Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe
"Everyman / Improvisation / The Anniversary", 19-20 March 1964

This programme was kindly lent to me by Michael Yorke and relates to a triple bill put on by the RGS Dramatic Society on 19-20 March 1964.

Here is the review by CJ Packman which appeared in the May 1964 issue of the Wycombiensian:

We were all very sorry to hear that the unfortunate illness of Mr. T. J. Newling made the proposed Shakespeare production impossible. Nevertheless, the performances we saw on those two nights looked far from a hurried substitute for this performance. Indeed, all three pieces were, produced in a most professional and effective manner; and all those who came could not have had a more enjoyable evening.

The first play, the medieval "Everyman", is perhaps the most exacting of the three, particularly on the production side. The set for it is necessarily very simple and there is little movement throughout, which would seem to make it fairly easy to produce. What the set and action must do, however, and this is most difficult, is to create atmosphere. Unless a modern audience can, in some measure, be taken back to medieval times, the play is in grave danger of becoming meaningless. To me, at least, Mr. Ashwell's production, from the initial music and lighting onwards, certainly achieved the required transformation. Indeed this inspired beginning assured that the desertion of Everyman by everything save his "Good Deeds" struck a true note. The final death scene recreated this atmosphere and indeed added to it, with the result that the meaning of the play was well and truly thrust home. Mr. Ashwell's production certainly assured "Everyman's" success, and I cannot praise it enough; but the actors themselves are all to be highly congratulated as well. David Lewis was outstanding in the title role, and we can clearly expect some really first-class performances from him in future school productions. John Hume proved an effective Death, and Martin Jenner showed the same appealing ability as Fellowship as some of us enjoyed in an informal one-act play last summer.

An amusing, yet effective, interpretation of Goods was provided by Graham King, and David Snodin gave a polished performance as Good Deeds, while his brother Michael, and Richard Jones, as usual, spoke their lines most clearly. All these were supported excellently by the rest of the cast - Graham Huggins as Kindred, Colin Smith as the Cousin, Michael Yorke as Confession, Jeremy Knight as Beauty, Andrew Wands as Strength, David Morton as Discretion, and David Gostlow as Five Wits.

The "Improvisation" provided by Mr. Ashwell, Mr. MacTavish and members of 4A proved interesting and highly amusing. The introductory miming was excellently natural, and in particular I remember the mimed sadness at the death of a friend. One could have heard a pin drop in the Hall - it was most realistic. The main part of the "Improvisation", the confrontation of Mr. Them and a politician, provided us with an outstanding example of acting on the part of both Mr. Ashwell and Mr. MacTavish. Again we must congratulate Mr. Ashwell on his originality - one wonders how much time he must have spent producing this and "Everyman".

Chekhov's "The Anniversary", "a short fast-moving comedy" rounded off the evening's entertainment in a very suitable manner. It was hilarious at times, without ever getting out of hand, and provided an excellent vehicle for the talents of the small cast. Michael Baker's portrayal of the grumpy, but hard-working bank cashier without whom the chairman would have been lost was delightful and afforded much amusement. Jim Scouse, as this very chairman, produced another fine performance, while Paul Roberts played his fun-loving, gossiping wife to perfection. Roger Heron's elderly lady was another performance of which he can be proud, and these four were well supported by Michael Dalley, Bryan Fox, Peter Colley and Geoffrey Handley, who did all that was necessary of them, while David Rees' direction assured that these fine individual performances were combined into a pleasing whole.

Indeed, all three productions were so accomplished that I could find no important fault in any of them, and each cast is to be congratulated. Of course, no performance can be produced without many people working hard behind the scenes, and there are many who should be mentioned here in that category. Mr. A. C. Hills, Mr. M. J. Eaton and Mr. J. C. R. Davies are to be thanked for supervising the make-up, set-construction and box-office, for the whole Bill. Mr. and Mrs. Ashwell, among their many other tasks, supervised the scenery and costumes for "Everyman", while Mrs. F. N. Cooper supervised the wardrobe for "The Anniversary". They and their many helpers are to be thanked, as are those boys who helped with stage management and lighting. They all played an indispensable part in a memorable evening's entertainment.

C.J. Packman

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