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Mortimer Dramatic Society - Curtains

21st, 22nd, 28th and 29th October 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

All this and comedy too

Mortimer Dramatic Society: Curtains, on Friday, October 21, Saturday, October 22, Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29

Senility, incontinence, death – these may not sound like the recipe for a good evening’s entertainment, but in Stephen Bill’s play we get all this and more. And it’s a comedy.

The family have gathered for Ida’s eighty-sixth birthday. Ida is confused, miserable and in pain, and immune to her daughters’ efforts to cheer her up. Unexpectedly, the estranged third daughter, Susan, turns up after 25 years and Ida doesn’t recognise her. So far, the comedy is about family bickering and relationships, but it turns black when daughter Katherine accedes to her mother’s pleas to end her life. The second act deals with the issues following this, as the family try to come to terms with what’s happened.

Peggy Hood, as Ida, didn’t have a lot to say, but her expressions and movements brought out her feelings perfectly. This was a very impressive and moving performance. Margaret (Sarah Clark), fussy, patronising and shallow, bustled about as she tried to cope with the thinly disguised contempt of her husband Douglas (Andrew Pitcher).

Katherine (Megan Bush) was the only daughter who really cared for Ida, but she wasn’t helped by her dithering, indecisive husband Geoffrey (John Burbedge). Susan (Carol Burbedge) and Douglas had clearly had something between them in the past, and Douglas simmered gently at their reunion while Margaret could not hide her disapproval of Susan.

The scene where Katherine, alone with Ida, smothers her with a cushion turns chillingly from laughter to tears. This was the most memorable scene of the play, and was done expertly by both actresses.

Act Two was a bit long and the pace could have been faster at times, but the characterisation developed as the family’s views on euthanasia polarised. There were some good interactions here between Douglas and the petulant granddaughter Michelle (a feisty performance from Alexis Watson), and between Geoffrey and Katherine, with some nice comedy from John Burbedge.

Neighbour Mrs Jackson was well played by Shelley Warboys, stepping into the part at the last minute.

Tom Shorrock picked a difficult play to direct, but the experienced cast brought out the difficulties of family relationships with humour and pathos.