Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Workshop nails feelgood factor

ANY production with the word “enchanted” in the title had better be good.

ANY production with the word “enchanted” in the title had better be good.

In the case of Wargrave Theatre Workshop’s Enchanted April, the play certainly lived up to its name.

By curtain call we had been amused, delighted and, yes, enchanted.

Directed by Ann Roberts, the workshop’s production of Mathew Barber’s feelgood play showcased the depth of talent that the village possesses.

Not every village can produce a West End star, but Wargrave’s Adam Linstead brought acting and singing skills honed on the West End stage back to his home community.



Relative newcomer Kelly Doward, in her first major role, showed that she too has genuine talent. Another star in the making?

The play opens in a rainy London in 1922. Four women, all strangers, are intrigued by an advertisement regarding a castle to let in Italy.

Against the wishes of two of their husbands (played wryly by John Turner and Henry Marchant), they escape to the sunshine and slowly succumb to its warmth.

Their host (Adam Linstead) eases them along the way with great charm.

Coldest of the four is Mrs Graves — a widow. This role was supposed to be taken by Joy Haynes, but due to a family bereavement she was unable to participate.

Instead the director Ann Roberts stepped in, learning the lines in less than two weeks. It was a joy to see her character slowly thaw.

Meanwhile, Emma James played socialite Lady Caroline Bramble with splendid imperiousness.

When Lotty (Kelly Doward) says she wants to arrive at the castle early so she can give Lady Caroline and Mrs Graves the best rooms, Lady Caroline declares with a wave of the hand: “Oh we’ve already seen to that!” Christine Christie skilfully played the last of the four women, Rose Arnott. Her emotional and sexual awakening was a delight.

Perhaps my favourite comic turn was the maid, Costanza (Jo Cole). She brought perfect timing to her battles with Mrs Graves.

Watching Costanza put a tea tray down with infinite care in front of the sleeping woman only to shout, “TEA!” raised one of the biggest laughs of the night.

Phoebe Bryant played Francesca, Costanza’s sidekick. Hopefully we’ll see her in a bigger role too.

Of course, the husbands join their wives in Italy and see their spouses both literally and figuratively in a new light. Fresh starts occur for all.

Laughter, warmth, romance — this play had it all. I loved it, and from the buzz in the crowd afterwards I was not alone.

Review: Graham Wheal



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