United Kingdom Slade & Reynolds, Salad Days: North West Productions / Robert Owen (conductor and director), Buxton Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, Pavilion Theatre, Buxton, 29.7.2013 (RJW)
Scott Payne … Tramp
Helen Mae-Rowan … Jane
Michael Bailey … Timothy
Vikki Earle… Tim’s mother
Benjamin Hamer… Tim’s father
Collette Hunter … Aunt Prue
Hannah Hawkes … Lady Reaburn
Callum Stretton … PC Boot
Kieran Forbes… Sir Clamsby
Austin Roberts … Fosdyke
Harriet Frances Rosa … Margeurite/Lady/Slave/Dancer
Abbie Huxham … Fiona/Lady/Slave/Dancer
Choreographed by Rachel Saul
Slade & Reynolds wrote another musical five years later, Free as Air (1957), which is an appropriate description for this production, the third to be presented at the Buxton Festival. The show is a good choice for it was written at the Bristol Old Vic Repertory Company and although players took on multiple parts, here they have been usefully spread around to engage a larger cast.
From the opening, the performance had a lot of polish, was fast-moving and energetically played by the cast. Essential to the production’s success is the portrayal of its principal characters, Timothy and Jane, who between them carry the show. Timothy is scatty and frivolous, rather like Freddie in The Blandings while Jane is a down-to-earth commonsense type full of innocence who can handle people confidently. In their roles, the magnetic charm of Michael Bailey and Helen Mae-Rowan was spell-binding: they are both outstanding singers and fantastic dancers, even achieving a graceful double ‘splits’ at the end of one number. Set in the 1950s, Rachel Saul’s dance routines were elegant: they were appropriate for the period and looked good.
In Robert Owen’s production care has been taken to achieve good characterisations which gave added interest to the many inset scenes (originally conceived to allow scene changing). Only the “Hush, hush” scene is poorly written and seems to slow down the action but this is Dorothy Reynold’s fault, not that of the cast. Perhaps the most amusing scene was when PC Plot (Callum Stretton) trying to explain ‘Offence’ to the thick Sergeant (Ben Hamer). Amusing too was the sloppy maid with her inelegant walk and ungraceful mannerisms. (I think we have all seen this stereotype in reality.)
Accurate and lively-paced accompaniment was played by Robert Owen on a real piano, with the addition of percussion. And when I say ‘real’ I mean exactly this for the team struggled to replace the Pavilion Theatre keyboard substitute with proper piano to bring the best out of the score. Well done on another well-attended presentation at Buxton.
Raymond J Walker