Picture the scene: a remote Lake District hotel, a roaring log fire, a spooky wind blowing outside…all the ingredients for the perfect setting for a bit of murder on a Monday night.
“Stone Cold Murder” written by James Cawood is the current production by the Player’s Theatre in Cheadle Hulme. We are introduced to Olivia and Robert, a newly married couple who have taken over the running of a Lake District hotel which has just closed for the winter.
Olivia, played by Lorna Kong, is the one character in the play who is on the stage the whole time and she does a sterling job at playing the part of a nervous, paranoid woman who is clearly trying to leave her mysterious past behind her. This includes a sinister ex-boyfriend who she is terrified will catch up with her. Lorna was extremely compelling, particularly when she interacted with Ramsay (Lee McGregor). Her mistrust of him was palpable and extremely believable. We do start to question Olivia’s sanity as her paranoia builds and she does appear to lose the plot at one point. I did like her reactions to Ramsay – at certain timesshe was just staring at him with undisguised hostility and it was very convincing. Her obvious distrust of him was very strongly portrayed. Ramsay himself is a mysterious character, a little odd and you can’t decide whether he’s good or bad. Lee’s portrayal was well measured and plausible.
Ash McDowell, who plays Robert, has to play his character in two different ways and the difference is well marked and clearly defined. Never judgea book by its “knitwear model” cover!
We are introduced to Sam (Ian Tyler), whois an aggressive, unpleasant character right from the start. Ian managed to inject a little humour into his portrayal which was well placed and amusing. It is clear from the off that Samis an unpredictable, angry man with an axe to grind.
The first half set the scene excellently with a good build-up of intrigueand mystery. It was quite creepy at times! The sound effect of the wind was fantastic, extremely atmospheric and quite eerie and was used very well to signify moments of drama. As the first half drew to a close, the tension between the characters was tangibleand I really couldn’t imaginewhat was going to happen and how things would turn out.
The second half had a bit more action with several reveals and as expected, there were more twists and turns than a country lane. Whilstthe actors carried the story very well, I felt the plot did become slightly implausible as the body count started to rise but maybe I’m being unreasonable as it is a play, not a documentary! This is not to cast any aspersions on the acting or characterisation, however.
The set was wonderful – very authentically laid out as a small country hotel reception area with a log fire. It was quite cosy and made me want to go for a hill walk just so I could come in and sit by that (also very convincing) log fire! Huge congratulations to all those involved in building the set, it is fantastic.
It is always a pleasure to visit the Player’s theatre (and not just because of the marvellous hospitality they always provide). This truly is a community theatre right at the heart of the community and it runs on the passion and love that everyone involved clearly has for every single production.
Stone Cold Murder runs until 25th November.
cytotec online without a prescription Reviewed: 20 th November 2017
Adapted and directed by David Burns
I very much admire any society or group which is willing to tackle a Shakespeare play. Many reading this will have studied a work by the great bard at some point during their education. For me, it was during my teenage years (more years ago than I care to remember) that I was exposed to two great tragedy plays, Hamlet and Othello. This formed the basis for my future study of, in my opinion, other great playwrights such as Marlow, Bennett and Miller to name a few.
While “Much Ado About Nothing” cannot be classed as a tragedy, but it demonstrates that Shakespeare was equally gifted at penning comedy for audiences.
This play is thought to have been written in 1598 and 1599. Many of Shakespeare’s plays contain an element of misunderstanding centreing on whispers or gossip that form a basis for evil doings or japery. Here the characters of Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar in the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. At the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in celebrating the marriages of the two couples.
Director, David Burns, has been very skilful in condensing this play’s dialogue somewhat, whilst maintaining the plot line at the same time, ensuring that it could be followed and could be understood by the audience. It was very evident that a lot of practice and hard work had been conducted throughout rehearsals, in terms of the actors’ delivery of lines. I was particularly impressed by Sarah Howsam (Beatrice), Chris Billington (Benedick), Matthew King (Don Pedro) and Ian Wilkinson (Dogberry). Each player took care to deliver the dialogue in a measured and paced way, pausing at the right place to give the audience time to understand the meaning and the humour. This can so often be lost when delivering Shakespeare’s words.
Sarah, not only delivered the dialogue expertly but was also very expressive with her eyes, giving the audience the understanding that she was flirting outrageously with Benedick and yet equally conveying the sarcasm and anger that she felt.
Chris, for his part, was equal to this and engaged the audience with his monologues by addressing them directly to the audience. That made the audience feel as though it was eavesdropping and that it was in on the intrigue.
All other actors had their part to play, and did so magnificently. The Watch, led by Ian Wilkinson, provided some of the best comic lines and had the audience laughing as the deception unfolded.
Matthew King (Don John) and Claudio (Robert McGregor) displayed their gullibility convincingly and Natasha Dunn (Hero) conveyed the innocence of her wronged character well.
This production had been well thought out and many factors contributed to the success. The set was well crafted, it provided depth and contributed to speedy scene changes that meant that the play flowed well. Entrances on stage, and from the back of the theatre engaged the audience.
The excellent lighting plot, used full and fading lights to establish different times of the day and also the passage of time.
The costumes suggested that this play was set in the Edwardian era to some extent but this did not detract. The music and movement during the play enhanced it all.
This was an excellent show of theatre, for those of us that love Shakespeare, I being one of them. Bravo!
Just a little bit delighted! Players raised £484.27 for Prevent Breast Cancer! Thank you so much to all who supported us and therefore contributed to Paint Cheadle Hulme Pink. The total currently stands at £8300 and is still growing! Great news!
Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, written in the middle of his career, is of one of the bards better known comedies and therefore is a brave undertaking by any amateur dramatic company but I think it’s safe to say that the Cheadle Players certainly did it proud.
The play is essentially about some soldiers who have returned from war and about how they reacquaint with people, in particular two women, Beatrice and Hero. The play involves deception, love and courtship and many secrets.
The play had so many wonderful actors that deserve a mention but I must say that the casting of Beatrice (Sarah Howsam) and Benedick (Chris Billington) in particular, was perfect. They both demonstrated their somewhat antagonistic, combative romance to the full, through their ‘merry war of words’. The audience warmed to Benedick and he must be commended for fluidity of role than never lacked substance from start to finish. One of his solo scenes that addressed the audience felt as if you were in on his secrets and nobody else was. This certainly represents the era well and demonstrates Shakespeare’s keenness for a relationship with an audience. Sarah Howsam’s part as Beatrice was simply perfect. She depicted Beatrice’s honesty and the fact she felt she had no wish to fall in love, with equal amounts of sincerity and humour. So many accolades could be directed at her but put simply, her acting was flawless throughout.
A special mention must go to Lottie Shepherd who played Margaret. Whether she was leading in a scene or not her presence could be felt. A wonderful actress with suitable charisma and comedic timing for the somewhat saucy role of Margaret. Another wonderful actor was Robert McGregor who played Claudio- he demonstrated a high quality of emotional content throughout his part and in particular his desperation could be felt on the day of his wedding to Hero when he demonstrated his anger, as he believed he had publicly been shamed.
Dogberry, the Constable of the Watch was hilarious. His role of the simple night watchman showed how he clearly wanted his leadership over the other watchmen to be noted. His larger than life character interacted particularly well with his partner Verges (Jim Whittaker).
It was pleasing to see the junior members of the Cheadle Players perform in the production also- again, their professionalism never faulted.
The stage management and set construction teams should be commended on a set that was simple yet very appropriate for the era. The background scenery of Messina was accurate and the stage set very appropriate. The changing of scenery was carried out without any interference of the play. For an amateur dramatic company the professionalism was outstanding. Music by Vivaldi, Corelli and Albinoni added to the richness of the entire production. I particularly liked the actors entering the stage from the back of the audience, the side door and also via the stage. For such a small theatre this added to the intimacy of this wonderful theatre.
It was my first visit to The Cheadle Players Theatre and I was extremely impressed. All in all, I would say that Much Ado about Nothing at The Cheadle Players was a wonderful representation of this infamous comedy and I would urge anyone in the vicinity of Cheadle and beyond to get a ticket.
Reviewer: Angela Kelly
Reviewed: 30th September 2017
See review HERE