Well, that is the rest over and done with, and what a long one it has been. But the sun and storms of August have passed and we are back into the theatre season. A rest is always nice, it was great to start the holidays with the wonderful experience of performing ‘Anne Boleyn’ at Hever Castle with Bromley Little Theatre where I am looking forward to directing John Hodge’s ‘Collaborators’ which goes up in November but, after a packed April, May , June and July it was good to step back from the board-treading a bit.
Absence, as they say though, makes the heart grow fonder and it was good to be back at the church hall last night with our read-through for the December play, Terence Rattigan’s ‘The Winslow Boy’. This has been a play long in the preparation; I remember talking about it with director Vicky Pearce over seven years ago and now finally it is underway. With a cast of faces old and more recent, with a few returning from long absence, it promises to be a striking production rich with Rattigan’s craftsmanship and particular focus on emotions both comic and serious. For myself it is just good to be back on the Matchbox stage after a long pause (cameos aside) of over two years.
With Rattigan in mind therefore, time then to dip into the nostalgia file with a previously promised though undelivered cluster of photos from one of his other better known plays, ‘The Browning Version’ staged in 2007 as part of John Mackintosh’s ‘Playbill’. I have already covered the second of the shows on this double bill, ‘Harlequinade’, in a previous post and the link to that should be down below; whereas that was light and frivolous comedy with more than a hint of farce, ‘The Browning Version’ is a measured and thoughtful piece, reflective and contemplative focussing on the latter days of both career and relationship for schoolteacher ‘The Crock’, Andrew Crocker Harris as played by Mr Mackintosh himself. Although an understated piece, easy to lose in the Matchbox’s history of more bombastic, spectacular and bold works, this is another piece that has a warm, fuzzy nostalgic place in my heart. Not really because of my own acting experience; as the Head it was pretty much a phone in performance switching the acting button to ‘Brian Blessed’ mode – although I do remember delighting in removing the beard afterwards, one of my more impressive growths which hammered home my discomfort with the two extremes of the facial hair spectrum. No, it was much more because of the warm, low key and engaging nature of the play and my fellow performers. John was, of course, a splendid Crocker-Harris and played a dispirited soul who finds his voice somewhere along the line with astute sensitivity, but I also delighted in working with Gareth Hughes, now long since left The Matchbox, in one of his last roles, as well as Gill as the adulterous wife. I know it is not one of her favourite roles and is not a typical part for her but I remember a controlled and aware performance that demonstrated that those ‘other parts’ can be delivered when the need arises. John’s son Dan, and Julie and Mark Fox completed a very tight team and contributed ably to what remains a memorable little show. A footnote in my sixteen years of The Matchbox but a significant one and the spirit of which I hope we can tap into in our forthcoming adventures with ‘The Winslow Boy’. I’ll let you know.
Until next time