'A Lovely Way To Escape'

Rainhill Garrick Society are well into rehearsals for their upcoming production of My Friend Miss Flint, a comedy by Donald Churchill and Peter Yeldham, and they couldn't have chosen a more topical piece as it weaves its way through the shenanigans of tax avoidance and cover-ups. Panama anyone?

But it wasn't originally meant to be this production as the Director, Richard Parker, kindly taking time out of a busier than normal rehearsal schedule, explained. The scheduled production was to be Ronald Harwood's The Dresser but when Rainhill Garrick Society approached Samuel French Ltd for a licence back in February, they were informed that due to the success of a recent TV production, a professional theatre company had approached them for a performance licence which in effect meant any other productions were now off limits. Cue scratching of heads and a read through a lot of plays before finally, and playing to the comic abilities of group members, My Friend Miss Flint was chosen.

The original play dates from the late-1970's/early-1980's and as with many of these classic farces, and despite their wonderful lines, the challenge is to ensure it is relevant.
Parker noted that many of the people referred to in the original play were no longer in the public eye, although interestingly some of them now had criminal records, but with the various financial scandals currently flying around it was too good an opportunity to be missed and so they have cleverly re-vamped it to include references to recent events and scandals as well as a host of visual gags.

So with a typical 16-week planning and rehearsal period cut to 12 weeks, Rainhill Garrick Society have really had their work cut out during their regular Tuesday and Thursday evening rehearsal slots before entering their three-week countdown when set construction, lighting and props are finally brought to fruition.

Parker has been involved with Rainhill Garrick Society since 1993, introduced by his parents who were both keen amateur dramatists, and has progressed from front of house and backstage roles to performing, most recently in February's production of Last Tango in Whitby, as well as directing with his first production in 2014 of the memorable My Three Angels.

Parker is honest enough to admit the challenge for all amateur dramatic groups is in selecting the productions that respond not only to cast strengths but that also appeal to a wider audience. Following an audience dip in the late 1990's, Rainhill Garrick Society chose to leave the highbrow to the professional theatre groups in Liverpool and Manchester and concentrate their attentions on classic theatre and judging by their recent sell-out productions they are clearly getting it right.

Rainhill Garrick Society are always on the lookout for new members, whether that be in an acting capacity, set building, or just serving teas and coffees from the kitchen on performance nights. Parker stressed the importance to people new to theatre working backstage to learn their stage craft before treading the boards - there are vital skills to be learnt and observations to be made that will only benefit and enhance any budding actor.

There is also a very active social side to the Society which ranges from seeing other productions in the North-West to walking trips including their annual New Year's Day hike which all contribute towards binding a group of people together as they work tirelessly to bring productions to life.

Before returning to the rehearsal room, Parker shared his ongoing experience of an opening night: the 5pm nerves; the habits of cast members playing out in the dressing room; the half-hour countdown to curtains up; and then your cue to go on and in that nano-second the buzz which makes it all worthwhile. As Parker concluded, when you've had a lousy day at work there really is no more lovely and relaxing a way to escape than two hours rehearsing with this group. I can only echo that having seen many of their productions in recent years - they really are a lovely and talented group and a delight to watch.

Rainhill Garrick Society was formed in 1942 with the object of 'fostering Dramatic Art by the performance of plays'. Their third production required music, included in which was Percy Grainger's 'Country Gardens' which then became the Society's theme tune and is played at all of their productions.

My Friend Miss Flint will be their 225th production and plays at Rainhill Village Hall on Thursday 12th, Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May 2016, all starting at 7.30pm.

Tickets are available at Rainhill Village Post Office or by calling 01744 813 429.

For further information on this and forthcoming productions or to get involved then visit their website http://rainhillgarrick.co.uk/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 28th April 2016