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Stage Dragon Review: ‘People’ At The Electric Theatre

Published on: 25 Nov, 2021
Updated on: 25 Nov, 2021

By Tricia Marcotti

The audience was seated, chatting to people around them. The lights went out and the audience quieted. A door opened, a man walked in, and an audible gasp went around the audience. What a beginning!

People, a play by Alan Bennett, is at The Electric Theatre in Guildford.

Bevan (Ian McShee) explaining to Dorothy (Gilly Fick) her “other options” in People at The Electric Theatre. Photo by Phill Griffith.

From the moment the lights went down, we were hooked and the players knew it!

The Guildburys, a local community theatre group, performed a highly professional rendition of the play. The director, Eddie Woolrich, has directed another Alan Bennett play, Lady in the Van, for the Guildburys, and People continues his winning ways with them.

The set gave a flavour of crumbling decay – although there were no squeaky doors, there was the occasional rumbling from the depths. Although it happened more than once, each time made me jump!

Dorothy (Gilly Fick) and June (Cheryl Malam) discussing the National Trust offer in People at The Electric Theatre. Photo by Phill Griffith.

This set the scene for the central theme of how to get repairs done to the fabric of the building with the least amount of upset to the residents. A private sale of the property, selling off belongings, or gifting the property to the National Trust would seem to be the well known ways of dealing with a crumbling pile. But who do you trust to give you advice?

The owner, Lady Dorothy (Gilly Fick), is at her wits end, with her sister June (Cheryl Malam) advocating the National Trust as the only way forward, while Dorothy’s companion Iris (Caroline Whillans) is more attuned to Lady Dorothy’s wishes of hot water and central heating. Neither lady appeared to be in tune with the world around them, while June is very much involved with the world around her.

Dorothy (Gilly Fick) and Theodore (Graham Russell-Price) dancing to “their song” in People at The Electric Theatre.. Photo by Phill Griffith.

Enter the alternatives – a gentleman named Bevan(Ian McShee) from an auction house, evaluating the contents for sale, although he too, had other options for Dorothy; and Theodore (Graham Russell-Price), a film director, from Dorothy’s past life as a model, who wants to use the house as a setting for a movie he’s about to direct. But can she trust them?

Bennett pokes fun at both the National Trust and the Church, but also provided poignancy towards the plight of the families with grand estates whose finances became devastated through death duties.

Tina Wareham and Jemma Jessup handled the costume changes for Dorothy and Iris from frumps to divas and back again more than competently. This was in addition to appearing on stage as Les the cameraman and Louise the wardrobe, hair and makeup guru respectively.

I didn’t have to imagine the relationship between the three central characters as they were well defined by Gilly, Cheryl and Caroline. Mike Pennick as Ralph Lumsden, the National Trust advisor, was so full of bounce and verve with each revelation of family history, that he has given me a unique perspective on how things happen behind the scenes.

All in all, the evening was very enjoyable, a brilliant 4.5 stars. If you have a spare evening this week, join the Guildburys for a fun time with Alan Bennett’s People.

The show runs up to Saturday, November 27. You can book tickets online here.

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