Review: Unaccomodated @ Lichfield Garrick Studio

I think it’s only fair to say occasionally how lucky Lichfield is to have such a wealth of theatre experience in one small city.

There’s a flourishing amateur scene here spearheaded by the Players and augmented by Elle Knight’s specialised Intimate Theatre evenings. The Garrick features a wealth of professional touring productions weekly throughout the year and only last week showcased Brassed Off  combining the powers of both professional and amateur performers under a top international director. In addition there a flourishing number of small independent companies flourish and Sunday saw one of the most popular of these, Opus Theatre bringing its latest offering for our delight.

This double bill of plays was set cabaret-style in the Studio meaning patrons relaxed with their drinks at small tables like a forties nightclub. Its kind of on the way to dinner theatre already popular elsewhere, a relaxed approach to art.

The evening’s first offering, Unaccommodated by Andy Powrie and Bill Cashmore is an updating of the Lear story in which a wine merchant divides his empire between three daughters with (if you know the play) predictably disastrous results. Here Keith Minshull as the vintner gave his usual performance distinguished by careful comic timing while Whittington lad Rob Pass made a good fist in the role of his warehouseman, Colin, the play’s Fool.

A newly-slim Alison Joynes delivered a polished performance as daughter Gabrielle while Catherine Manford, real-life wife of the now-famous comedian Jason was deliciously beastly as her rather posher sibling. New to me was Katie Farrier-Ray as Alexandra, the pretty young sister in the Cordelia role whose eventual union with Colin turned this retelling into mild comedy instead of the terrible tragedy of the original.

Second offering Say Something Happened, reputedly by Alan Bennett although not credited in the programme, was a little gem of poignant comedy, an obvious sketch for the current hit revival now touring of Bennett’s early masterpiece’s Enjoy.

Here a trainee social worker visiting two supposedly pathetic pensioners is given a lesson in life by her two interviewees who turn out to be able to bear tragedy with a dignity social services have yet to learn. Alison Joynes was supremely well cast as the callow social worker with an impoverished emotional life, while Gerry Hinks as Pa Rhodes effortlessly evoked the placidity of an elderly man immured to sorrow. But for me the real treat of the evening was to see veteran actress Sandra Jones in her portrayal of Ma Rhodes the grieving mother whose stoicism was a master class in living. In Ms. Jones’ hands this became a masterclass in acting.

An enjoyable and often surprising Sunday night out at the theatre.  Unaccommodated continues on tour around the Midlands during the coming months.

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UNACCOMMODATED

OPUS THEATRE COMPANY

Directed by Gerry Hinks

Garrick Studio

I think it’s only fair to say occasionally how lucky Lichfield is to have

such a wealth of theatre experience in one small city. There’s a flourishing amateur scene here spearheaded by the Players and augmented by Elle Knight’s specialised Intimate Theatre evenings. The Garrick features a wealth of professional touring productions weekly throughout the year and only last week showcased Brassed Off combining the powers of both professional and amateur performers under a top international director. In addition there a flourishing number of small independent companies flourish and Sunday saw one of the most popular of these, Opus Theatre bringing its latest offering for our delight.

This double bill of plays was set cabaret-style in the Studio meaning patrons relaxed with their drinks at small tables like a forties nightclub. Its kind of on the way to dinner theatre already popular elsewhere, a relaxed approach to art.

The evening’s first offering, Unaccommodated by Andy Powrie and Bill Cashmore is an updating of the Lear story in which a wine merchant divides his empire between three daughters with (if you know the play) predictably disastrous results. Here Keith Minshull as the vintner gave his usual performance distinguished by careful comic timing while Whittington lad Rob Pass made a good fist in the role of his warehouseman, Colin, the play’s Fool. A newly-slim Alison Joynes delivered a polished performance as daughter Gabrielle while Catherine Manford, real-life wife of the now-famous comedian Jason was deliciously beastly as her rather posher sibling. New to me was Katie Farrier-Ray as Alexandra, the pretty young sister in the Cordelia role whose eventual union with Colin turned this retelling into mild comedy instead of the terrible tragedy of the original.

Second offering “Say Something Happened”, reputedly by Alan Bennett although not credited in the programme was a little gem of poignant comedy, an obvious sketch for the current hit revival now touring of Bennett’s early masterpiece’s Enjoy. Here a trainee social worker visiting two supposedly pathetic pensioners is given a lesson in life by her two interviewees who turn out to be able to bear tragedy with a dignity social services have yet to learn. Alison Joynes was supremely well cast as the callow social worker with an impoverished emotional life, while Gerry Hinks as Pa Rhodes effortlessly evoked the placidity of an elderly man immured to sorrow. But for me the real treat of the evening was to see veteran actress Sandra Jones in her portrayal of Ma Rhodes the grieving mother whose stoicism was a master class in living. In Ms. Jones’ hands this became a masterclass in acting.

An enjoyable and often surprising Sunday night out at the theatre. Unaccommodated continues on tour around the midlands during the coming months.

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Founder of LichfieldLive and editor of the site.