A Laughing Matter - by April de Angelis  
11th, 12th, 13th June 2009


Cast        Production Team
Garrick Iain Howland   Director Val Parker
Dr Johnson/Rev Cumberland Foster Barnett   Production Assistant Lynn Marsh,Cathy Lawrence
Goldsmith/Theophilus O'Ryan John Haylett   Stage Manager David Stelfox
Sam Cautherly Dan Cooper   Assistant Stage Manager Richard Foster
Macklin/Joshua Reynolds Howard Platt   Properties Sue Langham
Boswell/Mr Barry Keir Jones   Assistant Properties Simone Webb, Lizzie Lynch
Burke/Cross Tom Donoghue   Continuity Babs Oakley
Bounce/Larpent Roger Barker   Costume Christine Eckley
Duke David Stelfox   Costume Assistants Sylvia Zilesnick, Maria Wright
Mrs Garrick/Betty Flint Jean Cooper   Set Design & Construction Stephen Radley
Lady Kingston/Mrs Butler Eileen Stock   Lighting Design Terry Tew
Hannah Moore Jonica Brown   Sound/Lighting Operation Lisa Maule
Peg Woffington Frances Dennis   Programme Design Howard Platt
Mrs Cribber Christi Drew   Production Photos Garry Cooper
Mrs Barry Cathy Lawrence      

Review by Paul Daynes

On the 13th June 2009 I was fortunate enough to be invited to Lopping Hall by LADS to watch their production of ‘A Laughing Matter’ and a thoroughly enjoyable evening I had too. 

This play follows the real-life events of David Garrick, Dr Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith and all that ensues as a new play called ‘She stoops to Conquer’ is brought to the West End of 1773. The play is relatively complex and requires some level of concentration and attention from its audience to fully appreciate the plot and the script, but the excellent acting of the cast and straight forward, helpful direction of Val Parker made this more than achievable. The play is full of comedy and some well crafted lines brought amusement and laughter from the audience. 

The LADS are extremely fortunate to benefit from a very well resourced wardrobe and in Christine Eckley a highly skilled wardrobe mistress. The costumes evoked the lifestyle of these working theatricals very well. They appeared ‘lived-in’ and suggested that the characters were not rich enough to have a lavish selection from which to choose. The Black and White scenes of the flashbacks worked superbly well and helped the audience differentiate the time periods. 

Many fine performances were led by Iain Howland as Garrick. His confident portrayal relaxed the audience and his timing of comedy and irony brought many laughs. Garrick was well supported and contrasted with Jean Cooper’s Mrs Garrick. We felt her frustration and her strength in dealing with these thespians. She was undoubtedly the ‘Great Woman’ behind the ‘Great Man’. 

Another special mention must go to Foster Barnett whose Dr Johnson was a joy to watch. His turn of phrase, pace and energy showed a craftsman comfortable at his work with a voice that gave authority and gravitas to this peach of a performance. 

John Haylett’s Goldsmith gave much comedy as the butt of many jokes, Howard Platt’s Macklin was well crafted and delivered in a voice of great tone, Kier Jones and Tom Donoghue supported very ably, particularly in the Tavern scenes.  

Dan Cooper played the part of Sam Cautherly, Garrick’s protégé, as a jolly enthusiastic twit! His delivery was good and his energy added much to the production. 

One of my favourite performances came from Frances Dennis as Peg. Her characterisation changed as the context changed from stage to bedroom to her leaving. Frances’ delivery varied with great tone and expression, finishing with a vicious anger; a tremendous performance in a believable accent. 

Great contrast was also evident from Elieen Stock as she played both Lady Kingston a rather flirtatious aristocrat to Mrs Butler a cockney organiser of the Theatre Royal Company. Both showed great energy which delivered every moment of comedy. 

Jonica Brown’s Hannah Moore, Cathy Lawrence’s Mrs Barry, Christi Drew’s Mrs Cibber, Roger Barker’s Bounce and David Stelfox’s Duke (possibly the best part of all) added to some good ensemble work. 

Val Parker’s direction picked out the Restoration tradition and style in look, delivery and positioning of actors on the stage. This was no easy project and its obvious success was significantly due to Val’s vision, theatrical understanding and ability to get the best out of her cast. Well done again and thank you.