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Watermill - The Story of a Great Lady

17th to 21st April and 4th to 15th September 2007 and on tour.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Laughter the best medicine

Ade Morris' 'play for Jill' a comedy success

The Story of a Great Lady, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from April 17 to 21

The stage was set with haphazard items - a piano, kitchen chairs, tea-making equipment - everything, in fact, that can be found in your average village hall.

Then the people arrive. Francesca Lamb (Carrie Jones) widowed and 'too young to be old' as the instigator of a creative writing group. Along come Erica Rogers as Penny Tew (her father loved them) a drama teacher who has 'had her blood sucked out of her by vampiric teenagers' and the large, lovely Annie Taylor (Polly Highton), a cowed housewife who has a peculiar way with words.

Each has a serious problem, which, since this production is going on tour, it would be wrong to reveal, but to distract themselves they decide to write a play about the Queen of the Iceni, Boadicea. From all you have read so far you may think this could be a rather gloomy affair. Absolutely not, this play is a brilliant piece of writing by Ade Morris with line after line of hilarity delivered by three magnificent actresses - a woman behind me was helpless with laughter at one stage.

The bizarre array of props - among them horned helmets, dustbin lids and a spotty pantomime horse outfit - play vital parts. When the three women are arrested as the 'horse' goes through the streets carrying Fran and then sit in a row at the front of the stage, still in costume, in the police station, I defy anyone not to laugh out loud.

Ade Morris has understood the way women who are good friends deal with problems together and the fact that so much of the play is gloriously funny makes the contrast between the darker times, as when Annie speaks of her home life and holds the audience in the palm of her hand, all the more poignant.

As the last play commissioned by the much-missed Jill Fraser, who wanted him to write another comedy, Ade must have felt the pressure in carrying out her wishes.

There are echoes of Jill in the dialogue - Fran is described as 'good at getting people together and making things happen' - but more importantly Ade has written a play which people will laugh at and enjoy - and that was exactly what she wanted.