‘The Darling Buds of May’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by April 20, 2015

‘The Darling Buds of May’ is a delightful tale, written by Herbert Ernest Bates in 1958. Then 33 years later, it was adapted for TV with the incredibly popular series starring David Jason. This story is now brought to life at the Limelight Theatre Civic Drive, Wanneroo by the Wanneroo Repertory Inc.

The two-hour performances begin at 8.00 pm and run until Friday 24th April, but be warned, so far this show has sold out ever performance.

 

It is 1950 in the Garden of England, Kent. In the countryside lie Pop Larkin’s farm and fruit orchards. The stage is divided in half. This exceptional set (design Doug McLean) has to the left of the audience a farmhouse sitting room and on the other side of the ‘dividing wall’ is the farmyard, complete with a full sized ‘real’ tree (Lorretta Gibbs), a barn and landscape (painted by Ursula Kotara). Having to find farming implements is difficult, but when they have to be 50 years, old then things get tricky for the décor girls Polly Waugh, Shelley McGinn, Carryn McLean and Dayle Seaman).

The costumes were ‘perfick’ for the era, with the demand on Shelley and Dayle for a wide range that covered the dignitaries next door, to the rustic outfit of Pop Larkin. Well done.

There were a huge number of lighting and sound effects, many with split second timing, but Wally Fry and Ryan Perrin were on the ball.

 

       It is a red-hot day, and the farming Larkins have just returned home. As Ma, the most wonderfully caring, yet strong-minded wife ever (Loz Haynes) is warming up the fish and chips for the kids, Pop (Tim Riessen) is preparing one of his special drinks. The only son, Montgomery (Ethan Gosatti) is setting the table.

      Outside, their ‘almost 18 yrs old’ daughter, the attractive and lustful Marietta (Natasha Christie) has found a handsome young man wandering around the farmyard. This is tax inspector, Cedric Charlton (Jacob Turner), immediately Marietta’s eyelashes flutter, starving Cedric succumbs and is dragged into the house for something to eat. He is here because like many of the neighbours – including the Brigadier (Gordon Barnett) next door – Pop has not paid tax for decades. How could he pay? After all the necessities of life he showers onto people he has no money. In fact, a second senior tax inspector (Roger Oakes) turns up a couple of days later.

      The sexually frustrated, horsey Miss Pilchester (Gwen Browning) explains to warm and loving Pop in her ‘ghastly’ accent exactly what she is looking for. (A beautiful comedy performance by Gwen).

      It is not long before Marietta has some passionate competition for Cedric from farmhand, Pauline (Maddy Innes). Then who is the mysterious visitor, Angela Snow (Elinor King) and what is she doing looking around the house? Sir George (Paul Anderson) and Lady Rose (Helen Tudge) may have a title, and a sizeable mansion but Pop seems extra keen to have a word with them both.

 

With such a wonderful TV cast, this troupe had a challenge on their hands to win over the nostalgic audience – and this is precisely what they did. Loz as Ma was wonderfully caring and understanding, even when her husband had to ‘service’ the maids of the village. Tim’s cheeky grin and innocent, yokelish expression ‘perfickly’ hid the knowledge and the cunning that Pop really had. Cedric’s shy demeanour subtly changed slowly throughout the play, often with the help of alcohol, was a masterpiece by Jacob Turner.

The delightful children, who alternated nights, included Isobel Green, Asha MacDonald-Razvi, Camryn Gillet, Alyssa Yates, Zoe Karagiannis, Charlotte Yates and Imani Benfell. They were alert and gave relaxed natural performances.

The direction by Carryn McLean was well considered, inventive and with such a large cast still remained firmly in control.

Limelight’s admirable web site is changing to a self-booking’ system, which is giving a little teething trouble, but like Playlovers and Rockingham it will be well worth the hard work.

Not only did we get a most enjoyable night out, but also the programme – designed by ‘Chick and Egg’ – had one recipe for apple pie and another for cider.

The enjoyment of this extremely funny show will continue.