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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Watermill - Great West Road

4th to 7th March 2008.

From Newbury Theatre.

Thatcham might not seem the greatest place to write a community show about. For those of us who live in or near it, Thatcham isn’t really on a par with London, Paris or New York. But Ade Morris has taken input from the people of Thatcham and built it into a modern story intertwined with two stories from Thatcham’s past. It’s very much a local show, with five local professional actors joining with a score of amateur actors.

The modern story relates to the floods of 20th July last year, which badly affected Thatcham. Brenda (Dorothy Lawrence) runs a charity shop with minimal help from her grandson Jazzer (Matthew Ashcroft) and granddaughter Tank (Elizabeth Park) (“her name’s Tania, but we call her Tank because she’s well ’ard”). The radio is tuned to BBC Radio Berkshire, with Nicki Whiteman’s commentary on the progress of the weather. From time to time the radio goes fuzzy, and the action slips into the past, to the story of an illegitimate baby born (and dying) in St Mary’s church in the 19th century and the discovery of the baby’s coffin in the 1920s, and an account of the crash of two American B17 bombers at Greenham in thick fog in 1944.

These stories bring in Leon Jan as the airman and Jamie Read as the builder who finds the coffin. They both have parts in the modern story, and Matthew Ashcroft and Elizabeth Park play a variety of other roles. All the professional acting is good, with Elizabeth Park in particular showing her versatility.

It’s a good idea by Ade Morris, and the story is well crafted and interesting. But to brand it as a community show was a bit unfair to the amateur actors. For the most part, they stream in and out to indicate the time switch between the stories; a device which in the end becomes tedious. Most of them had no more than one line to say, and only the coroner had a significant part in the play. With the wealth of amateur acting talent in the area, this was a missed opportunity.