Association of Community Theatre

Show Reviews - May  2017


Players Theatre


Director David Ward


As the song goes, “It’s a family affair...". This is literally true of this theatre society. When you open the programme you can see that the society has many family members working together on a production, husband and wife, fathers and sons, all working together. It was a joy to see members of the society’s youth section supporting their peers on stage – more of them later. I  digress, so on with the show.


This play centres around two brothers, Arty and Jay, who live with their grandmother and their mentally challenged, Aunt Bella, while their father travels, desperately trying to scrape enough money together working as a salesman to pay off his debts to a loan shark. Their mother, we learn,  has died of cancer. Over the course of the play, the young boys learn lessons about love, responsibility and the importance of family.


The set was designed and built by David Ward, Lee McGregor and members of the workshop team. It created the appearance of an apartment, and with the creation of a corridor leading to grandmother’s room, gave a sense of space and depth. The inclusion of doors to each character's room added to this illusion.  Overall it meant that entrances and exits were quick and easy. The attention to detail, especially the colouration of the wallpaper, was excellent.


The lighting, costumes and music were just right and helped set the tone for the era in which the play is set. The set was dressed and contained enough props to establish the living area, but it was not too cluttered so that it enabled the performers to move around with freedom. It also helped to make scene changes that much quicker.


The characters are introduced throughout the play. As the curtains open, we were introduced to Eddie (Ian Wilkinson), and his two sons. With a limited amount of dialogue Ian, a versatile actor, portrayed the part of a desperate, down-on-his-luck father. He made one want him to succeed in his endeavours. The use of pre-recorded diary extracts played out meant the audience was kept fully informed of his progress. kept within our thoughts and it gave a running commentary on his time away, until his return at the end.


There were further siblings introduced; Sarah Howsam, who portrayed the part of a grown woman seeking refuge in her childish world well, whilst conveying an air of indifference and skittishness as her personal armour.


Lee McGregor was the gruff henchman on the run from the mob. Debbie Burnett was meek and mild in the part of Gert, who only seemed to have a speech defect when she visited her mother.

Geraldine Grieve gave us an unemotional Grandma Kurnitz. She appeared cold and devoid of feeling for all her family members. By the end of the play, after being told some home truths by her daughter, Bella, telling her that when she tried to hold her mother, it was like touching steel, “hard and cold”. We then learned of the deaths of two other children that had had such a profound effect on her, and that, “I didn’t cry”.


All these players gave us good characterisations that made one realise that they were all “lost in Yonkers”, not in a literal sense but in an emotional one.


The outstanding performances for me came from the two younger players, Rob McGregor (Jay) and Paddy Bever (Arty), who gave assured and confident performances. Their intonation and dialogue delivery were spot on. The comedy timing and facial expressions added to the humorous sections. They were both committed to their roles and never wavered out of character. There might be more stage craft for them to learn, but, by being nurtured in this “family” society, and by watching others demonstrate their craft, I look forward to seeing them flourish.