Tag Archives: Tim Lane

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

reviewed at the Gothic House, Pulham Market on 23 June

It’s the Shakespeare play which most suits outdoor performance. Stuff of Dreams’ summer tour demonstrates this very well, abetted by the Tudor surroundings of this particular venue and the lack of artificial lighting which faded Puck’s envoi out of the human realm and back into that of his spirit world.

Hayley Evenett’s Puck is a lithe creature, black and dark-green banded and a prime stirrer of dangerous mischief. It’s an intelligent as well as a likable characterisation with just the right air of menace. The rest of the cast play two roles, with Tim Lane’s Bottom giving another stand-out performance.

Lane’s songs, with his own acoustic guitar accompaniment, have a genuinely folk-song quality; “Fairy friends” and “What a night, what a revel” are real foot-tapping numbers, following out of the situations at particular points and not merely superimposed on them. Cordelia Spence’s direction allows space for our imaginations to work and is never fortuitously busy.

As Hippolyta and Titania, Neve Doyle flows across the stage, trailing a Greek-inspired white trained gown as the Amazon queen and darkly tattered as th queen of the fairies. Leighton Williams is Theseus, rather more caught up in his own pleasures than the duties of administration, and a top-hated Oberon, partly gypsy, partly gamekeeper.

Demetrius, so determined in his preferences, is easily transformed into play-maestro Quince by Tom Moran and Alex Firth-Clark makes love-sick Lysander become Flute and Thisby very naturally. Their counterparts from Katie Cary are Hermia and so Snug/the Lion and from Kiara Hawker the determined Helena and the malleable Wall.

So many productions of Shakespeare nowadays seem to be delivered by actors who either cannot understand the verse and its language or fail to convey the rhythm and sense of what they are saying to the audience. This entire production is intelligently spoken and so flows naturally. As it should do.

Four and a half-star rating.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream can also be seen at Thornham Walks, Eye on 24 June, the Locks Inn, Geldeston on 29 June, East Point Academy, Lowestoft on 30 June and Bungay Castle on 1 July.


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Anglian Mist

reviewed at the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh on 30 September

People, and places, are not always what they seem. Take the National Trust nature reserve at Orford Ness. Nowadays it’s home to all manner of wildlife; from the First World War to the height of the Cold War, it harboured military research and latterly Anglo-American radar development.

Time, place and people form the fabric of Tim Lane and Cordelia Spence’s Anglian Mist, Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company’s autumn tour. On one level it’s a spy story, one in which nobody is ever quite what he or she appears to be. On another, it’s a study in corrosion, personal as well as physical.

We begin with one of those over-prepared academic lectures. Matthew Barnes is Valentine Scarrow who delivers it until he is interrupted by an elderly member of his audience. Adrienne Grant plays Anna Rees and the flashback sequences which follow take us through the past history of the three main characters from the 1970s onwards.

As well as Rees and Scasrrow, this story has a third man. That is Yevgeny Markovich, Russian born and English educated. The lives first of  Rees and Markovich, then of Scarrow, entwine, separate and to a large degree strangle themselves, like some noxious but nearly non-eradicable bindweed.

it’s very well acted, particularly by Grant and Turner, in Spence’s production which slow-motions the scenes of violence and interrogation to good effect. Molly Barrett and Julia Pascoe Hook are the designers with music and sound by Lane. It’s a story stripped down to its bare bones and the look of the production reflects this.

Four star rating.

Anglian Mist tours East Anglia until 25 November including performances at the Public Hall, Beccles (4 October), the Fisher Theatre, Bungay (5 November), the Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft (14 October), at the Hostry Festival, Norwich (24 October) and the West Acre Theatre (3 November).

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The Poisoners’ Pact
(reviewed at The Cut, Halesworth on 11 April)

It’s often said that poison is a woman’s weapon of choice when it comes to killing off the unwanted man, women and children in her life. The 19th century in particular seems to throw up a couple of cases in each decade, some of which are more famous than others.

I confess to not knowing anything about the case of the Burnham Market (Norfolk) poison trial of 1835 before seeing this play. In The Poisoners’ Pact, writers Tim Lane and Cordelia Spence for Stuff of Dreams theatre company have created a piece for three actresses and a musician (Lane in Spence’s production) who take us through the events which culminated in the hanging (in public) of Frances (Fanny) Billing and Catherine (Cat) Frary.

These two village wives are having affairs; the the case of Fanny, many affairs. Joanna Swan plays her as plumply seductive, all pouting lips and come-kiss-me eyes. Kiara Hawker’s Cat is an altogether more brittle, not to say, thoroughly embittered woman, skilled in herb lore by an old wise-woman Hannah Shorten (Jamie-Rose Monk) but now adding a touch of necromancy to her potions and simple spells.

Monk also plays Elizabeth Southgate, a bereaved mother who senses that there is something not quite normal in the way her baby died while in Cat’s care. All this is introduced and interleaved with catchy song and dance numbers in folk ballad style but the central story is grim enough. Plant-derived poisons failing to work on those inconvenient husbands and lovers’ wives, arsenic is added to various cups of tea, broths and stews. Oh yes, and also to dumplings.

This leads to some school of Fanny Craddock cookery demonstrations, including the notorious “here’s some I made earlier” routine. The first half is a little bit slow, but it all picks up when Mary, the wife of Peter – who is Fanny’s current lover – finally succumbs to repeated doses of arsenic. The coroner conducing the inquest is not satisfied, and Elizabeth’s persistence is querying all those deaths finally pays its grisly dividend.

In the condemned cell, Cat and Fanny finally face the reality of wht they have done and the penalty to be paid in the morning. Both Swan and Monk rise to the occasion, Hawker especially, though it is Fanny, hitherto the follower, who will support Cat as they mount the scaffold.

The Poisoners’ Pact can be seen at the Seagull Theatre, Lowstoft on 16 April, the Granary Theatre, Wells-Next-The-Sea on 17 April, the Bank at Eye (18 April), Sedgeford village hall (1 May) and St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth on 2 May.

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