Venue : Woodrush High School
Date : October 1968
Genre : Period Play
Dr Martin Brentwood
Mrs Ruth Prendergast
Mrs Eleanor Trellington
Detective Inspector Bruton
Dr Brownlie, Police Surgeon
'Tabitha' was a clever production
Christmas eve… and outside carol singers chorused the joy of the festive season.
But inside, dark plots were hatched… a pet cat, Tabitha, was found poisoned, a Christmas bottle of whisky was doctored with cyanide, and the landlady to three old ladies was found poisoned.
Not the ideal way to spend Christmas, one would have thought… but watching everything sort itself out was an ideal way of spending a Thursday evening out.
For this was the theme of Wythall Dramatic Society’s latest offering “Tabitha,” by Arnold Ridley and Mary Borer, which had a three night run at Woodrush County Secondary School last week.
Three curtain calls for the first night augured well for the remaining performances. And well-deserved was the applause for a performance which could not be really faulted in any way.
Much of the praise must go to the three – leading ladies – Brenda Castle, Estelle Shukever and Dorothy Girling – but at the same time one must recall the dedication with which producer Stanley Girling commandeered his cast through 20 rehearsals.
Of the ladies, Dorothy Girling as Lavinia Goldsworthy was the only one to gave a true impression of her supposed years.
Saddened by the sudden death of her pet cat, and full of hate for the obstreperous, light-fingered landlady who poisoned it, she gives a marvellous characterisation of emotional upset in the twilight years.
Brenda Castle as Janet Bowering – in whose upstairs attic (a tribute to the hard work fro the backstage staff), the whole play, takes place – and Estelle Shutkever as Mrs. Ruth Prendergast, combine well in convincing style, and it was only natural that the lastter should be the master-mind behind the rather scatter-brained schemes to punish the landlady.
Although she had only a small part as such, Sybill Parr as Mrs. Eleanor Trellington, the landlady, made a big impact on the stage. Her transition from the sugar-sweet woman caring for her old ladies in her daughter’s presence to the scathing, tongue-lashing old battleaxe in other circumstances was a pleasure to observe and a credit to her flexibility.
As her daughter Mary, Valerie Archer did not seem to live her part enough, especially near the end when under suspicion of murder. Apart from this, her performance was adequate enough.
Of the men, Jack Parramore’s Mr. Fawcett took the headlines with a neat portrayal of the rather elderly, slow-on-the-uptake jeweller who is a good friend of the ladies.
Dr. Martin Brentwood, Mary’s sweetheart, was adequately played by Frank Winter, whose performances will no doubt gain polish and glitter as his experience with this Society grows, the gruff Detective Inspector Bruton was played in a business-like manner by Gerry Solomon, police surgeon Dr. Browlie was Bob Aldridge, and Sergeant Brown – who never actually appeared on stage, was Gerry Smith.
“Tabitha” is, in fact, a present-day presentation, but Mr. Girling set it in 1913 to add a little more atmosphere.
And he took a little licence with the final act, adding the entrance of the inspector with a bottle of whisky to wish everyone “Happy Christmas,” to round the play off, rather than leave it as scripted with the main characters just gossiping between themselves.
This was a clever move on his part; and it was clever production on the whole, well worthy of this excellent Society which has now completed its tenth anniversary celebration with last week’s production.
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