Map of the Heart - by William Nicholson  
23rd, 24th, 25th October 2008

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Cast        Production Team
Albie Steadman Howard Platt   Director Babs Oakley
Sally Steadman Simone Webb   Production Assistant Christine Watson, Sue Langham
Ruth Steadman Jean Cooper   Stage Manager David Stelfox
Bernard Fisher Martin Howarth   Assistant Stage Manager Laura Wheadon, Tina Rouse
Angus Ross Graham Perkins   Properties Lynn Marsh, Sophie Robertson
Mary Hanlon Roz Gerrie   Continuity Sylvia Zilesnick
Andrew Rainer Dan Cooper   Set Design & Construction Garry Cooper
Smithy Matt Cole   Lighting Design Terry Tew
June Armitage Wendy Butler   Sound Design Lisa Maule, Anne Satchwell
Voice of Newscaster David Stelfox   Sound/Lighting Operation Lucy Parkin, Tim Stevens
      Programme Design Howard Platt
      Production Photos Garry Cooper

Review by Andrea Moles

Any play by William Nicholson, a man who writes for TV and film, is bound to be a challenge. L.A.D.S. rose to the occasion with a good strong cast and stage crew and a Director (Babs Oakley) who ever expert – brought out the best in them all. 

The play, a study in the breakdown of relationships between a family whose husband, Albie, ( a charity worker) is kidnapped while working as a doctor in war torn Sudan. Often the playwright expected too much of the characters because there was little time to really build up whole personalities within the script. Despite this both Albie (Howard Platt) and his wife Ruth (Jean Cooper) gave believable and often very moving renditions of the disparate couple. Further good performances were given by Albie’s feisty teenage daughter, Sally (Simone Webb) Ruth’s nervy brother Bernard (Martin Howarth), Ruth’s taciturn ex boyfriend Angus (Graham Perkins) and Albie’s ‘other lady’ the lovely Mary, a nurse who also went to Sudan, (Roz Gerrie.) This kind of strong backup from other cast members brings any play to life and they each brought their own individuality to the play while remaining faithful to Nicholson’s script. Further good performances came from Dan Cooper as Andrew Rainer, politician, Dan rose to the challenge of playing a man much older than he actually is, also from Wendy Butler as the uncaring TV hostess and a delightful cameo from Matt Cole as Smithy. They all sustained the necessary tension throughout. I was pleased to see new faces and young actors, as well as some well known names in the cast, this is always a sign of a developing and growing theatrical company. 

The set design was tremendously difficult to produce, asking for six or seven different locations including a suburban house, a high Anglican church, a charity warehouse, a TV studio, a prison scene and a bedroom kidnapping scene both in the Sudan, not to mention the cliff top and the airport! Garry Cooper came up with a tremendously exciting multi area staging that allowed for each little scene to follow directly on to the next without pause which helped the flow of the play immensely. To achieve such diversity on a stage as small as the Lopping Hall is a mark of genius. The suburban house which the captured Albie ‘maps’ on paper during his long confinement was beautifully and appropriately dressed.  The staging was fully backed up by an excellent technical crew of lighting, sound and music and the backstage crew were both competent and quick! 

The play is both topical and thought provoking and speaks to each of us differently. Those who saw it will ask I am sure – did Ruth and Albie get back together? And what did Albie mean when he stretched out his chained hands in prison and said ‘I love you but I don’t know you? Albie’s ‘Map of the Heart’ was his almost lost, home and family and the poignant ending left us wanting to know more.