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Bed and Breakfast


Adjudication




GLOUCESTER ONE-ACT FESTIVAL 2010


‘Bed and Breakfast’ by Geoff Guy - Tewkesbury Arts & Dr. Soc.


Adjudicated by Mike Kaiser of GODA


THE PLAY


There were three original plays in the festival and in this case the writer is also appearing in it, although he has handed over to another director. This is quite a good idea for a writer because someone else may see ways to develop which you had not anticipated.


Strange things happen in the countryside! At first, this is reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Show – innocent young couple turn up looking for lodgings at some isolated mouldering gothic type residence far from anywhere to be greeted by the strange owner. The home had a dusty kind of gloomy charm but the farmer had none at all.


The play has a strong narrative content especially when the older couple turn up. Then there are a couple of twists at the end so the audience has to be led down one path before the truth is revealed. It is a mystery thriller which should have the simple aim of creating believable characters and drawing the audience into the simple desire to know what is going to happen next. It should build the tension and keep one or two surprises up its sleeve.


PRESENTATION


There was a shabby old-fashioned dining table USC with the oil lamp which is giving the dingy light. The two armchairs were set downstage and at first seemed to constrict the playing area by being rather close together but when they came into use, we could see the effect of sitting in front of an imagined fire down at the front of the stage. There were a couple of scenes played in these chairs by one person from each couple which had a very effective cosy feeling as they chatted.



The costume was well chosen to suggest character without being too heavy-handed, especially for Henry. Adrian and Myra were more arty than the younger couple so the contrast worked well and his dog collar was discreet. I liked the little touch of Julia’s toning outfit and suitcase to depart.



The lighting was quite dim but could have been even more so especially at the beginning to create the atmosphere. There could have been more yellow in it and more of an effect of pools mof light especially around where the oil lamp was located. The convention is to suggest the mood more strongly at the beginning to let your audience know this is an old-fashioned farmhouse and then gradually drift more light in so that we can see faces clearly. The final effects with blue side lighting were strong and suitably melodramatic for the chilling climax.



The opening music was bouncy and cheerful and simply established a carefree mood to begin with, which was fine. The first car was a little late arriving and when Julia left, it drove off without making a noise at all!




PRODUCTION



The opening moments were nicely tentative with some early suggestions of menace from the farmer’s dire warnings and his generally suspicious mind. Once the young couple were accepted and in the house, the exposition section between the two of them was briskly executed and well judged in pace. It bounced along mostly because she is so blissfully happy and excited. Sge drove it along but he matched her in the playing levels.



One good feature of this partnership was how natural their physicality was. They hugged, embraced, sat on each other’s knee, all without any hesitancy. So often it seems slightly contrived and unreal but not here. At the same time, there is plenty of information to impart and so vocally they needed to be clear to explain the whole background as to why they are in his unlikely spot at night. All this again was delivered fluently.



When Adrian and Myra arrived, the stage did for a while seem crowded in the centre for either four or occasionally five people. However, the wider corners of the stage were used for the argument between the older couple by moving them DSL and having the younger ones watching from the centre and slightly DSR. It made sense too, as if the older ones were trying to keep their disagreements to themselves and yet allowing themselves to be overheard. The stage pictures was also helped by the attractively balanced colours in the costumes.



When Roy and Myra settled down for a chat with the others gone, then the close arrangement of the chairs worked very well. She was able to pace around to tell her story but when they were both seated, it still felt intimate enough for a confidential talk. Perhaps all her movement was not motivated strongly enough and it might have been better to leave her settled for longer and only stand up and move around once. The key remark where she does need to be by him is “ Is that what you’d do? “ (i.e. leave if there was no money ).



The matching scene between Julia and Adrian also had an authentic feel and had a new idea for the positioning with him standing USC by the table as he was taking his pills. Then it became more confidential as in the previous scene with him leaning across from his chair and advising her earnestly.



The structure of the play worked well here as Myra returns for a last blast at Adrian and all four are together again. Julia’s light blue dressing gown lit really well as she stood in the centre with the dialogue whirling around her, creating another evocative stage picture. This scene rose to quite a fever pitch with great pace and energy as the accusations flew back and forth between Adrian and Myra. This created the climax which then resulted in a meaningful and shocked silence as the young couple are left alone to ponder what they have just seen.



As successful as this was, I would still suggest that you build more slowly into this scene and look again at the screaming peak from him and the way in which her reaction was delivered out front. I know it is meant to be a charade tinged with falseness but it verged on the melodramatic and could be just as effective if toned down a little.



There was a clearly signalled shift from Adrian and Myra after their plan has worked and the truth is out. They whirled round and dropped the persona at once. Julia made a strong exit and this is where the car went missing. Be careful not to overplay the reaction of Henry whirling round on Roy over the price of a double room. The final twist is signalled by Henry’s increasingly sinister voice, the cradling of the gun and the switching off of most of the lights leaving just a harsh blue from the side on his face, presumably suggested the night sky. It was a suitably chilling ending with the audience buzzing with the twists and turns.


ACTING



Henry Trapp ( Geoff Guy ) He had a brooding presence with just enough suggestion of evil without making it too much of a caricature. He obviously had a keen awareness of the author’s intentions. The use of a local accent again was nicely judged – just enough. His line about ‘not getting on with the locals’ earned a ripple of laughter and he showed similarly good comic timing on taking the order for two ‘LATE’ breakfasts. As he added the last twist about his own history at the end, he took on a more sinister look and manner but be careful not to push any further than where he was for fear of turning a mostly naturalistic thriller into a pastiche.



Julia ( Debbie Lannen ) She shone out throughout the play with her totally happy and beaming face. There was just enough suggestion of a class difference in her voice and she was wholesome and outgoing in her manner. Vocally she was very strong and drove the pace along in a terrific way especially in the early scenes with just her and Roy. Actually, she is the only one amongst the five characters who is totally innocent and that was consistently shown as a part of her character. I liked the freedom with which she expressed herself physically too and the natural way she fizzed about the stage like a bundle of energy and enthusiasm. Well done.



Roy ( Jesse Burns ) Naturally, we do not end up with as much sympathy for Roy because he turns out to be a cheat but this should not blind us to the fact that he matches up to Julia in the early stages in terms of voice, pace and energy. It is easy to believe they are a couple of runaway lovers and only in a subtle way did he suggest the slight lie early on when he said they were on honeymoon. Again, later on when he heard Julia’s news about her allowance being cut, he registered his surprise in a low-key way, not too crudely. He had a good quality voice in the lower register and played the scene with Myra convincingly partly for that reason.



Myra ( Nicki Worgan ) She is playing two roles in effect and clearly differentiated them. She too was aided by a good quality voice and was capable of shifts in mood and tone, first of all whilst concocting rows with her ‘husband’. The way she snapped out ‘Has he been telling you all about her marriage?’ told the younger couple all they needed to know about it. She was good at seeming sympathetic to each of the young ones in turn. The switches back and forth at the end when she is first triumphant that their ruse has worked and then when someone walks in on them were neatly done and well timed.



Adrian ( Richard Hughes ) He had a strong contrast between the gentle vicar and the much sharper, street-wise man with a hatchet job to do. As the vicar, he just suggested the modulated tones of an English middle-class pillar of society with precise enunciation of the words. Take care though not to go too far with the fluttering of the hands or voice because once or twice it pushed the borders of exaggeration, especially when signalling the deceit to the audience. There was a good sense of bitterness in the marriage rows and the a paternal feel to the discussion with Julia. There was good acceleration on ‘the wedding will be magnificent’ and a feeling of enthusiasm.



CONCLUSION



The main question for the audience was ‘ Were you drawn into the plot? Could you guess the end?’ The play was eminently watchable and enjoyable. It drove along at an excellent pace and developed five believable characters. In a way, the suggestions made in my comments about toning things down or pulling back a little are an excess of goodness. The energy and pace and whole-hearted feeling all of the actors put into their roles meant that you had earned the right to hold a pause or to slow down. There is just as much dramatic effect in that at times as in speech.



This is much the better way round to be – if you have no pace or drive it is difficult to insert it. Here, I am saying you have plenty but might need to check it just a touch at one or two points for even greater impact. It is certainly worth making these suggestions because it is a worthwhile play which intrigued and entertained our audience.



Congratulations and thank you for an enjoyable evening.



Mike Kaiser GODA 22/6/10



© Mike Kaiser 2010



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