A Fall Of Angels
MA Drama Group
Essex University Theatre, Colchester
Topical premiere has good ideas
AN apt play, some might say, to mark the tenth anniversary of Thatcherism — an almighty swipe at the Government’s NHS cutbacks.
Not that any Prime Minister is specifically named in this premiere of a play by the University’s writer in resi dence, Michele Celeste, produced in conjunction with the Mercury Theatre.
Even after a whole week’s run (it ends this Saturday), A Fall Of Angels still shows signs of the improvisation and co operative writing that the cast and crew put into it - but despite a few ragged patches, there are plenty of good ideas and some committed acting.
Catharine Arakelian’s pro duction is played out within an imaginative set designed by Michael Taylor.
Simon Kelly, a little less confident than usual, plays Julian Strachan, the Unit Manager, brought in as hatchet man to close various bits of a struggling hospital for women.
Foremost among the pro testers is one of its consul tant surgeons, Phyllida Douglas, the ex-Mrs Strachan, played powerfully by Marie Bailey-Adams. Only when the life of their beautiful, lively daughter Kim is wrecked by the closures do the squabbling divorcees find some degree of unity.
Helena Morris’s Kim, later transformed convincingly into a near-vegetable, is another pleasing bit of casting, with Suzanne Lynch particularly credible as the sharp little Irish nurse, Geraldine.
Christine Sirr’s smug Miriam, Angeliki Rosi’s fear ful, devout Muslim Veena, Ruth Gates’s bruised Beattie and Nigel Walford’s uncaring Regional Consultant are all meaningful portraits.
Ambitious play on social issues
A FALL OF ANGELS
University of Essex Theatre,
ONE of the most difficult things to review is an ambitious and serious-minded play, staged in an imaginative way, with great commitment from all concerned, but which doesn't quite come fully into focus.
That's sadly the case with A Fall of Angels, written during Michele Celeste's tenure in the University's Writers' Residency Scheme. It's as if all the elements are in place, but a certain sharpness is missing.
The play follows the destruction of an NHS hospital, run by women for women. First wards and departments are amputated; finally the life-support machine is turned off.
Last-ditch fund-raising by the staff takes the form of "pantomime" - the political situation mirrored by staff masked and tailed as cats and mice - using knockabout and involving the audience.
Celeste knows a thing or two about combining the political and the personal. Female consultant and male administrator fail to parent the hospital, just as they have failed the child of their broken marriage.
Some of the slight gaucheness in the presentation is going to disappear as the play runs in, and many of the actors have the makings of excellent performances.
Marie Bailey-Adams as the forceful consultant eloquently carries much of the argument of the play, and has a strong, unfussy stage presence. Simon Kelly as her general manager is first seen as a walking compromise. It's much to Simon Kelly's credit that he suggests from the start the potential in his character for change.
There is consistent and intelligent work too from Helena Morris as the daughter, Suzanne Lynch and Elizabeth Roberts as staff members and Christine Sirr as the subtle mouthpiece of private medicine.
Two cameos are impressive - Nigel Walford as the administrator's boss, and Angeliki Rosi as the ultimate casualty, the Muslim woman who cannot be seen by a male doctor.