Plays shows good potential

Crooked Wood, by Gillian Plowman, Jill Freud & Company, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, till August 15 and transferring to St Edmunds Hall, Southwold August 17 - 29.

David Green

Crooked Wood, by Gillian Plowman, Jill Freud & Company, Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, till August 15 and transferring to St Edmunds Hall, Southwold August 17 - 29.

A ruthless property developer and his henchman descend on an elderly spinster who is stubbornly living in the centre of a prime development site in a house which is decaying around her.

It is time for a bit of pressure to be exerted on the old biddy but the flags of justice and fair play begin to flutter in the conscience of some of those involved.


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This production of Plowman's play, based on Michael Palin's BBC television film, Number 27(a reaction to the 1980s Thatcher dictum of greed is good) is timely in a year when big, risky, exploitive business has, once more, earned itself a bad name.

Much of the responsibility for the success of this production lies with the actors playing the spinster, Miss Barwick, a gentle woman immersed in memories of the past and thwarted love, and Andrew Veitch, the henchman with a heart. The growth of their relationship is all.

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Jill Freud and Richard Gibson gave good glimpses of this potential during a first night performance which began at plodding pace but which gathered speed, focus and momentum as the evening wore on.

Freud's portrayal of a disarmingly good natured spinster, helpless in the face of old age and for whom money has no value, was superb, while Gibson created a character under great pressure from wife and boss, keeping the audience guessing over whether Veitch would actually have the strength of purpose to save the pensioner and her home.

There are fine supporting performances from Simon Snashall , as a thuggish development company boss, Andrew Bone as a housing reform activist and Penelope Rawlins, who plays Veitch's demanding, materialistic wife and who injects some much needed energy into the production.

The script provides some difficult challenges and certain dramatic moments plainly did not work sufficiently well - leaving uncertainty over whether the audience was expected to laugh or stifle a tear.

Although it fails to show signs of a house in decay, Maurice Rubens has created a very impressive set with solid looking columns reflecting Miss Barwick's strength of mind.

David Green

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