Printable CopyAMY'S VIEW
The Stirling Players
Stirling Community Theatre
Until 09 Apr 2022

Review by Holden Ward

In celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Stirling Players (formerly Hills Drama Group) have decided on a theatre theme for its two major productions this year. “Amy’s View” by British playwright David Hare is the first of these productions.

The Stirling Players production of “Amy’s View” was jointly directed by Tim Williams and Jan Farr, who have both acknowledged some challenges with directing this drama. Hare’s script is quite wordy, with conversations between protagonists often serving as a series of lengthy monologues to each other. This requires a high level of acting skill and tight direction, and on both counts there was some variability here.

Joanne St Clair demonstrated her superior acting experience in playing the challenging character of Esme Allen, as it is ironically quite tricky for an actress to play an actress. However, St Clair confidently managed this perplexity convincingly. However, when immersed in her extended speaking parts, too often the other characters adopted static listening poses. At best, this made the pacing feel wooden, and at worst, it seemed at times like the actors were simply going through the motions in delivering their lines.

For any drama to succeed, an audience must feel a connection to the story, with empathy for characters being the key to emotional engagement. Unfortunately, “Amy’s View” suffers in this respect, perhaps due in part to the script as well as the execution.

As one of the play’s protagonists, Esme Allen is a famous West End actress with a privileged background. However, the more relatable aspects with which the audience may have empathised were underdone. For example, Esme was also a widow, but the loss of her husband was not explored in any depth; she was sharing a house with her late husband’s dementing mother, which was portrayed with a sad coldness; and all this whilst being a victim of crippling debt, of which Esme remained in denial.

Consequently, despite these believable realities, the audience was given little reason to care. Even Esme’s strained relationship with her daughter Amy Thomas, played by Rose Harvey, struggled to realise its potential in the empathy stakes. Later in the play, Amy laments that her mother never saw the other side of her partner, Dominic. Unfortunately, neither did the audience. Aside from the introductory scenes involving the fixing of a bike tyre puncture, Simon Barnett’s characterisation of Dominic, was of a somewhat narcissistic, arrogant and irritable young man. If the audience had seen another side of Dominic, it would have been easier to feel some empathy for him, as well as for Amy, and the associated tensions of her relationships with her partner and mother.

The acting and direction shone at the end of Act One, with Esme’s spoiler about Amy’s recently disclosed pregnancy however, the dramatic tension wasn’t maintained with subsequent plot twists, and the final act reveal of a protagonist’s death was almost unnoticeable, due to its lack of poignancy.

The character of Frank Oddie, played by Steve Marvanek had less dialogue to contend with, which created much needed space for his effective non-verbal cues and facial expressions. Jackson Barnard as Toby Cole also brought some welcome energy in Act Four.

Full marks must go to the technical team for this production of “Amy’s View”. In particular, Bob Peet’s set was well designed and strongly constructed, including a stairwell and French doors with garden outlook adding classy dimensions to the standard setting for drawing room dramas. The use of music and British newsreel grabs were a clever way to draw the audience’s attention to the time periods of each of the four Acts, starting with 1979, 1985, 1993 and concluding with 1995. Unfortunately, the costumes and makeup were less persuasive in communicating the time shift across 16 years.

Interestingly, “Amy’s View” is part meta-theatre, in that it raises important questions about the relevance of theatre, compared with television and movies, particularly for younger audiences. This is just as pertinent now as when the play was written in 1997. The irony was probably not lost on the Friday night audience, which was predominantly made up of baby boomers, typical of the usual amateur theatre demographic. This is an observation rather than a criticism, and reminds us of wonderful work being done by partner organisation, Hills Youth Theatre, to keep theatre relevant to the emerging younger generation.

Congratulations to Stirling Players on reaching this special golden anniversary. Further celebrations are planned with a Gala Day on 20 August 2022, and a follow-up production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)”.

Here’s to another fifty years of theatre in Stirling!