Medstead Players - 'Cranford' - May 2009

Written by Martyn Coleman, adapted from the novel by Mrs Gaskell, by arrangement with Samuel French Ltd.
Directed by Marion Rogers

picture from 2009 production

This gentle period comedy is set in Cranford, the year is 1830. Miss Matty is awaiting the arrival of Mary, her young friend who has come to help her 'break in' her new servant, Martha. The ladies of Cranford are all of a certain age, that is over 35, and are governed by strict rules of etiquette. On paying a visit one would only ring the doorbell once, as the lady of the house would be rushing to change her lace cap before your visit.


'Cranford', directed by Marion Rogers and produced by Jenny Overy, once again satisfied the expectations of the audience with its quality, and most of all, the typical Medstead Players' humour. Facial expressions were mentioned to me as 'incredibly funny'. However, apart from the delight of the audience, I found it very moving that the cast were able to act out with such excellent results, the tortuous and, let's face it, strictly old-fashioned etiquette which governed their lives.

The set was as usual, beautiful, the staircase at the back, the lovely fireplace with curly pillars, the comfortable couch and uncomfortable chairs - all in period - a whole list of stage crew etc. responsible. The sound was good, even though the ladies often spoke very softly, they could still be heard. Wardrobe brilliant, with pretty dresses having various extra items added quite often, and many changes of elegant headgear.

The acting was, as always, excellent, but I must pick out one person who kept everyone laughing, and that was Neely Kelly-Wren, a new member of the Players. She only had to clump on, race across the stage, slam the door, or even just to 'throw a look' at her mistress, to have everyone in stitches. Then later on, she was joined by Nick Benham, another very funny actor, whose facial expressions, apart from his acting ability, were enough to set the audience off with roars of laughter.

These two were 'enfolded' by the group of ladies who were really having trouble keeping to the strict conditions of their lives - not yet emancipated, yet one could see how the attitudes were beginning to change, mainly I suppose, because eventually it became impractible. For instance, having a baby, which worried them all. Then you got the refreshing modern type attitude of Miss Jenkins towards this new phenomenon in her life, and you realised that things were a changing. The financial crisis then did change everything, and I thought it a reflection of the strength of mind and intelligence of women, which had been very much suppressed, now coming forward, eventually of course, leading to the emancipation of women. I wonder what attitudes will change due to our present crisis?

Ladies: Carol Bedingfield, Val Coombs, Janice Hopwood-Hall, Neely Kelly-Wren, Pam Kercher, Emily Magennis-Prior (lovely dimples), Sue Ovell, Anita Prior - wonderful performances from them all.

Men: Nick Benham, and Stan Whitcher. Nick I have already described, but Stan was different in this play, his usual hilarious comedy acting very much toned down and he became a very nice Georgian gentleman, whose marriage to 'the Countess' was very soon accepted. Interesting references to Pickwick Papers, and at the time the fact that the only way one kept up with news was with a newsletter which had to be passed around to be read, which seemed very genuine.

Once again, well done Medstead Players for a very worthwhile and rewarding production.
[Jean Gebbett]

pictures from the show
Miss Matilda Jenkins (Miss Matty) - Carol Bedingfield
Martha - Neely Kelly-Wren
Mary Smith - Emily Magennis-Prior
Miss Pole - Anita Prior
Miss Barker - Pam Kercher
Mrs. Forrester - Sue Ovell
The Hon. Mrs. Jamieson - Janice Hopwood-Hall
Mr. Hoggins - Stan Whitcher
Lady Glenmire - Val Coombs
Jem Hearn - Nick Benham

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