Photos Reviews

All Fall Down

December 1994

by Mary Jones, directed by Keith Palmer


Liz, landlady of the Plough Inn - Rose Gander

'The Ploughshares' Skittles Team: -

Geoff, former captain - Peter King

Sharon - Sam Edwards

Bob, captain - Gordon Halliday

George - Brian Bowker

Tiffany - Lynn Trout

Charlie - John Marshall

Nigel - Simon Metzner

Tony - Cass Thorne

Linda, Geoff's wife - Margaret Butt

Doris, Charlie's wife - Mary Jones

Mabel, Charlie's sister-in-law - Isla Morgan

Brewery reps - Stewart Price & Isla Morgan


Heavy Brigade: - Mary Jones, Isla Morgan, Stewart Price, Barry Matthews, Clive Pascoe & John Marshall

At the piano - Gerry Swainger

Behind the bar - Clive Pascoe

Production Team:

Director - Keith Palmer

Lighting - Barry Matthews

Stage Manager / Prompt - Jill O'Hare

Front of House - Jean Halliday, Rachel Jones

Publicity / Programme - Carol Eustace, Philip Jones


From Estuary News:

...I...quaked in my shoes at the awesomeness of his performance...

Bowled Over By New Play By Mary Jones

It hadn't occurred to me until I sat down to write this review that there is quite a marked similarity between a popular skittles-team captain and a successful playwright. As far as I can see, the basic skills and qualifications are pretty much the same. Both activities require more than a fair amount of careful planning and advance preparation. Team-captain and playwright alike must have the stamina and dedication to inspire a good sense of purpose into a performing team who have been specially selected for their playing ability, their natural sense of balance and coordination.

Taking into account his players' individual strengths and weaknesses, it is up to captain or playwright to provide each one with the opportunity to perform at his or her very best, with the hope that both he and his team wins through triumphantly at the end.

Mary Jones' new play All Fall Down was performed by Estuary Players in Matthews Hall on 3 consecutive evenings in early December. The play, following the fortunes of a skittles team during an important week in its history, met all the above criteria with credit for author and players alike.

Cleverly-crafted, with a convincing cast of main characters who established themselves indelibly early on in the performance, the play was professional throughout - both in the writing and in the skilful use of the stage-setting and audience. The simple bar-room lay-out on the lower floor of the hall and the use of the upper stage for extended action, was particularly effective in focusing audience attention on what really mattered - clear audibility and close contact with the plot line and individual characterisation.

And what effective characterisation it was! Mary had drawn on a strong cast throughout without a single weak link in her team. The programme notes pointed out that in its original form the play had been written for a Northcott Theatre project with much doubling of parts. Translated to Estuary Players, they had improved upon this with a much more generous casting. This was a considerable asset to the audience in the early scenes where one had to familiarise oneself with a number of characters and their various personalities and peccadillos in a short period of time.

Doubling of parts where it did occur, was restricted to minor character roles and, as such, was totally acceptable. In one or two cases, it created an ideal opportunity for brief but rich role-playing exercises - particularly memorable are the portrayals of a harridan wife, a BBC-style sports commentator and the grotesque hulks of the Opposition Team in the all-important final match.

It is the main cast, however, with their more developed roles that will remain longest in audience memory - Rose Gander, in particular, for the ease and conviction of her performance as 'Liz', the redoubtable Landlady of 'The Plough'. This important part provided the official audience-voice within the play and easy access to the mainstream characters as they established themselves in turn. The smooth, garrulous flow of sound common-sense, veiled in caustic comment and audience banter, was a brilliant portrayal by a confident performer of a cleverly-written part.

We have come to expect sound performances from Estuary Players but All Fall Down provided the Company with a tailor-made opportunity to show off their individual talents to good effect. Never has Peter King been more of a 'Kingpin' in his portrayal of 'Geoff', the former unsuccessful team-captain, providently given a second chance to marshal his skittles team for a final, all-out effort. Gordon Halliday's 'Captain Bob' brought back memories of his 'Tartuffe' as he slipped comfortably once more into the role of the suave, oily seducer, this time in fruitless pursuit of a bored 'bowls widow' - magnificently played with the heady mix of dash and decorum that we have now come to expect of Margaret Butt.

Sam Edwards portrayed the bouncy team enthusiast and Lynn Trout, the seductive 'Tiffany' - the team glamour-puss - both ladies and audience alike relishing the roles. John Marshall's cowed, hen-pecked husband, Simon Metzner's uncoordinated, lovable misfit and Cass Thorne's unsure-footed philanderer were all equally effective.

It is Brian Bowker's rich, diabolic delivery of a satanic skittles fable, however, that will last longest in my own memory. I was still aware of a whiff of sulphur and brimstone clinging to the rafters of Matthews Hall when I visited the mini-market on Saturday morning - so convincing had Brian's delivery been on the previous night, when I attended the show. I was one of many, I am sure, who quaked in my shoes at the awesomeness of his performance.

The tinkling Beatle tunes of Gerry Swainger at the piano (the appropriateness of 'She's Leaving Home', in particular!) were a melodic, well-chosen accompaniment to the action on stage. The back-stage help was everything that good backstage help should be - totally unobtrusive and, thereby, totally effective. Keith Palmer directed the play with simplicity and care, with clear, uncluttered character-grouping, full use of the acting space and audience involvement throughout.

All in all, a rewarding evening out. One left Matthews Hall with the feeling that this was an impressive doubler for Mary, who earlier this year was granted honorary life membership of Estuary Players. Now she can mark up a successful full-length play in the same season. After what I witnessed on Friday evening at Matthews Hall, this will not be her last.

How fortunate we are in Topsham that both our main dramatic societies have put on an original home-brewed work for our delectation this Christmastide - both productions of a very high standard indeed and showing immense promise as far as the writers, composers and actors are concerned.

There is no denying the fact - I was bowled over by All Fall Down and the emerging talent of a new stage writer. Well done Mary and Estuary Players!

- Reviewed by: Griff


Click a thumbnail to view larger