REVIEW

Lady Glanville's Fritillery

Dee Dee Doke reviews Lady Glanville's Fritillery

Lady Glanville's Fritillery
by Tim Boden
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Jane Boden

May and June mark the peak adult lifecycle period, and June the peak flight season for the Glanville Fritillary, a butterfly most often seen today in the South-East of the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands and coastal sites of Hampshire. Highly appropriate then that Waterbeach Community Players chose to stage Tim Boden’s gentle comedy Lady Glanville’s Fritillary at its namesake’s peak season.

The two-act version premiered by WCP 10-13 May expanded the local playwright’s original one-act, staged to some acclaim at Cambridge-area drama festivals in 2014, offering audiences whimsy, a bit of enchantment and a reminder that love never dies.

Butterfly expert Leo Finn (played by the author himself) is left bereft when his wife and fellow butterfly enthusiast Alice dies as a result of an accident. A kind bereavement counsellor Barbara (Liz Reid) suggests that Leo return to his and Alice’s joint mission on the Isle of Wight, to get a sighting of the endangered Lady Glanville’s Fritillary (LGF) butterfly as means of regaining purpose in his life.

In Yorkshire, love has stagnated between the Boyles ("spelled with a 'Y’", as the Boyles helpfully remind everyone they meet) Sandra (Rosie Wilson) and Keith (Michael Husband). Keith is afraid he will be made redundant from his engineering job. Sandra wants a holiday and embarks on writing some rather bad poetry (she doesn’t know it’s bad) to win the couple some time away on the Isle of Wight.

At the same time, the ghost of LGF’s discoverer, Lady Eleanor Glanville herself, (a radiant Wendy Croft) has stirred, and will be making her own pilgrimage to her former haunts on the Isle to create playful mischief. The scene is set for all to rediscover joy and the love each had thought they’d lost.

Author Boden clearly did his homework on the beautiful, elusive butterfly and Lady Glanville, upon whose real-life tragedy he has embroidered the contemporary stories with happier endings. His expansion of the show saw the addition of an act -- the first act -- and "a few bits and bobs" in the core second act, a returning performer from the play’s previous incarnation told me.

And as Leo, a key character in the action, the author - who also co-directed with wife Jane - gave a warm, sympathetic performance, ably supported by a uniformly solid and engaged ensemble consisting of the aforementioned Wilson, Husband, Croft and Reid, plus Cosimo Nobile, Cath Langridge, Vicki Green in two very different roles, Paul Lockwood, Chris Shinn, Chip Colquhoun and Jane Boden.

Practically standing out as characters in their own right were some of the costumes, as overseen by Joy Sinclair: Sandra’s obsession with animal prints that found themselves loud and proud in every aspect of her attire, Keith’s teethclenchingly awful shorts (one pair with a Union Jack and another black, white and grey number featuring Las Vegas scenes) worn with 'bling', and, to the other extreme, the stunningly patterned butterfly costume for Lady Glanville elegantly fashioned by Sinclair.

Mark Easterfield’s beautifully designed and executed sets - for instance, dining rooms at both the Boyles’ home and the Isle of Wight hotel where the lives of Leo and the Boyles intersect - provided the perfect backdrops to the action.

Another highlight for me was the film of gorgeous butterflies and flowers marking the beginning of the play, 'in character', if you will as it was intended to be part of Leo’s presentation to a horticulture society. There was no programme credit, but it is understood that the film was produced by Tim Boden and assistant stage manager Dave Hingley.

A homely touch to WCP’s production that brought a smile was the addition of comfortable cushions to the auditorium seats. WCP has had, rather unfairly I must say, to deal with criticism around the uncomfortable seating in the school hall in which it performs. The group is obviously working hard to make local theatregoing even more enjoyable for its audiences. Applause!

What could have improved this production further? A sort of butterfly dance by Lady Glanville as she rejuvenates for her annual season was overlong. This interpretative dance could also have benefitted from lighter, more airy music from flute or pipes instead of a heavy-handed piano styling of "The Rose". The LGF’s flight pattern is rapid wing beats followed by a glide; the music should have reflected this joyous movement.

Another point, which I hate to raise, but the moral responsibility of being an editor in my day job forces me to: the word 'Fritillary’ in the play’s title was misspelled on the poster and programme cover.

Here’s to the peak season for Glanville’s Fritillary - and no doubt Boden’s story of hope and love borne on butterfly wings will find its way onto many UK amateur stages.

Dee Dee Doke