Set in 1830, it’s a gentle comedy which apart from the gossiping, has the ladies in fear of their silverware from the threat of swarthy burglars, tales of unrequited love and secrets, all kept to maintain their social dignity and fellow respect. 

The action begins with a narrator, played by Pamela Meredith looking back on herself as the young Mary Smith. We then see the living room of Miss Matty Jenkyns. She has taken a new maid on; Martha played by Emma Preece. and has called upon the help and guidance of the young Mary Smith, played by Katie Brown, to help the young girl understand her role and the ways of a country household.

Spinster Miss Pole arrives, played by Katy Ball, forever warning them all of the perils of men and marriage and her condescending, snobby ways are barely tolerated by the group.

 Adding to the visitors is Miss Barker played by Hillary Thompson, and Miss Forrester, played by Amy cooper.  The latest gossip sets them alight when news that one Lady Glenmire played by Jen Eglington, has arrived in Cranford. She is the guest of The hon Mrs Jamieson played Lynn Ravenhill and all present are concerned and rightly so, on how to address the regal Lady Glenmire should she come to call for tea.

A Mr Hoggins, the local Doctor, and `a man ‘ played by David Wilkes is despised by most of the group and when he then comes to call for his appointed loan of the weekly journal, he outstays his welcome and remains for the dreaded visit of Lady Glenmire.

Aside from the comic antics of the imaginary robbers, the story takes its first emotional turn when news of a gentleman that Miss Matty seemed once fond of, is heard to have passed away. Her demeanour then changes into a `live for the now’ spirit and follow your heart. Even her once insistence for the maid Martha to have no followers, a reference here to gentleman friends rather than Instagram, also relaxes. Martha reveals in an instant she already has a boyfriend Jem, played by Chris Kay. The next major turn is when the failure of a bank holding Miss Mattys' fortune collapses leaving her penniless. There then begins a series of acts of kindness from all involved to rescue Miss Matty from potential poverty and social disgrace.


The Nonentities began their journey into the production of the play several years ago and thwarted by the onset of Covid the company has overcome the many hurdles it faced to bring it to life. Cranford Directed by Bob Graham is a slow burn of a play that winds you casually in. The early antics are a bit mundane but the twist into the moral tale begins to move you as the sincerity of the characters shifts from the condescending Victorian rigor, into the real kindness and care of a friend in need and the company handled the shift with real poise.  

Cranford might be set in an imaginary lost world of the genteel, when lighting was by candle, and Bonneted spinsters sewed and drank afternoon tea and all before the onset of industrial revolution. But its core is one of compassion and acceptance amongst the classes and at its time of writing in the 1850s must have caused something of a stir and social debate. To 18-06-22

Jeff Grant


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