SOCIETY Riverside Players
PRODUCTION BLACKADDER II
DATE 25TH October 2019
VENUE Eynsford Village Hall
REPORT BY Janice Boyns-Redway
The string of lights on the approach to the Village Hall were welcoming and the foyer decs. were noticeably in-keeping with this production of Blackadder11, one of Britain’s most popular TV comedies ever made. It is set in the Elizabethan era and is ‘peppered’ with sarcasm; cynicism; satire and humorous quotes, which to this day, remain ‘etched’ on the minds of eager followers.
The stage layout was innovative and enabled the actors to seamlessly move between scenes. The lighting focused the eye effectively on the duel set and the lower level of stage. The increased space worked well, allowing for spontaneity of free movement. The ‘negative’ space was used intelligently and the whole area was impressively arranged, in-keeping with the performance. The design lent itself to partially playing in-the-round, with some of the audience sitting to the side. Everyone accommodated this formation well, addressing the whole audience most of the time. The severed heads were suitably gruesome along with many other impressively thematic props.
Blackadder [Geoff Hillier] demonstrated his character convincingly by being the sly, self-centred, suave and sarcastic nobleman. He was a real cynic, had clarity of speech and was perfectly cast. Lord Percy [Michael Barker] offered a ‘constipated’ personae which epitomised his role. A little more voice clarity was needed here as with Queen Elizabeth [Lorraine Slipper], she was however a Miranda Richardson clone and added a different comic dimension. Baldrick [Jason Down] offered another convincing performance as a bumbling side- kick who was not far from the real thing. Nursie [Ferne Haxby] fascinated the audience with her unusual facial expressions and she also made a good job of producing this production. Lord Melchett [Richard Gissing] was another of the actors to have offered a performance true to his character and was natural in the way that he did it. Lady Farrow and Lady Whiteadder [Julia Bull] gave spirited performances with energy and flair. Mr Ploppy/Lord Whiteadder/Guard [Paul Friett], Mistress Ploppy/Freddie Frobisher/Guard [Tony Fish], Young Farrow/Simon Partridge/Prince Ludwig [Matthew Frieacre], Geoffrey Piddle/Executioner [Lee Bentley], Mrs Higgins [KirstyAtkinson/Naomi Morgan] and Mr Higgins [Matthew Wintour] all demonstrated ‘textured’ characters, some of whom were “repulsive” individuals which suited this production admirably. Mathew’s performance as the Prince was powerful and the brylcreamed hair added to the image. Singing Wanderer [Karen Friett] added another dimension with her powerful renditions. All showed great enthusiasm and off-stage acting maintained consistency. Noone ‘fell’ out of character. The bar staff did well in remaining discreet and they did not detract from the performance The pace throughout moved smoothly and the prompt was satisfyingly underused.Well done for continuous focus.
Congratulations go to the Director and all supporting crew. There were some novel and thematic touches ie the drinks’ names and the programme on parchment .The costumes were typical for the genre; they were well presented and colourful. The innovative layout accommodated the on-the-side seating well but the smoke machine was sited too close to seating. Baldrick’s teeth could have been a little less white and Mistress Ploppy’s hair was in need of dressing as it looked very wig like. The show could have benefitted by offering a slightly toned down exuberance, without compromising its style. Less is more. The parchment listings could be confusing for the uninitiated but overall, it was a fitting tribute to this iconic show. Congratulations go to everyone involved for their expertise and skills whether they be learning lines, the ability to engage with an audience or a good level of understanding of some acting techniques.
As it was so well cast, it was an enjoyable evening and one which left the audience thinking they were seeing the ‘real thing.’