MERE Amateur Dramatic Society has one criterion for its Christmas show, and that’s that it must revolve around the town, whether it’s a pantomime, a revue or an adapation.
This year co-writers (and co-directors) Chris Wood and Jon Noble have turned to Charles Dickens for their inspiration, setting his familiar story of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge in the corner of Wiltshire that touches Somerset and Dorset. In his entrepreneurial youth, Scrooge and his partner Jacob Marley set up the WeSucks Water Company, which, by the time of the play, is extracting so much water from the town’s streams (selling it for huge profits to the industrial giants of Gillingham) that the villagers don’t have enough to drink, let alone to wash.
In a hilariously unique opening, the villagers are bemoaning the death of Marley … I won’t tell you the rest but if you listen carefully, there is a clue.
The charity collectors who so infuriate Scrooge on Christmas Eve are all asking for funds for Mere charities, and the old curmudgeon still denies his clerk Bob Cratchit time off, threatening to cut his already-meager wages.
Enter the clanking chains of the dead Jacob Marley, and the dire warnings for Scrooge, in the persons of the spirits of Christmas past, present and yet to come. Then the happy transformation, and water and happiness are restored to Mere.
All of this, with a bit of audience participation, a few truly dreadful jokes and some scene-stealing children and a few hitches with the scenery, this was an ideal village Christmas show.
Once Les Manwaring got into
his stride his was a convincing Scrooge, and Jon Noble was the perfect Bob. Allan Glide enjoyed the stark contrast of the jolly Mr Fezziwig and the spectral Jacob Marley, and Peter Landymore’s sonorous Ghost of Christmas Present, Rose Heesom’s Christmas Past and Mike Durkee’s he who shall not be named brought the horror of Victorian life, as well as its happiness, to vivid life.
Several MADS stalwarts, including Mary White and Maggie Durkee, with Matt Glide in three very different roles, added to the fun and atmosphere. The children, notably Tom Bath as Tiny Tim, Hailey Keay and Mia Ward, obviously enjoyed a chance to get on stage and show their talents.
The production was dedicated to Sharon Glide, in whose memory a collection was made each night, to be donated to Salisbury Hospice.