Cranford at Christmas
Reviewed by Chris Shinn

Based on the Cranford stories by Elizabeth Gaskell Laura Turner’s play reflects life amongst a community in a small country town in Cheshire in the early 19th century. A fantastic set designed by Tony Broscomb greeted the audience as they entered the auditorium of the ADC theatre. The stage consisted of a street with two period houses set left with Miss Jenkyns’ tea shop interior, complete with an authentic looking window and door stage right. All of the props and furnishings were appropriate, although I did feel that everything felt a little cramped in the shop when there were several people in it. All of the scenes were well lit and the carol singers, who appeared at regular intervals throughout certainly helped to enhance the Christmas feel of the show.

The costumes, hair and make-up were all good and in keeping with the period although I did wonder about the black coat worn by the ‘thief” it seemed to me a little out of step with everything else. But then again I am no fashion icon.
The play does not really call for any Oscar winning performances, but there were good portrayals of all the main characters, ably assisted by the smaller roles, with a few non speaking characters thrown in to create some background activity. The by now compulsory dog role was fulfilled by Flo who was woof perfect throughout. She even had a spectacular sedan chair entrance, accompanied by the suitable snooty Mrs Jamieson (Rosemary Eason). I particularly enjoyed seeing Caroline Lewis as the slightly strange Mrs Forrester who made the most of her scene. Lindsey McAuley who, although on stage a lot had few lines but was impressively ‘back acting’ throughout.

For me the star of the show was Mandi Cattell as Miss Pole. She did not waste a single opportunity and most of the laughs came as a result of her delivery of the lines. Indeed the company as a whole made the most of a script which I felt was a little lacking in places. I felt that the sub plots of the thief and the presumed dead brother were slightly lost amongst everything else.

If the first night was anything to go by there was no chance of the snowman set downstage left melting during the run in a decidedly cold ADC theatre. However this was a good production of a gentle, nostalgic play performed by an extremely competent cast. Congratulations to director Gloria Milne in bringing a seasonal delight to the stage.