by David McGillivrey & Walter Zerlin Jr.

directed by Gordon Ingleby

Burnley Garrick


Fans of the Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Amateur Dramatic Society will certainly approve of the company’s offering of Macbeth, its entry into the local drama Festival.  Not just content with adapting Shakespeare’s tragedy, the company then proceeds to murder, and then to butcher the original, thus creating, for its audience, a laughter filled evening.


Burnley Garrick, in the guise of the Farndale ladies, certainly gave its first night audience a fast paced, fun-filled, laughter-making, rib-tickling evening of pure mayhem and joy.


Shakespeare it was not, but I am sure the bard would have approved of this reworking of the classic tragedy of ambition and corruption.


In his programme notes, the director suggested that Shakespeare purist should look away, and everyone else should just to sit back and let it flow over us. And we did! With a cast of experienced and not so experienced members we did just that. We let the story unfold.


Opening the proceedings, the Chairman of the Farndale Ladies, Mrs Phoebe Reece, played by Marina Butterworth, set the scene for what was to follow.  A very skilled actress, Marina became Phoebe Reece, bossy, indomitable, opinionated and with a never say die attitude:  the show WILL go on despite one of her cast, Mrs Hilda Bristow, not turning up for the performance.  To get over the problem of who is to play Lady Macbeth, she persuades, or rather, cajoles, Henry, the stage manager, played by David McKinlay, into donning a frock and playing Lady Macbeth.  David’s performance was nothing less than superb – with just the right amount of panache to become, not a pantomime dame, but a very believable character.  Well done.


Playing Thelma, sidekick to Phoebe, Joan Rogers played Macbeth.  Joan has been absent from the stage for far too long.  She is a first-rate actress who truly dominated this role: she was definitely a force to be reckoned with in the unfolding story.


Kathleen Riley played the character of Minnie Rushton, who was by turns, Banquo and Lady Macduff’s son.  In the original character of Minnie, she had lost her voice but was determined to go on with the show.  Her scene as the Ghost of Banquo was one of the funniest gems I have seen for some time.  It had the audience in stitches, wondering how on earth the ghost was going to disappear. This was another excellent performance.


With another 14 characters in Macbeth to be played, and only 3 members of the Farndale ladies available, multiple characterisations were the order of the day.  Quick changes, and the transfer from modern speech patterns into Shakespearean language and then back again was extremely well done, showing the evidence of much rehearsal of lines. Very many congratulations to Marilyn Jones, Liz Rowell and Sam Antill for undertaking this mammoth task. Marilyn Jones played Dawn Dane, Liz Rowell played Felicity Agnew, and Samm Antill played Kate Parry-Jones. The character of Kate had been in an accident (a feature of the Farndale plays) and was portrayed variously on crutches, in a wheelchair or highly bandaged.  Her many different wardrobes must have stretched, to the utmost, the wardrobe team in the wings.


The director for the Farndale Ladies was Plummer, played by Ken Entwistle.  That he had to take over after Macbeth’s tantrum and finish the 3 hours left of the play in only 8.1/2 minutes was very well done.  Rapid speech, barely pausing for breath meant that we got there – well, almost.  Persuading Thelma to come back meant that we did have Macbeth’s death scene after all just before the Farndale’s final curtain.


There were some wonderful high points in the play.  I have mentioned Banquo’s ghost but the mad scene with Lady Macbeth was absolutely side-splittingly funny.  It was one of those line rounds which never has an ending and it was one of the many highlights.  It was so well done.


As this presentation of Macbeth by the Farndale Ladies was a festival entry, we naturally had to have an adjudicator, and an adjudication.  Throughout the play Mike McKeown was seated down stage left making notes, as adjudicators do, of the production unfolding before them.  A beautifully underplayed performance with just the right amount of preciousness.


His final adjudication was wonderful, and so true to life.  Dressed in a flamboyant ensemble, he was very positive about all that he had seen.  His adjudication obviously pleased the Farndale ladies very much and certainly made we, who were watching the whole presentation, feel a part of the event.


Gordon Ingleby did a superb job of directing this play.  The Farndale plays are not the easiest of plays to direct and often there are many changes made in rehearsal to achieve the best effect and deliver the humour.  The presentation we saw was a testament to the hard work that had obviously been put in during rehearsals.


The set design by Howard Rogers was excellent and Noreen Lobo’s scenic painting was first-rate.  The properties team of Jean Green, Eileen Antyll and Prue Wilkinson, must be congratulated on creating some wonderful props.  The wardrobe department had also done an absolutely splendid job and they must really have worked their socks off backstage with the many changes that were necessary.  Congratulations, Ann Dunlop, Madeline Masters and Frances Singleton on your magnificent contribution.


I must also congratulate the sound and lighting team, led by Richard I'Anson, for a splendid job.  Everything that should go wrong - did - and right on cue.  The incidental music was extremely well chosen and very funny at appropriate times.


This was a fun-filled night at the theatre, and one which I shall remember for some time to come.