ACT in Action Issue 17

the working fridge and cooker were very clever pieces of set design. The hint of ‘upstairs’ and outside the window worked excellently and the audience was impressed (applause on opening of the tabs) at how great the set looked. The all-important kitchen sink itself, with full exploding running water was brilliantly presented. Properties were all excellent and in keeping with the contemporary period the play was set in, thanks to Connie Brooksbank. A couple of great portraits of Dolly Parton (integral to the story) and again, like the house, props were ‘lived in.’ Burned oven gloves and a newspaper recycling bin which got fuller as the production went on were really lovely touches. Attention to detail was key to this production: a full biscuit barrel with real cups of tea to drink, a Christmas tree, a plate of sushi and some toast! I went into the interval craving some toast – a very realistic presentation of an everyday house throughout the year. Lighting by Mandy Mallinson and Ben Fox was natural with no real need for special cues, except for the spotlight on Dolly’s portrait at one point which was effective, and washes to represent night and day. Sound effects - boiling kettle, motorbike passing in the distance, cassette player working, milk-float being towed away - were all timed efficiently and at the right level, by Angela Kemp. Often a bug bear of mine when it is wrong, the smoke alarm was played at the correct side of the stage. Attention to detail for all cues was sharp. Some lovely song choices, too, linking moments between scenes either to establish mood or continue a theme, with ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ getting an extra laugh, as well as the Japanese version of ‘Jingle Bells.’ I feel that I must mention some unnecessary prop-shifting as, for me, it did detract from the naturalism of the play and which , by Act 2, had become somewhat tedious, and was noted by the audience. In some black-outs we had the props team come on simply to move one tea towel; later to move a cake-stand; take the bread out of the bread bin or, in one instance, JUST push a chair back under the table. This was really unnecessary, especially in changes which were meant to be the same day and not indicate a passing of time: the actors themselves could have easily achieved some of these changes ‘in their own home’ rather than having a nightly visitor in black shift their accoutrements around. Keeping the family together through all their trials and

tribulations was Tracey Parker as Kath. Tracey’s comedy timings and characterisations are always excellent (especially when working with the Victoria Wood-esque script here) but to see the ‘other side’ of her in her emotional and affectionate scenes was lovely, and beautifully played. Her matriarchal head of the family was just the right amount of imposing and the perfect amount of caring for all those around her: she really could have been the mum of both Sophie and Billy, so clear was the affection. Her care and worry over the loss of the milk- float was heart-rending for all and a complete juxtaposition to her stony performance of ‘Abide with Me.’ A very strong, and ultimately completely believable, performance from Tracey which was central to the success of the family unit - ultimately this play. Keira RIchardson’s feistily confident portrayal of troubled twenty- one-year-old Sophie was excellent. Presenting the audience with her hard, no-nonsense exterior from the offset was all the more emotive in Act 2 when we finally realise why her barriers are up. Rooting for her to let Pete ‘in’ and warm to his affections, Keira’s naturally defiant, at times petulant, performance (including nonchalant brew drinking and biscuit nibbling) was most effective when playing opposite Daniel. Her swearing wasn’t over-done (although shocked some of the ladies sitting near me!) with my favourite laugh-out-line “I’m a brown belt and Keith’s a prick!’Yet, despite this brashness, there was a vulnerable warmth to her character, which made it all the more three-dimensional. A great, natural presentation: well done, Keira. Conservative head of the family, Martin, played by Eddie Bradbury, was another strong performance. Attached to his milk float and facing stiff competition from Tesco, his milk-float monologue was excellent as he brought life to the mundane trivialities of Martin’s life – we hung on to every word as we became embroiled and invested in this family’s everyday life. We certainly got the impression that, although aloof, he intently cared about his family as he, and we, realised that “a little bit of change” is perhaps sometimes a necessity. The dry barb about cous- cous being ‘African Dust’ was perfectly timed and garnered a great response from the audience. From standing on a chair yodelling Dolly to his ‘attack’ of his sister trying to prepare him for University, Jake’s presentation of gay- teenager, Billy, hit all the right notes. His scenes with Tracey, preparing

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