Bembridge Little Theatre Club is to be warmly congratulated on two counts – first, for their sheer persistence in getting a play on to the stage that was originally scheduled for over a year ago, and second for making that play so well worth coming to see, as the laughter in the audience confirmed.
Many plays billed as ‘a comedic drama’ have either lots of comedy or a good drama, rarely both. Full Circle manages to balance the comedy and an edge-of-the-seat drama to great effect, and the skilful directing and character acting brings out the best of both elements.
If it’s drama you want, the open rivalry between two of the main characters: biker and rebel gran Dee (Martie Cain) and the haughty Mildred – sorry, Millie (Glenys Lloyd-Williams) very quickly develops what could in other hands have been comedic caricature into dark hints of hidden secrets from their shared past. Who was Jack? Why did Dee give birth in Carlisle? Both assert that the other one ‘knows what she did’, but their respective son and daughter, married to each other, are as puzzled as the audience.
There are dramatic tensions too in Brian and Linda’s marriage, especially on the run up to their only daughter’s wedding. Fussy Linda (Jane Robert) is determined to get every detail absolutely right and resents any attempt by her well-meaning husband, played by John Hammond with great comedic timing, to lighten the atmosphere, although his comment that she is trying to give Nicola the wedding she herself would have wanted rings true.
If you are there for the comedy, look no further: in an attempt to discover the secrets their mothers are keeping, Brian enlists the help of their next door neighbour Wills. Although not a major role, John Abraham as Wills is in grave danger of stealing the show. I’m not sure which is more flamboyant: his gestures or his clothes. Having admitted his name is really Malcolm (‘But I loved Princess Di’), Wills takes on the investigation.
Alice Burton-Jones is perfect as bride-to-be Nicola, trying to deal with her father’s concerns that she is making a mistake in getting married at all, her mother’s over-the-top wedding arrangements which of course all go hilariously wrong – the scene in which about six different phone conversations are taking place all at once is very funny and beautifully choreographed – and her warring grans.
The cameo performance of John Molyneux as Gloria (formerly Graham, Millie’s ex-husband) adds more hilarity, although in defence of Linda I cannot accept her contention that ‘my father looks more feminine than me’. This story arc allows Millie’s character to develop from the overbearing confidence which has shades of Maggie Smith’s Countess of Grantham, showing us a more defensive, emotional side to her personality which is further developed as the truth about who Jack was and why the two women have hated each other for some many years begins to emerge.
Dee too gradually allows us to see beneath her tough exterior and we are invited to empathise with the vulnerable abandoned young woman she was many years ago, and the hurt she has kept hidden inside for so long, culminating in her final touching reunion with Jack (Brian Wilson) – until she greets him with ‘You’re late!’ which brings the whole situation… Full Circle.
Director Barry Aspinall uses the relatively simple domestic set to its best advantage and every actor brings experience and talent to their own role in a show which is truly a team effort. Part of the team, and also to be congratulated, are the stage and technical crew and in particular the Front of House Team who clearly planned and organised with incredible precision and attention to detail to make sure current Covid rules were kept to and audiences felt secure and safe to enjoy themselves. And enjoy ourselves we did. Thank you Bembridge Little Theatre Club – after the last eighteen months, it felt so good to be back watching such fantastic live entertainment again.
[For more reviews of Bembridge Little Theatre Club’s productions, click here)