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

An evening of senior moments


The Nonentities


RONALD Harwood’s gently comedy is that rare theatrical beast,Stanley Barten a play written entirely for actors of . . . should we say a more mature disposition, the more seasoned thespian with many boards already trod.

And the delightful cast of four grabbed the chance with relish. The play revolves around a home for retired theatricals from the world of opera with residents living in a world of memories and sad knowledge that they used to be someone, and some can even remember who.

Stanley Barton revels as the supposedly sex obsessed Wilf

Three of the inmates, as they call themselves, often sang together and have formed their own geriatric gang which, unknown to them, is soon to be joined by a fourth, to make up the celebrated quartet which performed in THE post-war Rigoletto back in the day – a performance so memorable among opera buffs it has just been reissued on CD.

There is Wilf, whose interests appear to be sex and . . . well sex really, and in the hands of Stanley Barton wVilma Watson e have a once famous baritone with a permanent twinkle in his eye and a quickness of wit to seize any opportunity for innuendo. Barton’s timing and devil may care attitude is a pleasure to watch and there is genuine sympathy when we find him deflated and hurt, not by his own doing, but the perception of others in the closing scenes.

Then there is Cissie, the mezzo-soprano, whose mind wanders between here and Karachi . . . don’t ask . . . who was a bit of her goer in her time and in truth her mind is still a bit of a goer, as in not always there, even now. It is a delightful portrayal of dottiness from Vilma Watson.

Vilma Watson is taking Cissie away with the fairies

And completing the trio is Reg, the tenor, staid, old, precise and frankly boring Reg played by Colin Young who gives us a master class in studious, humourless, dullness, only becoming animated in his daily breakfast battle with a hated nurse. He loves meetings when discussions will do and charts his life as notes in a little back book as he slowly, painfully so, writes his autobiography.

They have been asked to perform at the annual Verdi Birthday Concert but cannot decide what to do until a new arrival appears, celebrated soprano Jean Horton, the Pamela Meredithmissing Gilda, and it seems the problem is solved – they are reunited for their Bella figlia dell'amore, their famous quartet from Verdi’s Rigoletto.

If only life was that simple. First of all Reg had a miserable and very short marriage to Jean many years, and in Jean’s case, many husbands ago, something he does not wish to discuss, while Jean, played with a diva aloofness and frosty demeanour by Pamela Meredith, refuses point blank to sing a note.

Pamela Meredith cuts a sad figure the faded diva Jane Horton

From that point of animosity we start to learn more and more about each character, and despite having known each other for a lifetime they discover things about each other and even themselves as we head to the gala concert and the intriguing question of will they, won’t they sing.

It is a play that will make you laugh a lot, but it will also make you cry a little as you see characters coming to terms with what they are – old. Reg is the only one who enjoys old age, and that is only for the saddest of reasons – it makes him forget things he does not want to remember.

Cissy is on the cusp, hanging on to the present by her fingertips while Jean, the once feted, opera superstar, is a charity case, without two pennies to rub together. Hobbling about in pain waiting for a hip operation; someone who can now hardly stand living on memories of past standing ovations.Colin Young

Then there is Wilf, who rages against growing old, at time slowly stealing his life. He perhaps, in his direct way, says what all the old feel. Age take no prisoners. Every man wants to boast of being a three or even four times a night man – but not when it involves a trudge down the landing to avail oneself of the plumbing.

Laughs a plenty and plenty of poking fun at old age and mortality but it is tinged with poignancy – a bit like looking at a holiday brochure, we are seeing a life we all might be heading for one day..

Colin Young brings a meticulous air of fussiness to Reg

Director Richard Taylor has created a fine production, well paced and balanced, cleverly using stage crew dressed as nurses – it is a retirement and care home remember – for the scene changes while Keith Higgins and Mike Lawrence have produced an effective and, I am sure older members of the audience hope, a realistic set. Got to be prepared, just in case.

Forget this is amateur theatre, this is theatre, full stop, a beautiful production that would not look out of place up the road at the Grand. A treat well worth seeing. To 17-05-14

Roger Clarke


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