New Era - Playhouse Creatures
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New Era - Playhouse Creatures

29th November to 8th December 2007.

Here is the NWN review.

The company of women

Seventeenth-century breakthrough in a male-dominated profession

New Era Players: Playhouse Creatures, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, November 29 to Saturday, December 8

It is always a pleasure to review New Era's productions. This little gem of a theatre in Wash Common offers a friendly welcome and high production values. April De Angelis' Playhouse Creatures was a challenging choice of play, set in 1669, when King Charles II was on the throne and women were finally allowed to perform on stage, replacing the boy actors who played these roles from Restoration times.

The play tells the story of five diverse women who are trying to break into the male-dominated world of theatre. We view their progress from the backstage gossip and intrigue, to the on-stage theatrical performances in front of a mainly-male audience, who were titillated by the sight of bare legs and breasts.

Mrs Betterton, the wife of the actor-manager, splendidly played by Sue Keer, looks after her fellow actresses, instructing them on the finer skills of acting, including the positioning of the head as on a clock face, to signify emotions.

This is a rag to riches story, with Nel Gwyn confidently played by Georgina Gale, conning her way into the company and winning the attention of the King, who takes her as his trollop, bestowing a house and riches upon her.

Progressing starlet Mistress Farley's (Jane Robinson) career is cut short when she falls pregnant and has to leave the company She ends up destitute on the streets and becomes a prostitute - "a real pro".

Kathleen Ray is excellent as the earthy, downtrodden Doll Common, who remembers the theatre when it was a bear-pit and her father used to control the bears, with some horrible results.

Lisa Harrington is totally convincing as Mistress Marshall, who has been thwarted by the vendetta of the Earl of Oxford, and seeks revenge.

Beautifully-costumed by Brenda Agutter, Rosemary Goodchild and Maddie Winter and directed by Tim Oldham, who also adds much of the audience heckling with great humour, this was a strong production that was enthusiastically appreciated by a capacity audience.

ROBIN STRAPP