I’m always a bit wary going to a production on opening night… I always ask myself, are the cast ready? Are there going to be glitches? Do the cast need to settle into having an audience? Monday night was opening night and I had the same questions, and more, when I realised that the theatre was very empty compared to how I’m using to seeing Riverside, I was more than a little bit wary of what to expect…
To be honest, it took a few minutes for the play to ‘get going’ although Penny Frost, playing Lady Agatha, set the initial scene really well, and looked exactly the part in her beautiful costume. Penny really showed the determination of a strong woman in playing Lady Agatha, and found discovering the character of this particular role really interesting.
I wasn’t totally sure about the casting of Robert Rusling as Sherlock Holmes, but once the cast got into the swing of things, and I got used to the completely different nature and characteristics of this particular Mr Holmes, I settled down and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I want to start by making particular reference to the spectacular set – which earned a massive ‘WOW’ from me as soon as the curtains first opened. I’ve seen a fair few plays in recent months, and reviewed many of them in this blog, but I have to say, the attention to detail, the quality of the furnishings and all the little added extras, really made a difference to the overall feel of the play… I could see myself sitting in that lounge, looking out at the moors through the French doors, there was nothing cheap or MDF about any of it. Congratulations to the team involved; Brian Gutherson, for Set Design along with his team for the Set Build… brilliant work! (I’m only sorry I don’t have a photograph to show their hard work).
The second big congratulations must go to the wardrobe team – the photo’s I’m using here were taken before the final costumes were acquired, and so although really good, they don’t really do justice to the quality and authenticity of the superb costumes we saw on the night. The changes in clothes for many of the cast throughout were each as good as the costume before – so thanks to Sue Hudson, Barbara Vickers, Beryl Baker, Christine Maltman and Sue Markham, you did a superb job dressing the cast so well!
So what about the play? Although now I’ve seen it I remember the story, it had been such a long time since watching it on TV I didn’t really know what was going to happen. I’ve listened to, and watched many Sherlock Holmes stories, including the recent TV series, so I kind of had an expectation. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of a ‘hound’ – although I must admit, I’m not sure how a theatre could involve any kind of hound in a performance like this… I guess for me, the story didn’t really lend itself to the theatre as well as it has done in film where the scope can be much greater, by being able to get involved in the ‘chase’ on the moors.
Moving on to mention all the characters, Ruairidh Greig was brilliant as Doctor Watson; his flippant, comedy lines, and his obvious passion for getting across the nuances of this particular character were a delight… I looked forward to his lines every time he came on to the stage.
Another favourite character was Sir Henry, played by Jack Lovett; I saw both Ruairidh and Jack in the Pantomime, Dick Whittington earlier this year; Ruairidh played the nasty ‘King Rat’ and Jack was ‘Idle Jack’ and thoroughly enjoyed both of their performances then. They kind of swapped roles with nasty villain ‘King Rat’ playing a kind of light hearted role in Doctor Watson, whereas Jack moved from his comedy panto role into the well-to-do, emotional gentleman, Sir Henry, taking full command of his role. I also saw Jack in another of his comedy acting credits when he played the role of Private Pike in Dad’s Army last year. I personally think Jack is one to watch for the future – he’s going to go a long way!
Mr Barrymore, the Butler was played by Chris Rozier; Chris has appeared in and directed productions for over forty years, and this was another interesting character to play… I wasn’t sure at first why he seemed to keep looking away when he was speaking, but we found out eventually he was a shifty character, hiding secrets that he was trying not to give away…
Mollie Tunnicliffe (who I also saw in Dick Whittington), played Perkins, and Di Flower, a member of Louth Playgoers since 1982 and twice previously has been the President of Louth Playgoers, played Mrs Barrymore.
Amber Asunta played Kathy Stapleton, a delightful character (until we find out about the real Kathy and her character transformed!); Amber has been waiting quite a long time to have the opportunity of playing a role like this; and she did really well!
The final two cast members were Daniel Blascow and Jade Smith, playing Jack Stapleton and Laura Lyons… Daniel (a semi successful rap artist) has enjoyed a variety of roles in the past and hopes all his experience gained in local theatre will put him a step nearer to an acting career. This play was Jade’s first key role, having only been with Louth Playgoers for about a year, and hopes to continue with her passion for theatre by studying a performance arts course at college when she finishes school.
The play was Directed by Mike Gibson who has worked with the Assistant Director, Brian Cliffe for six years as both his Director, and his Assistant Director. He pays particular thanks to the set designer and costume teams for bringing to life the story and drama of the play.
I want to applaud Louth Playgoers on their programmes; I always buy one, to make sure I get the characters and actors names right, and read a little about each of them, sharing some of the details in my reviews. The programmes from Louth Playgoers never let me down; for a minimal cost of £1, this time we got 20 pages of useful information with only a few small advertisements. Some of the other bigger theatres and shows need to learn a lesson or two from this company who have got it so right! Well done Jeremy Smith, programme design and Geoff Stone, programme editor!
Some final thanks to Alan Portas, Stage Manager; Shirley Woods for her Prompting, Ashley Stevens and Peter Hall for props, Roy Hobson for the lighting design, Nigel Gay, lighting operator, Brooke Vickers for the sound design and Carol Tinkler, sound operator.
Photos courtesy of Louth Playgoers; in particular the photographer Lesley Jane Mitchell, and Flora and Paul Bennett from Brackenborough Hall for use of the location for the photo shoot.
Despite my initial reservations, I did enjoy Monday night, and urge anyone to book now for the remaining few nights of the run and enjoy a good night out. The show runs now until 18th March, in Riverhead Theatre, Louth. You can buy tickets direct from the website by clicking here.