Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Cemetery Club, Little Waltham Drama Group, Memorial Hall, Little Waltham, Chelmsford

This American comedy by Ivan Menchell is set in a very particular section of US society - a cluster of three Jewish widows named Ida, Lucille and Doris, plus the local butcher and widower, Sam.
It was fascinating to see just how these ordinary women with individual quirks and beliefs grieve for their husbands who've gone before them, during both their daily lives and their monthly visits to the graves.
It wouldn't surprise me if the women's caustic, often hilarious, comments about men (including their lost husbands) appealed more to the female audience members. But at the same time there were many male guffaws whenever marriage in general was the topic of conversation.
Also under discussion was the lack of available live men to take an interest in our widows.
American in origin Linda Burrows was, I think, probably the most at home in the production warmly and sensitively directed by Mags Simmonds. Maybe the words were easier for her to learn being in a familiar style but she was very secure on her lines. Her confident performance underlined her character's down-to-earth nature.
Her guests and long term friends included Vicky Weavers' flirtatious airhead Lucille who main aim in life was to get a bargain, any bargain, preferably made of second hand mink at what she thought were bargain basement prices. Her disappointment when her friends knew exactly how much the "bargains" were truly worth, made for some hilarious reactions.
Helen Langley's Doris was the one still stuck in four years of mourning for her husband and as yet unable to understand the need to move onwards.
At the cemetery they encountered Brian Corrie's hardworking Sam. Only too ready to move on.
Events do move on, however, as les girls, by now dressed in unflattering matching frocks, act a bridesmaids for a mutual friend who is on her umpteenth marriage. Sam, having shown an interest in Lucille, turns up with a triumphant and younger love interest, Mildred. Played by Sally Lever with her claws out for a devastated Lucille.
Our heroines get plastered and the subsequent hangovers tell their own tales.
This lovely, warm production benefited greatly from Mags's set including the cosy little retirement apartment contrasting with the cold looking cemetery which had appropriate gravestones and pebbles. Making full use of the apron stage with Liz Willsher's good use of perspective of the iron gates and Autumn trees fading away into the distance, all underlined 
by Walter Huston gravel-voiced original version of Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weil's haunting September Song.
Somebody with excellent lung power acted at the whistling kettle. Kim Travell choreographed the cha cha cha. Viv Abrey and her team costumed the cast appropriately  for each character.
Yet, delightful, enjoyable and entertaining as it was, the production would have been even better with more security on words for some, because the voice of the prompt was heard just a bit too often.
Mary Redman
Next show: A Musical Evening in Two Halves July 16-18 2015 Bookings:

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