New Forest Players Ballard School, New Milton Philip & Julie McStraw 19 April 2023
Staged at the excellent Ballard School Theatre, the latest production by the ever-good New Forest Players is the play One Day I’ll Fly Away by accomplished, but little-known, Yorkshire playwright Janet Shaw. Definitely not to be confused with the popular song of the same title, this is a story drawn from the vicissitudes of daily living. As in real life, there is a good sprinkling of humour alongside moments of gloom and sadness that are capable of engendering heart-felt responses from onlookers – laughter and tears at the same time, especially in the emotionally charged final scene. It is a serious piece of theatrical work and the New Forest Players and Director Len Reid are to be commended for bringing Janet Shaw’s poignant and hard-hitting play to local audiences.
The principal characters are a young woman, Kylie, and an old lady, Nora, who come together in a respite home. Kylie has had a troubled childhood, which we learn more about as the story progresses. Kylie is tough on the outside, but soft in the centre. She is undertaking community service as punishment for unspecified crimes. Nora is in temporary respite care recovering from a broken hip. Following a career in teaching she is superficially comfortably well off, but underneath it all she has not had it easy either, and her own life experiences have made her an embittered and hardened woman who is determined to avoid relationships of any kind. On the surface Kylie and Nora have nothing in common, though in reality they are more alike than they could imagine, and in time their mutual dislike and distrust of each other turns into a heartening, and not at all mismatched, pairing. In the mix are also Fern, the efficient Nurse in charge, who is attracted to her likeable assistant Adam, plus Connie the domestic and inveterate eavesdropper and gossip. All of them with their own stories to tell to kindly Gladys, an old lady who has had a stroke and cannot speak. But Gladys can hear and learns their secrets. In due course Gladys regains her speech and reveals all.
All six actors play out their individual parts with great accomplishment. They are good, very good indeed and present truly convincing characters. Jane Sykes is excellent as ‘stuck-up’, quick to judge Nora, who ultimately shows a caring side to herself. Jane has a number of acting previous credits and demonstrates these in this fine acting performance. Courtney Fereday plays the part of cocky and brash Kylie, and for someone so young, and by all accounts a relatively inexperienced actor, she is exceptional. Tina Ward follows up her success as one of the ugly sisters in the recent NFP production of Cinderella, by producing another great performance as Connie. And, as now to be expected of her, she delivers a succession of ‘comedic one-liners’ with perfect timing. Wendy Beaumont, as Gladys, says the least, but her physical performance, as her character struggles with the frustrations of the consequences of a stroke, is a powerful presence throughout. Emily Norris and Paul Skelton, in the largely supporting roles of Fern and as Adam, are also deserving of praise for their performances.
As on most opening nights they were a few minor practical teething issues, but nothing to detract from the continuity of the storyline or enjoyment of the performance. No doubt these little problems will be ironed out for this week’s subsequent showings.
The action is played out on an authentic functional stage, which with the accompanying lighting and fitting music, create the just right atmosphere for a Care Home setting.
This is yet another ‘top drawer’ Am dram production by NFP and it runs until 22nd April. See it if you can, but bring some tissues, just in case!