Why Me? - by Stanley Price
16th, 17th, 18th January 2014

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Cast        Production Team
John Howard Platt   Director Babs Oakley
Arthur Jon Gilbert   Production Assistant Lynn Marsh
Tom Peter Galloway   Stage Manager Jean Cooper
Helen Frances Chalkwright   Assistant Stage Manager Karen Rogers
Gwen Cathy Naylor   Properties Sue Bonner
Mary Eileen Stock   Assistant Properties Tom Donoghue
      Continuity Mary Lowe
      Costume Christine Eckley
      Costume Assistant Frances Dodd
      Set Design & Construction Stephen Radley
      Lighting design Terry Tew
      Sound Design Lisa Maule
      Sound/Lighting Operation Toni Rose
      Programme Design Howard Platt
      Production Photos Garry Cooper



I came to the Friday night performance of ‘Why Me?’ The ladies on the ticket desk were bright and efficient , and the system seems to work really well. It was good to see a pretty much full house and nice to see such a wide range of ages in the audience. The programme was very professional looking and the support of the Loughton Foodbank a nice touch.

I thought the intimidation tactics to which you resorted in order to get me to write a kind crit were a little on the strong side; did you have to sit me right in the centre of the row with Dan on one side and Andrew on the other??? It seemed a little heavy handed! The PA announcement was a useful addition to a modern play. I love the audience participation too; you have a very vocal lot, I’ve never heard a PA announcement barracked before! I liked the 80s soundtrack and knew all the words, and was pleased to see that the play opened at bang on 10.31.

The set was, as ever very clean and perfectly functional. The lines were clean and the acting space adequate and uncontrived. I liked the 3-d effect brickwork outside the windows. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a weird colour television, however. The set dressing and props were functional and were all handled well.

The lighting was bright and uncomplicated and the sound operation perfectly executed on every cue. ‘Yes Minister’ was a nice touch and immediately recognisable, dating the piece perfectly.

I understand you had encountered problems with the production – a January show can often be a bit of a problem, but they were not evident.

I enjoyed the play. It was fast-paced and well-written with a clever script and a very natural style. I know I always go on about the style of a piece and it was lovely to see that under Babs’ experienced hands the whole cast acted in the same style; there was a natural feel to it all, it was realistic and true to life (as much as a stage play ever can be). All the characters were well-presented and did not slip into caricature – the only character in danger of this was Mary, and Eileen ruthlessly pulled her back from the precipice any time she teetered towards it! Well done – it makes for a much more enjoyable experience when there is a cohesive feel to the piece. The script was delivered clearly, with good projection and cracked along at a good pace without being rushed; you all made the most of any funny lines, but I would urge some of you to learn the art of waiting for the audience to stop laughing before delivering your next line, because when we are enjoying a play, we want to hear it all!

There were lots of small scenes in each act, which involved lots of costume changes, and these were all pretty slick and the time did not drag and the play flowed well, with the first act ending promptly at 10.31. Act II opened on the dot of 10.31and launched straight back in with good pace and sharp and snappy delivery, and 4 short scenes later the play closed at a respectable 10.31.(NB the clock needs fixing!) On a less positive note – those chairs don’t get any more comfortable do they? I now know why I was in so many plays or worked backstage – that way one avoids the exquisite torture that is a Lopping Hall chair!

I will now go on to the individual characters, and in true Oscar style I will address them more or less in reverse order.

Tom: Peter, you played Tom well. You delivered your lines clearly and were of course, on your appearance, nothing like you had been described by your parents – but then what child is as their parents describe them? Your projection was good and improved as you progressed through your scenes. Your body language also improved. You seemed a little apologetic in your opening scene which didn’t match your relaxed delivery which could have taken some sulky swagger, but as we saw more of you, you seemed to relax into the part and actually seemed most relaxed in drag – perhaps your body language improved with the improvement in your relationship with John. And your Act II opening scene with Howard was particularly good. It was obvious to the audience pretty early on exactly what kind of clubs you were working and your figure and legs are great. You handled the double entendres well and the ‘went down well at the clubs’ line was delivered very well.

Arthur: Jon you played Arthur nicely. Your projection was good, and your diction was for the main part, clear. It has to be said, I had been remembering the 80s with a sort of rosy fondness until I saw your totally horrific shirts! You would have helped Howard more in the bow tie scene if you had delivered more out front generally, so that Howard could have reacted more to the double entendres about Gwen. I felt this was a general note for you, as whilst addressing the person to whom you are speaking adds realism, it can sometimes restrict you and those around you. In your later scene, I felt it would have helped you more and would have been nice for the audience if you had delivered your revelation more out to us. You played your confusion and worry well, so it would have been nice to see you rather than your profile. It is also important that you feed people the right emotion for the script and whilst it is important to add light and shade into a performance, and you did, if someone is going to tell you to calm down, you must have carried your anger through that far; your rage had already abated before the line which made Gwen’s line redundant. Watch your head angle, you seem to hold everyone in deep suspicion by raising your chin so high so you look down on them!

Gwen: Gwen was a sweetie, I liked her a lot. Cathy,I understand you came into the role at short notice and it really didn’t show. Your delivery was lovely and clear and your character was sweet and likeable. You coped well with all your props and were most natural – well done with the nuts; it is an art to eat on stage without timing it wrongly and ending up with a mouthful when you need to deliver a speech. Your character remained highly sympathetic and somehow decent despite her indecency! Your costumes were good and you looked great in them all – it was nice to see how your character grew through the play and that you were beginning to spread your wings by the end and find a place for yourself. It was interesting that your costumes reflected your changing mindset and your poise and demeanour also changed.

Mary: Mary was a joy of a part and Eileen, you played her to the max. I liked that you constantly invaded the personal space of the person to whom you were speaking, and that you peered up into their faces (except Gwen) with a sort of concerned fear. Your delivery was clear and sharp and I heard every word. You coped well with all the props you had to deal with and as I said before, always snatched Mary back from the danger of caricature in the nick of time. The ‘shushing’ was particularly good and made me laugh out loud. I liked the fact that you were both worldly wise and naiive, and the fact that you were so accepting of Tom’s situation and knew what was going on whilst never letting on was not unexpected for the audience, but was obviously a surprise for your family who didn’t really see you for what you were. Nicely played.

Helen: Frances, you have to be the most glamorous pizza executive ever!! – I thought you were a croupier on your entrance!  Gorgeous costumes – you looked fab! I liked Helen, you played her with a humour and realism; it was so nice that you were portraying a strong woman, but that you didn’t resort to raising your voice or sounding cross to put strength of character across – well done! I liked the relationship between you and John, it seemed real and warm and good humoured, and the pace and picking up on cues was excellent. I was really put out that you were such a nice person and were spoken about so unkindly –I thought they were mean. When it came to the ‘bow-tie’ scene, I would have liked your irritation to spike more sharply, so that when you left threatening not to return, you were cross enough for me to believe you meant it! I though again you handled all props very well and the cheesecake, like a pro! I did find the ending of the play a little convenient – a fault of the script, not the cast, and I am not sure that Helen would have been quite so understanding and forgiving so quickly, but for the sake of pace….. I thought Helen was great, and that you played her well, professionally and sympathetically.

John: When I see Howard’s name in the cast list, I always know that a strong performance is in the offing – and I was not disappointed. You arrived on stage like a whirlwind and set the play off at a cracking pace which was sustained throughout without losing realism or style. You handled all your props well, made incredibly quick changes, milked every comic line for all it was worth and picked up on cues perfectly. You delivered all your lines clearly and with a nice offhand humour. I liked the relationship you had with Helen, sympathised with your affair with Gwen, and still liked you. It is the strength of the performance that allowed you to do things I didn’t like, and treat Helen badly and still keep the audience’s sympathy. I have never seen a tall, elegant person make an apron look so unflattering and dumpy! – I don’t know how you did it! There was an amazingly large number of tracks on one of your 8 records, by the way. Your reacted very well to Jon’s speech about Gwen, but were slightly hampered by the fact that he kept looking at you! I liked the way your relationship with Peter grew, and was pleased that you and Helen would be getting back together in the end – even if you were extremely lucky that she was so forgiving! 

So thank you for an enjoyable evening. The play could have been set in 2014, not 1984-ish, it seemed pretty relevant today. The ending was a little convenient, and I have to say most of the things that were revealed were a little predictable, but on the whole, an enjoyable piece which didn’t need the intimidation tactics to ensure a favourable crit!

See you again soon,
Jessica Bostock