Photos Reviews

The Roses of Eyam

November 2017

As part of its 40th birthday celebrations, Estuary Players goes back to a play from its early years. A cast of 30 portrays the Derbyshire village that cut itself off from the world when the plague came in 1665. The Civil War is strong in memory, the Commonwealth has only just given way to the Monarchy again, and now villagers are dying daily. How does a community cope? This is a play full of drama, humour, compassion and courage.


William Mompesson, the new Rector of Eyam - Mike Edwards

Catherin Mompesson, his wife - Kate Wannell

The Bedlam - Alan Caig

Old Unwin - Howard Eilbeck

Andrew Merrill - Bob Drury

Marshall Howe - Keith Palmer

Thomas Stanley, the previous Rector of Eyam - Rob Hole

Rowland Torre, from the next village - Max Johnson

Emmot Syddall, Rowland's future wife - Marie Watsham

Colonel Bradshaw - David Batty

Mrs Bradshaw - Avril Pattinson

George Vicars, the village tailor - Nigel Mason

A Carter - Tom Epton

Mrs Cooper - Chris Eilbeck

Richard Sydall - John Bradley

Mrs Syddall - Maggie Butt

Sarah Syddall - Rose Gander

Ellen Syddall - Jill Whitehouse

William Hancock - Nigel Mason

Mrs Hancock - Janine Warre

George Frith - John Knowle

Frances Frith - Lynn Leger

Mary Frith - Lynn Trout

Humphrey Torre - Tom Epton

Edytha Torre - Ella Young

Frances Torre - Becky Davies

William Torre - Sam King

Edward Thornley - Bill Pattinson

Rebecca Thornley - Rosemary Whitehurst

Elizabeth Thornley - Suzanne Dunstan

Ann Cooper - Becky Davies

Joanna Cooper - Clare Philbrock

George Mower - Cass Thorne

Rachel Mower - Jacquie Howatson

Elizabeth Swanne - Michel Evenstar

Lydia Chapman - Cally Pettit

Production Team:

Director - Clare Philbrock

Assistant Director - Janine Warre

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Set and Publicity Design - Phil Keen

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Operated by - Huw Williams

Props - Janine Warre

Sound - Ron Murray

Photography - Angela Wallwork

Front of House - Rosie Munns Sharon Wannell and team

Wardrobe - Jill Whitehouse with Cally Pettit, Chris Eilbeck, Christine Meredith, Ella Young, Godfrey Whitehouse, Janine Warre, Kate Wannell, Lynn Trout, Maggie Butt, Marie Watsham, Michele Evenstar, Sarah Hornsby

Music performed and recorded by - Adrian Wynn, guitar and accordion, Min Wild, whistle, John Bickford, fiddle


From Sue Bonnett's review:

Estuary Players are a versatile company who certainly try to ring the changes with their productions

The plague raged in the village of Eyam for 14 months and it has to be said that, at times, the evening felt as long. This was more the result of the stilted style of dialogue than the level of performance however.

The in the round style of the production was an interesting choice for this piece. I understand it was written as a promenade play and whether this would enable a better understanding of the relationships within the village is debateable but I felt we, the audience sometimes found it difficult to connect with each family as closely as perhaps we should if we were to care when they eventually died, as they were bound to do!

However, it was a great way to utilise the space available and allowed a large cast to appear at the same time without being cramped on a small stage and also to ensure that the ones at the back had to act at all times which they certainly did! There was obviously a feeling of community amongst the large cast and I didn't see a single person appear to be out of character for a moment, an achievement to be applauded.

The unity amongst the cast was due, in no small part to the wardrobe. Jill Whitehouse must be commended for her attention to detail with both colours, fabrics and styles and with a few exceptions footwear was also in style.

I cannot begin to imagine the horror some of the cast must have felt when opening their scripts for the first time and seeing the PAGES of dialogue some of them had for a single speech! As a "not so young" actor myself I have to admire the hours of mumbling to yourself this must have required and was impressed that there was no stumbling over lines at all, or at least none we were aware of. That said, I felt some characterisation was lost as a result of the sheer quantity of dialogue we had to take in. Not the fault of the actors in every case though some roles were, I felt, a little two dimensional and lacking in depth.

Mike Edwards and Rob Hole had more than their fair share of the lines but both coped well although the similarity in their ages made them more like comrades than men approaching their religion from a completely different angle.

The ladies of the village merged into one as their families grew smaller and sadder and I wish we could have had a glimpse of some happy children running around so that we would have noted their absence more keenly.

Howard Eilbeck was a lovely Old Unwin and the fact that I was sad when we thought he was dead told me how well he had performed throughout the evening but I am afraid the star of the evening for me was Alan Caig as The Bedlam.

As the players were close to the audience it seemed that many of them forgot to project quite enough and as a result we could see them acting but Mr Caig had it just right. Admittedly his part allowed a style of delivery some others couldn't possibly emulate but I have seen this part played as a jester and this was certainly not the case here. Pathos but in just the right amount.

Estuary Players are a versatile company who certainly try to ring the changes with their productions. They should be applauded for taking on this marathon of a play and giving a real feeling of history with some good characterisation. I hope to be invited again, only can it be a comedy please?!

- Reviewed by: Sue Bonnett


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