Monster of a show helps to bring local AmDram back to life

These are troubling times for many, with some of the small, community organisations which form the fabric of local society struggling after going two years without being able to function ‘as normal’. DAVID MORGAN donned his mask (anti-covid, rather than his superhero one) and sampled what a local AmDram group had put together after a long hiatus

“We must return it to life,” Victor Frankenstein said, somewhat appropriately, in the production of Frankenstein 1930 by the Worcester Park Dramatic Society last week.

Getting into character: Jake Figgins (left), Andrew Parsons-Deering as the Creature, and Victor Frankenstein, played by James Canvin

It was the first time since 2019 that WPDS had taken to the boards for a public performance. Amateur dramatic societies the length and breadth of the country will be echoing Frankenstein’s words, but it won’t be easy, especially under new, stricter covid precautions and with Omicron lurking in the background.

The challenge for all local amateur societies moving forward will be to create not only the spark within its own ranks, but create the warmth, comfort and familiarity for the community to come and enjoy them again. The WPDS made some giant steps towards achieving this with a crafted and pleasing production.

The Worcester Park Dramatic Society, as the name implies, is based in Sutton, they performed this play in Epsom and Ewell, and have members based in Merton, Kingston, and Croydon, too.

The Adrian Mann Theatre at Nescot was the venue for three performances of Frankenstein 1930 (based on the 1931 film of Mary Shelley’s novel), written by Fred Carmichael.

As we entered the auditorium, we were greeted by a warm red curtain, an open coffin and two spade-carrying gravediggers.

Back on the boards: Harriet Buckingham (as Elizabeth) and Jaccuie Yorke (right)

Although technically demanding in places, this seemed an ideal play for the group to make their fresh start after the pandemic lockdowns had deprived them of the rehearsing and performing they so love.

Victor Frankenstein was played superbly by James Canvin. His authority, pace and drive throughout the play were a real highlight.

As Frankenstein and his assistant Gorgo, played by Jake Figgins in his debut role for the WPDS, discover, trying to bring life where there is none has as many ups as downs.

Many dramatic societies will find it hard to get going again. For some there is the sadness of replacing programme sellers and other stalwarts with a lifetime of service. For others, it is missing their loyal supporters who still feel anxious about venturing out into public arenas.

You might get the show up and running but, just as Frankenstein and Gorgo ponder that their new creation has no soul, there’s much more to a drama society than just filling gaps.

The show must go on: from left, Martin Phillips, Hugh Jones and Des Welby as Dr Hellstrom

The Worcester Park Dramatic Society can feel pleased, not only because they filled all the gaps for this production, but because everybody was plainly enjoying themselves.

Of course, there was the odd swallowed line that was difficult to hear and an occasional hesitancy of movement, but Trevor Payne’s direction certainly brought the script to life.

Amateur productions often stand or fall because of a lack of teamwork from the back stage team. Here the crew needed to be on their toes throughout, especially at the end of the first half and throughout the more challenging second where the action rapidly changed from room to room and from one location to another. The lighting and sound combined particularly well to create the tense laboratory atmosphere.

“Go back to your life before,” pleads Dr Hellstrom, played by Des Wilby, who grew in confidence visibly throughout the show, as Creature’s new life proves problematic for all.

Sadly, neither the characters nor the societies can go back. They have to move forward and move on.

Elizabeth, played by the new chair of the society Harriet Buckingham, loses her fiancé whose life is consumed and then snuffed out by his creation. She goes forward with Henry (played by Ian Macdonald) into a relationship that promises less of the spark she had with Victor but one with rather more comfort, warmth and familiarity.

Now wouldn’t that be good?

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