Last production

Bartholomew Players' latest production, performed at Eynsham Village Hall from Wed 13 to Sat 16 May 2015, was 
Night Must Fall 
 by Emlyn Williams. 

Pictures from the production can be seen in the Archives.

What the critics said

 Murderers in the 1930s seemed to be obsessed with poisons, at least if you’ve been raised on a diet of Agatha Christie. They might use a pistol once in a while. And they tend to have a reason for bumping off their victims - usually to inherit a family fortune or dispatch an unwanted wife. But a psychopath who dumps a nude, headless body to titillate the tabloids is darker fare.

This undeniably slow, but unnerving tale by Emlyn Williams is prefaced by a portentous speech by a judge (a rare, but confident appearance by Rob Wondrak, who normally stays behind the scenes). However, all initially appears quaint and unthreatening - the rural gossip, pipe smoke and plus-fours belying the way the tone will soon change. The setting - in a lonely cottage by a forest - veers close to cliché, but achieves the right result, especially when eerie hooting owls, crunching footsteps or distant church bells are heard.

More importantly, as bodies are never seen, the cast in this production (co-directed by Steve Ashcroft and Debbie Lisburne Diacon, produced by Denise Santilli) put in the gripping performances this three-act play requires. One scene - where the charming, but sinister bell-hop Dan (Joe O’Connor) confronts shrewd, plain-Jane Olivia (the ever-reliable Laurence Goodwin, who again masks her native Tennessee accent with ease) - is particularly intense. When the angular, rain-coated Inspector Belsize (Nick Smith) quizzes the smirking Dan, the brooding sense of menace is also evident.

O’Connor has plenty of dialogue, but delivers his lines superbly in a soft Welsh lilt, rubbing his face and twitching with excitement as he taunts Olivia, who is the niece of the abrasive Mrs Bramson (a delightfully waspish Liz Hutchinson). The miserly aunt relishes the chance to torment Olivia and pester her nurse (Judith Essery) from the confines of her wheelchair, but eventually reveals herself as gullible and vulnerable.

The mood is lightened with occasional interjections from the supporting cast - especially Mary Drennan as the outspoken, feisty cook Mrs Terence, but also Kate Astley O’Connor as Mrs Bramson’s ditzy maid Dora and Rory Phillips as Olivia’s dull suitor Hubert.

It is not really a ‘whodunnit’, still less a ‘whydunnit’. But its ambiguity is what makes this production a cut above most of its tweedy contemporaries - and likely to be regarded as one of the strongest by the Players in recent years.

Paul Stammers, Eynsham On-line


*****************************

This is billed as a psychological thriller, with the calm of the disagreeable, wheelchair-bound Mrs Bramson’s household being shattered with the appearance of the young, insolent Dan, who charms his way into the affections of the women of the household, whilst hiding a dark secret.

The prologue from the Lord Chief Justice (Rob Wondrak) in a stentorious fashion outlined the fact that two murders have been committed and indicated that the perpetrator will have to suffer the full weight of the law.

The set was excellent, cunningly arranged to enable manoeuvrability of Mrs Bramsom’s wheelchair. The disagreeable Mrs Bramsom was played brilliantly, with acerbic severity by Liz Hutchinson, to the displeasure of the household. Even her attendant nurse, (Judith Essery) suffered her waspish tongue. This contrasted well to the cheerful, confident performance of Olivia, her niece (Laurence Goodwin). She stood up well to the barbs of Mrs Bramson and the advances of Hubert, a friend to whom she was growing close. Hubert (Rory Phillips) was self-assured in his dealings with everyone. Olivia eventually falls for Dan and possibly would be his escape, had it not been for the seemingly inept Inspector Belsize (Nick Smith), who catches up with him in the end.

Dan appears at the house after Dora, the, maid, (Kate Astley O’Connor) announces that she is pregnant by him. Although clumsy and somewhat naive, Dora maintains her flirtatious fondness for Dan, throughout. This is in contrast to the forthrightness of Mrs Terence, the cook, (Mary Drennan) who had good interaction with Dora, but sees through Dan for the villain that he is.

Dan, superbly played by Joe O’Connor presented, constantly changing characteristics. His jumpy, but engaging personality wins over Mrs Bramson who is completely taken in by him and moves him in as carer, until he suffocates in her wheelchair. His wild use of the entire stage, whilst keeping up an entirely appropriate, but annoying nervous laugh, was good.

Tension and suspense were maintained throughout, with tangible changes of mood. Dan, exposed as murderer of the woman found in the rubbish heap was handled well. The whole cast were very well cast and gave a brilliant performance.

Nigel James, ODN Newsletter




Cast in order of appearance

 Lord Chief Justice Rob Wondrak
 Mrs Bramson Liz Hutchinson
 Olivia Grayne Laurence Goodwin
 Hubert Laurie Rory Phillips
 Nurse Libby Judith Essery
 Mrs Terence Mary Drennan
 Dora Parka Kate Astley O'Connor
 Inspector Belsize Nick Smith
 Dan Joseph O'Connor
  
 Directed by Steve Ashcroft & Deborah Lisburne Diacon

 Dan
 Mrs Bramson
 Olivia Grayne
 Dora Parkoe
 Mrs Terence
 Inspector Belsize
 Hugh Laurie
 Nurse Libby
 Lord Chief Justice