Photos Reviews

The Provoked Wife

March 2014

Sir John Vanbrugh's Restoration Comedy has been adapted especially for the Estuary Players and updated to the Roaring Twenties, complete with live music from the Jazz Age. This bitter-sweet romantic comedy is fast moving, witty and at times farcical. Sir John Brute is repenting his marriage, while all around him his family, friends and acquaintances are performing mating rituals of their own, with varying success! His wife, provoked by his bad behaviour, considers taking a lover. But the question is, will she or won't she?


Sir John Brute,an unhappy husband - Antony Morris

Lady Brute,a provoked wife - Clare Philbrock

Mrs Belinda,a wealthy widow - Chris Eilbeck

Rasor,butler to Sir John - Bob Drury

Lovewell,lady's maid to Lady Brute - Rose Gander

Lucy,lady's maid to Mrs Belinda - Marie Taylor

Lady Fanciful,a lady of fashion - Maggie Bourgein

Mademoiselle,her French companion - Kate Wannell

Cornet,lady's maid to Lady Fanciful - Lynn Trout

Heartfree,a man about town - Howard Eilbeck

Constant,a man about town - Ian Potts

Pipe,manservant to Constant - Gordon Halliday

Lord Rake - David Batty

Colonel Bully - Cass Thorne

Barman in the Kit-Cat Club - Tom Epton

Betty Sands,hostess in the Kit-Cat Club - Rose Gander

Kitty Fisher,hostess in the Kit-Cat Club - Marie Taylor

Molly Davis,hostess in the Kit-Cat Club - Joana Crisostomo

Poppy Motley,hostess in the Kit-Cat Club - Kate Wannell

Sir Ivor,patron at the Kit-Cat Club - Gordon Halliday

Lady Lydia,patron at the Kit-Cat Club - Jill Whitehouse

Mrs Batelier,a dressmaker - Maggie Butt

P.C. Senior - Keith Palmerr

P.C. Petty - Tom Epton

Justice of the Peace - Alan Caig

The Band -

Ben Beeson - Piano

Bryan Wallwork - Alto and Soprano Sax, Flute

Angela Wallwork - Vocalist

Production Team:

Adapted and Directed by - Rob Hole

Musical Director - Ben Beeson

Asst Director and Stage Manager - Janine Warre

Production Manager and Casting Consultant - Maggie Butt

Choreography - Francesca Potts, Colin Curwood, Clare Philbrock

Costumes - Janine Warre & Isla Morgan, with Clare Philbrock & Jill Whitehouse

Properties - Rosie Munns, assisted by Jill Mather and Tom Epton

Set and Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Construction - Eliot Wright

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Business Management - Rosie Munns & Howard Eilbeck

Photography - Bryan Wallwork

Front of House - Avril and Bill Pattinson and members of the society


From The Provoked Wife, a view from the audience:

The carefully crafted characters treat us to an evening of raucous fun and some intriguing storytelling

I have always considered The Estuary Players to be an interesting group. Initially created to produce challenging and edifying drama, they have stayed largely faithful to this maxim over many years. If you're looking to sit in stagnant rows of seats for a night of "Vicar, where's my trousers?" you are probably in the wrong place. In order to provide new and exciting projects, imagination, talent and fresh ideas are required. Enter Rob Hole.

Rob's production of Sir John Vanbrugh's "The Provoked Wife" is a refreshing example of what can be achieved with the aforementioned attributes and a hardworking and dedicated cast. Make no mistake, as a project this was no walk in the park. It's a challenge to pull off a production like this. First things first - this is a very well-constructed play, skilfully cut and fashioned by our Director into a manageable and entertaining evening capturing the flavour and feel of the 1920's setting. The concept is aided by the period music interpreted and brought to us by Ben Beeson, helping no end to capture a mood that intoxicates throughout. Next, the staging. Rob provides us with an imaginative traverse stage and a basic set. The focus is very much on the actors and as an audience we feel involved as the intimacy brings the characters to life.

From the moment the action commences, we are carried along at a controlled pace. The carefully crafted characters treat us to an evening of raucous fun and some intriguing storytelling. This is fundamentally a story of love and relationships. Nothing unusual there, but here Rob gives us four "lovers", Lady Brute, Belinda, Constant & Heartfree, played - how shall I put this? - by more mature actors. I could not have predicted how much this would benefit the interpretation of the play. The fact that these were not your more obvious young lovers took the production to a different level. After all, older people fall in love too and the maturity of the actors heightened the fun, defined the comedy and gave the audience a much appreciated change from the norm.

As always with Rob's work, this is very much an ensemble piece. So nice to see a play so expertly cast with strength in depth very much the order of the day. Indeed, many of the highlights were brought to us by the smaller characters, proving that you don't need a thousand lines to play an important part in a production. Alan Caig, David Batty, Cass Thorne, Maggie Butt, Lynn Trout and Marie Taylor - familiar faces all - played their parts to a high standard. Bob Drury was a terrific Razor the butler. These actors can all feel proud of a job well done but I must give a special mention to my personal favourite, the super cameo provided by Rose Gander (who is just a natural comedian, by the way) as Lovewell. And then of course, there was the sublime Halliday - delighting us as usual with one of his trademark brief cameos. As I often remark “ you can't learn it from books!

To my mind, the tasty part here is Sir John Brute - the brutish husband - played admirably by Anthony Morris. This is a part which could very easily run away with you, but Anthony brings us some lovely touches and a degree of restraint. This character has all the one liners and the throw away gags. As always, the art is not to throw away too many.

As a general point the actors should remember that audiences must be able to hear - and at times, the quest for control and realism led to the clarity and volume levels dropping somewhat. Asides are a great way of involving an audience - but we must all be able to hear them. Not easy in the traverse style.

Along with Anthony, Clare Philbrock (Lady Brute) and Chris Eilbeck (Belinda) showed great leadership in driving the action forward. Their relationships with the men about town were nicely judged. Howard Eilbeck (Heartfree) and Ian Potts (Constant) brought life to difficult roles. Ian has a very nice style for this genre and he and Claire had a lovely chemistry. One actor in particular appeared to revel in the environment and brought us the outstanding performance of the night. Taking the role of Lady Fanciful, Maggie Bourgein hit the right notes from the word go. Assured, confident, with a superb feel for the space and with a super sense of timing, Maggie managed to lift the performance with her every contribution. An ability to judge an audience was also in evidence. Maggie was not afraid to wait for her laughs. Kate Wannell (Mademoiselle) also deserves a special mention. Her scene with Razor the butler was a delight, her relationship with Lady Fanciful was convincing and her overall performance in a difficult role was very good indeed. A good piece of casting.

This brings me to the matter of "business" - those bits of physical and verbal comedy designed (or sometimes contrived) to delight an audience. So easy to overdo, so easy to overplay. Not here. The comedy was brought to us predominantly by the language, cleverly constructed by our Editor/Director and allowing the actors to let the script to do the talking. Where the business did occur it was controlled, well-judged and nearly always delightful. The wonderful comedy coppers brought to us by Keith Palmer and Tom Epton were a case in point.

If I had to be critical, I would say that the traverse stage was a challenge to some of the actors. It's a very difficult skill to act to more than one side - a skill that is regrettably not tested enough in my opinion. The great benefit is that it should encourage realism and a natural feel to the proceedings, which largely, it did. However, one or two did seem a little ill at ease with the concept, seeming too aware of being surrounded by audience. I would encourage perseverance with such ideas in the future. It will get easier and seem so natural once it is perfected. As an audience member, it feels great to be involved in the action. We love those cheeky asides. As an actor, you should embrace that and enjoy it too. All the leading characters looked comfortable in this environment and their awareness of space and sightlines was generally excellent. My advice (for what it's worth) to those who didn't feel so comfortable is to simply relax, don't think about it too much and, above all, listen. The rhythm of the play will tell you how to react and move naturally.

The end of the play presents the biggest challenge in terms of sheer weight of numbers on stage when the plot unravels. Beautifully staged, I thought. Maybe it was careful choreographed, but it had that natural feel as the traverse stage came into its own.

To sum up, this was an evening's entertainment that left me feeling that The Estuary Players is more than a local drama group. Yes, they provide us with good quality entertainment, but essentially this is a group that offers people the opportunity to get involved. It strikes me as a friendly and welcoming environment. You can just tell. From the welcome one receives front of house to a cast that simply exudes enjoyment and enthusiasm, there are many worse places to spend an evening. I referred earlier to Rob providing a "manageable" evening. Aspiring directors would do well to take note. This performance was the perfect length - no audience members glancing at watches, shuffling in seats or worrying about last buses and time enough for Rob and his hard working cast to grab a well-deserved pint before last orders. Well done everyone, and cheers!

- Reviewed by: Mike Edwards


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