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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

New Era - Cider With Rosie

15th to 17th and 20th to 24th March 2001.

The Newbury Weekly News Review:

Assured touch of direction

'CIDER WITH ROSIE', at the New Era Theatre, from March 15 to 17 and 20 to 24

A cynical wayfarer crossing the crueller landscape of 21st-century 'Cool Britannia' might say that Laurie Lee's evocation of bygone Gloucestershire comes with the built-in comfort factor of accessible nostalgia. After all, faux rural is now big business and chocolate box can make good box office.

But seen through the eyes of director Anne Oldham this classic tale of childhood and lost innocence (adapted for the stage by James Roose-Evans) became more than a trip down memory lane. Rarely in any production is the touch of a director so assured that it hardly seems to be there at all. Yet here we had it, tapping out the rhythm, plucking at the strands of character and plot and making music, sometimes loud, sometimes soft, but always enthralling.

This is a universal tale of growing up, a tale of disappearing worlds, of family bonds being broken by Time. It was also a great story made even better in the telling by the effortless performance of David Zeke in the role of 'Narrator'. As for the rest of the cast they showed clearly that the art of adults playing children involves more than simply dressing men in short trousers. All the characters were created with such sincerity that when they matured in to the convincing adults of the later scenes it felt as if the seasons had genuinely turned and turned again during the performance.

Character was the key. Janet Bennet, (Mother), James Smee, (Tony) and Stephen Bennet (young Laurie) gave performances that grew brighter, illuminating the story with a humanity that made this more than a mere nostalgic romp through apple orchards long since ploughed to motorways and urban sprawl.

Simply staged and effectively lit, this story of the Lee family unfolded with the help of numerous cameo performances given by the cast with some finely-tuned character acting propelling us from classroom to graveside.

Nostalgia may not be cool, Britannia, but this was certainly great. To have sipped at this particular jar was to have tasted a memory as fresh as the minute it was made.


And this is from Kick FM.

...Cider With Rosie at New Era Theatre Club in Newbury, based on Laurie Lee’s novel about his Cotswold childhood. There was a version of this on the television a year or so ago, but this was a much smaller scale staging. And it was really fantastic. The acting was superb and the production was spot on. I’ve been to see quite a few things at New Era, and the standard is always very high, but this was one of the best amateur performances I’ve seen for a long time.