Photos Reviews

Tales From Kites Hill

May 2007

by Nick Jones, directed by Nick Jones


1. The Clothier's Tale:

Prologue - Nick Jones

Julius Boot, Gentleman Clothier - John Marshall

Josiah Claypole, R.A., sculptor - Anthony Morris

A Distressed Mill-Worker - Pippa Warrin

The Widow Boot - Victoria Jones

Mr Sweeney, a Funeralist - Alan Caig

The Gravediggers - Various ...

2. The Widow's Tale:

Narrator - Mary Jones

The Villagers - Maggie Butt & Ben Grimsey

Humphrey Waghorn - Gordon Halliday

Dick Firkin - Edd Williams

Ambrose Lillywhite - David Batty

Marion, a maid - Jacquie Howatson

Amelia Pikestaff, Widow - Clare Rowland

3. The Sexton's Tale:

Eliza Mabbit - Mary Jones

Wilf Mabbit - Keith Palmer

Vera Mabbit - Kate Wannell

The Friends - Various ...

4. The Bandmaster's Tale:

Ernest Pobjoy, Bandmaster - Alan Caig

Jan - Lesley Trist

Davy - Chris Williams

Simmo - Steve Preston

A.S. Boot, Trafalgar Mills - Jacquie Howatson

Mary Lovelock - Rose Gander

5. The Vagrant's Tale:

Brown Bess, a Vagrant - Maggie Butt

Toothless Rufus - Eric Hume

A Policeman - Anthony Morris

6. The Oculist's Tale:

Septimus Hare, an Oculist - Keith Palmer

Miss Drinkwater - Rosemary Whitehurst

Allcroft - Gordon Halliday

Nancy - Victoria Jones

7. The Midwife's Tale:

Fred - Anthony Morris

Albert Death, Undertaker - Alan Caig

Edith, daughter of Bacon - Angela Wallwork

Bertha, the Midwife - Pippa Warin

Mr Bacon - Cass Thorne

Production Team:

Musicians: -
Geoffrey Brace, Steve Preston, Chris Williams & Philippe Oboussier


Director - Nick Jones

Assistant Director - Alan Caig

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Musical Director - Geoffrey Brace

Stage Manager - Tina Sinclair

Set Design - Philip Keen

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Costumes - Isla Morgan

Props - Jean Halliday & Bridget Deasy

Publicity - Maggie Butt & Angela Wallwork

Posters - Philip Keen

Programme - Philip Jones

Front of House - Sharon Wannell


From Estuary News:

We are indeed fortunate to be able to enjoy such quality...

Yet again, Estuary Players have scored a very palpable hit with their latest production first written in 1981 by local playwright Nick Jones and now happily revived for us under his direction.

This comedy consists of seven tales about characters who made up the human fabric of the imaginary village of Kites Hill during the nineteenth century and who now lie in the church graveyard. The structure of the tales is Chaucerian with the human aspirations and failings of each principal character and their local associates wittily dissected for our inspection.

Nick Jones' Prologue of The Clothier's Tale sets the mood of the whole evening with his lugubrious delivery. The mill owner Julius Boot (John Marshall) is eager to be remembered in the form of an imposing classical Roman statue sculpted by Josiah Claypole (Anthony Morris) likewise avid for future glory and the cadences and timing of their exchanges are redolent of characters of Under Milk Wood. The Clothier's true character is laid bare when the latter captures his involuntary pose summarily rejecting the pleas of one of his workers (Pippa Warin). He dies as a consequence. His newly wealthy widow (Victoria Jones) and Mr Sweeny, the Funeralist (Alan Caig) plus gravediggers bring the piece professionally to a conclusion.

The Widow's Tale is nicely constructed and was narrated with quiet authority by Mary Jones. The (ultimately fruitless) attempts by a trio of self-promoting lascivious suitors (Gordon Halliday, Edd William and David Batty) to persuade the comely young widow (Clare Rowland) to marry again is a sequence of hugh comedy.

There followed evocative performances by Mary Jones, Keith Palmer and Kate Wannell in the spooky Sexton's Tale of the Black Dog and we were treated to more faultless delivery and timing in The Bandmaster's Tale by Ernest Pobjoy's (Alan Caig) band of locals played by Rose Gander, Lesley Trist, Chris Williams, Steve Preston and Philippe Oboussier, performing for the greater glory of the young Trafalgar Mills owner A.S. Boot (Jacquie Howatson). There is some truth in the observation that it takes accomplished musicians to clown a performance so convincingly.

After the interval Maggie Butt gave a memorable performance as the vagrant Brown Bess in The Vagrant's Tale full of that mixture of humour and pathos which makes for classic comedy. Eric Hume's portrayal of Toothless Rufus as foil to the world-weary Brown Bess was a splendid cameo of the 'man of few words'.

The Oculist's and The Midwife's Tales rounded off the evening without any break in its high standards. Keith Palmer as Septimus Hare the scatty Oculist managed to convey just the right level of doubt about the extent of his relationship with his housekeeper Miss Drinkwater (Rosemary Whitehurst) and the play's contingent of hard working musicians directed by Geoffrey Brace gave the piece a flavour somewhere between the Footlights and Monty Python.

The Midwife's Tale was a finale of knockabout burlesque in which Mr Bacon (Cass Thorne) makes a late appearance from his coffin to cheer on the labours of his daughter Edith (Angela Wallwork) and greet the arrival of his granddaughter. The Undertaker and Midwife, Albert and Bertha Death (Alan Caig and Pippa Warin), formed the model family firm (and you might say, recycling business), underlining the nature of the human condition with its counterpoint of life and death.

Lighting was first class and together with the standard of set design and costumes confirmed the undoubted professionalism of Estuary Players. We are indeed fortunate to be able to enjoy such quality in Topsham and to have Matthews Hall as its playhouse.

- Reviewed by: JMS


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