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

HADCAF - Lark Rise

11th July 2003.

This is from the NWN.

A typically English evening

Lark Rise, at St Lawrence's Church, Hungerford, on Friday, July 11

Many organisations have reason to be grateful for the talents of Sylvia Read and William Fry who have toured with their brand of two-person theatre in this country and abroad since the early 1960s. Many are for reduced fees or free for the charity concerned.

In spite of the hardness of the pews, it was pleasant to spend a summer evening in a cool church, listening to the evocative descriptions of the English countryside and village life which Flora Thompson sprinkled through Lark Rise.

The two performers, though handicapped by the small stage, brought the villagers of Lark Rise to life in a smooth-flowing performance which required both to learn an immense amount of lines, for this was not simply dialogue, but an adaptation of the book itself.

Soft-voiced Sylvia Read, with shawl and mob cap as occasional props, played central character Laura and a diverse range of villagers.

With only two performers, contrast between the voices is important, and contrast there was, though a slightly mesmeric quality to Ms Read's voice occasionally had a soporific effect, damping down the dynamics and reducing the impact of some of the characters she played.

Her facial expressions could not be faulted, however, and the silent desolation she showed in the final scene when Edmund, her brother, is known to have died in the 'war to end all wars' was moving.

After a moment to adjust to William Fry's accent, the audience gloried in the many different characters he conjured up by such means as simply undoing his coat, or taking off his hat, one moment becoming young Edmund, the next a brash cheapjack, and in between a showcase of other villagers communicating life in Lark Rise so clearly to the audience that they felt a part of it.

The lovely July evening which awaited the audience as they left fitted the mood of this pleasant, very English HADCAF entertainment.