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Silchester Players - They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen's Guild's Coffee Morning

10th to 11th May and 17th to 18th May 2013.

Review from Angela Solomons.

A truly out of this world experience! The doughty ladies of the Townswomen’s Guild have decided to present an action packed thriller with a sci-fi twist. But the production constantly teeters on the edge of disaster. Props go missing, special effects don’t behave as they should, key members of the cast fall ill and the Chairman insists on announcing the winner of the flower arranging competition at a crucial point in the production.

A play within a play, the small cast of five were all excellent in their roles. Caroline Martin as the Chairwoman skilfully played her part to the hilt, single-mindedly ensuring that the show must go on, no matter what! Anita Hatch was hilarious as Felicity (who played the Martian) who spent most of the play wearing a fluorescent green crash helmet – don’t ask; you will have to see the play! James Hellem played Gordon (the Vicar) whose pained expressions as the disasters multiplied around him, was a joy to watch. Sarah Oliver, who played Thelma, took on the demanding double roles as the schoolboy Timothy and his older sister Susan with panache. Janice Garrard as Norah was the robot Roberta who was a great favourite with the audience, especially since she had been accidently drugged at the beginning of the play.

The special effects deserve a separate mention, especially when they did not (intentionally) work properly in line with all of the other catastrophes in the doomed play. Well done to all the backstage crew, and the set designers. Brian Gillett must be complimented for directing this enjoyable comedy, and I have rarely seen such a good audience response. This was a truly side-splitting play and the audience’s enthusiastic applause at the end clearly showed their appreciation of an excellent evening. Well worth seeing!


Review from Chris Horton.

In this play within a play (bad am dram being the theme) the Farndale ladies are attempting to stage a sci-fi thriller with predictable, but nonetheless hilarious results. Caroline Norton opened proceedings as Mrs Reece and took control with commanding authority. Anyone who has been given the wrong lighting cue, handed an incorrect prop or been on a phone that continues to ring once the receiver has been picked up, would love this play. And judging by the laughter from the first night audience, those NOT involved in am dram loved it too.

Caroline Norton as Mrs Reece (and later Professor Einstein) was superb as she brilliantly steered the evening through a series of pitfalls from the opening vicarage set into orbit and beyond. Part of the joy of this production is the intentional inability of certain members of the group; James Hellem as Gordon, the vicar, was excellent – reading his stage directions as well as his lines in a flat and apathetic voice! Janice Garrard as Roberta (the robot) on valium was incredible with her falling and climbing as the plot required her to do very physically demanding things.

In Act Two: the landing on Mars – the set and effects (rockets, space ships etc) were far too good for the Farndale ladies! There was also (compulsory in Farndale comedies) a totally inappropriate dance routine.

Sarah Oliver as Thelma showed her considerable acting skills portraying Jimmy (freckled schoolboy) and Susan, the love interest of Jack. Her well executed love scene with the absent Jack (due to a stomach bug) was much enjoyed by the audience.

Completing the cast was Anita Hatch as Felicity, playing the Martian who landed and I particularly enjoyed her gorgeous facial expressions, exquisite timing and her Martian voice (which she had to give up because “it hurts my throat too much”).

Congratulations to Brian and Jill Gillett (Director/Producers) as it is definitely more difficult to go spectacularly wrong on purpose than trying to cover for an occasional slip up and this production succeeded on all levels.


Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Hamming it up down Farndale Avenue

Silchester Players: They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Famdale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen's Guild's Coffee Morning, at Silchester Village Hall, on Friday, May 10, Saturday, May 11, Friday, May 17 and Saturday, May 18

This play must have the longest title since Anthony Newley's 1970 musical Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? Longer even!

And wow, were Silchester Players ever asking for trouble putting on a play within a play about the Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society putting on a production where everything goes wrong in spectacular, old-style amateur dramatics-type disaster manner. Oh yes they were... and mostly it wasn't a pretty sight, although it was funny much of the time, both by accident and design.

The trouble here is that when you deliberately show a group of actors missing out a page-and-a-half of dialogue and trying to get back to it and get it right, all sorts of additional calamities can take place. And maybe did, who knows? With this kind of double take, anything can happen. Like the actor that required and received a prompt on Friday night and got a big laugh from an audience, thinking it was part of the plot.

The actors worked hard, with Caroline Martin as Mrs Reece of the TWG and also Einstein in the play within. James Hellem impressed with his comic expressions and double-takes and Anita Hatch showed a real talent for comedy and comic timing as both Felicity and a Martian.

The others hammed it up vigorously. As to the rest - it was mayhem, with plenty of laughs, both planned and unplanned.