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New Era - Make Way for Lucia

27th to 30th June 2007.

Here is the NWN review.

Twenties roar into life

New Era Players: Make Way for Lucia, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, until June 30

I seem to remember that in Greek tragedies the action takes place off-stage and is reported by the characters, which, despite profound philosophy can sometimes be tediously boring. If you analysed Make Way for Lucia, you could be forgiven for thinking that something similar might be in store as the play is set in someone's drawing room with all the 'action' in the small town of Tilling reported by the various visitors. Think again.

This is a witty, clever and delightful play, brought superbly to life by director Lisa Harrington and her bright and breezy cast. The set, full of period touches to complement the wonderful '20s dresses, and well-managed by Jane Minchin as the maid, is a stunning canvas for the machinations of the scheming Miss Mapp, played with sweetly disguised venom by Anne Oldham.

She has let her home for the summer to a new arrival, the self-styled Lucia, but can't stop popping in unannounced, even breaking the door chain Lucia installs to discourage her. Miss Mapp is in turn renting a cheaper property and the chain continues downwards. Was this the beginning of the buy-to-let market?

Lucia is an exotic creature, very attractive to the small-town characters, but far too attractive for Mapp, who has hitherto been the queen bee. The play deals with the growing rivalry between the two women. Gossip and rumour abound. Are the affable Major Benjie's intentions entirely honourable? Does Lucia's friend Georgie wear a toupee? Does Lucia really 'talk Italian'? Should Lucia have the garden produce included in her rent? And will the Hanging Committee accept her and Georgie's paintings? Lucia's new admirers include some great characters, notably the gushing Mrs Bartlett and the stroppily-perceptive Diva, played beautifully by Marianne Hatfull and Pam Hillier-Brook respectively.

Tim Oldham played devoted Georgie with great flair, giving the rather effete character a sensitive solidity so that the denouement wasn't a complete surprise. And Sue Keer's Lucia is perfect, the voice, the gestures, the expressions... wonderful. We really cared about what was going to happen.

I don't want to give away too much as it is in performance until Saturday, but this is a splendid comedy, a great ensemble performance, and highly recommended.