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New Era - A Woman in Mind

7th to 16th December 2000.

This is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Effective direction of black comedy

'A WOMAN IN MIND', at the New Era theatre, on December 7 to 16

This is considered to be one of Alan Ayckbourn's blacker comedies and the programme note instructed us not to try to make sense of the play. Left to our own devices we would certainly have lost the plot, but the different characters in the real and dream families soon established themselves and, supported by careful lighting changes, we were quickly following the convoluted situations.

There was some delightful humour, especially the running joke of Muriel's cooking and the labelling of kitchen containers. Margaret Rigby played this character well and was responsible for the majority of the comedy - thoughts of her Earl Grey omelette and tasteless coffee obviously hit home with the audience. On a few occasions however, some humour was lost or the dialogue moved on too quickly, suppressing the audience's reaction.

Lisa Harrington maintained the pace with an excellent performance in the very difficult role of Susan. To hold simultaneous conversations with the two families, show many different emotions and reflect the change of relationships was no mean feat.

Peter Hendrickx as Gerald convincingly struggled with his understanding of Susan's real and imaginary worlds and in the final scene, when these two came together, his rise to a bishop was much appreciated by the audience.

I thought Peter Knightley, as the Doctor, had a most agreeable bedside manner and once the play settled down he, too, had some delightful touches of well-timed humour. Paul German added yet another dimension as the problematic son.

The dream family played by Jill Lynn, David Tute and Tim Stanton floated in and out, bringing a warm glow of perfect personalities that contrasted well with the real family.

This is a challenging play for any group, which was effectively managed with well-planned moves and positioning, and director Valerie Maskell must be congratulated. That said, I felt that the cast took their bow in an apparently hurried manner and our attempts to give justified applause to this excellent production were cut short.