NODA (National Operatic and Dramatic Association) REVIEW
Production: The Miser
Name of Company: Lindsey Rural Players
Venue: The Broadbent Theatre
Director: Maurice Raphael
Date of Review: Saturday 12th October 2019

Oh dear! I thought. I don’t know if I’m in the mood tonight for The Miser, written by Moliere way back in 1668. A bit heavy after a busy day I thought, however rich the satire might be. But then, I didn’t know what The Lindsey Rural Players had in store. It was, quite simply, something very different, a breath of fresh air.
Griff Rhys Jones and Lee Mack, a few years back, starred in this version at The Garrick, sending some reviewers into raptures and others into intense horror. But it was right up my street.
My first challenge was to find the theatre of course, as I’d never been before and it’s a bit off the beaten track. But that all added to its charm, when I found it quite easily after all. The warmth of the welcome from the Society was as pleasing as the immediate effect the theatre had on me when I went in. The same feeling in fact as going to the Kinema in the Woods in Woodhall Spa. A step back in time. And a real sense of this building being something rather special.
There was a great last night audience, including a very sociable man who was thrilled to tell me all about the history of the society, from its beginnings in wartime as The Holton Players, among a group of conscientious objectors who put on productions. After the War the society continued in a converted nissen hut that sadly met a fiery end. And so the Methodist Chapel in Wickenby, converted in 1970, was to become home.
Now back to the play. The tone for the evening was set by Keith Winnard as Maitre Jacques, ‘juggling five jobs to make ends meet’. Having the audience apparently light the candles on the wall made us all realise this was no usual play. We were part of it. Keith was a great warm up man for Act One, no easy feat of course. Keith had good comic timing, with many of his lines underplayed to real effect. He gained our sympathy for the miserly treatment he received from his employer including literally having to change hats several times during a single conversation, his jobs incorporating a ‘payday loan arranger’. And he was sarcastic with it, ‘you’re pulling my coq au vin’ a typical response, as was my favourite, ‘Crème Brulee’ when we reached the denouement. Well done Keith.
Valere, played by Martin Noble was an integral part of the story, so wanting to marry the Miser’s daughter Elise. ‘I would rather befriend a Belgian than lose you’ he told her. Martin had great stage presence, keeping the story moving on and singing his part wonderfully in the comical musical interludes, under the musical direction of Jo Johnston.
Maddie Harrold, as Elise, the Miser’s daughter, so nearly married off elsewhere for monetary reasons, gave an assured performance, with wonderful diction and lovely interaction with the other characters. Donna Townsend’s Frosine was suitably brash and common, trying to con the Miser that the woman he was looking to marry, Mariane, wouldn’t look at anyone under 60. ‘She finds catarrh an aphrodisiac’ she promised him. As her scheming intensified and adapted to changing circumstances, she continued to believe in herself, ‘I’ll bet my last pair of clean knickers on it’ she confidently declared. Donna’s strong singing voice helped too with the musical sections, including the comic review of the first half, for the audience’s benefit, at the start of the second.
And so to The Miser himself, Harpagon, played by Chris Matthews. A huge part and a massive challenge to any actor. A challenge that Chris took in his stride. With a wonderful grasp of what was needed and an ability to manage everything thrown at the part, including a particularly wicked tongue twister concerning marrying Mariane not Ann, Chris was in his element. He had some wonderful lines. Of Elise’s impending marriage for example, ‘I’m getting rid of her free of charge’ with ‘three weddings for the price of three cheap evening meals.’ His visual comedy was effective too – including the forced removing of his diamond ring and drinking spilt wine, moped up with a sponge. When at cross purposes with Valere, the laughs came thick and fast.
Ted Brewer, Jo Johnston, Evie Sadler and Tom Berry all played their parts with real perception. This treuly was a wonderful example of a cast all pulling together.
And then of course there was Cleante, the Miser’s son, played by newcomer to the society Harry Petrie. Indeed, I hear several of the cast were new, but you would never have guessed, such was the chemistry between all of them. Dressed, as the Miser said, ‘like a badly erected fairground tent’, Harry made this very funny part his own and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. His lisp completed the character and was maintained throughout, including even a topical mention of ‘Brex-thit’. As he said, he was in ‘trouser trembling love’ with Mariane who he suspected was ‘a real sizzler in the thack.’ And so Cleante had ‘his hand in my biscuit barrel’ as his father proclaimed, the two seeking to marry the same woman. Harry’s comic timing was perfect. Every appearance was much enjoyed. A tour de force. He never let the pace drop and never came out of character, even for a second. We all so wanted him to understand the final plan – which finally he did of course. Talk about making a good first impression. Harry certainly did that with the Lindsey Rural Players. Brilliant.
My sincere congratulations to director Maurice Raphael, and Gail Dennis (Assistant Director and Producer). What a show – and such a lovely surprise. The whole stage management team played their part in producing a first class evening of comedy.
I can’t recommend this group and their lovely theatre enough. Well done for all your hard work – I can’t wait to come back.
Andrew Key
Saturday 12th October 2019

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Wickenby, Lincolnshire, Home of the Lindsey Rural Players