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Enjoy: Sardines Review

Enjoy: Sardines Review

An ENJOYable evening with The Lindley Players.

Alan Bennett’s play Enjoy first opened in 1980 and closed within weeks following terrible reviews. However over 30 years later, the play is a perceptive modern classic. Bennett was ahead of his time with this play, predicting officials prying into private lives, and Big Brother type reality television shows.

Having spent a wonderful few hours at the Playhouse Theatre in Whitstable watching the Lindley players production Enjoy I found it an extremely funny, yet sad and disturbing play about a dysfunctional family. Bennett is a social satirist of considerable power and his work sharp and edgy. I personally love his social observations and witty language.

Set in one of the last back-to-back houses in Leeds with the bulldozers getting closer, Wilfred and Connie Craven cling to their home and familiar way of life. Connie is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and Wilfred, the victim of a hit-and-run accident, has an iron plate in his head. Referring to each other as mam and dad we learn about their children Terry and Linda. When a silent council official arrives to record their way of life for posterity it becomes obvious that the official is in fact a man in drag.

Roy Brown handled the role of Wilfred well, powerfully depicting a decrepit and bitter old man. This was no mean feat as Brown was seated for most of the performance yet still managed to convey the power of Wilf as a paralysed man at the end of act two. I thought he handled Wilf’s contemplative side extremely well. Lynney Evans, as Wilfred’s wife Connie, had a great emotional range as we saw self-pity and her fear of being put into a home. Evans painted a believable picture of a person in the early stages of dementia and did well to keep the dialogue flowing at the end of act two when her house was being dismantled.

Lucie Nash played the brash Linda to perfection. Oozing sexuality and quite provocative in both manner and dress the audience soon realised that she was not a secretary. This was a convincing performance and Nash did well in conveying the character’s serious side. Dan Coles did a fantastic job of concentrating as there were immense periods of time when his character Ms Craig had to remain silent. Apart from looking good in drag, Cole’s monologue at the end was well-delivered.

I loved Lesley Cookman as the nosy but helpful neighbour Nora Clegg. She delivered a very natural performance and had some of the best lines which she delivered with superb comic timing. Dan Harding played two roles – that of Heritage the chauffeur and Harman the businessman. He differentiated the two roles well. Jamie Fox played the cameo role of teenager Anthony well. Peter Simpson played Sid, another of Linda’s conquest’s. Hannah Lloyd, Louise Blakey, Gemma Conway and Emma Thomas had cameo roles as officials.

Well done to director Peter Bressington on delivering a hilariously funny production. The audience loved it and the theatre had a full house – deservedly so. Staging and movement was well thought out. It is too easy with farce to go completely over the top but this was a well-balanced mix of farce and naturalism. The removal of the house as it is ‘dismantled’ was well planned and effective. The director’s choice of music worked well – ‘There Is Nothing Like A Dame’ closed act one as Wilfred’s transgender son stood centre stage setting the audience up for the big reveal in Act Two.

The set is a crucial part of this particular play. Set designer Peter Harrington and his team did a fantastic job constructing the set. Providing a realistic background to the action it evoked period and a time and place with its patterned wallpaper, furnishings and props. Costumes were appropriate to the period as were the wigs. Various artefacts like the bedpan, tin bath and other props showed good attention to detail in evoking a sense of time and place. Lighting was effective and spot lights good, with the flashing light of the construction vehicles adding to the sense of time and place. The sound team did a great job. The raucous noise of construction workers could be heard as the audience entered the auditorium – it drew us into the play straight away.

There were plenty of laugh out loud moments and some set pieces. I loved the scene with Connie and Nora leaning on the back of Wilf’s winged armchair – very reminiscent of Northern comedian Rob Wilton’s garden fence sketch. The laying-out scene was hilarious – again a lovely comedic touch with Lynney Evans and Lesley Cookman on fine form.
The Lindley Players production Enjoy is one of 15 plays entered in the 2013 Kent Drama Association full-length play festival. Congratulations to all involved in this enjoyable production and I wish you well in the competition.

Cheryl Barrett – Sardines Review 14th April 2013
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