Association of Community Theatre

The Farndale Avenue Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s production of “A Christmas Carol”


Colne Dramatic Society


Directed by Gordon Ingleby



Those Farndale Avenue women are at it again.  According to the programme, they had been rehearsing for six months but had forgotten to book the theatre for Christmas.  Not wishing to waste all that effort and talent, nor to disappoint their loyal followers, they booked the next available date – the first full week in May.  So, lucky us.  We have TWO Christmas’s this year.


They enthusiastically portrayed a dizzy array of characters from the Dickensian favourite (and a few which aren't), engineered some novel audience participation, (Well done Bob!) while bravely contending with an intrusive PA system and a real Farndale first, two original, show stopping songs.


And so, we were treated to the Farndale ladies’ very own interpretation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.  Devotees of the Farndale ladies will fully understand the mayhem that would follow.


To portray everything that has to go wrong, goes wrong, and at the right time, takes a great deal of skill and a great deal of rehearsal as otherwise the fun doesn’t work.


The cast in Colne DS’s presentation, under the very skilled direction of Gordon Ingleby, gave the audience, on the hottest night of the year thus far, a night to remember with laughter echoing from the roof tops.


Bossy Mrs Reece, chairperson of the Guild and her equally bossy Number 2, Thelma, kept control of the mayhem created by the others whilst contributing a lot of their own.  A superb double-act in Marina Butterworth and Marilyn McGinty really took this show by the horns and got things moving at a fine pace.  The constant vying for attention was made all the funnier by not only having to play a role, in fact, several roles, in the play they were presenting, but making sure that the other company members were also fully involved.


Things didn’t set off too well for the ladies, with the cast being held up on the M62, which would have meant Mrs Reece having to play every role.  But then the cast did arrive and things got underway.


The Stage Manager, played by Simon Bailey, soon had his wings clipped by Mrs Reece.  But what a very funny interlude we had with the door knocker.  So well played, never going too far with the mayhem but still looking as though it were extemporised.  This was a very skilful performance.


Jackie Williamson as Felicity, the shy one of the company, was still able to hold her own with the others – and the scene, as the carrot-nosed snowman was another example of not over-playing a role and thus getting the maximum amount of humour out of the character.


Rosemary Osbourne, as Mercedes, was wonderful.  Mercedes had had an accident with a large number of shopping trollies, with the result that she had to wear a neck brace, and with her other injuries, could move only slowly.  There was some professionally honed direction here to make the character a cross between Julie Walters, as the waitress in the “Two Soups” sketch, and Mrs Tishell from Doc Martin.  How she kept that rictus of a smile throughout was amazing – even when lying on her back with Thelma’s foot on her hand.  This was a fine performance from a superb actor.


Throughout the play there were some beautifully timed moments of sheer madness all helped by the superb dialogue.


No Farndale play would be complete without some form of audience participation, and here we had a charade section where the audience had to write on a voting slip which was provided, the title of the book, play or film being mimed. That it didn’t work only added to the fun and caused much laughter from the audience.


And to help move things along for a new game, Bob from the audience was persuaded to don a dress and take part in the play.  This section was a delightful nod to “The Generation Game” and worked brilliantly.


The two musical interludes were wonderfully done and added that extra interest to the play. The endings of the two acts were also very funny and the presentation was excellent.


Any presentation of a play relies, not only on a good cast, but also on an excellent backstage team.  The technical aspect of plays such as this has to be as slick and as well-rehearsed as those on stage.  There are very many sound and lighting cues in this production but all were executed to professional standard by Paul Thompson on sound and Richard I’Anson and Steve Manley on lights.


I am always astounded by the sets produced by Colne DS on such a tiny stage.  Tonight was no exception.  The set was very evocative of Victorian London, very well designed and painted by John Mills, Joe Midgley and Gilly Grist.  I was impressed with the way the set seemed to change appearance with the lighting cues during the various scenes illustrating the Ghosts of Christmas, past, present and yet to come.


A special mention must go to Gordon Ingleby, the director, for creating a wonderful evening’s entertainment which delighted the first night audience.


Thank you for a delightful evening’s entertainment and your very warm welcome.