Review / Review: engrossing play about family, mortality and reconciliation

Aging retiree Norman (played by Andy Long) with his dutiful wife Ethel (Christine Geldard) - Photos: Austin Taylor

IF YOU concentrated hard enough, there were a number of moments at the Garrison Theatre in Lerwick on Tuesday night when it felt as if you had been transported to northeast America.

The Islesburgh Drama Group’s latest production On Golden Pond, set in a country house in Maine, New England, saw the American accents rolled out in force; a potentially perilous minefield, but it was at times wholly convincing.

The show, adapted from Ernest Thompson’s 1979 play of the same name and directed by Morag Mouat, cast Andy Long in the leading role as ageing retiree Norman, while Christine Geldard was his dutiful wife Ethel.

Daughter Chelsea (Donna-Marie Leask) and her partner (Bob Skinley) with Ethel.

The play was set in 1990 in the couple’s summer home at the lush Golden Pond and while it was short on cunning plot twists or lively action, it pivoted on engrossing, and at times poignant, dialogue and reflected upon themes of family, mortality and reconciliation.

After a somewhat dozy start, the introduction of the excellent Donna-Marie Leask as daughter Chelsea – she did indeed nail the US accent with aplomb – brought added bite to On Golden Pond, while Karl Ward provided some comic relief as the cheery postie Charlie.

There was, to good effect, humour strewn throughout the play. Long brought the most laughs as the grumpy Norman, who had a peculiar fixation with death, while Reece Paul – who was playing teenager Billy in his first acting role – highlighted generational differences in amusing, and assured, style.

Teenager Billy (Reece Paul) with Chelsea.

Bob Skinley meanwhile, playing the role of Chelsea’s partner, enjoyed a verbal sparring match with his potential father-in-law in an entertaining set-play which ended up touching on the subject of extra-martial sex.

The frosty relationship between Norman and Chelsea felt true, with Leask effusing pointed frustration at her on-stage dad, while its thawing towards the end of the play made you feel like it’s never too late for a bit of the old reconciliation thing.

The play concluded with the themes of death and mortality ironically mingling with the morbidly-curious Norman. The audience, which was healthy in numbers, was shushed in rapt attention.

It was easy to forget that Islesburgh Drama Group is a volunteer project. There were few opening night jitters and yes, on the whole, the American accents were a success.

Long and Geldard, meanwhile, remained consistent and focused despite being on stage for lengthy periods of time, while the living room-themed set was impressive.

Like any good theatre production should do, heading back to car after shuffling out of the Garrison felt like plummeting back into reality. A little bit of you, it seems, wished you were still back at Golden Pond.

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