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

Clever cast make this day a joy

Day of Reckoning

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


I HAVE just realised what a soft spot I've got for plays that involve committee meetings and plays about fêtes. Two by Alan Ayckbourn – Ten Times Table and Gosforth's Fête, one of them about organising a pageant and the other about, yes, organising a fête are what come immediately to mind, but I can now add another one to this small but happy assembly.

The squabbles, the petty crises and the domestic upheavals, set against the background of an imminent and significant local event that demands co-operation between the organisers, give added spice to the furtive affairs that in other plays can be simply another part of the plot.

So it was that a cold night in August found me eavesdropping on the assorted souls who had gathered on a cold night in January to pave the way for their village fête, due to come about in six months' time – and it was a pleasure to be there. Pauline Lowe's studio production finds the company of eight – seven of them women – in top form as the sharply delineated characters whom writer Pam Valentine has created.

Geoffrey Morris is the irascible vicar, the thorn among the roses, the man of God who turns out to have his mind on matters more earthly and who eventually finds a way of letting down the bouncy castle that has been worrying him ever since the fête bade its final visitor goodbye. This is an excellent, gritty portrayal, illuminated in its later stages by his appearance as Friar Tuck because the fête has insisted on fancy dress.

The bouncy castle is the only point at which the production lets itself down. It is supposed to be visible through the window of the village hall, so it would have been a good idea to rope in a paintbrush and give us an idea of what it looked like. Instead, a plain grey wooden wall a few inches beyond the glass invites us to suspend disbelief, which is a shame.


Barbara Wright gives us the pugnacious, gossipy Ethel, who has been in charge of the tea tent for 23 years and who punches out her opinions like a popgun on overtime. Emma Fletcher rather overdoes the overwhelming shyness with which schoolteacher Angela is afflicted, making it hard to imagine her in control of a covey of mixed infants, but she comes engagingly out of her shell after the forthright, horsey, no-nonsense Marjorie (Michelle Whitfield) has taken her under her wing and presumably under the bedclothes – and left us with the thought that one of the perks of being an atheist is that you can say No to vicars.

Sue Smith is Pauline, long-suffering wife of the vicar, with whom she shares the final scene in which he seeks a rapprochement and which produces a will-they-won't-they moment that is not resolved before the lights go down. Sue Hawkins is Gloria, the committee secretary – ever-defensive; full of stress and anguish; the one who manages to get the vicar to show his softer side.

Sue Daniels comes forthright and stroppy as Sally, and Anne Crowther brings us the eccentric and very deaf Mavis, who is coming up to her 84th birthday and who doesn't knit willy-warmers.

It is a joy. No frills or furbelows – apart, perhaps, from the statue of a cherub with a taste for archery. No, this is just an honest-to-goodness example of responsibilities that are met and shared and handled with total assurance.

To 28.8.10.

John Slim

Box office: 01905 611 427  

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