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New Era Players - The Heiress

28th to 30th November and 4th to 8th December 2018

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Legacy play for New Era

Forty years on, company celebrate by returning to first production

New Era Players: The Heiress, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from November 28 to December 1 and Tuesday, December 4, to Saturday, December 8

Forty years ago. New Era Players performed The Heiress as the first full-length play in their friendly small theatre and it proved an inspired choice. Based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James, the play, an adaptation by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, provides opportunities for set builders and the wardrobe team to show their talents. In this production both did an excellent job.

The story is set in the New York household of Dr Sloper (Keith Kerr), a man embittered by the loss of his wife, who died giving birth to Catherine (Pippa Higgins). Sloper is cold to his daughter, who therefore regards herself as unattractive and of no consequence.

When her Aunt Elizabeth (Sue Keer) brings daughter Marian and fiancé Arthur (the lively Vikki Goldsmith and a rather quiet Charlie Wolfenden) to see her brother and his daughter, they have with them Arthur's brother, the handsome Morris Townsend (Patrick Lintin).

Morris subjects the insecure Catherine to a barrage of praise over the next few weeks to such effect that she agrees to marry him. Her father, suspicious that Townsend is only out for his daughter's inheritance, refuses his permission. Is he right?

As the play continues and Catherine is jilted, it seems so, but then Morris returns, vowing undying love and again Catherine agrees to marry him. Is this wise?

I will not tell you the outcome, for there are more performances to come after the publication of this review.

What I can say is that this is an enjoyable, powerful play, that has deft touches of humour. As Catherine, Higgins was superb and this was an outstanding performance. She was closely followed in excellence by Keer as her callous father. After a slightly nervous start, he grew into the part, becoming totally believable, as was Lintin playing Catherine's self-assured, over-loud suitor.

Marie Jacobs, who played Catherine in that long-ago production, now cleverly brings a touch of scattiness to the role of Catherine's Aunt Lavinia and I especially liked Keer as her sister Elizabeth, while Georgie Gale as Townsend's sister and Karen Ashby as Maria, the doctor's housekeeper, gave good supporting performances.

This tale of love and money, directed by Stephen Bennett, with an excellent cast, is a good opener to the next 40 years for this talented, hardworking, enthusiastic company.