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Wymondham Players Production - Life and Beth

Life and Beth
By Alan Ayckbourn
Dates performed: 10th - 13th April 2019

Left to right: Ella Packer (Hannah Garner); Martin Timms (John Harrod); Connie Bunting (Tabi Paternoster);
Rev. David Grinseed (David Jeffries); Beth Timms (Heather Carpenter);

Other member of the cast was:
Gordon Timms (Peter Fiddling)

Director: Amanda Oelrichs
Stage Manager: Nancy Adams

In 2019 Alan Ayckbourn will celebrate the 60th anniversary of his professional playwrighting debut and on 12th April his 80th birthday.
So, this seemed to be the prefect time for Wymondham Players to present Ayckbourn’s 71st play ‘Life and Beth’.

‘Life and Beth’ premiered in Scarborough in 2008 in repertory with ‘Haunting Julia’ and ‘Snake in the Grass’ each of which has a supernatural element. Ayckbourn  described ‘Life and Beth’ as his own ‘Blithe Spirit’.

Review by Sue Dupont

Thank you very much for the invitation to see Wymondham Players in their offering of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Life and Beth’ in his 80th birthday week, a play not seen before but he is so prolific in his output that difficult to keep abreast of all.

            Once again an excellent set on the Central Hall stage, good attention to detail, liked the view through the hatch of the fitted kitchen, which was an important feature in the play.

            Amanda Oelrichs had assembled a good team for the action, some better known than others and so your recruitment drive to expand the membership must be bearing fruit.

            First family Christmas since death of husband and this is a typical situation with a twist from Alan Ayckbourn: the widow Beth superbly played with a non-stop appearance on stage, so many words, and some very important long pauses, but especially the reactions to the other characters and the happenings, does she really want all this care and attention from family members, what was her real opinion of her dead husband, a dramatic realisation from Heather Carpenter in a ‘tour de force’ to admire, and bringing out all the humour and liveliness of the script.

            And at the opening the company of a lacrimose sister-in-law Connie from Tabi Paternoster as she laments loss of brother, looks back on recriminations of her family influence, and generally causes friction with her sister-in-law, not to mention the later scenes of her desperate attention seeking of the vicar, and also with the resulting sequences of the red wine, a really good character study and a good partnership.

            Enter the Vicar David from David Jeffries full of comfort and good words, and a prayer that has later repercussions, trying to avoid cringing attention from Connie, he comes over as a kindly and thoughtful man.

            And then the appearance of son Martin from John Harrod in a powerful portrayal as he ‘comes to rescue of mum’ in her hour of need with food and help and full of ideas for her welfare, overpowering and dominant. In his trail we have the girlfriend who is going to cook, Ella from Hannah Garner in a speechless role that we just have to watch (and listen to happenings in kitchen). A lot of humour in this relationship, obviously adored by mother but does she want all this?

            The Ayckbourn twists and turns and surprises come to life during the night with the appearance, apparently called back by that prayer, and to the total frustration of Beth, of Gordon the ghostlike figure who wants to organise her life again, and more humour in the dialogue for the audiences.

            A different piece and played at pace to give amusement. A pity that audiences smaller than usual but so much happening in amateur theatre at this time.