Annette Toms aka Mrs Lang Interview

annette_summer_endQ People have been enjoying your performances for some time now. How many plays have you done for the Players now?

A I’ve been in over 100 plays for ALP. My first one was Relative Values by Noel Coward in 1965.

Have you played for other Companies?

A Before joining ALP I belonged to the Brow Theatre Group for eight years.

Q What would you say was your favourite out of all those, and which was the most difficult?

A With so many wonderful parts it’s very difficult to choose, but I would have to say the Shell Seekers. Another favourite was Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream. The most demanding one was Kindertransport.

Q Is there any character or type of play you’d like to take on in the future?

A I do love comedies, but I would really like to act in another Shakespeare play.

Q You must have seen some significant changes in the world of acting over the years?

Yes, people don’t seem to enjoy acting so much today. We had so much fun years ago and it really came over across the footlights. Audiences knew we were enjoying ourselves and they responded, sometimes shouting out, clapping and, of course, laughing.

Tell us about the character you’re playing in Summer End. Are you enjoying it?

My character, the manager of the retirement home, is not a very nice character at-all. I seem to get to play a lot of not very nice characters – is someone trying to tell me something? After an absence from acting for a couple of years I’m finding it hard to learn it again, but I always enjoy it.

As well as acting you’ve directed a number of plays. Which ones do you feel most satisfied about?

I loved directing Acrington Pals and Our Country’s Good. I was very lucky to have an excellent cast for both.

Interview with Brian Hibberd, Publicity Director, Summer End

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‘Summer End’ in July!

Eric Chappell’s murder mystery set in the ‘Summer End’ retirement home.

Emily and May are reluctant residents in the care home “Summer End”. Both feel that their families don’t really want them. The manageress, Mrs. Lang, is trying hard to cope, not really helped by care assistant Sally’s somewhat hostile attitude.

To complicate matters, Emily’s previous room-mate Bella has died unexpectedly, and Bella’s sapphire ring is missing. Was she murdered for her money and possessions? Is this a conspiracy involving a member of staff and another resident? Probably not, but Emily is convinced that Bella didn’t just die of old age.

The problem is, not only does no-one else believe this, but also both Mrs. Lang and Emily’s son Alan think that Emily has memory problems and possibly also dementia.

However, why did Bella have bruises on her face when she was found? What has happened to her sapphire ring? And how can Sally afford to pay so much for her fitted kitchen on a care assistant’s meagre pay?

Who knew all this went on in a care home? Come and see this comedy with much darker moments and find out what else is going on!

Jean James, Director

Review of ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’

Some excerpts from the above from Sally-Anne Rafferty on the recent production…

‘First things first, I wasn’t sure if I was looking forward to the play, knowing that it was a study of hostages during the Lebanon Hostage crisis of the 1980’s ….’

‘The production could have been a painful and tedious portrayal of the men’s experience, but I am pleased to report that Sylvia Poole, the director, managed to make it so much more, bringing humour and an intimacy to the situation making us feel like we were spying on the private moments shared by the men during those dark times.’

‘It was an inspired decision to play it in the round. We were presented with a raised platform framed by some rather effective looking brickwork at the corners to give us the effect of the cell walls yet still revealing the illusion of the staging.’

‘The actors were all extremely well cast and all of them were very accomplished in retaining their focus in the round setting – not an easy feat I know, with the audience so close and visible around them. I honestly can’t highlight one performance over another – they worked together throughout the piece as a very effective team.’

‘Overall I found it a very touching and moving play, which was very well done indeed.’

‘More of this please ALP.’

Brian Hibberd talks about his part in ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’

How many plays have you done with Abbots Langley Players? (What was your first play?)

I’ve done over 50 plays now with ALP. The first one was as the doctor who, amongst other things, did a pig puppet play in Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Seasons Greetings’.

What sort of audience reaction do you expect? Is it a tough play for the audience?

I anticipate a mixture of emotions including shock, laughter and tears. It will be an absorbing play, serious and thoughtful but with moments of good fun. It is a bit demanding for any audience as they watch the way three men would react to each other in such a stressful situation. Some of the labguage and some of the actions reflected on are not what most of us would normally want to entertain. We’ve spoken about ‘adult language’. I prefer to call it ‘childish and immature language’!

Can you say a bit about the character you play? How do you relate to him? What are his strengths?

Michael is a rather pedantic academic with a ‘Brian Sewell’ approach to conversation! He has experienced tragedy in his life and has become something of a loner. He tends to live in a fantasy world of ancient literature, from which he gains great comfort. There is an inner strength in him which is brought out when life deals him its hardest blows. I’m enjoying playing him because some aspects of his character are not a million miles from my own – though I leave you to decide which!

The play’s first production was 25 years ago and it’s about things that happened 30 years ago – how is it relevant today?

People are still taken hostage and live under the threat of execution. The hugely significant change from 30 years ago is the rise of religious militant fanaticism. People are now more likely to be taken as hostages in the Middle East to perversions of religious faith and dogma rather than for political or financial reasons.

Why should people come and see it?

Because it’s a good, well-written play and there’s some cracking good acting!

You’ve been acting for a few years now – are there any plays you still want to appear in?

Either a Morse-type detective play or a love story which illustrates that love and all its associations are not just for the young!

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Mike Jenkins answers questions on playing the part of Adam, the American hostage, in “Someone who’ll watch over me”

What was your last play with Abbots Langley Players?
My last play with ALP was ‘Over The River And Through The Woods’. That was in 2011. Since then I have done a couple of small parts, but nothing major as university kept me pretty busy.

This is quite a demanding role – why did you choose it to make your return?
I chose this play to come back to ALP because it’s a project I can really get behind, the script is moving and the part is challenging, it’s not the sort of show that you could see at any given amdram society on any given weekend. While the crowd pleasers are good fun, I believe this is a truly special piece of theatre.

Is it a tough play for the audience?
It is a very moving show and I suspect it will put people out of their comfort zones at times, and while I don’t particularly enjoy making people feel uncomfortable, I think it is worth it for this thought provoking production.

There are moments of comedy – is it difficult switching, and finding humour in the situation?
It’s not difficult to find the humour in this sort of situation, I’ve always been a fan of a dark comedy

How are you getting on with the American accent?  I remember you doing one very successfully in “Over the river” a few years ago – so it shouldn’t be a new challenge?
The accent is a little more generic than the last show, which makes things easier, I do try to give each character I portray individual qualities which usually includes some sort of accent or speech characterisation, so business as usual really.

The play’s first production was 25 years ago and it’s about things that happened 30 years ago – how is it relevant today?
The play is definitely relevant today, it’s an example of how people should put their differences aside and overcome whatever problems they face together.

Why should people come and see it?
People should come to this if the want to be moved by a story of friendship flourishing in extremely difficult circumstances

What part would you like to play next?
The next part I’d like to play, apart from Baby in Mojo which is what I’m currently working on, is the iconic Stanley Kowalski.

Director’s Perspective

Twenty years ago I watched a brilliant performance of ‘Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me’, by the Company of Ten (St Albans) – promptly fell in love with this masterpiece of a play, and have always hoped to direct it one day. Well, twenty years later, here we are!

Frank McGuinness’ piece is hugely demanding of its cast, requiring not only wide-ranging acting skills, but physical stamina as well; ‘on stage’ throughout the action, each character is ‘on’ the whole time.

It has been richly rewarding to work with three highly committed actors, seeing them tease out the depths or their individual protagonists, and building the storyline of their incarceration; set in Beirut some twenty five years ago, their plight is just as relevant today.

The hostages experience wild mood swings – sometimes supportive of one another, then full of anger and fight – but unable to touch, chained as they are; reversions to childhood – some happy, some not – even centuries-old national hatred surfaces – inevitably it all comes back to their frustration and fear of not knowing whether they will be released – or even will they live or die?

Please come along and find out. Join us at the Henderson Hall from 29th March to 1st April – this is a play that you won’t forget – yes, there are tears – but plenty of laughs as well.

Sylvia Pool

Summer Production

Abbots Langley Players’ July play is “Summer End” by Eric Chappell, a sort of murder mystery set in an old people’s home. The cast comprises four women and one man: two elderly ladies aged at least 70 +, one of when is feisty and forthright (a.k.a awkward and rude) while the other is much more “traditional old lady” but by no means slow. There is a sharply-spoken manageress of the care home, and a somewhat hostile care assistant, and the man, a little bad-tempered, is the son of one of the elderly ladies.

There will be a reading of this on Thursday 19th January at 8 pm in the Abbots Barn, with auditions the following week, Tuesday and Thursday 24th and 26th January. Anyone is welcome to come to the reading and to audition. If you’re interested but not sure where the Barn is, please contact the director, Jean James, jean.james@ntlworld.com .

Performances will be on 5th to 8th July 2017.