A Fine Bright Day Today

The Chesil Theatre, that little jewel of a venue, is currently presenting yet another jewel of its own, in the form of Philip Goulding’s exquisite 3-hander A Fine Bright Day Today. The production, like so many, has been forced to endure postponement as a result of the unavoidably challenging times (not least for the Arts in general) we have been living through, and this current presentation has even undergone a change of Director. The strength of the entire team throughout has been, and remains, palpable, and, played out on an impressive and authentic set (aided by superbly effective sound and lighting), Director David Baldwin’s beautiful production engages both mind and heart. I came to it with no prior knowledge, and I came away moved and enriched.

This is a ‘slow burner’ of a play, described in the programme note as being “set against a background of tragedy and loss at sea”. To say too much would be to reveal too much, and I would like to think that everyone who sees it will come away having been as captivated and as moved as I was. Not that the piece is without its lighter moments. Many lines in the piece strike a chord, emotional or otherwise, with its audience, and there were a number of murmurs of recognition and approval during the evening – always a testament to the extent to which an audience has embraced a play – not to mention tribute to the subtle, exquisite performances which breathe the life into the text. Maria Head and Marie McPherson establish a warm and credible Mother/Daughter bond, and Geoffrey Dodsworth’s Milton conveys warm (yet differing) connections with them both.

It’s not immediately clear (I suspect intentionally) who Milton is, and in the early stages of the play we, the audience, get to know him on very much the same level as the initially reticent Margaret, until we are sufficiently drawn in to observe the developing connection between the two. Rebecca, Margaret’s Daughter, is perceptive and sufficiently forthright to voice a number of her own observations, and while these can be somewhat startling, the affection and tenderness are prevalent throughout. The second act takes us into deeper emotional territory, and some all-too-recognizable human conflict and dilemma, before the piece reaches its conclusion.

Marie McPherson conveys well the feelings of a loving daughter who, unwittingly or otherwise, becomes the catalyst in the story; and Geoffrey Dodsworth is quietly and consistently compelling as the man whose arrival is to have a profound effect. As Margaret, the play’s emotional centre, Maria Head bares her heart and soul in a performance of tremendous warmth and complexity, and it’s something beautiful to watch. I cannot recommend this lovely play too highly – it’s an evening of intelligent and warm human drama, and I suspect that both the play and the performances will remain in the memory for a long time after.