Chelmsford Theatre Workshop
Tuesday 25th July 2017
The open set on arrival gave me the opportunity to give consideration to the thought and level of detail that had gone into the set and dressing for this piece. Although there was a lot of furniture on the stage, it was all utilised throughout the piece, and the use of the lower level for alternative space at the house functioned effectively. The lighting worked well for the production and enhanced the piece; complimented by the sound throughout. The costumes were all suitable for the setting and time, and helped to enhance the character transitions.
I really felt for Rita, played by Rachel Curren, and the conflict she was feeling between her relationship with George and Valentina, played by Colin Smith. Rachel really made us understand the challenges that Rita was facing. Colin gave a fantastic performance as the strong Valentina, fighting to create a place for his friends to feel safe but also torn by his need to please Charlotte. Barry Taylor gave a strong performance as Isadore/Charlotte, he was suitably confident in the feminine role and was appropriately dislikeable in his manipulative ways. Dave Hawkes had a wonderful presence on stage, and with such good comic timing was perfect for the role of Albert/Bessie. Jesse James Lamb gave us such a vulnerable Jonathon/Miranda. He looked the part throughout, and I felt belief for the struggle his character was facing and the steps that he was taking in his life. Ian Willingham as Michael/Gloria and Terry Cramphorn as Theodore/Terry both played their roles with confidence and ease. A particular ‘well done’ to Peter Jeary for stepping in at short notice for the role of The Judge/Amy.
There was lots of attention to detail from all performers, and I was pleased to see clear and definite changes from the men into their female counterparts. All the cast members gave very natural performances particularly when they supported Jonathan in his transition to Miranda. The background of the ladies was portrayed sensitively and in keeping with the characters throughout. There were many heart-warming moments, and the struggle that they all faced every day battling, both inside and out, was sensitively handled. It was a tough job for Catherine Kenton as Eleanor, coming into the action cold, but she delivered her feelings and thoughts well. You could feel the hurt, as well as the anger throughout her conversation with George and Rita. There is plenty of silliness throughout the piece, but with a serious message running throughout which I really liked.
Overall a very accomplished performance from the cast with good direction from Rebecca Segeth, assisted by Jenny Ormrod. I didn’t know anything about Casa Valentina beforehand but I left feeling much more knowledgeable and enjoyed the experience of watching a fantastic show performed by very competent actors, and with a tear in my eye (for all the right reasons!).
Reviewed by Alexandra Berriman