Thursday, 20 September 2018

Henley Drama Festival Review

WHAT a delight — three plays in one evening at the 42nd Henley Drama Festival.

WHAT a delight — three plays in one evening at the 42nd Henley Drama Festival.

The first, presented by Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, was World Without Memory by Seth Kramer.

Dementia is an illness faced by many families and until recently was rarely talked about. This moving short play tells the story of Abe and his family as the disease takes hold. What seems like forgetfulness at the beginning of the play quickly descends into confusion until Abe is unable to carry out normal, everyday tasks.

Abe’s daughter Robin and son-in-law Bob try everything to keep Abe at home with them, however when Abe goes missing they have to make a painful decision to move him to a specialist care home.

The play not only tackles Abe’s frustration but that of Robin and her struggle to come to terms with her father’s declining memory.

Congratulations must go to the whole cast and director, but in particular to Richard Evans as Abe and Angharad Jones as Robin. Their father/daughter relationship was incredibly moving and completely believable.

You could really feel Abe’s frustration and vulnerability; there is a particularly harrowing scene when Abe gets lost.

He is desperately trying to remember his home telephone number and his confused conversation with a telephone operator is incredibly sad and moving. By the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

The second piece presented by St Peter’s Players (A) of Wolvercote was an excerpt from Anastasia by Marcelle Maurette with English adaptation by Guy Bolton.

This powerful two-hander is a battle of wills between a grandmother and her long lost grand-daughter... or is it? The First World War has finished and the daughter of the deposed Czar is trying to convince her dowager empress grandmother of her identity. The empress, stiff, cold and unbelieving puts her grand-daughter through the mill and you believe all is lost for poor Ana.

This was a sterling performance from both actresses — Elizabeth Kirkham as the empress and Annette Jaggard as Anastasia.

The last piece, presented by St Peter’s Players B of Wolvercote, was The Proposal by Chekhov. This cheeky farce takes a light-hearted look at romance and marriage. Ivan Vassilevitch Lomov visits his neighbour Stephan Sepanovitch Chubukov with the sole intention of proposing to Stephan’s daughter, Natalya Steanova.

However, it does not go according to plan and they start a series of very funny arguments about land ownership and the hunting merits of each other’s dogs.

All three actors — Richard Gedhil, Sara Davies and Steve Davies — put in great comedic performances .

Three very different plays but all performed with passion and commitment. This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

HAODS and St Peter’s Players

Kenton Theatre

Wednesday, May 8

Sam Riley

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