I'll Leave It To You - directed by Sarah Wilson
"Front of House
The front of house staff were very welcoming and efficient, with a first night full house.
The programme was a delight, beautifully produced with notes from both the Chairman and Director together with thumb nail sketches of the cast in the production.
It would have been of advantage to have had some preshow music either of the period or Noel Coward music/songs to set the mood of the production.
Set furniture and properties
The theatre has the advantage of a very wide stage allowing for plenty of room for the necessary furniture.
The set consisted of a "Mock Tudor" interior with central French Doors and a garden exterior back drop.
I felt the wooden beams were too symmetrical and needed to have a few cross beams angled to make the set more interesting.
The French Doors needed to have either gauze as the glass panes or net curtains to prevent actors shutting the doors by putting their hands through the "glass", which did happen on at least two occasions Thursday evening. I also noticed that there were no handles on the outside of the doors.
The stairs were very solid and used to good effect
The set needed practical lights, either wall lights or a standard lamp, so that when the lights are switched on in Act 1 we can see them rather than just assuming that there are lights on the fourth wall.
The play was set in the 1920's but the settee and the rather unstable armchair looked more 1960's and took up a lot of stage space, so restricting the area of the dining table.
It also needed a sideboard on the back wall to serve breakfast from rather than the low table.
If setting a time to the production it is important to get furniture and properties either of the period, or look as though they could be of the period, the typewriter was 1950's rather than 1920's.
The Grand Piano although on the auditorium floor and outside the main acting area worked well and the model steam engine, I think it was, looked exactly right.
Lighting & Sound
The lighting was very good without any shadows on the back wall of the set or dark spots on the stage, as I have already mentioned it was a pity not to have any practical lights on the set.
The sound was fine in general but I did find the piano a bit subdued for a grand piano and the playing of it a bit too good.
The costumes were excellent, just right for the 1920's with the young girls in flapper dresses complete with beads and the boys smartly dressed in sports jackets and pullovers. I would query the wearing of the dresses for a 7.30 breakfast it would be more likely to be day wear or dressing gowns.
The mother of this idle family, Helen gave us a motherly figure worried that, after the death of her husband, all the family money had gone. This was a nice characterisation if a little underplayed at times and needed to be stronger. There were a few times when lines got into a muddle and this seemed to slow the pace of the production down, however, when things got back on stream it picked up again.
Not an easy part to play as Oliver has very little to do compared with the rest of the cast, but needs to make an impact on the audience, which Ben managed to do.
Maybe Oliver needed to have a bit more of the older brother cynicism towards Bobbie.
The youngest of the children, Joyce started off being a little too quiet, as she was opening the play she needed to give it the punch that is required. However, as the character built up so did Amelia's confidence and gave us a very secure performance.
The stronger more sensible of the children, this was a very strong performance right from the beginning of the production and throughout. Jo made the most of the 1920's acting style both in voice and movement. Her final scene with Uncle Daniel was a real gem, with her "all knowing" and Daniel with a roguish twinkle in his eye!
A rather arrogant, full of his own importance, young man Liam gave us that character in his voice but his body language was too rigid he needed to loosen up and let his movement flow. The strutting across the stage during some of his long speeches looked untidy and needed to be more composed.
The scene at the piano was great and Liam gave the character the lightness that was required for light comedy.
A strong performance from this young lady, Gemma's character was absolutely right for the 1920's style of acting light and fluffy as we have come to expect from the period. However, at times her delivery of lines was a little too fast.
Well dressed adventurer from South America, who is not really what the family thinks he is, but determined to make his nephews and nieces make something of themselves rather than relying on their father's money.
Syd looked the part and, although a little tentative with his cue pickup in the earlier scenes, he gave us a character with a glint in his eye making up stories about the goings on and his wealth in South America. We grew to love Daniel and waited for his next "little white lie".
Daniels's final scene with Sylvia was a gem!
A 1920's Lady Bracknell, Mrs Crombie was looking after the interests of her daughter. Angela took the stage by storm, dressed in a red outfit, she gave us the passion and comedy that was needed for this production. She commanded the stage whenever she appeared. This was an excellent performance.
Daughter of a dominating mother, but very much her own person, Shelley gave us a well rounded performance of a young woman infatuated with Bobbie. This was a lovely portrayal of a girl, defending her love against her mother, until she finds out the truth about Uncle Daniel when she then switches from being the meek one to the slightly bitchy one in Act 3. Her final scene with Bobbie was very well acted.
The Butler who come in and goes out from time to time during the play, Chris could have made much more of this character than he did, only a small part I know but he needed to be strong. I found him rather weak and also had difficulty hearing him at times, much more could have been made of the part.
"I'll Leave it to You" is billed as a light comedy, and as such needs to have the pace and lightness required. At times the pace was slow and sometimes played as more of a drama than a comedy.
As I have already mentioned a lot of care was taken over the costumes to give the 1920's feeling.
I saw the production on the first night and I suspect that the show would speed up and have more lightness from then on.
I must say that the production brought back some fond memories as I played Bobbie in a production for Colchester Theatre Group, I think about 45 years ago!"
Michael Poole-North Essex Theatre Guild