A FINE BRIGHT DAY TODAY
by Philip Goulding
Directed by Michael Russell
Altrincham Little Theatre
I always look forward to seeing the set design for each production at Altrincham Little Theatre and this one did not disappoint. As is stated in the programme, “…a lot of planning and ingenuity has to go into the design…” and this was evident. The scenic design team of Polina Sparks and Alan Reidsma, plus the army of set assistants, had created a well-designed and functioning set.
The main playing area was that of the kitchen in a house where the majority of the interactions between the three actors take place. It was well stocked with the props that one would expect, and it was very noticeable that the actors felt comfortable with the placement of various props - the drinks in the fridge, and mobile phones in the drawer for easy access during scene changes.
In addition to the main staging areas, there were two extra playing areas, a yard to the house on one side, and a coastal path on the other. The use of dedicated spotlights helped establish these as separate areas from the main stage, and helped immerse the audience in the dialogue that took place there. The use of the LED lights created effective times of the day to keep the action interesting.
Another technical aspect for this production which created mood was the sound. Steve Smith, must have been very pleased with the atmosphere that the incidental music during scene changes created. I do believe that this was a piece of an orchestral arrangement which was specifically written to accompany this play. The calming and, yet at times, melancholy arrangement helped create the reflective mood that this play nurtured.
This play had fifteen scenes and so the use of the actors to change props and set up for the following scene kept the flow of this gentle piece, and while the pace was relaxed, it did not drag or deter from the enjoyment.
I would agree with the director that this play is “completely warm, funny and moving”. Margaret is the widow of a trawlerman who has brought up her daughter, Rebecca, alone after her husband was lost at sea, but now Rebecca, at the age of 31, is leaving home to be with her poet boyfriend of whom Margaret disapproves. Milton is over from America following the journey of famous artist, Bowden Broome, a hundred years ago. When Rebecca sends Milton to her mother to enquire about renting her new spare room, she is surprised when Margaret agrees, but Milton's influence brings about many more changes in Margaret over the next couple of weeks.
Jane Newman (Margaret) established her fussy, set-in her-ways character very early on, putting paper on the floor for people who entered her house to stand on. One got the feeling that here was a woman who was not used to male company and yet she was scared of loneliness after her daughter moves out, and self-doubt due to being “set in my ways”. As the relationship between her and Milton develops, here was a woman having an internal battle about the feelings that were stirring within her, about the possibilities that fate had put in front of her. Can she, should she take a chance? All this was portrayed excellently by Jane.
Malcolm Cooper was very much the laid back American visitor/lodger of the house. All his vocal delivery had expression and it was lovely to see and hear the change from the confident yet charming visitor to the man who had fallen in love with Margaret. The strength of feeling in the line during Act 2 that Margaret is “valuable to me” reflected that change. There was also good delivery of the humour in this piece - a man trying hard not to say the wrong thing. Trying to correct phrases that could be misconstrued had the audience chuckling.
Charlie Walsh was confident in her portrayal of Rebecca, the daughter of Margaret. There was lovely light and shade in her dialogue delivery that conveyed her emotions. This was a role that, although she was not on a lot, did move the plot forward.
The play had some tender and funny moments but very little in the way of conflict. However, this was a fairly interesting story told with humour and good performances that added up to a production that was quite entertaining and left one with a feeling of warmth at the end of the evening.