The infrastructure investments the Continental have made this year in lighting, seating and curtaining have greatly improved its amenity for theatrical performers and audiences alike. This has allowed the venue to present with confidence an autumn season of five (but there may be more) plays from September through to December from a variety of regionally based theatre groups.Advertisement
First in the series is All Because Of Molly from Organised Chaos Productions, fresh from three shows at the Lowry and before heading on to venues in Liverpool, Halifax and Buxton. Yet because the venue needs to be multi-purpose for the varied artistic programmes the New Continental is instrumental in bringing to Preston, it suffers from a problem most multi-purpose rooms have – like the Guild Hall, it tends to be “good” for nothing.
This creates problems for touring groups like Organised Chaos who may not be familiar with the venue and what it can offer as staging opportunities can go badly wrong. In this case, the visiting troupe were unaware that the venue does have enough demountable staging to fill an adequately sized performance area, so elected to perform at floor level. Sightlines for the majority of the sell-out mid-week audience were therefore poor.
However, such problems can be easily overlooked when one is presented with such a marvellous evening’s entertainment. Writer Paul Furguson took on a tall challenge to tell the tale of the unquestioned friendship between two girls from toddlers until it had to end in their twenties, but his pacy and uncomplicated script manages it with aplomb. This is probably because actresses Alison Flevill (Jaime) and Laura Lindsay (Casey) on stage chemistry as best friends is easy and never in doubt.
In a plot full of potential potholes through time and scene shifts, director James Baker has fashioned a disarmingly simple piece which is always totally comprehensible, using the lead actresses’ abilities to portray their varying ages as they grow up.
Flevill and Lindsay are beautifully supported by the two “Jurors”, Christabel Brown and Tamira Hamam who multi-play all the other characters in Jaime and Casey’s lives, including Casey’s primary school nemesis, Molly. Using a wide range of convincing regional accents and other mannerisms to help locate scenes, Brown and Hamam’s performances allow the ever-present leads space to tell us of their friendship.
I found All Because Of Molly a delight from start to almost the finish; very well paced, acted and presented. A convincing end to any writing is never easy and the guts Furguson shows in his writing seems to slacken in a difficult final scene. But perhaps I only say this to be critical of something more than just rather quiet sound effects in a fantastic show.
The Continental’s presence in Preston is an oasis in something of a cultural desert, so it’s nice to actually have something to be critical about. For as long as they can continue bringing such bright and fresh new pieces and producers like Organised Chaos to the city, I for one am best pleased.
The Continental’s Autumn Theatre Season continues with Bathsheba (22 Sept), Look At Us Now (29 Sept), An Inspector Calls (20, 21 Oct) and Stig Of The Dump (8 & 9 Dec).