Review: The Anniversary @ Lichfield Garrick Studio

The cast of The Anniversary - Nigel Lowe, Gina Martin, Ian Davies, Amanda Dufaye and Rachel Duncan

The cast of The Anniversary - Nigel Lowe, Gina Martin, Ian Davies, Amanda Dufaye and Rachel Duncan

The Lichfield Players have a habit of rediscovering classics and this time they deserve full marks for dusting off this little gem of a play which manages to infuse vigorous comedy with a considerable degree of pathos.

The plot revolves around Mum, a monstrous control freak who rules her three grown-up boys with a Freudian rod of emotional blackmail. An idiot could see this isn’t really healthy, but in the hands of Director Ian Parkes and his faultless cast it also results in subtle comedy mayhem.

The anniversary of the title’s a macabre one, being the date of their dead father’s demise. So the sons assemble, with their wives or otherwise. I spotted Dale Preece-Kelly in the Players’ recent Agatha Christie and thought he showed unusual promise. But here as Tom the rough-diamond son he reveals himself as a consummate actor in the Bob Hoskins mode who could easily translate to the big or small screen given his effortless way with dialogue and excellent comic timing. More please, more.

Amanda Dufaye similarly shows real development as an actress in her role as his sacrificial lamb girlfriend Shirley. The role of second son Henry also could have been written for actor Nigel Lowe whose casting shows the highly–skilled resources on which the Players can currently call. This is work of the highest calibre, unobtrusively perfect and disarmingly natural.

Ian Davies as the mother’s principal victim Terry has real vulnerability while Rachel Duncan as his outwardly confident wife Karen neatly reveals the hidden turmoil involved in coping with these recurrent family affairs. But of course the lion’s share of praise must go to Gina Martin as the nightmarish Mum whose idea of familial love is emotional torture. On the first night she was suffering from throat problems but didn’t once allow this to dim her performance.

A great night out, once again. I’m starting to wonder where the Players who should surely be the envy of many professional outfits can take us next – they seem to me to be entering on a golden era. Fabulous, absolutely.

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