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by Matthew Barber
A heartwarming comedy about love, friendship and rediscovery
In support of Help for Heroes
Lottie Wilton : Jan Bursby
Director : Paul Hewitt
HAVING neither read the original novel nor seen the more recent film, this absolutely charming play was completely new to me and yes, I really was enchanted by it. There was more than a feel of a romantic novel to the evening and it was almost as if I had curled up comfortably by the fire to read and the characters had come alive.
The play begins in a very rainy Hampstead during 1922, where a newspaper advertisement about a castle available to rent in Italy for a month has caught the eye of two very different women, who advertise for two others to join them and share the cost. By the end of that month all four have succumbed to the beauty of their surroundings and the warm sunshine, and their lives change more than any of them could have imagined.
A bare minimum of set to depict several different locations in the first act seems to go hand in hand with the unsettled feelings of the characters, with the explosion of colour in act two a superbly designed contrast. I should also at this point mention the excellent costumes too, which are absolutely glorious and so right for the period.
There is always a danger when one has read a book that the characters, in one’s imagination, have a certain look – but, as I have already mentioned, I hadn’t done so and consequently had no preconceived ideas. To my mind the cast in this production, directed with considerable style by Paul Hewitt, seem to epitomise exactly what we learn about each character from the script.
Jan Bursby is a delight as the bored but bubbly and quirky housewife Lotty Wilton, married to a rather dull solicitor, Mellersh – of whom more later. Boo Feltham plays the sad, religious Rose Arnott with real feeling, although unfortunately some of her early facial expressions were lost under the shadow thrown by her hat brim.
Val Mantle is well cast as the acerbic Mrs Graves, not for the first time showing that she is the mistress of one-liners with her perfect timing, and Keely Campbell is just right as the lonely, beautiful Lady Caroline Bramble.
Mark Ellen gives a wonderfully natural performance as castle owner Anthony Wilding and Sam Moulton makes an impression too as Frederick Arnott, Rose’s husband. Tony Parkinson is also well cast as Mellersh, the quintessential stiff upper lip Englishman who drops his guard just once, not just metaphorically and with great aplomb!
Last, but by no means least, there is a truly brilliant performance from Judy Garrett as Costanza, the housekeeper. Her facial expressions were a joy to behold and told us all we needed to know about her feelings towards the others, even if our knowledge of Italian was totally lacking.
The curtain call cheers from the audience said it all.
Linda Kirkman - Scene One
YOU couldn't fail to be entranced by this production of a play which has only recently become available to amateur groups.
This was Wimborne Drama at its best as director Paul Hewitt skilfully helped the actors to tell the story of two women, disillusioned with their lives in the London of 1922, who seek a month of alternative lifestyle in Italy. And to help with funding the hire of a castle they advertise for two other women to share their idyll.
Jan Bursby was full of life and enthusiasm as Lotty, the initiator of the project, contrasting with Boo Feltham, who got under the skin of the staid and downtrodden Rose Arnott.
Recruited to complete the foursome, was Val Mantle – Lady Bracknell in last year’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest – who has perfected the role of the stern matriarch with the quick put-down, and Keely Campbell as the haughty Lady Caroline Bramble who has more than her share of vulnerability.
Judy Garrett was delightful as the maid Costanza who had to speak Italian 99 per cent of the time, so praise must also go to her voice coach Verena Smith.
The two husbands, Mellersh Wilton and Frederick Arnott, played by Tony Parkinson and Sam Moulton, together with Mark Ellen as Anthony Wilding, the owner of the castle, embraced their roles in style, all of which made for an entertaining and heart-warming evening.Adapted from a best-seller published in 1922, Enchanted April was a good choice of play, skilfully executed.
Marilyn Barber - Stour and Avon Magazine