United Players of Vancouver
The Lady's Not For Burning
Venue: Jericho Arts Centre Dates: 9 September - 3 October 2004
Reviewer: Jane Penistan
Directors Adam Henderson and Tom Kerr Set design Abraham Jedidiah and Sandi York Costume design Naomi Lazarus Lighting Danny Eagle Stage Manager Natalia Tumbagahan
The United Players opened their new season with Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not For Burning. Written just after the end of World War II, this play is as apposite today as it was then. To quote the director’s notes, "Violence cannot be stopped by violence nor apocalypse postponed by anything but love". The play is no prosy sermon; it is a poetic play laced through and through with wit and humour, irony, double meaning and parody. The language is glorious English.
A mullion window centres the back of the three sided playing area. Through the window and from the stage left entry can be seen spring flowers blooming in all their freshness.The heavy, dark oak furniture and stone flagged floor, puts us firmly in a well to do household of the 15th or 16th century. The costumes are beautifully designed and cleverly constructed, so that the characters appear as pictures in history books.
Adam Henderson presents a thoughtful, passionate Thomas Mendip and enjoys his altercations with other members of the cast as much as he does his introspective moments. As the irascible Hebble Tyson, mayor of the small town of Cool Clary, beset with civic and domestic problems, Derek C. Carr dispenses and disposes in authoritative manner and is unused to being contradicted or questioned, particularly by itinerant ex- soldiers like Thomas Mendip.
Nicholas and Humphrey, his nephews, (Jaime Ogden and Matt Fentiman), rivals for not marrying Alizon Eliot (Tallulah Burton), are belligerent, quarreling siblings. The disputed prospective bride, however, wants neither of the brothers and absconds with a humble, much abused clerk, Richard (Adam Berquist). Diana Sandburg is the majestic, prosaic Margaret Devize, the mayor's sister who manages his household.
Thomas Mendip demands the mayor hang him, as he is tired of life and believes he has killed a man. Having no precedent for such a course, Hebble consults with legal advisor, Edward Tappercoom (John Harris), a local justice, who brings the voice of reason to the harassed mayor.
Outside, the citizens are noisily witch-hunting a young woman who has chosen to live a solitary life. Jennet Jourdemayne, gracefully and charmingly played by Alison Raine, appears in the mayor's house and is defended against the charge or witchery by Thomas. Tapercoom also advises the mayor against taking drastic action against the self possessed but frightened girl. To Margaret's dismay Jennet becomes a resident in the Hebble household. Abraham Jedidiah is the local, vague, viol carrying chaplain.
Before the mayor has taken any unwise action against either of his problem visitors, the eloping lovers return bringing with them Skipps, (Richard Strachan) a well known town drunkard. Dead drunk, not dead, is enough to stop Thomas hanging, as this is the man he believed his victim.
The household can return to its former state. There is work for the chaplain who must marry the repentant but still loving Richard and Alizon, and Thomas and Jennet have no more to do but realize, that they have been in love since their first meeting. So, all ends happily.
This is a very well directed production. All the speech is clearly and intelligently delivered by the entire cast, who enjoy the poetic "ring of words". The play proceeds with energy and pace, and is well timed. A sense of enjoyment pervades the whole presentation.
This is an exceptionally good opening to the United Players 21st season, by a company whose work is always of a high standard. This time the Players have excelled themselves.
We look forward to the rest of the season. In the meantime this production is not to be missed. A great performance of a much neglected but great play.
The Lady's Not For Burning runs at the Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery, 9 September - 3 October at 8.00 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. For more information, tickets and reservations call 604-224-8007, or visit www.unitedplayers.com
© 2004, Jane Penistan