Lucy, Lucy & Lucy Barfield / The Weatherman
‘Having had occasion to visit London’s West End early last week, I was left feeling a little smug. Instead of being one of the herd queuing for hours to see the latest offering of some frail plot line “based on the hits of (insert name of band here)”, or seeing one of the ever present long runs currently showing, I was returning home to a smaller, more intimate theatre setting where the program promised to be both entertaining and thought provoking. My theatre experience was to contain a double bill featuring a fringe hit and two well known, well-loved actors….no wonder I allowed myself a little self-satisfied grin.
Once again the FET production did not disappoint. The first half was the story of three little girls - one imaginary and two real – the latter two growing up to find that life is not always what it seems and also not what we want for ourselves. ‘Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield’ is the story of how, with palpable horror, the narrator (Lucy Grace) realises that the book and the characters contained within it are not written about her but about someone else. The book is C S Lewis’ ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
It was clear from the fact that she visibly shrank before us on stage as she explained this episode, that this hurt was much deeper than it is for most of us when we discover that our childhood fantasies are exactly that…fantasises. The clever use of toy props to reflect her childish thoughts and to allow the props to say things that she could not, demonstrated the depth of what still seemed an open wound.
So Lucy sets out on her own Narnian quest to discover who the “real” Lucy is or was. It is here that we saw parallels in the lives of the two Lucies as the tragedy of the life of a promising ballet dancer, actor, painter and writer is laid waste by a crippling disease and this is thrown into sharp contrast against the narrators own pain.
I really liked the way that the actor was able to visibly and vocally change from Lucy Grace - filled with disappointment and uncertainty - to strong and sure Lucy Pevensie from the book, and I left feeling glad she had finished her quest but also sad as I think Lucy is still looking for…….Lucy.
The second part of the show was a complete contrast as Donald Douglas and Derek Fowlds made an all too rare outing to the stage. The Weatherman drew both belly laughs from the audience and laughter that was at times slightly nervous as they recognised the characters on stage as themselves. It is a story of aging and the fragile line between getting old and sometimes forgetful and falling into dementia with all the consequences that has.
Our two protagonists meander through a dozen subject ranging from the weather through to the dangers of foreplay with a feather duster (you can’t get the right tickling speed with cramp we are informed) with an ease that belied its complexity. Cleverly scripted, it shows our heroes remembering with absolute clarity the potential fling at the office Christmas party as against not remembering what you did yesterday.
I have to mention too the skill of the prompter. I was on the edge of my seat from time to time thinking “have they forgotten the line?” only for the comedic timing to cut in and show the skill of both actors and backstage.
Comedy is not easy and the fact that this looked as easy as two old friends sharing a glass of wine is testament to the actors’ skill and understanding of their audience.
One can only hope that these two will brave the stage again in a longer piece.’
'Wow! How lucky are we in the vicinity of Cordes-sur-Ciel. We have a wonderful, modern, 125-seater theatre, Le Colombier, that offers not only a regular programme of French entertainment but also an English programme of around six professional shows a year.
Well-known actor and local resident Donald Douglas is the power behind FET (Friends of English Theatre), selecting and booking the shows, supported by a small committee. All are volunteers. All put in a huge amount of work to ensure that their English theatre not only survives but thrives. No small achievement for a little theatre in rural France. In fact no small achievement today for a little theatre anywhere.
This week-end's offering was exceptional.
Donald is hugely popular & on the rare occasions he treads the boards here tickets go fast. This time he was joined by his friend of over 60 years Derek Fowlds, a much-loved actor perhaps best known for his role in tv's “Yes, Minister”. Saturday's performance sold out so fast that it was decided to stage the show on two consecutive nights.
'The Weatherman’ by Giles Cole, a dialogue between two old buffers about past events, was convincingly performed by these two fine actors who perfectly inhabited their roles and raised a lot of laughter - even if the characters' sometimes dodgy memories were for some of us just a wee bit close to home - and ended with an unexpected sting in its tail.
The other half of the show, a critical sell-out success at Edinburgh Fringe 2016, was also a delight. Lucy Grace's 'Lucy, Lucy and Lucy Barfield’, which she has toured nationally and internationally, is a story about the real-life Lucy who inspired C.S. Lewis' Narnia books. The dedication that went into researching this unusual, intimate and fascinating piece was astonishing - as was how superbly this young actress and writer absolutely filled the stage.
Two plays, two nights, two triumphs. Brilliant. '
Ros Duffell July 2018