Community theatre can sometimes be a mixed bag, and then you find a company that you know you can trust to produce work of real quality. The Cheadle Players Dramatic Society is one such company. They have an exceptional work ethic, a great backstage team and a true love of theatre.
This opening offering in their 2022/23 season is a play adapted from a novel by Thomas Hardy. Written by Frank Harvey, The Day After the Fair is a romantic drama set in the 1890s. Rising to the challenge of the language, movement and culture of that time period is a principal cast of six; one of whom – Rob Derry – only stepped in at the last minute to play Charles Bradford after the original company member sadly contracted Covid. With only four days rehearsal, he was off-book and on stage. Well done, Rob!
The story seems deceptively simple at first: young Edith is three-years married to her brewery-owner husband Arthur Harnham, who, at times, seems more interested in his business affairs than his personal life. Arthur’s sister Letty runs their family home. Edith is kind-hearted but unhappy, feeling like she has no real purpose, and disappointed that her three years of marriage have not yet brought her the gift of a child. To stave off her boredom, she brings Anna, a local girl from a rural village, to work for her in their Salisbury home, promising to teach her to read and write, and to better herself.
One May evening, Anna seeks permission to go to the fair on the square, and there, distracted by the joy of a brand-new steam-powered carousel, she meets the gentlemanly Charles, who sweeps her off her feet and into a whirlwind romance. This romance is to be pursued after his return to his London home by the writing of letters… which can only be accomplished on Anna’s side with Edith’s help. What follows is an intelligent and, at times, humorous exploration of relationships of all kinds, seen through the lens of all the complexity and rules of late-Victorian society and culture.
Director Anne Wint, who also designed the set, obviously had a clear vision of how to present the story, and it works very well. Arthur and Edith’s home provides an immediate picture of their daily life and gives us a great space in which to explore the different personalities in the play, along with the story’s many twists and turns.
As married couple Arthur and Edith, Ian Wilkinson and Cat Sharples brilliantly portrayed the frustrated desire and separateness of a marriage in trouble. Sarah Morgan was engaging and believable in her first flush of love as the servant Anna, and I enjoyed the way that her chemistry with Derry as Charles played out, despite their lack of rehearsal time.
This is a great opportunity to see this little-produced play, and the Cheadle Players have done a great job with it as always. This is one not to miss. I’m still thinking about the ending now and will be for a while!
The Day After the Fair continues at the Players Theatre until Saturday 1st October 2022. More information about this play and the rest of the season can be found here: https://www.playersdramatic.co.uk/ and the ticket links can be found here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/playersdramaticsociety Tickets for this play are a bargain at £11, or season tickets are available: four plays for the price of three!
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 26th September 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★