NODA Representative, Jon Fox, reviews the recent production of Round And Round The Garden by The Nomads at The Nomad Theatre in Surrey (find us).
We are thrilled to have been awarded “Best Drama” in the South-East district by NODA for this production!
“This sparkling Ayckbourn comedy was first produced in 1975 and made a great impression on me. To see amateur actors stepping into the shoes of such showbiz greats as Michael Gambon, Penelope Keith and Felicity Kendall among others was always going to be a worry, I reasoned. But I need not have been at all concerned, for the six players all did admirably well. Almost incredibly there was not a single prompt – indeed, I later learnt that the director chose not to have a prompt in the wings at all – and the talented Danny Sparkes, who directed, made a wise if somewhat brave choice. It was quickly made very obvious that all six actors thoroughly knew their parts and the whole piece had excellent pace, with crisp and completely audible diction. In fact, there was a professional feel to the production.
The story is the final part of Ayckbourn’s “Norman Trilogy” where the action takes place in the garden of single lady Annie’s house in East Grinstead (her unseen mother, invalid and demanding, also lives at the house) on a pleasant Saturday early evening in a late 1970s July. Sensibly, the director Danny Sparkes did not update the period. It concerns would be Lothario Norman’s cack-handed attempts to bed both Annie (his wife’s sister) and Sarah (her sister-in-law), whilst endeavouring to keep his own wife, Ruth content. It must be said that all six players played their characters truthfully – painfully so in fact, much to their credit – and the humour was provided by the genius of Ayckbourn. As ever in his plays, the humour came largely from the natural human foibles and weaknesses, plus the futile attempts to conceal them from the other actors. I must say that all six were beautifully cast and the actors really got inside their respective characters, thus exposing those human foibles so well.
A fairly simple set of a middle-class 1970s style garden with a stone table statue. pot plants and a hard to find cat made for a realistic platform on which this comical masterpiece unfolded. The very Englishness was beautifully brought out by director Danny, with taped music of “In an English Country Garden” being played at scene changes and suitable moments. Lighting by Tony and Dee Bowdery was simple but effectively used, whilst costumes and hairstyles were most appropriate for the period. Justin Cobb ensured a most effective sound and costumes were provided either by the players themselves or by Danny.
There was perhaps an inclination of some modernity, rather than strict late 1970s. The two younger men, Tom and Norman, would have had longer hair. Matt Weaver as Tom, a vet, was a “deliciously English” middle class, sexually repressed and even naïve man. A handsome man, the reality of his being found attractive by ladies completely befuddled his hesitant personality.
A beautifully pitched performance in all. Suzanne Doherty as Annie had a huge role and carried it off admirably. Guy Shirley as the lascivious Norman gave a delightfully “disgraceful” performance. Paul Asher was a realistic car bore, imparting his knowledge of “A” roads in hideous realism. We have all come across Reg and his type at parties and looked for a quick way to escape!
Vykki Mash gave a wonderfully charismatic performance as the bossy, though vulnerable Sarah. Last, but certainly not least – apart from minutes on stage – was the short-sighted Ruth, played with an aching realness by the talented Moyra Brookes.
This was a fine production by the company, extremely well directed by Danny Sparkes with sure-footed production manager Andrew Hamel-Cooke providing his behind the scenes support with consummate ease and bonhomie. A highly successful and most enjoyable production throughout.” Jon Fox – NODA Representative
The Nomads are members of NODA, which has a membership of 2500 amateur theatre groups and 3000 individual enthusiasts throughout the UK, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging from the country’s leading professional theatres to tiny village halls.