The Ashtead Players have come together to present to us, Alan Ayckbourn's, Woman in Mind. Ayckbourn drip feeds the audience his characters and that gives us all a chance to get to know the cast. From the moment she wakes up, Susan never leaves the stage.
But, the first thing to catch my eye was the perfect lighting across a fabulous set. A lovely, grassy garden, with plenty of seating, with a raised garden area and flowers all around. Throughout the show, the lighting was used to perfectly light this space according to whether it was sunny or not. In fact, when it rained, the sound and lighting made me feel like I could see the raindrops! It also helped the audience to navigate through the play and tell when we were in Susan's, golden imagination and when we were within the grey, drudgery of her real life.
The cast were well chosen. Susan (Debbie Green) carried the play along well. at times reminding me of Celia Imrie. She had great chemistry with her fantasy husband, Andy (JP Judson) and the scene where they jumbled the voices between them was mesmerising to watch. Her exasperation at her real husband, Gerald (James Thornton) was quickly shared by the audience. His deadpan, selfishness was well conveyed by James and delivered with humour. His sister, Muriel, (Becky Owen) worked perfectly with Gerald and the pair of them brought the boring and selfish siblings, brilliantly, to life. The pair contrasted beautifully with Andy, Lucy (Gemma Hughes) and Tony (Tony Dumpleton). Their portrayal of a perfect and loving family made us all want to be part of it and well away from the reality of Gerald and Muriel.
Susan's son Rick (John Duggan) and imaginary daughter, Lucy (Gemma Hughes) were very different from each other, leaving the audience understanding exactly why Susan is beginning to get lost within her more lovely imaginary world. Lucy and Susan had a great mother/daughter chemistry that made watching the two of them very pleasing. Whereas Rick and Susan expertly portrayed that mother/son relationship that can be tricky to navigate. Their scenes only made you sympathise with Susan more as her real life bumped from disaster to mishap. Dr Bill (Phill Bingham) tried to keep the peace son, mother and father, added to the humour, particularly when playing with a handkerchief bunny.
If I had to pick out things I didn't like, it was perhaps the occasional line delivered with the familiar tone of someone not really believing what they were saying. But that did not happen often. In fact, most lines were executed beautifully, with great comedic timing. The one thing that did puzzle me was some of the staging. With plenty of chairs on stage, Susan frequently chose to sit in a plant pot, rather than the empty, more comfy looking, garden chair right next to her. A minor detail, but every time she did it, I really wanted to ask her why.
In short, I was pleasantly surprised by this Ashtead Players production. From the set and lighting to the fantastic cast and welcoming front of house team, it's made me certain that I’ll be coming back to see future Ashtead Players productions”.