That’s entertainment

From the left, Rick Hoyle, Jeremy Rycroft, Cassie John- Baptiste and Eliza Kempson with Keyth Flood in the foreground.
From the left, Rick Hoyle, Jeremy Rycroft, Cassie John- Baptiste and Eliza Kempson with Keyth Flood in the foreground.

review: “The Entertainer”, by Ribcaged productions at The Grand, Clitheroe .

What’s entertainment? Challenging drama won’t be top of most people’s festive must-see list.

But nevertheless, despite the enduring sense of unhappiness that pervades this piece – and the downbeat mood it inflicts on the audience – this was a drama worth seeing and reflecting on.

If the sum of a production is how it lingers in the memory, and it’s a yardstick I use, then this offering by locally-based theatre company Ribcaged scores highly.

Despite a slow start the production gathered pace, until by the final act the interplay of emotions and delivery of lines romped along with immaculate timing.

Although most definitely a period piece, it has contemporary resonance. As the Rice family is caught in a freeze frame following the death of their soldier son, surely few in the audience cannot have reflected on the sorrow that the conflict in Afghanistan has brought to so many soldiers’ families in recent times.

Keith Flood, as Archie Rice, grew into his part, capturing the brittle, cold, unreachable misery of making the show go on and snatching comfort where it’s available, whilst knowing his failings all too well. Eliza Kempson, as his wife Phoebe, again snatching comfort where it arises – in this case in the local picture house and an obsession with films, was excellent. Cassandra John-Baptiste as daughter Jean Rice, was sucked back into the family’s conflicts, rejecting a convenient marriage and escape route. She propelled the action, again after a slow and slightly awkward introduction, playing a pivotal role.

Special mention should go to Paul Brandreth as Frank Rice. His late appearance in the show injected youth, compassion and hope... he at least was looking to the future.

Jeremy Rycroft, as grandfather Billy Rice, caught the mixture of bigotry, certainty and wistfulness of the retired entertainer. He just looked a little too well groomed for his life in the family cavalcade, going from one theatrical digs to another.

It was, overall, a sobering production, directed by Ribcaged founder Owen Phillips. This is a company always worth seeing and growing in stature, with many strengths.

The venue, and proximity of the stage at The Grand, didn’t perhaps lend the distance to give a theatrical feel to the production, it was more like sitting directly in the middle of a family row... and it was a very quiet audience which left the theatre.

FIONA FINCH