Photos Reviews

A Month in the Country

November 2006

by Brian Friel after Turgenev, directed by Avril Pattinson


Natalya - Hilary Francis

Arkady - Alan Caig

Vera - Lorraine Gillander

Anna - Margaret Butt

Lizaveta - Jacquie Howatson

Schaaf - Bob Drury

Michel - Bill Pattinson

Aleksey - Adam Courtier

Bolshintsov - Mick Munns

Shpigelsky - Anthony Morris

Matvey - David Batty

Katya - Kate Wannell

Production Team:

Director - Avril Pattinson

Production Manager - Margaret Butt

Stage Manager - Rosemary Whitehurst

Assistant Stage Manager - Mary Jones

Set Design - Philip Keen

Lighting - Ben Fricker & Jon Hole

Sound - Ron Murray

Costumes - Isla Morgan

Props - Rosie Munns & Rose Gander

Prompt - Mary Jones

Publicity - Margaret Butt, Angela Wallwork & Christopher Redwood

Posters - Philip Keen

Programme - Philip Jones

Front of House - Sharon Wannell


From Estuary News:

I must congratulate the company.... on presenting a first-class entertainment...

'What has happened to 19th Century upper-class domestic fussiness?' I asked myself on seeing the set. Instead of the overwhelming and, to our 21st Century eyes, stifling furnishings, the director had chosen a sparse, utilitarian theme - echoing, I suppose, the somewhat barren life-style of the household and guests.

The opening scene established the two distinct atmospheres found throughout the play (those of melancholy and light-heartedness) and served to establish the basic natures of those people appearing. It is to the credit of both director and cast that each new player very quickly showed the personality of the role. I also failed to detect any opening night nerves, which, together with a merciful minimum of prompting, paid tribute to the effort put in by this company in its rehearsals.

There were some superb episodes throughout the action: the first scene between Natalya and Vera; the several Vera / Aleksey cameos, marred only by her tendency to stand with her arms by her side; the skirmishes between Katya and Mateyev; the inquisition of Bolshintsov by Shpigelski; Arkady's pain on learning of the apparent unfaithfulness of Natalya, and the profound pathos brought out by Anna when describing her relationship with her late husband. These were just some of the high points throughout a generally moving and sympathetic production.

Having regard for the difficulties inherent in staging 'neither a tragedy nor a comedy' director's notes), I must congratulate the company - speaking as an actor and a director - on presenting a first-class entertainment. Individual surveys are always invidious and highly subjective material, but here goes ....

Hilary Francis was Natalya, ably demonstrating the contrasts of scheming, cunning, radiance and sorrow. Alan Caig's Arkady captured the man's volativity and naivety. Lorraine Gillander (a very welcome newcomer) delivered a charming Vera with great maturity. Margaret Butt mastered her brief brief (my apologies for that!) with her expected skill. Jacquie Howatson provided a very plausible Lizaveta; not an easy role. Bob Drury sustained the accent (well done!) and increasing bewilderment of Schaaf. As Michel, I felt Bill Pattinson could have done more to flesh out the character, with less space-gazing and physical isolation from the other players, although his anguish in his dealings with Natalya eventually came through.

Adam Courtier, after some initial hesitation, played the tutor with increasing confidence and conviction. The Bolshintsov of Mick Munn contrasted delightfully with the characters of his social betters. The Doctor's part could have been written for Anthony Morris, although he could have brought a little more uneasiness to the doctor's self-appointed role of buffoon when in the society he craved, compared with the peasant cunning he displayed in his other dealings. Kate Wannell was a supremely self-assured and desirable Katya, delighting in her duels with Mateyev: another newcomer to be cherished. David Batty seems made for certain characters in which frenetic activity resides alongside anxiety - a worthy foil for Kate.

Summing up, I believe the director, Avril Pattinson, is to be congratulated on an offering worthy to rank alongside other memorable productions. Her affection for this play is quite evident and she chose an excellent cast which responded splendidly.

- Reviewed by: James Stonall


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