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Boundary Players - The Farndale Avenue ... Christmas Carol

26th to 30th April 2005.

This was the NWN review.

Unseasonal Farndale chaos

Boundary Players: Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society's Production of A Christmas Carol, at the William Penney Theatre, Aldermaston, from Tuesday, April 26 to Saturday, April 30

No address is guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of the drama purist like Farndale Avenue Housing Estate.
The eponymous Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society - the delightful comic creation of David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Junior - have been known to attack and destroy some of the greatest works in the English language.

At Boundary Players' William Penney Theatre, they set their sights on Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

I'm not sure whether the seasonal tale is intended to be staged in April but, like all the Farndale Avenue series, nothing is quite as you expect.

Boundary Players, under the direction of Colin Webb, entered fully into the spirit of the play-within-a-play, decking the hall with boughs of holly and transforming the venue into a typical Christmas scene.

The Farndale Society's director and driving force, Mrs Reece (beautifully played in Hyacinth Bucket style by Alice Grundy) greeted the audience, forcefully directing them to their seats and enlisting their help when her leading lady was apparently held up by traffic.

Once the Christmas Carol got underway, the proceedings were overtaken by the usual hilarious blend of Farndale incompetence and eccentricity. Mrs Reece's PA commentary was interrupted by conversations between taxi drivers and late-night radio shows; the stage manager got his head stuck in one of the props; and chaos ensued as various cast members forgot or rearranged the lines or missed their cues (all scripted of course).

The mayhem continued as the play staggered towards its conclusion and developed into a pantomime, with the audience participating in a communal song and a game of charades.

The small cast worked well together. Sue Barham was perfect as the permanently startled Mercedes, her aimless Bob Cratchit limping around the stage in a neckbrace, following a supermarket accident.

Pat Archer gave a fine performance as Thelma, trying in vain (as Scrooge) to hold the performance together. Michele Middleditch, as Felicity, captured the character's sense of fun and treated us to some nicely choreographed dance interludes.

Finally, Steve Scholler demonstrated his versatility as Gordon, part hapless scene-shifter, part actor, with roles as varied as the ghost of Christmas Past and a decidedly Pythonesque Mrs Cratchit.

Colin Webb and Mary Robinson's production was tightly managed, with a set design that deliberately captured the slap-dash Farndale approach but offered some very nice touches (I loved the luminous inscription on Scrooge's grave).

A great evening of fun, clearly appreciated by the audience.