TUPTON: Review of Chapel Players’ show Independent Means

Old Tupton Chapel Players, the cast of Independant Means, Barry Johnson, Ann Walters, Colin Sorrell, Matthew Joynes, Sally Mason and Jo Bissell
Old Tupton Chapel Players, the cast of Independant Means, Barry Johnson, Ann Walters, Colin Sorrell, Matthew Joynes, Sally Mason and Jo Bissell
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It’s fair to say that Old Tupton Chapel Players are unique among amateur theatre groups in the area.

Not only do they stage plays that spectators may never have seen before but they also educate the audience about the author and the period in which it is set.

Take this week’s production of Independent Means, which is preceded by a visual presentation on the author Stanley Houghton who is probably best known for his work Hindle Wakes.

Director John Harrop gives an opening address to the audience in which he explains that the play was written and set in a period often referred to as a beautiful sunlit afternoon, the Edwardian era which preceded the First World War.

There’s another visual presentation in the middle of Act II where Colin Morton’s handiwork shows the Edwardians at work and play. This slideshow enables a major scene change to take place behind the curtain transforming a lavishly furnished living room into a motor dealer’s office.

Now you might think an Edwardian comedy drama might have little relevance to today’s society but you’d be wrong. Bad investments, lack of job opportunities and class distinction feature prominently in this Northern tale.

What the players’ production does point up is that the pace of life seemed a lot more leisurely than now. People had time to sit down and talk about their problems - which they do at great length in the first scene.

Matthew Joynes gives an assured performance as a posh-speaking newly-wed finding it hard to reconcile life with a headstrong, independent wife with his old life as a spoilt son whose mum is under the thumb of her overbearing husband.

Jo Bissell is a good match for Matthew, cast as the young wife and wannabe suffragette who stands up to her father-in-law and her husband and eventually walks out of the marriage in a defiant act of independence.

The parents whose privileged lifestyle comes crashing around their ears are played by company stalwarts Colin Sorrell and Sally Mason whose years of experience on stage are reflected in their performances.

Barry Johnson as the self-made businessman and Ann Walters as the domestic who comes into a money do a great job in highlighting that hard work does have its rewards.

The thin audience at last night’s performance in the Old Tupton Methodist Church schoolroom wasn’t a just reward for the amount of effort that had gone into the production.

Independent Means has its last performance at 7.15pm tonight (Saturday, April 27).

GAY BOLTON