Photos Reviews

Visiting Hour

May 2009

by Richard Harris - directed by Howard Eilbeck

Estuary Players would like to thank the following:

  • Topsham Handyman Services (tel: 879712).
  • The Globe Hotel for generous sponsorship

  • Topsham News for ticket sales, Exeter Camera Club for loan of display boards, Steve and Angela Hilton, Veronica Coe and the Topsham Community Association

also, for the loan of props:

  • Devon Air Ambulance

  • Estuary League of Friends

  • Devon and Cornwall Police

  • Estate Manager RD&E Hospital Heavitree

  • and Will Hucker OTM Services


Eric - Alan Caig

Helen - Chris Eilbeck

Keeping Mum:

Pauline - Angela Wallwork


Naomi - Chris Eilbeck

Fiona - Freddie Jacobs

Darbon - Anthony Morris

Male Nurse - Howard Eilbeck

Son-in-law, Father, Critic - Chris Williams

Maureen - Maggie Butt

Julia - Anny Kilbourne

Daughter, Mother, Reader, Woman Critic - Maggie Bourgein

Going Home:

Cheryl - Anny Kilbourne

Tricia - Crystal Carter

Hazel - Freddie Jacobs

Eileen - Maggie Butt

Male Visitor - Cass Thorne

Husband - Nick Jones


Old Man - Alan Caig

Nurse - Freddie Jacobs


May - Avril Pattinson

Arthur - Bill Pattinson

Sandra - Crystal Carter

Brenda - Maggie Bourgein

Ron - David Batty

Joan - Maggie Butt

Production Team:

Production Manager - Chris Williams

Props and Stage Management - Cally Pettit, Tina Sinclair

Set Design - Eliot Wright, John Bradbury

Lighting - Peter Tapp

Sound - Ron Murray, Maggie Bourgein

Poster Design - Phil Keen

Costume - Isla Morgan, Angela Wallwork

Make-up - Angela Wallwork

Publicity - Avril Pattinson, Maggie Butt, Rose Gander

Photography - Victoria Jones

Front of House - Maggie Butt, Sharon Wannell

Programme - Alan Caig


From Esturay News:

... at times laugh-out-loud funny and at others wry, sad, touching or wistful...

It is a little known fact that I am not actually terribly keen on dramatic productions. I will put up with almost any standard of amateur (or professional) music-making if I feel that at least the performers are putting their heart and soul into it, but I am much more exacting when it comes to theatre. I'm not sure why this is, but it has led me on more than one occasion to leave a production during the interval.

Happily this was not remotely necessary at the Estuary Players' first 2009 production, Visiting Hour. I had already seen and enjoyed the group's Cold Comfort Farm in 2006 and their Tales From Kites Hill in 2007, so I knew that I was at least likely to stay until the final curtain, but in the end I felt that they excelled themselves with this production, a series of six separate mini-plays all set within an unidentified hospital ward.

Director Howard Eilbeck and the production team had obviously worked extremely hard, so that set, costumes and props were of a very high standard (I particularly liked the coin-operated telephone, which was a model of ingenuity). They had begged, stolen or scrounged as many genuine NHS uniforms, items of furniture, utensils and signs as possible, so that from the moment we entered Matthews Hall we were confronted with directions in the familiar NHS signage and helped to our places (and to our tea in the interval) by uniformed nurses, physiotherapists and auxiliaries. For those who had bought their tickets in advance there was one other delightful unifying touch - the ticket was in the form of a hospital appointment card!

From the first, therefore, I had a sense of the large number of people involved behind the scenes and their strong commitment to the production, but when the actors finally took to the stage, I was further struck by the amount of performing talent which a small community like Topsham can muster. The warmth of the actors, and their captivating performances, at times laugh-out-loud funny and at others wry, sad, touching or wistful, enchanted me, and I feel I must single out for special praise the very strong Angela Walllwork and Alan Caig, whose two monologues Keeping Mum and Waiting were intense and charged (although I felt the director might have cut Keeping Mum a bit - no reflection on Angela, because she managed the incredible seven pages of script with great skill and kept us with her all the way, but the length of this monologue is not in balance with the other material in the entire piece and rather sprawls in comparison with the pithier Waiting).

Also showing a very strong stage presence were Chris Eilbeck in Plaster and Anny Kilbourne in Going Home - these women really shone out - and I was enormously tickled by Avril Pattinson's portrayal of the comic character May in Magic (aided and abetted by husband Bill Pattinson) - I'd like to see more of her. I am also looking forward to further performances from Crystal Carter, who I imagine was the youngest Estuary Player in this production. Her delivery was sometimes a little quiet, and she was not quite engaging the audience all the time (head position not always conducive to projection and eye-contact), but there was a sincerity and charm about her acting which stood out.

It was also good to see relative newcomer to Topsham (but not to the stage) Maggie Bourgein, who brought plenty of spirit even to the walk-on parts she took, but particularly to her role as the bemused Brenda in Magic. Ditto our old friend Maggie Butt, who managed to creep into not one, not two, but three different pieces, and for comic effect used a different regional accent in each one! Say no more. The woman is irrepressible (luckily for Topsham).

If I have any criticism of this production, it is about the shortage of hospital beds (a perennial NHS problem, I know, but in this play the script does call for three and Estuary Players only had two). This made the scene changes rather long - so much so, that several people in the audience began lengthy audible conversations during the blackout which unfortunately they felt unable to terminate until after the lights went up! Not an audience reaction to be encouraged. Another audible nuisance, which is really a Matthews Hall problem, was the amount of noise backstage (creaking boards, tiptoeing feet, etc.) during the actors' performances. I don't know what can be done about this, but directors need to be aware of it.

One last thing, which really gave a lustre to the whole evening for me, was the fine quality of the cast photographs in the foyer. Victoria Jones is to be congratulated. They brightened the entrance and afterwards were looked at eagerly as members of the audience discussed the performances of the actors in glowing terms. Well done Estuary Player! This piece shows (as Tales from Kites Hill also did) that a collection of playlets grouped together, rather than a three-act farce or a Greek tragedy, suits your varied talents best of all, allowing both humour and pathos in neat well-constructed packages where your multi-faceted actors can really shine.

- Reviewed by: Lily Neal


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