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Farnsdale Ave Housing Estate's Tradeswoman's Guild's Dramatic Society's Production of Macbeth at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 01 February 2005

The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomens' Guild Dramatic Society's Production of Macbeth is a mouthful, but the title does establish the play's intent. As the play-within-a-play suggests, all characters are embroiled in playing their parts well, even to the extent of handing out another set of programs. Each actress in the performance plays a multitude of characters in the Macbeth concert, so it is all very confusing indeed.

The play, written by David McGillivray and Walter Zerlin Jr, and directed by Deborah Sandmann is a cacophony of slapstick humour (à la Monty Python) and a symphony of mismatched events that predictably involve mishaps in lighting, scene changes, speech prompts, subplots and more. The confusion was intended, surely. On opening night, our audience was lively and the cast apparently appreciated our joining in singing the national anthem (p.s. that's God Save The Queen).

Immediately the audience gets swamped in a bewildering array of simulated English and Scots accents (which take some getting used to). Macbeth's witches are the only characters who are not muddling because they are easily identified by their witches' uniforms. Alas, I, like Mr. Peach, don't really remember Macbeth that well and should have resolved to go home and read the book. Nice touch, that.

Each character is true to type. Mrs. Beale's performance is spectacular. The middle-aged, bored dame at the piano (played by Gwynneth) did a great job. Mrs. Reece (played by Jo Lusk) is a small-town lady of self-importance and gratuitous enthusiasm, but she is gracious as well as lovely. Thelma (played by Deidre Green) is cast in a male part, though Thelma herself is quite prissy and full of her own dramatic importance, and yes, her costumes are quite amusing. Felicity (played by Anne Collins) [iIhgir—if I have got it right] has some powerful and other equally impotent moments. She is the only character for whom I feel real warmth: she has enthusiasm, energy, dance, a true bursting of personality, a beautiful trim figure, a true delight! Kate (played by Jan Brown) [iIhgir], adds real hilarity to the situation by reinforcing the intent of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). However, Dawn (played by Diana Godet) [I have got it right, she told me], performs a perfect rendition of how the functioning-visually-impaired deal with losing their glasses. Mysteriously, she transforms this into other random acts of madness including the stabbing of nearby persons (would the ADA approve, do you suppose?). Minnie (played by Nancy Benson) [iIhgir] does some great things with Scottish Highland dancing, and mixes naivety and nonsense quite well. Mr. Plummer, a.k.a. the producer, played by Dave Wilderson, is a misfit, perhaps intentionally. Mr. Plummer seems like a sweet and kind drama professor pleasantly overseeing the dramatic choices of his cast over the top of his glasses. Unbeknownst to the audience, Mr. Plummer transforms his personality from a non-entity in the first act to a dramatic and meaningful presence by the end of the second.

The most captivating performance shall be awarded to both Henry and Mr. Peach. Henry is the Stage Manager who is called upon to replace a title rôle; he is drafted because he knows the lines as well as anyone. Henry, played by George Doerr, approaches this transformation in a cartoonish way. He is very effective prancing circumspectly into his new character. As Henry becomes more integrated with his character, his performance becomes suitably more dramatic.

Mr. Peach, played by Norman Macleod, is a perfect satire of a dissipated, middle-aged theatre reviewer whose effective rating is at a one or two star level (i.e. an "all star" low level), who is most likely an alcoholic, who is only marginally conscious of the play, who rouses himself to notice events throughout the play, but who brings himself to deliver a review (to beat all reviews) well above the expectations of the audience and the cast.

The play is predictably what one expects it to be. If you like slapstick, it will be a hilarious addition to your repertoire of plays. Even if you don't like slapstick, you might still enjoy it.