The Enquiry

Venue : Woodrush High School

Date : June 1978

Director

Cast

Val Archer

Val Archer

Kate Walmer

Angela Smith

Probyn

Ann Cope

Collins

Beryl Linforth

Francis Treadgold

Irene Price

Marcy

Julia Tipton

Marian Oates

Estelle Shutkever

Laura Fenn

Phil Lett

Frederick Graham M

Pam Davey

Valentine

Mike Beamish

Tom Walmer

Crew

Phil Lett

Stage Manager

no profile image

Paul Jenkins

Assistant Stage Manager

Andrew Castle

Assistant Stage Manager

Sybil Parr

Assistant Stage Manager

no profile image

Rob Rowe

Assistant Stage Manager

John Cope

Lighting

Barbara Clulee

Properties

Ann Cope

Properties

Kay Parker

Costumes

Crew

Phil Lett

Stage Manager

Paul Jenkins

Assistant Stage Manager

Andrew Castle

Assistant Stage Manager

Sybil Parr

Assistant Stage Manager

Rob Rowe

Assistant Stage Manager

John Cope

Lighting

Barbara Clulee

Properties

Ann Cope

Properties

Kay Parker

Costumes

Production Gallery

Reviews

From the Gallery


IT HAS long been the bugbear of amateur drama groups that women are far more enthusiastic to join in than men.

Forever worried about his public image, the male of species has been loath to exploit his ego before the footlights and although, happily there are exceptions to the rule, a "man-shortage" is constantly, cramping the repertoire of our theatre groups.

Inevitably, it is the smaller societies which suffer most from this symptom and it is with this fact in mind that I mention Wythall Dramatic Society's forthcoming production of "The Inquiry”.

The group recently went through a period when their male membership was at a particularly low-ebb and in spite of the fact that the situation has improved, the group is still dominated by its women - in the nicest possible way of course.

So in order to tap as much of its feminine talent as possible, the group chose a play with a strong female cast. "The Enquiry" takes place in a women's prison and has certain characters which can be played by either sex.

Estelle Shutkever, the group s press officer, wants to bring their production to the attention of all the area's drama groups in order to illustrate that the "man-shortage" can be surmounted.

"I know there, are several groups who' are badly in need of male membership and I thought it might be helpful if they were see our production because it is an women's play," she explained.

Ironically the Wythall production has a man in the director's hot-seat. Gerry Solomon has been an acting member of the group for quite a few years and “The Inquiry" marks his debut as a producer.

Estelle described the play as a drama with elements of whodunnit and added that audiences can expect something similar to the television series "Within These Walls".

The play also marks the debut of two new members – women, of course - local elocution teacher Angela Smith and Jane Turner. Val Archer has a leading role and Estelle herself will be playing the governess.

The production is staged at Woodrush High School, Wythall for three nights beginning Thursday June 1. Performances will begin at 7.30 p.m. and tickets are available at the door.

Graeme Thompson, Local Newspaper 1978


Ambitious Production

In this, its 20th anniversary year, Wythall Dramatic Society last week staged one of its most ambitious productions.

'The Enquiry' by Charlotte Hastings was a gripping work which would have taxed the powers of a professional company and many an amateur society might well have been over-awed at the size of its undertaking but not so these accomplished Wythall artistes who once again gave the polished performance always expected of them.

The play itself proved 'strong meat', being set in the highly-charged atmosphere of a women's prison with a debate on the moral issues of lesbianism and euthanasia as a subsidiary theme. The central figure was 'Kate Walmer' -- a prisoner serving sentence for the mercy killing of her mentally handicapped child and it was the beating she received from her fellow inmates and an inquiry into the identity of her assailants which formed the basis of the plot.

The difficult role of 'Kate' was handled with great sympathy and understanding by Val Archer -- indeed it might be said that this was her best ever performance with the society.

As other prisoners Irene Price, Pam Davey and Jane Turner each gave impressive characterisations and proved their worth as dramatic actresses. The latter is new to Wythall leading roles but her outstanding portrayal of the hysterical 'Gow' must surely ear-mark her as a future asset to the company. nother new-comer who brought just the right amount of authority to her part as chief officer was Angela Smith while Ann Cope and Julia Tipton were equally convincing as members of the prison staff.

Also involved in the investigation were the prison doctor and the chaplain, played respectively by Phil Lett and Jack Parramore -- two seasoned 'veterans' who seem able to adapt to any type of role with calm efficiency.

Dominating the scene throughout was Estelle Shutkever who gave a brilliant performance as the prison governor beset with the problems of the inquiry and in a long and exacting part she achieved a perfect balance between the hardness demanded by her position and an innate sense of human kindness.

She was supported by her deputy who was hoping to succeed to the office of governor when her superior retired although her suitability was in some doubt. This role too was not an easy one but Beryl Linforth took it in her stride showing many facets of a complex character.

Last but not least came the masterly performance of Mike Beamish as 'Tom Walmer' whose appearance only came in the final scene but which brought a dramatic twist to the plot. From the start, tension had built up as, one after another, the prisoners were interrogated and it was ultimately established that the attack on Kate had had no connection with her crime, as had first been supposed, but stemmed from an entirely different cause. Her husband, however, did not know this and as a result gave some startling information. The summit of the play came with the governor's dilemma as to whether she should reveal what she had been told and the curtain fell as, still undecided, she reached for the telephone to call the Home Office.

Whether or not people really appreciate an author's tactic in leaving the final denouement to their imagination is open to doubt. Certainly comments from last week's audience seemed to indicate that they do not and one felt that after the tense atmosphere of the preceeding action, the finale, was a slight anti-climax. This, however, was no reflection on the cast whose work in its entirety was superb.

The play was a most difficult one to present. Its very theme might well have led to over- dramatisation but the artistes avoided this pitfall skilfully and preserved an excellent blend of emotions from beginning to end.
Directed by Gerry Solomon, the production must surely rate as memorable and in staging it, the society has added to its already not inconsiderable stature.

Unknown Reviewer, Local Paper 1978


Familiar Names

Mrs. Estelle Shutkever (Errington) and Gerry Solomon were both very familiar names in the days when our own community showed greater interest in dramatic art, and although the community's interest has waned, theirs has not, and they have been very actively concerned with the Wythall Dramatic Society. Last month Gerry took on a new role-and this is what the drama critic in the "Alcester Indicator and Alcester Chronicle" had to say of him - "This production marks the debut of Gerry Solomon in the producer's hot-seat and an impressive debut it has been too. His production held together extremely well from start to finish and even in its more melodramatic moments it was never allowed to lose its grip on reality".

Estelle's part in the play - "The Enquiry" - also received the highest possible praise. "Her performance as the compassionate prison governor was one of the most accomplished I have even seen on the amateur stage", stated the critic. Never once did she falter ... Her sympathetic yet assured dealings with both her staff and her prisoners and her ultra-efficient handling of people and situations presented an entirely convincing picture of the dedicated professional". High praise indeed, and well deserved, in the opinion of an enthusiastic audience.

Unknown Reviewer, Local Paper 1978


"Impressive Wythall Prison Drama"

"The Enquiry" Wythall Dramatic Society, Woodrush High School, Wythall.

A thoroughly absorbing evening was provided by the Wythall Group as they worked their way through this interesting slice of women's prisons soap-opera. There were plenty of twists and surprises in store for prison Governor- Estelle Shutkever as she led an inquiry into the alleged assault on a prisoner jailed for the murder of her vegetable baby.

Miss Shutkever's Performance as the compassionate governor was one of the most accomplished I have ever seen on an amateur Dramatic Stage.

Never once did she falter as she breezed her way through Prison administration. Her sympathetic yet assured dealings with both her staff and her prisoners and her ultra efficient handling of people and situations presented an entirely convincing picture of the dedicated professional.

As the frightened Victim of the assault, Val Archer turned in an emotional performance which was at it's best in the flash back scene in which her husband admits killing the child.
It was here that the play presented an interesting dilemma.

Miss Archer's prisoner has paid for a crime which she didn't commit but had admitted for the sake of her husband and family.

When her husband (sympathetically played by Mike Beamish)
confesses to the governor that he was the killer in an effort to clear his conscience and the name of his wife, the Governor has to decide whether to report the confession and risk ruining the family further or to use her discretion and let sleeping dogs lie.

Much of the play's interest arose from it's characters - characters like Phil Letts personable doctor, Beryl Linforth's liberal minded Deputy Governor and Irene Price's kleptomaniac.

The production marks the debut of Gerry Solomon in the producers hot seat- and an impressive debut it had been too. His production held together extremely well from start to finish and even in the more melodramatic moments, the proceedings were never allowed to lose their grip on reality- even though reality in this case was woman's magazine-ish.

Mention must also be made of Ken Gibbons' solid wood office setting, which provided a worthy back cloth for a hard working and obviously talented team.

Graeme Thompson., Local Paper 1978