Skip to main content

Review of I Have Been Here Before at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I had my very first experience with J. B. Priestley in September this year with the smart and stylish BBC production of An Inspector Calls. Therefore I was greatly looking forward to seeing the Playhouse Theatre's production of Priestley's play I Have Been Here Before. There is a surprising similarity with An Inspector Calls mysterious Inspector and this plays Dr Gortler, both arrive unexpected and have a dramatic effect on every other single member of the audience.

Playing Gortler is Graham Follett, with the same solid German accent he confidently had in The Dame Of Sark. I commented in my review of that, how much of a star he was with the controlled but very softly delivered nature of his lines. In this he was once again the same, pulling the strings of all the other characters via Priestley's fascinating script, but delicately.

Follett's portrayal actually sets the pattern for everyone in this production as it all feels one of the more naturalistic plays I have seen. While much perhaps comes through the words of Priestley in just writing lines that ordinary folk would say, there is also a lovely style to all the actors in this production. This is very evident in Tony Janney as Sam Shipley and Maggie Holland as Sally Pratt, the two inn keepers that you could very imagine being real people as you stepped off the moors to try and find a bed for the night. Whether you have Maggie Holland putting on the posh telephone voice for potential customers, or Tony Janney delivering his lines in such a tremendously calm approach you think he might fall asleep at any moment, you can't help but think for a bit, these are just real people going about their business.

The three other characters and the recipient of Gortler's plans are the medically resting teacher Oliver Farrant (Shaun Milligan), and husband and wife Walter Ormund (Victor Guse) and Janet Ormund (Juliet O'Connor). Their lives weave together to create the eventual and surprisingly fast developing final acts. It is perhaps a little bit too fast and contrived at times and maye doesn't quite have the payoff that An Inspector Calls has, but the path there is exceptional.

Shaun Milligan is clear and crisp in his portrayal of the well spoken teacher, who while resting finds himself in the middle of an unexpected turn of events. It was great to see Juliet O'Connor for a fourth time, but more importantly for me the first in a predominantly serious role. As before she was very good value, although I will say that I have enjoyed her comedic performances much more. Finally Victor Guse is a tremendously solid presence, happily knocking back the alcohol but holding it like no other Shipley has perhaps seen, but still staying with it to witness his life unravel over just two days.

Production is once again lovely in the glorious compact Playhouse with the most wonderful set from Mark Mortimer. Magnificently evoking in such a small space the welcoming sitting room of the thirties guest house. The single set play allows great concentration on this and also allows director Corinna Leeder to keep everything moving seamlessly. I particularly loved the simple act changes and menacing clock music between them. That part between act one and two was so simple but so very effective.

So again a lovely little production from the Playhouse and very well received from the appreciative audience. Going to the Playhouse always feels unlike any other in Northampton, in that you feel you are attending a little production in a quaint little village somewhere. I really do enjoy seeing what they have to offer and I look forward to the 2016 season with relish.

Performance reviewed: Friday 4th December, 2015

I Have Been Here Before continues at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton until Saturday 5th September, 2015. For full details visit their website at http://www.theplayhousetheatre.net/


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Great Expectations by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

Market Boy from The Actors Company last year was a remarkable show and is likely to stay with me for a long time, so following it with this year's production was always going to be a tough call and with their production of the epic Dickens classic Great Expectations, they at least didn't lack ambition.

I have to be honest, things for me didn't start well. The first few minutes of this adaptation by Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod is a busy and convoluted sequence moving the opening part of the story in an unclear and often irritating way. For those present not aware of the original story, I wouldn't envy them trying to keep up with what is going on. However much of the trouble of this opening sequence is quickly corrected as scenes become more defined and controlled and the story is allowed to develop at a slower pace.

Perhaps also in the early part, it doesn't help either that the gender-swapped Magwitch played by Salli Bersham is a little too full on with the o…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…

Review of Hansel & Gretel by Warts & All at Delapré Abbey, Northampton

For those unfamiliar with Kneehigh Theatre (from where this show originally comes), the best way of explaining them is that they do traditional things, differently. This performance by Warts and All Theatre of their adaptation of the classic tale of Hansel & Gretel tells you much of what you need to know early on as a (human) rabbit is pinned down upon a table and skinned (half their costume removed). It is just one of an evening of wacky and quite brilliant moments as this production sours mostly for the sky of brilliance.

Handed to a cast of young performers, the result is often disturbingly professional. Sure it is still rough around the edges at times, but perhaps this helps the material. It doesn't actually matter if there is sparring from the cast with the audience, knowing looks and playfulness. It doesn't matter if one of the cast nearly knocks the cymbal of the musicians flying, perhaps it would have been even better if they had, this is anachic fun at its very b…