Lydia Martin is an actress of a certain age… her words not mine! She has decided that she no longer wishes to wait around for the decreasing number of roles that could come her way, and so she is set to retire to Geneva with her new fiancé, Charles, where life will be calm and quiet and clean.
Set primarily in Lydia’s dressing room, this 2014 play by Peter Quilter takes us through the night of her final performance. We meet the key people in her life and try and get to the bottom of her monumental decision.
First, a word about the design. Peter Thorburn, who also directed the piece, has created a very authentic space for this grande dame of theatre to hold court on her closing night. However, this set holds a secret – which I will not spoil here – to enable the audience to be transported down onto the stage where Lydia is giving her final performance. Well thought out lighting by Matthew King adds to the atmosphere and follows the dynamics of the play brilliantly.
Once again, the Players Dramatic Society fields an excellent cast from within the community. The professionalism of this amateur company never fails to impress.
Mary Ellis leads the production as the titular actress, Lydia Martin, and she has a great amount of presence on stage, which is essential in playing this role: a lesser actor would have struggled to command the room. She has great timing in the delivery of her dialogue, which heightens each scene, highlights the rollercoaster of emotions and keeps the play moving at a good pace. I would also enjoy seeing her in a full production of The Cherry Orchard, if the snippets we see are anything to go by! She also has great chemistry with Ian Wilkinson, playing her ex-husband Paul, and Amy Butler playing her daughter Nicole. The family dynamics are engaging and at times hilarious, and this trio shine as part of this well-rehearsed ensemble.
This is not an all-out comedy, there are poignant moments of reflection, and there are plenty of moments of conflict as well as hope. The play reminds us that finding a career you love is not always easy, and it may not be plain sailing; and it calls on us to consider the relationships in our lives as well as our goals.
So, if you have got a free evening this week, I highly recommend that you visit the Players Theatre in Cheadle Hulme before The Actress takes her final bow!
The Actress continues at the Players Theatre until Saturday 21st May 2022. More information can be found here: https://www.playersdramatic.co.uk/ and the ticket links can be found here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/playersdramaticsociety The performance on Tuesday 17th May will be socially distanced, call 0161 485 7704 to book for this date. Following this production, the Players will return in September with their new season.
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 16th May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★