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On Golden Pond

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 29th Feb 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge


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ON GOLDEN POND - Darlington Civic Theatre


The first thing that strikes you as you enter the auditorium of the Civic Theatre to take your seat is the sound of birdsong. The second is the stunning set, designed by Michael Lunney, which recreates the interior of a summer house with an exterior backdrop that depicts the beauty and tranquillity of Golden Pond, Maine, New England.  This combination certainly helped set the scene and the tone of Middle Ground Theatre Company’s stylish production. Add to that a stellar cast, headed by a bona fide Hollywood legendary leading lady – Stefanie Powers – and you feel pretty sure that you’re going to have a theatrical treat in store.

Ernest Thompson’s best-known play began off-Broadway in 1978, before becoming a hit on Broadway, a much-loved film (starring Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Jane Fonda) and a musical. It now ranks as a modern classic.

The timeless and endearing love story of Ethel (Stefanie Powers) and Norman Thayer (Richard Johnson) is brought to life with great aplomb.  Powers delivers a flawless performance which is compelling to watch – indeed she is every inch the consummate leading lady. She is wonderfully supported by Johnson and the rapport they share as performers makes it very easy for the audience to believe that they are a devoted couple who have been together for almost half a century.

There are some very fine performances from the rest of the cast, too. Elizabeth Carling, as Chelsea, portrays the resentment she harbours against her father (who wanted a son but got a daughter) brilliantly.  Tom Roberts, as Chelsea’s new fiancé, strikes the right balance in his attempts to win over Norman whilst, at the same time, refusing to be belittled by him. Graeme Dalling has the unenviable task of attempting to embody a fourteen year old boy, yet achieves it perfectly. It falls to Kasper Michaels, as the slightly goofy mailman, Charlie, to provide much of the light relief and comedy moments.

The play ambles along at a leisurely pace and the humour is reassuringly gentle. This slick production, which has obviously been staged with a good deal of reverence, dispels any misconceptions that the piece may be dated and highlights the relevance of a narrative which deals with the relationships between differing generations. In fact, On Golden Pond is exactly what good theatre should be – entertaining, escapist, thought-provoking and deeply touching. Bravo!

Steve Burbridge.

Runs until Saturday 3 March, then continues to tour. 

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