The Play That Never Was
Performed May 20th to 22nd 2010
This year's anniversary production was penned by club stalwarts Hazel Osmond, Judith McKenzie-Hewitt and Mike Smith.
Set in 1950 The Play That Never Was told of the club's first ill-fated production, one year before its official debut.
This play opened with a meeting of the sexes as the ladies of the women‘s institute
reluctantly join forces with the men of the village for the first ever “co-dramatic" production of Romeo and Juliet.
And it was a comic script that brought out the best in some of the cast members, particularly the Geordie char-lady, played by Eileen Davidson.
For the gents, Shaun Fenwick shone as the Irish wheeler dealer of ladies' stockings and later as the fiery Tybalt.
All the 50s stereotypes were there - the coy women afraid of public display, the lipstick-loving lasses longing for the return of the war-time Yanks, and the domineering men clawing their way back to the top of social and economic ladder, having been usurped by the fairer sex during the war.
The early scenes were filled with rivalry between the women - who were loath to include the men in what they had so successfully managed themselves for years - and the men – who wanted a piece of the action, but despite their promises failed to produce the goods.
This battle of the sexes continued as the characters took to the stage in their production of Romeo and Juliet, with several wayward knees and elbows knocking some sense into the men.
The script borrowed heavily from Shakespeare's text to fill out the hour-long play and, for me, the Romeo and Juliet scenes were a little tedious.
Although there were some comic moments - when Juliet was wheeled in on a ladder, which was meant to represent a rose-clad balcony, and as the curtain opened on a set that was still being painted - I would have preferred to see a little more tomfoolery “on set".
More could also have been done to show the production element of the “on-stage" performance, rather than just playing out the Shakespearean scenes.
This play-within-a-play worked moderately well as a concept, but would have been more of a success had the club stuck more closely to its own script, which was excellent in the early scenes.
The show closed with a community song, ending with the line “Our acting will have you in tears."
Unlike some of Riding Mill's other productions, I was not moved to tears by sadness or laughter, which perhaps I could have been, but when all was said and done, it was still an entertaining way to spend an hour.
The play was followed by a meal, which I politely declined but which, I am sure, made for a very pleasant way to end an enjoyable night.
Rebecca Dixon Hexham Courant