Living Memory Review

Living Memory – Q2 Players – 30th November 2019 at The National Archives

Review by Michael Horne

Photographer: Ben Gingell Photography

I’ve known about Q2 Players for a few years through a friend but had not had the pleasure of seeing them perform. On hearing that they were performing a brand new play, I was intrigued. I had the privilege of reading the play ahead of  the performance, thanks to my friend, and I desperately wanted to see it “on its feet”. And so it turns out that on a chilly Saturday morning in November, we made our way to The National Archives in Kew, London.

Living Memory, written and directed by Genni Trickett, is a story of two couples living at the same address, approximately 75 years apart. Both couples have suffered a tragedy and it is against this backdrop that we learn more about them, their troubles and the strengths and weaknesses of their relationships. I’ve gone through my fair share of tragedy and so expect to see my opinion on how well this aspect was conveyed in this review.

The key to this play is that both couples appear on stage at the same time, sometimes almost interacting and, in the second half, connecting in a curious way as their stories move closer together. Ms Trickett has clearly lived and breathed her play during the writing, planning and rehearsal process. Every scene was perfectly worked out in terms of the physicality of the space and not a word or gesture was wasted.

Living MemoryLeading the cast were two actresses: Mia Skytte as Jo was the wife in the “now” and Fliss Morgan was Ruby in the “past”. Ms Skytte portrayed a woman in deep pain, which is always a difficult thing to do subtly, but she kept herself right on the edge of her despair and frustration. A credit to the writing as well as the performance, Ms Skytte never telegraphed her mood swings and when they came they were painful, and all too familiar, to witness. I was particularly impressed with how she was able to get across the portrayal of a normally strong woman who has had her nerves exposed and who is all to likely to bite the head off of anybody who gets too close.

Living Memory

Fliss Morgan as Ruby, in playing a 1945 rural housewife, also provided us with a masterclass in subtlety. Her own heartbreak, revealed in different ways to Jo’s, and the distinct way she dealt with it were a knife to the heart of anyone who has gone through something similar. To begin with, Ruby seems trapped in her marriage, and you wonder how far that marriage has added to the anguish she feels. The interesting part of her character arc, for me, was that it turns out she has more choices in her life than it first appears. Ms Morgan clearly spent a lot of time thinking about how her character would hold herself together because she has to, rather than because she wants to.

Living MemoryThe husbands: Jerry (in the now) and Frank (in the past), were played by Matt Tester and Craig Cameron-Fisher, respectively. To start with, I was worried that the two men were just going to be secondary to their on-stage wives. I needn’t have worried, however, as Ms Trickett gave them both fully rounded characters to inhabit. As Jerry, Jo’s husband, Mr Tester was, initially, the picture-perfect husband. He’s refurbished the cottage where the story takes place, he’s prepared a home for his wife, and he’s proud of what he’s accomplished.
Living MemoryMore to the point, he at first believes that the house in the country will be the solution to all of their problems.
He wants it to be, he needs it to be. That this is slowly revealed not to be the case slowly breaks him down into a drunken mess. I was truly impressed by Mr Tester’s performance – it was horribly familiar.

Living MemoryMr Cameron-Fisher slowly developed into a frustrated, despairing, much more weary man than he initially appears. My first reaction to Frank was that he was a typical 1940s husband, but there was much more to him than that. It was the twisting of my expectations that proved his performance to be a match to his counterpart, and of no less quality. Anyone who has had to deal with what the older couple had gone through, no matter how different that experience might be, can attest to the differences in the way people deal with that pain. Mr Cameron-Fisher accurately portrayed the bewilderment of a husband when his wife turns into, as he sees it, a different person. Frank was played as a likeable, but flawed man who just wants to do what’s best, and that is no mean feat.

Living Memory

Adding to the mix of characters was Simone White as Rachel, Jo’s sister. Although not stated explicitly (that I noticed), you could tell that she had been trained as a counsellor or psychiatrist and at first I feared that was all she would give us as a character. She was far more nuanced, however, as the concern for her sister grew throughout the play. I did find that she accepted some of Jo’s more extreme statements a little too readily, but this added to the sisterly bond. Ms White gave us a rounded portrayal of the relative who just can’t quite break through the emotional walls erected by the person who they can see is in pain.

Living Memory

Playing “the other man” is always difficult for an actor. Hugh Cox, playing Russell, Jo’s boss, had this unenviable role. As an audience, we are set-up to dislike him, from some of the comments made by Jerry, and to start with we watch in horror as he makes a play for Jo. Again, however, Ms Trickett subverts our expectations – Russell was a much more complex character than we are led to believe initially. Mr Cox played the change between hopeful suitor and rejected and slightly wounded masterfully. He also did what I believe is essential for a supporting character: do a lot with not a lot of stage time.

Living Memory

The final supporting character, Gracie, was played by Andrea Wilkins. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting to sit there with my mouth open while Ms Wilkins talked a hundred words a second. She did the part of the “overbearing visiting friend” perfectly. The reaction I, as an audience member, felt was part fascination, part horror and part humour as she spoke incessantly at Ruby, who she was visiting. Even this, small role Ms Trickett invested a lot of care in – to start with you are just overwhelmed by the chatter from Gracie, but after a while you understand why she is at the house, and her motivations.

Technically, the show was very involving. The soundscape, which involved a lot of footsteps up and down stairs, as well as birds, crying babies and cars was just right without becoming overbearing. I particularly liked that the footsteps came from the correct part of the set. It was also lit well, drawing attention to the correct part of the set with good isolation. Considering the limitations of the space and equipment, the group did well. I would like to have seen the back flats painted, rather than draped – we spent so long looking at them, being a single set show, that just a bit more “normalness” would have helped. Having said that, the set was dressed wonderfully, with the split time period detail giving us a lot to look at without drawing focus from the actors.

Living Memory

As a piece of theatre, Living Memory was, simply, terrific. The writing had captivated me from the moment I read it a few months before the performance. I was desperate for it to be as good performed as it was read. I was not disappointed. The actors were provided with wonderful material, and the character arcs of every person were distinct, well-portrayed and realistic. From a personal point-of-view, I recognised much of the pain of the piece, and the stages of grief as played in Living Memory were horribly familiar. In fact, at times it was too familiar and I wanted to look away. This is the power of great theatre: this play took a situation that no-one would wish on another person and explored it with panache, conviction and passion. It is a rare thing to witness, and I cannot heap enough praise on Q2 Players for putting their confidence in the writer and director to bring this stunning play to life.

 

Summer Readings

Summer is finally here! And as always, we will be celebrating with a trio of excellent rehearsed readings in the scout hut. This year, they will be as follows:

10th July, 8pm – a sparkling, sixties comedy, directed by Wendy Grossman.

31st July, 8pm – Millie and Flo Investigate, written and directed by Genni Trickett

14th August, 8pm – a one act social comedy, directed by Harriet Muir.

Summer Readings are for members and their invited guests – if you are not a member, but would be interested in joining us, please drop us an email on q2players@gmail.com

Entry is £3, and includes your first drink. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Importance of Being Earnest Cast Announcement

As you’re aware, we held auditions this week for our Spring production The Importance of Being Earnest. It was an extremely well attended audition with lots of incredible talent to choose from and we were incredibly sad to have to turn people down, especially considering the high caliber of auditionees for the show!

However, we are delighted to be able to announce that the cast for The Importance of Being Earnest is as follows:

Algernon: Hugh Cox

Jack: David Tedora

Gwendolen: Rachel Burnham

Cecily: Ellie Greenwood

Lady Bracknell: Tim Williams

Dr Chasuble: Craig Cameron-Fisher

Miss Prism: Laurie Coombs

Lane: Kurt (Cubby) Walton

Merriman: Paul Huggins

You may notice a few familiar faces from past shows or other groups within the borough, but we are particularly thrilled to welcome Ellie, Rachel and David as new members to Q2.

The Importance of Being Earnest and Autumn 2019 – an update

We’re just days away from reading through The Importance of Being Earnest, which is being directed by the wonderful Sarah Hill – who many of you may have seen this year as both Snug the Joiner in Midsummer Night’s Dream or as Maria in Twelfth Night, both over at Richmond Shakespeare Society.

Sarah has let us know that she’s planning on setting the play in the period it was written (late 1890s). However, she is keen to stress that she is willing to make a few changes depending on who auditions, for example, she is more than happy for Lady Bracknell to be played by a male actor, as long as he suits the role. For both Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble, she will be considering gender blind casting if someone is right for either role, which, while not necessarily period, one can’t help but to feel, might have been something that Oscar Wilde would’ve appreciated. So, even if you’re not sure if there is a role for you, why not come along on Wednesday and see how it will work and whether you want to give it a go! Don’t forget you can download the audition pieces in advance by clicking here.

While we’re on the subject of upcoming shows, rumour has it that the committee are hoping to showcase one of the incredible plays written by our amazing secretary, Genni Trickett for our Autumn 2019 production. Genni submitted not one, but THREE incredible and varied scripts for Autumn and the committee are facing a tough decision about which one to go for. Having read them all, I can say with absolute certainty to that no matter which one we go for, audiences are sure to be amazed by her incredible talent!

Happy New Year to all our members and we look forward to welcoming friends old and new to the read through on Wednesday!

Cat

Welcome to The National Archives

As the summer progresses, we were pleased to welcome our members and friends to join us at an informal play reading evening at The National Archives on Wednesday.  Attendees were shown around The Events Space and were treated to a stellar performance directed by experienced member,  Laurie Coombs and starring Genni Trickett, Elizabeth Parker, Mia Skytte, Polly Beauwin and Alison Arnold. Considering only 2 (and a half) rehearsals were undertaken, we were all overwhelmed by the excellent performance and people were excited to experience our new space first hand for the first time!

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The view from the Events Space looking out over The National Archives
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The play reading in full swing

Needless to say, the committee left full of  ideas for staging our first full show, Three Bags Full, in November.

Also this week, new director Lily Tomlinson got started with rehearsals for her play  reading on Wednesday 22nd August back at the Scout Hut.  Although only 3/5 of the  cast could be present, it was a great start to what looks to be a very funny evening. Get the date in your diary now!

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Finally, after some interesting research into different versions of the play, we are pleased to announce that our second show at The National Archives will be The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, directed by Sarah Hill who recently appeared as Mrs French in Ravenscroft and has previously helped out with lighting and tech support at Q2 over the years. We are extremely excited to have Sarah on board to direct for us.

Don’t forget that the read through and auditions for Three Bags Full are coming up  and our AGM is on Wednesday 5th September too!

See you at the picnic on Sunday!

 

Summer Readings

Over the summer Q2 Players host three rehearsed readings in the Scout Hut from 8pm. These readings are  for members,  potential members and their invited guests and are always well attended. Potential directors are invited to submit a play to the committee and select actors from our members who will then rehearse the play 2 or 3 times.  Summer play readings have then sometimes gone on to be performed as full productions in later seasons. There is a small cover charge to attend our summer readings, however, this includes your first drink free.

The first of our summer readings is this Wednesday 11th July (unfortunately clashing with a certain sporting tournament that England seem to be doing quite well in) and is directed by Alison Arnold, who is a first time director with Q2. Alison has a strong cast which includes Hugh Cox, Wendy Grossman, Cat Lamin, Paul Huggins, Jess Warrior and Craig Cameron-Fisher with a guest appearance by Chris Hodges.

Our second summer reading on 1st August is limited to members only as this is a special welcome event for us at the National Archives. The piece will be directed by experienced director and former chair, Laurie Coombs whose cast includes Genni Trickett, Polly Beauwin, Elizabeth Parker, Alison Arnold and Mia Skytte.

The final rehearsed reading will be directed by new director Lily Tomlinson, we are delighted to support Lily  with taking her first steps towards directing. Keep your eyes open for casting updates soon.

Our summer picnic will also be on Sunday 5th August  so hopefully we’ll see lots of our members there!

Clarification – THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES STEPS IN TO RESCUE LOCAL THEATRE GROUP

We have been asked to make clear to readers that the Alexandra Hall is a part of the Kew Community Centre and administered by the Kew Community Trust. There is no suggestion that the Q2 Players have had to leave as the result of any action taken by St Luke’s Parish Church. We apologise to the Church officers if our announcement has been unintentionally misleading.

The National Archives Steps In To Rescue Local Theatre Group

Q2 Players, Kew’s only amateur theatre group, was on the brink of disbanding last month, until they were spectacularly rescued by an unusual saviour – The National Archives.

The group has quite a history, having been performing in the borough for nearly fifty years.  During this time they have staged a wide variety of plays, ranging from Dickens to Tolstoy to Terry Pratchett, bringing affordable and accessible theatre to the residents of Kew.  Originally known as the Nondescripts, they first performed in St. Anne’s church hall, then moved on to St. Luke’s church hall, both of which have now been repurposed as private homes.  Q2 Players and Richmond Arts Club then joined forces in the Methodist Hall, Kew Road (now private flats) and later moved on to the Barn Church Hall.

For the last thirty years their biannual productions have been staged in the Alexandra Hall of St. Luke’s Church in The Avenue, in friendly partnership with the Kew Community Trust, until recently headed by David Polya.  However, following Mr. Polya’s retirement, significant increases in the hall hire fees left them facing the bleak prospect of having to move out of Kew – or even close the group down permanently.

With time and options running out, they decided to approach The National Archives for help. The National Archives had recently opened a brand new and very smart Events Space which is ideal for Q2 Players’ productions; however, with the theatre group’s limited funds, they held out little hope of being able to afford to hire it.  Nevertheless, they put their case to The National Archives’ Venue Management and Services team, who offered them their support.  The team devised an arrangement which will enable Q2 Players to not only perform in the Events Space twice a year, but also to be involved in and support The National Archives in their regular exhibitions and events.

Harriet Muir, Chair of Q2 Players said: You can imagine our elation when at crisis point, with Q2 Players facing moving out of Kew or closing down altogether, The National Archives stepped in with enthusiastic support to provide us not only with a new venue for our shows, but also the potential for exciting collaborative events. We are extremely grateful to Lee and the team, and we look forward to a happy and inspiring future with them.

Lee Oliver, Head of Venue Management and Services at The National Archives said:

We are very pleased to be able to offer this venue to the Q2 Players for their upcoming shows. We look forward to working with them in the future and inviting their audiences into The National Archives.

The happy and community-spirited collaboration will begin on 18 May, when Q2 Players will be involved in the Archives At Night event “Law Breakers and Law Makers”, charting the course of the suffrage movement. Q2 Players’ next full production, Three Bags Full by Jerome Chodorov, will also be staged in the Events Space at The National Archives, from 22 to the 24 November.