Duns Players deserved a 'Celebration'

A WHOLE play could be written about the Duns Players' efforts to stage 'Celebration', a bitter-sweet comedy by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, which finally opened at Duns Volunteer Hall last week.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:42 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2010, 12:42 pm

The production was fraught with setbacks: snowed off in January, postponed until June, its cast rejigged due to absence and illness, a leading player undergoing emergency surgery on the opening night, his wife, another leading role, at his bedside.

A warm round of applause must then surely go to director Barry Jones and his dedicated team of actors and stage crew for sheer stamina in pulling the whole show off.

Another round of applause should go their way for achieving a production of such calibre, with fine performances from every one of the 16-strong cast.

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In selecting 'Celebration', the Players set themselves an ambitious goal. Keith Waterhouse may be a household name, but the play is not, and its portrayal of working-class family life in the industrial north during the early 1960s is no obvious draw-card to reluctant audiences.

But the Players lent the work a sparkle that gave fresh vigour to Waterhouse and Willis' finely observed script, accentuating the humour and poignancy of this comedy of simple folk clinging to a social decorum that will soon be challenged by the whirlwind of the 1960s revolution.

The play deals with two of life's great events - marriage and death, and the social mores that apply to each. The first act sees relatives coming together on the eve of a family wedding, while the second follows the funeral of one of the central characters.

Mention must go to Bob Noble, as the endearingly roguish Uncle Arthur; Celia Hedderwick as May Beckett, his pathetically dignified 'fancy woman' so despised by the waspish matriarch Rhoda Lucas (Alex Watson); Mike Hedderwick as their drinking pal, Sergeant-Major Tommy Lodge; Euan McIver as self-made man and opinionated bore Frank Broadbent; Pete Lerpiniere as Rhoda's sardonic but movingly honourable son; Trudy Morrison as simple-minded teenager Irene Howes and Amanda Cameron as valetudinarian Aunt Edna, who won't even eat a slice of her son's wedding cake in case it upsets her stomach.

Another of the production's considerable achievements was the number of new faces it brought to the Players' stage, including Ruth Devlin as the hypercritical busy-body, Aunt Alice; Daniel (DC) Conroy as Stan Dyson, Irene's dim fianc; Charlotte Lawrence, bride of the exceptionally dull Bernard Fuller (Nigel Warren); and Bob Owtram as Lionel Fuller, married to 'mucky' Margo, magnificently played by Eloner Crawford, director of this year's 'Kiss Me Kate' by Duns & District Amateur Operatic Society.

The Duns Players owe much to a core of loyal supporters to swell their audiences, but it was heartening to see that fan base considerably extended, fuelled by local business sponsors such as Tweed Valley Organics, by the end of 'Celebration's' three-night run.

DUNCAN ALBA