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Epitome of Charm: Dashing Dalby and his Bountiful Daughter

18 May 2017

Dashing Dalby and his Bountiful Daughter

By Keith Wait

SMDG at Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, 13th May

Review by Celia Bard

Nestling on the River Thames in Hampton is a small, picturesque pleasure garden hiding a tiny treasure, Garrick’s Temple, built by David Garrick in the 18th Century to celebrate the talents of William Shakespeare.  This delightful little building was a fitting venue for Keith Wait’s latest drama documentary, Dashing Dalby and his Bountiful Daughter, in which he draws heavily from social history, meticulously researched material of people closely associated with Hampton, and St.Mary’s Parish Church and its churchyard, situated just a few hundred feet away from Garrick’s beautiful folly.  Indeed, the main inspiration for his story may be said to be the “funny tomb” of Three Men in a Boat fame, which turns out to be the tomb, positioned on the east wall at the end of the south aisle of St. Mary’s church, of Susanna Thomas and her mother, Lady Dorothy.

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Although this was a rehearsed reading, SMDG (St. Mary’s Drama Group) succeeded in entertaining its audience with a thoughtful, imaginative, and well-constructed production.  Skilfully directed by Helen Smith, narrators and actors gave life to these long dead folk, otherwise forgotten.

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Photograph by Bill Bulford

Genteel music sets the scene for the entrance of the Venturers, businessmen involved in financial enterprises involving risk.  The Venturers are carrying a gaming board, but before their game begins they are interrupted by the energetic entrance of Dalby Thomas, a merchant and courtier, described by the narrator as a “complex character, highly principled, rash and brash with a strong propensity to upset people”.  Ron Hudson’s interpretation of this role was excellent.  He was highly successful in portraying the many facets of this character’s personality, at times protagonist and then antagonist as judged from his life style and the effect this has on his wife’s perspective of their relationship.  I would respectfully suggest that more dialogue between the two reflecting this would have added more to our understanding of these characters.

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Lady Dorothy (Gina Way) and Mrs Thomas (Christina Bulford). Photograph by Doina Moss

Dalby’s wife, played by Gina Way, was credible in the way she could convey the age range expected of her.  At the beginning of her relationship with Dalby she is romantic, young, and very much in love with him.  But after two children and forced to spend many years apart from him because of his travels, she becomes disheartened, preferring to live away from Hampton and in her father’s estates in Blandford.  This was reflected in her characterisation.

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Sir T Archer (William Ormerod) and Mrs Thomas (Christina Bulford).  Photograph by Bill Bulford

Although I am loathe to single out individuals, for the whole of the cast were admirable, I should like to further mention Christina Bulford.  This young actress has a striking stage presence and gave a lively and thoughtful performance as Susanna Thomas, the daughter of Dalby.  Susanna is an interesting character for she is clothed in a thin veil of mystery.  The audience is never certain about the nature of her relationship with Sir Thomas Archer, the eminent architect, and whom Susanna describes as “witty and the epitome of charm”.   The mystery continues for after her death one of the main beneficiaries in her will, Susanna Warren, is a five-year old orphan from Barbados, who is to inherit all her estates except those in Hampton.  Why this should be so is not revealed.  Perhaps Keith Wait will enlighten us in his next instalment of this series which he presents at Garrick’s Temple.

Further mention must be made of the director, Helen Smith.  The actors only had a tiny area in which to perform but Helen managed to organise them so that they were never static for long.  She made use of the central aisle for entrances and varied her groupings.  This, together with the pace in which one scene moved from one to the next, the vocal pace and the suitability of their wardrobe which transverse the centuries, served to make this a most enjoyable, visually pleasing, and informative production.

Celia Bard

May 2017

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