Boundary Players - Bazaar and Rummage
23rd to 27th October 2012.
Review from Newbury Theatre.
Sue Townsend’s Bazaar and Rummage was first produced thirty years ago and tells the story of a group of three agoraphobics organised by ex-agoraphobic Gwenda who, with the help of trainee social worker Fliss, has organised a church jumble sale with stalls to be manned by all five.
Act 1 has them arriving at the church hall – no easy task for the three of them – and setting up the stalls. Act 2, after the sale, is more serious, with all five of them bringing their pasts and associated neuroses out into the open.
They are a disparate bunch, and none of them likes any of the others. Pat Archer, as Gwenda, was really annoying as well as being a religious nut. In her scheming way, she aimed to control the group and make them dependent on her, and it was quite poignant as her power slipped away in Act 2. Sam Walker was the scruffy but posh Fliss, initially overawed by Gwenda but gaining the ascendancy as things progressed.
Maryann Mendum played the complex Katrina, at first seeming like a spoilt brat, but then revealed as a sort of desperate captive of her husband, getting through the day on a cocktail of Librium and Mogadon. Ruth Tibbetts was Bell-Bell, with OCD cleaning tendencies, whose husband was driven to suicide. Marguerite Luxford was Margaret, described as ‘a working-class vulgarian’, and she played the part with panache. She was a cantankerous old biddy, but her description of her rape was moving and riveting. Richard Mier appeared at the end as the PC, although his part didn’t seem to add anything to the plot.
In the end, all five of the women revealed themselves to have been damaged by men in their lives, but the play ended on a positive note.
The differences of the characters were well brought out by the cast, but the main problem with the production was that the pace was too slow; particularly in Act 1, it all needed to be a lot snappier.
The set was colourful and interesting, with lots of clutter. The stained glass windows looked good, but fluttered about a bit when the doors were opened. Director Claire Humphreys made full use of the stage, although some of the sotto voce comments were hurled from one side of the stage to the other.
This was the NWN review.
Everybody has their phobia
Boundary Players: Bazaar and Rummage, at the William Penney Theatre, Tadley from Thursday, October 25 to Saturday, October 27
Bazaar and Rummage by Sue Townsend (of Adrian Mole fame) follows a group of agoraphobics who are coaxed out of the security of their homes to help run a jumble sale. How they cope with the stresses and strains of the day, and start to come to terms with the events that led to their phobia, forms the plot of play.
This is an unusual piece, with some excellent comic moments towards the end of act one and a far more serious and poignant second act, as the individuals start to look back over their own lives and ponder whether they can make the first fearful steps into the outside world.
Under the direction of Claire Humphreys and with production by Paul Robinson, Boundary Players clearly enjoyed staging the play. Great attention to detail had gone into the drab 1980s church hall setting, and the costumes and props were well in keeping with the period.
The play got off to a slightly slow start, but once the performers warmed up, they seemed much more confident in character. Sam Walker performed very well as Fliss, the eager young social worker who finally persuades the group members to venture past the door. Her gently coaxing manner contrasted well with Pat Archer's earnest and hectoring Gwenda. Ruth Tibbetts as Bell-Bell captured her character's quiet sincerity with skill, always completely absorbed by events on stage, while Maryann Mendum gave a commendable performance as Katrina, the cheerful but dim Barry Manilow fan.
However, it was Marguerite Luxford who stole the show with the arrival of the straight-talking, potty-mouthed Margaret, her gloriously irreverent exchanges with the pious Gwenda bringing the house down at the end of act one.
Richard Mier as the PC completed the cast, a curious character who takes shelter from the public at the end of the play, demonstrating that everyone has their own fears and phobias to contend with.
A thought-provoking piece with some very memorable comic scenes.