20th May 2004
[Note: It is possible that some of you will not be aware that this event was performed under the SCTC name. Due to programmes running out, only the middle section was available in which there was no mention of SCTC. The course upon which Changing Stages was based gave people the chance to experiment with a variety of contemporary plays. Following on from this, Rosemary is forming a new group to carry on with this formula.]
The culmination of a ten week drama course resulted in an evening of exciting theatre at MADCAP the other week. Supported by the Milton Keynes Community Foundation through Stantonbury Campus Theatre Company, “Changing Stages” explored contemporary classics by playwrights such as Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Caryl Churchill and Alan Bennett. At the beginning of this course many of those taking part had little or no experience of the works they were about to engage with but, under the strong direction of course leader Rosemary Hill, that “innocence” gave a wonderful sense of freshness to the pieces performed on the night.
It would be impossible to single out any one person for special recognition, many of them familiar faces to SCTC productions, as all the actors involved admitted afterwards that they were amazed at what they had achieved. Sue Brinklow, as Helen in a scene from “A Taste of Honey”, had never had a solo speaking part before but showed, very clearly, why Jo, played by Nicola Fagen, was totally exasperated by her mum’s behaviour. Salli Baldwin brought a quiet dignity to the role of Nancy in “Frozen” by Bryony Lavery, a lady trying to cope with the disappearance of her daughter. Carolyn Vale and Nicky Price were the most horrid pair of pubescent adolescents I’d ever come across as Angie and Kit from “Top Girls”. It’s no wonder Joyce (Sue Quinn) resorts to off stage expletives! Nicola Adshead and Sheila White showed a lovely sense of understated comic timing in their interpretation of the job agency interview from the same play.
Of the men Richard Duncombe brought wonderful pathos to his role of Graham in Bennett’s “A Chip in the Sugar” (originally produced and directed for SCTC by Jeremy Cooper), while Jason Oakes was the “Angry Young Man” of Osbourne’s “Look Back in Anger”.
With simple set and effective atmospheric lighting by Jason Greenaway the whole eveninig was an engaging introduction to the power of contemporary drama. There are certainly pieces that would benefit from a full production and I understand that this may very well be in the pipeline. Certainly the group have expressed a wish to continue the work they have started. As a result they will continue to meet at MADCAP on Monday evenings.
All too often in this world of glossy musicals and reality TV the simple power of contemporary drama is not given the recognition it deserves. Rosemary deserves full credit for developing a course of this nature which has so obviously fired its participants with enormous enthusiasm. This can only be good news for the future of contemporary theatre in Milton Keynes.