The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production Of Macbeth.
Performed March 28th to 31st 2012
Farndale Macbeth - March 2012
Hysteria in the aisles as cast makes a fine art of comedy
By ROSALIND SAUL
COMEDY is possibly one of the most difficult arts to pull off when you take to the stage.
If you get it wrong, you are treated to that deadly silence any actor looking for a good reaction dreads.
But judging by the hysteria coming from the audience last Wednesday, I’d say Riding Mill Drama Club pulled it off.
For their spring production, the cast took on the prolonged, but wonderfully titled farce – take a breath – Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth.
Following the story of a townswomen’s guild amateur dramatic competition, you watched in despair as the Farndale Avenue branch attempted to stage Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
I’m dubious about any play that promises to make you laugh, out of fear people will try too hard and it all backfires.
But Wednesday’s cast renewed my belief in comedy on the stage.
Billed as an hilarious comedy, from start to finish it was the perfect farce.
Thrown into the mix of some great acting were wheelchair-based sword battles, dancing witches, tartan curtains, dolls on strings and inexplicable touches of tinsel.
The cast’s great timing and easy manner sucked you into the performance, to the point that you felt as though you were really watching the townswomen’s performance as it fell to bits.
Anne Lawrence as president of the townswomen’s guild, Mrs Phoebe Reece, led the cast of characters well, acting as mother hen to the enthusiastic yet inept group.
Oblivious – or trying to ignore – the problems around her, she encouraged the audience along on the ride like a headmistress addressing a school assembly.
Elsewhere, Frances Holmes pulled off, with surprising ease, the part of the arrogant Thelma Richardson, who uses her role as Macbeth to upstage and upset her fellow thespians.
This reporter was all prepared to talk about how the cleverly reversed staging made you feel as though you were spying on the characters backstage...until it turned out that the hapless stage manager, Henry, had built it back to front.
Played by Mike Smith, Henry soon got roped into taking on the role of Lady Macbeth, making him the perfect foil for the snotty Thelma, and putting the RSC to shame.
Steve Mobbs, in the small role of show adjudicator Mr Fisher, stole the show with his appearance, in drag, at the end of the performance.
The rest of the cast really helped pull the play together, brilliantly playing the confused and bumbling mix of characters, either too busy bitching about Thelma or calling out for help as they lost glasses, voices and plot mid-performance.
A dance routine by Angela Routledge, Michelle Amies and Hazel Harrison as the three witches, with hassled producer Mr Plummer played by Kris Anderson, was a highlight of the show – as the impromptu disco lights and wheelchair had the audience bent double with laughter.
However, little moments like the dangling doll or cut-out moon which kept dropping to the floor mid-scene, or Frances Holmes’s Macbeth shouting at the laryngitis-affected Banquo, played by Jean Buckley, were what really made the show, as daft as they were.
Of course, if it had actually all gone spectacularly wrong for the real cast and crew, I don’t think we would have noticed as everyone was having far too much fun.