Performed at Altrincham Little Theatre 04.10.19
‘A Fine Bright Day Today’ was an unusual choice by Altrincham Little Theatre in having a cast of only three but in terms of mood and pace, we were in the somewhat familiar territory of a slow moving, sentimental drama (which it has to be said, is very popular with Altrincham audiences), having a similar mood to such productions as ‘Ladies In Lavender’ or ‘Gates Of Gold’, and dealing with the perennial themes of love, death and generational differences.
A second unusual feature was the large amount of scenes in what was almost a one-set play but the transitions were executed smoothly with an excellent choice of cello music perfectly denoting passages of time as well as helping set the atmosphere of an old house by the sea. This was complimented by an excellent set, which had considerable attention to detail, including a stage made to resemble old floorboards, a small kitchen behind a dining area and stairs coming down into the lounge with tall hedges one side and a sea view on the other; a quintessential seaside cottage.
The play itself was principally concerned with Milton, a visiting American, and Margaret, the house owner, both in later middle-age, as lost loves and ideals gave way to re-discovering love and passion. To complicate matters, Margaret’s daughter Rebecca was about to move out whilst still keeping a watchful eye on her mother’s emotional welfare. The developing interpersonal relationships were well written and the pace did slowly pick up with elements of drama, particularly in the second half, interspersed alongside gentle comedy.
One element which did not seem to work too well was writer Philip Goulding’s decision to effectively start the play with a fairly lengthy monologue by Milton, which was not essential to understand the plot. The information in this and further soliloquies, all by Milton, could have easily been incorporated into the dialogue through other devices and slowed down what was already a slow pace. Also, the monologues did not actually break the fourth wall, so failed to create a personal relationship with the audience, but did not contain any real pathos highlighting inner angsts or tensions either. It just seemed to have been a device which was not really needed and not very well used.
The casting brought together three of the most experienced actors at Altrincham Little Theatre and they did work well together. The relationship dynamics were convincing, with the ages just right. Jane Newman as Margaret Harvey went on a visibly emotional journey as dormant passions gradually came to the fore and Malcolm Cooper gave a measured performance as the down-to-earth American. His accent was convincing, when he used it; there were a number of occasions when he lapsed back into his native English but overall the effect of coming from the other side of the pond was maintained. Charlie Welsh really shined as the young woman about to start a new life with her boyfriend and a nice touch was her significant number costume changes, really helping to convey the impression of different time periods.
‘A Fine Bright Day Today’ was a pleasant, sentimental experience, which made no attempt to develop either high-drama or hysterical comedy. The smallness of the cast meant that the particular characters could be explored in greater depth and this was well handled. Certainly not a play intended to push forward the boundaries of the theatrical experience but perhaps that was the intention. The frequent reference to Typhoon aircraft (which regularly flew over the house at low level) helped give the impression of the play being set in the present day and in our increasingly aging society, there was much merit in exploring the theme of finding new love later in life.
Reviewer – John Waterhouse
on – 4/10/19