Lymington Players     The Malt Theatre, Lymington Community Centre, Lymington

Philip & Julie McStraw  6 November  2023


This was our first visit to the marvellous Malt Cinema and Theatre, within the multi-purpose Lymington Community Centre, and our first time to see a production by the Lymington Players. Their latest offering is ‘Rose’ by Andrew Davies, who is best known for his adaptations of numerous hugely popular works for television. The list is too long to mention them all, but it includes such favourites as To Serve them All My Days’, House of Cards; and Sanditon etc.   He has also written three plays, of which ‘Rose’ is probably best known.  Some theatregoers may be aware of a similarly titled play by Martin Sherman, featuring Maureen Lipman, which has recently been running in London’s West End to glowing reviews, so be aware this is a different play!

Andrew Davies’ ‘Rose’ also played to full houses in the West End when it was first performed in 1980, with Glenda Jackson playing the lead character. It would seem the play has been little performed since then and great credit should be given to the Lymington Players’ and Director Sara Yarwood for choosing to perform this interesting and perceptive comedy.

Rose teaches six-year-old children in a Warwickshire Primary School and she is dissatisfied with her life at home and at work. In school she has to deal with the narrow mindedness of a disciplinarian headmistress, Mrs. Smale, and at home she must contend with her listless and boring husband, Geoffrey. Their marriage is coming to an end – both have had extra marital affairs and are only staying together for the sake of their children. In due course Rose has a one-night stand with a dashing school inspector – who offers some excitement, if only for a day; and it is at that point she decides she has to leave Geoffrey. Rose is not alone in her frustrations; her long standing and ebullient best friend Sally is also in a marriage, to an alcoholic musician husband, Jake, that is failing to live up to expectations.

The play’s themes and characters are reminiscent of a Kitchen-sink drama – depicting the daily struggles and turbulent relationships of ordinary people. It would also have fitted comfortably into the tail end of the BBC ‘Play for Today’ television series that ran from 1970 to 1984. That is to say, this is high quality drama and the question that begs to be asked is: ‘have The Lymington Players pulled it off?’ Well, the answer is ‘Yes, by and large they’ve done a pretty good job of it.’  Some of the acting is very good indeed, and the story line bounces along at a good pace with a smattering of funny lines to balance out the everyday pathos of the humdrum lives that many people experience.

Rose is played by Louise Kenyon, who is of course the lead character, and has the vast majority of lines. Rose is portrayed as being very likeable and one can only imagine that Louise Kenyon is a very likable person in real life. She is undoubtedly the star of the show, not just because she is the main focus of the play but primarily because she plays the part convincingly and maintains seamless continuity of dialogue even when, as happened once or twice, one of her lines momentarily goes astray. She turns in an accomplished performance.  Her Mother, played by Ruth Wagstaff, is also convincing in her role. She manages to typify a well-meaning, though demanding, elderly parent that says the thing that needs to be said, but usually at a time when it’s not appreciated.  Best friend Sally is played by Rachel Mackay and, though one of the supporting parts, she has the lions share of the humorous lines. In comedy, physicality and timing is everything and Rachel Mackay is spot on and extremely funny.  Jo Long, as the puritan and formidable Headmistress Mrs. Smale, looks and plays the part well. Indeed, the other supporting roles are also played out with a good degree of acting competence.

Of course, the success of every production is dependent upon the skill and hard work of the support team, and Producer Amanda Harber and her crew should be very pleased with what they have achieved.

The front of house people were charming and warmly welcoming to all, which added to this enjoyable experience. ‘Rose’ runs until 11th November and tickets are still available.