THE ANASTASIA FILE
The Anastasia File by Royce Ryton is a fascinating examination into the possibility that a woman dragged from a canal in Berlin in 1920 may have been, in fact, the Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicolas II of Russia, who somehow escaped alive when the Imperial Family was massacred in 1918. Like the woman at the centre of the story, the play doesn't make any claim either way and that is possibly the element that the audience finds most interesting; they leave the theatre not knowing all the answers and many people said they wanted to go away and find out more.
The play relies heavily on the two central performances of Mrs Manahan and the Police Inspector. In Giovanna Austin and Sean Staines, director Val Ryan found two actors up to the task. They were ably supported by Amanda Bedwell, Lucy Parrett, David Church, Michael Howard and Andrew Jacobs who, between them, played the multitude of other characters that brought the story to life.
We first presented Abigail's Party 30 years ago when it was more or less a new play. Now it has acheived a cult status as a period piece that simply screams '70s'! We like to think we captured that sense of period, whether it was the wallpaper, the genuine 70s Scheppes tonic water bottles (which no-one in the audience will have noticed!), the costumes or just the way everyone seemed to spend half their lives smoking!
Amanda Bedwell had the dual challenge of playing the enormous part of Beverly and having to live up to the iconic performance by Alison Steadman in the television version. She managed brilliantly, partly by avoiding the trap of trying to reproduce Steadman's performance and making Beverly her own character (and partly just by being brilliant!!)
Of course, no play rests entirley on one actor's shoulders (unless it's a one-man show!) and Amanda was ably assisted by a superb cast; Neil Smith in his first role for the club as husband Laurence, Carolyn Horsfield as mousey neighbour Angela, Sean Staines as the solid but monosyllabic Tony and Tracy Skingley as single mum Susan, whose daughter Abigail is holding the party after which the play is named.
In the autumn we will be presenting Oh What A Lovely War to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. This play has been heavily restricted for amateur performance due to the large number of professional revivals up and down the country, so we are very lucky to have secured the rights. This is the story of the war from the perspective of the generals, the ruling classes, the ordinary soldiers in the trenches and the people back home. It is a story of human sacrifice, of bravery, of humour and of incompetance told with the help of the popular songs of the day. Auditions are taking place at the moment and we are looking forward to what should be a challenging and interesting project.