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© Paul Fowler G.O.D.A


2013 Worcestershire Play Festival


Will You Marry Me by Brenda Read-Brown Tewkesbury Arts and Drama Society


Adjudicated by Paul Fowler GODA


The Play


It should all be so straightforward – but a simple question leads to a couple questioning every aspect about the relationship that they thought was solid through and through.I found the play a really interesting examination of the issues of marriage and civil partnership, the legends we construct for ourselves, and part our pasts can play in our present lives, not to mention the potentially devastating effects that the keeping of secrets can have.


There is some good writing here and a strong central conceit, but I do feel that the play is rather overwritten and that the final section needs another look. Perhaps, in the light of this performance, the author will be able to carry out some editing and revising in order to take the play to the next level.


A successful production will require a tasteful setting, playing with complete sincerity and a light directorial hand on the tiller. We have to like these people and to care about what happens to them following the final joint posing of the central question; so credible, natural characterisation is also a must.


Stage Presentation


You opted for a simple setting with well chosen and carefully positioned furniture. I liked the colour coordinated red cushions but felt there was an awful lot of black floor in front of the furniture. A rug or carpet here would have helped to unify the set and provide a focal point centre and downstage. The Christmas tree was a good touch but why it took so long to get rid of it I can’t imagine.


Thought had been given to costuming with Jack in blue shirt and jeans, Crocs and black zipper jacket. Oliver’s brown cords and check shirt were absolutely right while Tricia’s leggings and coloured tee shirt signalled her character very effectively.


I would recommend that you use some music to help cover the scene changes, perhaps snatches of the accordion music used at the opening.


I thought this was a workmanlike stage presentation that could have been improved significantly with a little more attention to detail.


Direction


I admired the way we were pitched straight into the action of the piece, getting on with the story in no nonsense fashion. You set a lovely secure pace and the flow of the exchanges between Jack and Oliver made the dialogue skip brightly along, carrying the audience with it.


The opening scene had a really nice shape, the movement was secure, appropriate and believable, and the stage pictures interesting.You need to do something to improve the flow of the play from scene to scene. The first change was far too long and perhaps some music would have helped to cover the transition.


The use of space in Scene Two was impressive, with the connection between Jack and Tricia highlighted by their positioning on settee and chair. The warmth of their exchanges was particularly nicely done.


The awkwardness between Jack and Oliver built nicely in the following scene as Oliver’s insecurities were highlighted and the imbalance in the couple’s expectations was brought to the fore.Just be careful to maintain a light touch during this section, any overemphasis will work against the text.


Although I like the way in which the real issue is skirted around before the question of the son’s knowledge of their relationship comes to the fore, I do think it is rather overwritten and needs another look from the playwright.


There was a bit of an awkward moment when the phone failed to ring on cue but I’m sure you won’t let that happen again.


There are passages of really good writing in this play so please don’t take my comments about overwriting to much to heart – it is really a question of fine tuning and careful editing.


The line “Jack, you will come back to me won’t you?” is so touching. Just make sure that you don’t spoil the effect by moving too soon Oliver – wait for the light before you exit.


I liked the staging of the scene with Jenny and her injection of good old common sense was well conveyed. There was an awkward move as Jack returned to the house and you need to have another look at that - it was very cramped and messy as Oliver greeted Jack.


I think you need to look at the line “She’s going to divorce me” and deliver it with rather more weight and emphasis.


The final scene does seem a rather contrived to me and my feeling is that the writing makes it tricky to maintain the momentum of the scene. You just have to work to keep those energy levels high.Jack needs to stay still during the cancer results speech – his constant pacing meant that the focus was unclear and distracting.


I would ask the writer to look once more at the final scene – the end of the preceding scene is so strong that everything seems to be rather an anti climax.


Acting


Oliver

I very much liked this portrayal of the ordinary middle aged Guardian reader with a nice line in deadpan wit. The Eric and Ernie line was delivered in exemplary throw-away style and with terrific instinctive timing. He seemed very real and recognisable to me. It was a performance of real depth that seemed fully thought through, and you had some fine moments. Your anger at Jack’s position was most impressive and in great contrast to your generosity over Jonathan. And I particularly loved: “ I refuse…Let’s go Shopping!” Well done.

Jack

Again this was a very believable and authentic performance as the straight-acting Jack. I admired the bitter edge you brought to some exchanges and the quick flashes of anger. We sensed your inner turmoil and your genuine discomfort at your (understandable) deception over the cancer scare in the final scene.

It is of course vital to have two experienced and accomplished actors in the roles of Jack and Oliver and I thought you worked together as a partnership very well indeed. Well done.

Tricia

I liked the conception of this character but it was a shame that there was some uncertainty over the text. It was a very natural performance and I loved the way she jabbered on for ages in her first scene before realising Jack wasn’t listening. The wedding speech was related with real relish.

Jenny

Your characterisation of the loyal and caring old friend was warm and insightful. I loved the relish you brought to certain phrases – “…truffles in the middle of the afternoon is more my kind of thing…” for example. You handled the tricky clumsy “flirt” with Oliver with aplomb, and your distaste at you husband’s of repeated phrases was beautifully conveyed.


Conclusion


This unusual twist on the problems of the commitment-phobic male provided a thought provoking and involving finale to our festival.Two thoughtful and unselfconscious performers of warmth and honesty drew us into the lives of Jack and Oliver and made us care about their future together. In the wrong hands it could have been mawkish and embarrassing but that was far from the case with this production.


I think the script could do with a few judicious cuts and some of the arguments of the piece are somewhat overstated, and you do need to work harder to maintain the energy and momentum of the piece. But overall I think “Will You Marry Me” provided a touching and charming contribution to the festival.Thank you and well done Tewkesbury Arts and Drama Society.


Paul Fowler GODA


© Paul Fowler G.O.D.A 2013


Will you marry me?


Adjudication

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