FOR THE RECORD
by Joyce Branagh.
Forest Forge Theatre Company Tour to 30 October 2010.
Runs 2hr One interval.
Review Mark Courtice 23 September at Forest Arts Centre New Milton.
Celebrating musical memories.
The enterprise and imagination of rural touring theatre is an example to more establishment concerns. In Hampshire, Forest Forge continue to commission and produce new plays while regional producing houses seem to have got stuck with Shakespeare and Alan Bennett.
Their latest starts with the venerable Radio Four programme Desert Island Discs; Joyce Branagh’s play sets out to explore the widely-held belief that our lives, as told through our favourite tracks, would be at least as interesting as those of radio’s celebrities.
So we hear Reeny’s eight discs, and learn of her life’s journey from deprived childhood to New Forest old peoples’ home. Threaded through this are a series of filmed inserts as people choose their disc. There’s a third strand as Reeny and friends fight the closure of the home by murky big business.
That’s actually one strand too many, and the play is ten minutes too long. But there is a lot to enjoy here. From a boisterous kick-off as Reeny (played by all three actresses, often at the same time) dances gleefully to her first choice, ‘Why do Fools Fall in Love?’ to the touching ending (‘Always on My Mind’) the show engages constantly. The inserts are particularly well written, celebrating our shared emotional investment in popular music.
Kirstie Davis’ production is helped by good performances. Jacqueline Redgewell is lovely as Reeny. The other women actors, as well as providing depth to the same character, cope with her granddaughter, a clipboard-hugging manager and a myriad of smaller roles with skill and accuracy. No one is patronised here. Charlie Buckland does well to bring feeling and warmth to the rather more lightly written men.
Except for a screen on which it is almost impossible to see things, Davis tells the tale directly and efficiently. It’s all about the music of course – the section built round Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ couldn’t fail and doesn’t, but there are times when the use of the music is less confident, or follows Desert Island Discs’ egregious example by playing extracts so short as to be meaningless.
Reeny: Jacqueline Redgewell.
Reeny/Mrs P/Bev/Sue: Angela Bain.
Reeny/Katie/Kirsty: Bronya Deutsch.
John/Jimmy/Mikey/Roy Plomley: Charlie Buckland.
Director: Kirstie Davis.
Designer: Michaela Kemp.
Lighting/Sound: Dom Phillips.
Choregrapher: Junior Jones.