by Gareth Armstrong
Gareth Armstrong’s Fondly Remembered features four former colleagues, all theatricals, who meet to arrange the memorial service of a recently deceased, once very close, colleague of whom they have mixed memories.
Despite its dark subject matter, the play is actually quite light-hearted with the relationships and back-stories between these old friends at the forefront of the action.
I say action, but this is in fact a play that is more about the words and the slow unfolding of the characters’ mishaps, misdemeanours and memories.
There were many moments of subtle surprise, for example, when the vicar (played very convincingly and warmly by David Cox) reveals he only found God after a highly successful career in the city and that it is his Porsche parked outside!
I thought the direction by Alan Mitchell was slick and unfussy, which made for comfortable viewing and the casting was perfect.
As well as the unassuming Tom the vicar (who by the way, gives us a real feelgood ending to the play), we also have a cranky has-been actor, Don, (played very believably by Simon Warner) with a bee in his bonnet about pretty much everything. Some of his put-downs are great!
There’s our flamboyant Barrie who can’t stop alluding to his much younger, richer, Russian husband (played with the perfect amount of camp by Julian Roberts).
Then we have Zoe, a stereotypical theatre luvvie, played expertly and comically by Gaby Hardwick. I loved her constant malapropisms!
Finally, Cressida is the OCD-esque stage manager, who rallies the troops and organises the events; a character excellently portrayed by Millie Satchell.
A special mention to lighting and set. I loved the stain-glass effect at the beginning of the show and the realism of the set was outstanding. To make a dreary, back-room of a church look so realistic is no mean-feat; from the damp patches and the curled edges of the paper on the noticeboard to the stacked chairs and hints of old Christmas decorations, I really appreciated the attention to detail.
Reviewed by Vicky Evans