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Arsenic and Old Lace…

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A staple of any theatre group’s portfolio must surely be Joseph Kesselring’s black comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace”.  Staged as ever at the Little Theatre at Gatehead, the play runs once more to FIVE performances – an indication of the reputation and strength of this particular group of players. At the helm is stalwart actor and producer Rowland Child. A delightfully meaty and quirky plot to get your teeth into, “Arsenic and Old Lace” will probably have been on Mr Child’s productions wish list for a good while, his sense of humour being more than equal to the task. He is mentioned towards the end of Martins Bank Magazine’s article below for his  “method of presenting the cast for the final curtain call”. Sadly there are not as many production photos as usual, but we are pleased to have acquired a copy of the official programme, which is reproduced later on this page.

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THE North-Eastern Players are not frightened of tackling a hard play and their production of " Arsenic and Old Lace," the famous play by Joseph Kesselring, at the Little Theatre, Gateshead, for five nights, November 8th to 12th, added to their already very considerable laurels. The production has been dogged by bad luck in the shape of illness and had to be postponed last season. It would not have been surprising if, as a consequence, it had suffered from staleness and over-rehearsal, but in the capable hands of its producer, Rowland Child, it went over as fresh as a daisy. Some of the individual performances were brilliant and all were commendable. Nora Wilkie and Ally Taylor as the two sisters put over a performance of professional standard. Both are versatile and experienced, though Mrs. Taylor has not acted for the Players before.

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Left to Right: G K Eaves, Stephen Futers, Norah Wilkie, Norman Watson, Bill Young, Ally Taylor, Charles Knight and margaret Crump

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It is nice to see the wives of our colleagues taking an active interest in the work of the Society. Edward Blaylock as Teddy Brewster, who imagined himself to be the President of the United States, was superb, right to the smallest detail. His every appearance was a triumph so far as his audience was concerned. Perhaps the most difficult part in the play is that of Mortimer Brewster who discovers the wholesale murders. Charles Knight played it very creditably, resisting the great temptation to overdo the part to which the mirth of the audience must have exposed him. Bill Young and Stephen Futers as the sinister brother and renegade doctor well maintained the suspense of the drama, though perhaps a greater show of violence would not have come amiss in the former part. The police officers, played by Eric Thornhill, Norman Watson and William MacAndrew looked their parts and put them over very well.

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Left to Right: Edward Blaylock, Norman Watson, Eric Thornhill, Norah Wilkie, Ken Young and Ally Taylor.

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The last-named had a bit of difficulty with his Irish accent which he seemed to find hard to sustain in moments of excitement. G. K. Eaves, making his first world appearance, as he described it, hit off the part of the Lieutenant of police very well. Having broken the ice, we hope to see him in other shows. Ken Young portrayed the parson quietly and with dignity. Margaret Crump, as the fiancee of Mortimer Brewster portrayed a very long-suffering young woman. It was a good portrayal, though a little more force behind it would have improved it. The fleeting appearance of Gordon Weatherburn as the prospective lodger was quite well done and that of Bill Mackay as the superintendent of the asylum sustained the drama right to the end. The producer's method of presenting his cast for the final curtain call was a refreshing change from the usua  line-up, and the appearance of the latest corpse from its receptacle in the window seat was a fitting climax to the plan. The Stage Manager was Sidney Bates and altogether it was a first class show.

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