Andy Cryer, David Smith, Joanne Haywood, Laura Bonnah in
THE PRESS By Charles Hutchinson
WHITBY GAZETTE by Emily Thwaite
ESK Valley Theatre has done it again - chosen a good play and great actors, giving local people a chance to see excellent theatre on their doorstep. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, this professional company is presenting the Willy Russell comedy.
The writer is well known for 'Educating Rita', 'Blood Brothers' and 'Shirley Valentine'.
Set in the 1980s on a housing estate in the north of England, it explores themes of age, taste, dreams and restlessness.
On the eve of Dennis Cain's 40th birthday, he is feeling out of place in the comfortable, well-appointed bungalow he shares with his wife Pauline (and their off-stage young son).
Will he escape and follow his dream of joining idealistic hitch-hikers on the open road?
Is his feeling of being trapped going to infect Pauline and their old friends Jane and Roger who have now become stalwart kingpins of their 'Phase Two' section of the Castlehills estate?
Questions and musings abound in this show, but the overall effect is to amuse - there are so many hilarious lines, moments and scenes.
Mark Stratton has skilfully directed the play, heightening the humour with such energy and well-placed movement. Restless Dennis crouches on the sofa, leaps over it and lies on the floor completely unrelaxed. Actor David Smith is mesmerising to watch - we feel failed poet Dennis's frustration, but we're also entertained by his offbeat view of the world.
Aptly named Roger Fuller, the seemingly upright pioneer of the estate's 'residents' force', also had youthful ambitions, as a singer. Andy Cryer plays Roger's interview game, frisbee enthusiasm and counter-vandal stance with wonderful physical humour.
All actors are very versatile, showing a wide variety of accents, facial expressions and emotions. Pauline Cain's stuffy, upwardly mobile personality is transformed convincingly by Laura Bonnah from making napkin fans to the moments of tenderness she shares with Dennis.
Joanne Heywood is equally strong in portraying the two sides of Jane Fuller's character, both measured by her belief in being organised, of course.
Most of us can relate to wanting to retreat into a safe world - but underneath the surface is possibly someone we used to be, someone more daring and adventurous, responding to Joni Mitchell & Bob Dylan songs instead of the sugary ease of John Denver.