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The Man Who Dreamed
Written by: Ciaran McConville                                                                            
Directed by: Julia Coleman                      
Performed: 21st-24th July 2004 at St. Anne's Hall, Wandsworth      
Archive Details: Here
NODA Review by Stephen Macvicar

Thank you very much for inviting me to New Stagers Theatre Club’s production of Ciaran McConville’s play “The Man Who Dreamed” recently at St Anne’s Hall in Wandsworth. Thanks also to Sharron Stubbs for making the necessary arrangements and welcoming me on the day. Thanks also to Julia Coleman for sparing her time to talk to me.
 
Within the intimate and bijou surroundings of St Anne’s Hall in Wandsworth, New Stagers performed an interesting play in a style of their own. There is clearly a lot of talent within this youthful group and a community feel engendered the entire production. Not just the performers but the production team, technical crew and even refreshment sellers. You all seem to work for each other and it makes such a difference when everyone is pulling in the same direction – no obvious prima donnas. I gather you had good audiences for the evening performances and your experiment to perform a Saturday Matinee had mixed success. Disappointing to see such few numbers at the matinee but then again take some comfort that it gave 20 plus people the chance to see the show who would not otherwise have seen it!
 
Synopsis Overview
Arthur Penman is a ‘nobody’. He works for the reputable firm of Singleton, Drab and Gray, but one night he returns home to find a beautiful woman waiting for him - an actress. He is whipped up into a world of theatre, writing, dreaming and ultimately madness.
 
Summary (for NODA London News)
The play is set in the mind of the writer, a fairytale which first appears to be a cross between Don Quixote and Billy Liar. We are then introduced to many interesting characters, sometimes verging on pantomime. At times the action is very much in the audience’s face and this may make some people slightly uncomfortable but there is no doubt that the company are entertainers.
 
It was noticeable from the programme that virtually all the cast have joined New Stagers in the last couple of years. Good to see that the society is recruiting vibrantly. It is certainly not the case everywhere else. I enjoyed the overall production and credit for this must go to Director Julia Coleman. It was quite a brave decision to move away from the usual traditional staging area of the hall to place the drama in the centre of the room. This made the performance more personal and intimate thus drawing in the audience. Having token scenery and props, a table (with typewriter) and a few chairs, assisted more with the starkness and imagination of the piece. It also allowed the scope for more entrances and exits and multi-quick costume changes - it worked! The sharp lighting plot added much to the atmosphere and forcefully ensured smooth transition between the various location and different scenes.
 
The one note of caution which I have touched upon in the Summary, is the perception of slight claustrophobia. Not by your average theatregoer but there are some people who feel uncomfortable when actors interact and ‘play’ with them. All the action and banter was good-natured though and everyone at the matinee enjoyed themselves.
 
It can sometimes be difficult to tune in to the plot straight away when the cast are generally playing multiple characters. Fortunately the characters and characterisations tended to be spectrums away from each other. All portrayed with quality and verve. I felt that New Stagers assembled a strong cast (of nine players) and each immersed themselves into the role as required. As the central character of ‘Arthur Penman’ (not a particularly imaginative name for would-be writer), Neil Morgan looked in total control – not fazed at all by the proximity of the audience, or the generally slow tempo his dialogue was required to be in order to convey his angst. The lady who comes in and changes his life is the beautiful ‘Sophia’. Is it easy to see why Arthur is so diverted. ‘Sophia’, played with great skill by NSTC debutant Georgina Aitken, gives Arthur hope and encourages his writing. Georgina looked equally at home in all four of her guises. These two were the spine of the drama but we were treated to lovely cameos from all other members of the cast.
 
The actor known as ‘Steve’ performed a variety of European parts and used physical humour to great effect. Mark Stannett also came up with a variety of interpretations but never better than as Arthur’s boss - the penguin like ‘Gray’. Amongst New Stager debutant Jason Marchant’s enjoyable variety of parts, was the deliciously evil ‘Petain’. Lesley Tulley eased gracefully between the parts of ‘Phyllis’ and the role of Arthur’s ‘Mother’. Vanessa Marchant, Susan Jones and Zoë Andrews brought their own individual talents to their respective roles and collectively were a strong team. There were certainly no weak links in this production. A special mention must also be made for some very believable acting in the role of ‘Blinker’. Buster Oberon Byron must be in the running for an Olivier award this year!  
 
Once again thank you for inviting me to St Anne’s Hall and best wishes for your next production the exciting sounding “Guards! Guards!” by Terry Pratchett in October. I will make a point of watching out for New Stagers future productions, I don’t get to see much drama in my region as it’s predominately musicals that are performed.
 
I look forward to seeing you again soon and if I can be of any assistance at any time, please do not hesitate to contact me.
 
Kindest Regards.

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