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Mortimer Dramatic Society - The Farndale Avenue Macbeth

10th 11th, 17th and 18th May 2002.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of Macbeth: Mortimer Dramatic Society, at St John’s Hall, Mortimer on May 10th, 11th, 17th and 18th

The raffle is one of the worst traditions of amateur theatre, so it was no surprise to find one at the back of St John’s Hall. What was a little surprising was the first prize of a tea towel and second prize of half a dozen eggs, but they should have served as a warning for what was in store. The Farndale Avenue series of plays, about incompetent amateur actors, is hugely popular with amateur groups, and Macbeth is the original one, dating from 1976. The ladies are entering their production in a drama competition, and we are privileged to watch the performance, along with the adjudicator Mr Peach (Tom Shorrock), a splendidly fruity performance, especially at the end when he delivers his adjudication in drag.

The redoubtable chairwoman of the TWG, Mrs Reece, played by Sarah Clarke, had all the confidence and authority we would expect. At the start, she told us all to stand and sing the National Anthem, and by golly we all did. Macbeth was played by Thelma (played by Cathy Bowman), and she knew she was the star, and better than the others. When Lady Macbeth fails to arrive, stage manager Henry (Chris Boott) is press-ganged into taking on the part. This was a very good comic performance as he stumbled his way through, showing increasing desperation when three of them get trapped in an endless loop of script.

Jane Hodgson, as Minnie playing Banquo, was suitable confused as a ghost, as was I – what was the other person doing under the sheet? I thought she was supposed to be pushed around on a tea trolley. Helen Sharpe, as Kate, started off with a walking stick and deteriorated as the performance went on, ending up in a wheelchair, pushed by Darryl Manners as the long-suffering director.

The remaining parts were played by Mari Fleming and Carol Burbedge, groping her way around after she lost her glasses.

For this sort of play to succeed, you need good actors, good timing and a fast pace, and the company, directed by John Burbedge, provided all these. The only thing I felt didn’t succeed was the witches’ dance, to That Old Black Magic, which needed more variety.

This was a very polished production, and hugely enjoyable. I haven’t laughed so much since… well, since the last Farndale Avenue play I saw.