Coarse acting 101

It’s been a while since we’ve been to see a bad theatrical production so I guess it was no surprise that we were due one. Last night was that one. And while it wasn’t bad enough to leave at interval, it had some of the worst acting I’ve seen since The Philanthropist at Trafalgar Studios a few years ago. This time we weren’t in the West End which is a bit of a saving grace…I suppose.

We were in Guildford to see a new adaptation of the Ruth Rendell (writing as Barbara Vine) psychological thriller, Gallowglass.

We had spent the day bathed in glorious sunshine. Mirinda worked in the garden while I painted the obelisks. It really, really felt like Proper Spring. We even had a tulip force it’s way out of the greenery, almost appearing to grow before our eyes.

In the lavender bed

I’d made dinner at lunchtime because of the theatre. I made a Syrian meal of stuffed courgettes which was pronounced delicious. We then headed off to Guildford early in order to sample the new tapas bar on the top floor of the theatre. Little did we know that this would be the highlight of our night at the theatre.

Mind you, we did have a delightful wander around the castle and spring gardens before heading to the theatre. It was nice to see so many people taking advantage of the rare sunshine. We even discovered an amazingly steep and narrow alley called Rosemary.

The Top Bar at the Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

But, the play. I have to be honest about the play. In order to be generous I’m going to start with the worst and head upwards.

The worst thing about the play was the performance of Rachel Hart as Tilley. I have probably never seen a better example of mugging, upstaging and coarse acting in my life; even during my 20 years in theatre. I have no idea what the director was doing while she pulled focus away from the other actors but he couldn’t have been watching the play.

It would be very easy to blame Rachel for just being an awful actor (with an accent straight out of the Stereotypes Handbook) but I feel that a large part of the blame must be firmly dropped at the director’s feet. If you have four actors on stage and two of them are acting their little hearts out the last thing you want is another one making faces, gesturing and essentially saying “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” That sort of thing needs to be stamped out in rehearsal.

I know that had she been performing on stage with me (and quite a few fellow actors I’ve had the pleasure to work with) she wouldn’t have got away with it. We used to have ham actors for snackfood.

Speaking of the director, he did do some other weird stuff. There was quite a bit of self upstaging by the TV actors. This is not unusual and I never blame the performers but they need to be told what they’re doing wrong. Mind you, he did have quite a tough time with the adaptation. This was also not very good.

To be fair, it’s not an easy task turning a book into a stage play, however you’re not doing anyone any favours by having too many changes of scene. The telephone box was particularly irksome especially when it was proved unnecessary by having phone calls over the sound system either side of its use.

Something else I don’t get is the order of the actors in the programme. This is a little thing but, seriously I think an actor should appear by order of her or his talent rather than how many soap operas they’ve been in. Sure use TV names on posters and other advertising but by the time the punters are in the auditorium reading the programme, you can start being a bit more concerned with artistic skills rather than celebrity sales.

It would be remiss if I didn’t mention the performance of Eva Sayer as Jessica. She was supposed to be 11-12 years old. I don’t know how old she actually was (to me she looked 11-12 and Mirinda reckoned she might have been 19) but her voice sounded like a six year old. This was a bit confusing. It was only her voice because her acting was actually quite good given what she was trying to perform off.

But enough brickbats…by far the best performance was by Dean Smith as Joe. His character skills were superb. He was completely believable. He bought great pathos to the stage. A true delight to watch and worth the price of admission. He should get an award for having to put up with most of the others.

The other great performance came from Florence Cady as Nina. A quiet, restrained performance; the little caged bird, frightened to join the outside world. She gave a beautifully studied performance. I’d happily go and see anything else she was in just to see her breadth of skill.

One to forget

While the play was a bit sub-par, it was still lovely travelling across to Guildford and visiting our brick in the small garden. We’re wanting to go and see another couple of plays in the current season so, hopefully, they’ll prove a little less disappointing than this one.

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