The Return of MADS, Mere Lecture Hall

MERE Amateur Dramatic Society has welcomed its faithful audience back to the Lecture Hall with four short plays, one the premiere of a solo show by a well-known local playwright, and another a revived radio play by the mother of a Mere resident.

The evening begins with Jean McConnell’s Day Trippers, performed by Rose Heesom and Penny Allen as two  colleagues out on the annual works outing to the seaside. Against a background of colourful windbrakes and deckchairs and a seagull soundscape, Beryl and Doris share a picnic, talk about the men on the coach and expose not only their shoulders and ankles but all their prejudices, fears and hopes. These characters are so recognisable, even if the days of the works outing are almost a distant memory.

Lesley Love and Les Manwaring are Helen and Eric in Richard Harris’s Plaster, in which a put-upon Helen relishes the chance to get her own back on the husband who has been caught, sans trousers, in a locked car in a dark lane with a new member of his sales team. When a lorry came round a corner, the driver could not avoid the almost hidden vehicle. Now Eric is bandaged on all limbs and his head, and is likely to be bed bound for many weeks. Both actors found just the right shifting balance.

Adrienne Howell has won awards for her plays, and My Boy Jonah is her latest, given it first performances  in her home town of Mere. Mary White plays Ruth, a lonely woman who has downsized into accommodation described by her doctor as “sheltered”, now that her husband has left her and her son  has died. She’s anxious to tell her new neighbour, Moira, all about Jonah, her beloved son. This monologue is cleverly balanced between the poignant and the humourous, and Mary White brilliantly captured the multi-faceted character.

After an interval, Dorothy Paterson’s New Year Resolution (written under the radio pen-name of Sheila Bishop), gave a chance for the younger members of MADS to cut their acting teeth.

Performed as a radio recording, it’s the story of Nicholas Brennan, an elderly gentleman who has carved a comfortable social niche in his village, but keeps an annual New Years’ Eve Vigil for his beloved bolter wife, Joanna. Of course, on the night in question, she returns from a life of high adventure and excitement, and he wants to rekindle their love. Strangely, it’s big cats and greenhouses that break the camel’s back

Rose Heesom returns as Joanna, with her sparring partner Penny Allen now playing the faithful retainer, Mrs Jukes.  David Lamb is Nicky, with Hailie Keay as his courtesy niece and Ben Cassidy as her American fiance.
Add in a narrator (Jon Noble) and a couple of onstage sound effects men ( Tom Bath and Tom Cassidy) and the stage is set for that sort of stilted fun and clipt delivery that so identifies 1930s and 40s radio.

The evening was dedicated to the memory of three MADS who died in the past two years – Peggy Jukes, Melody Parfitt and Bill Pike. They would have been delighted with the show.Welcome back MADS.


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