Changing Times - The Directory Group

Changing times

Theatre review by Henry Ascoli

Amy’s View, by Winton Players at Petersfield Festival Hall

A social comedy, a political play, a modern tragedy… 'Amy’s View' has it all.

With trademark energy and character, Winton Players captured the unpredictable drama and ever-changing emotions of David Hare’s complex play, holding the Festival Hall audience in thrall.

At once challenging, shocking and absorbing, Amy’s View paints a stark portrait of changing views within society, played out during two decades of drama within one family.

Yet throughout, there is one thing that remains consistent: each character is controlled by personal demons, from depression to addiction, and it is through these issues that we gain a greater insight into the deeper messages of the piece.

The play revolves around the ever-changing dynamic between Amy, her controlling husband Dominic – a cynical media man – and her widowed mother Esme, its four acts tracking the family from 1970 to 1995.

From their very first encounter, it is all too clear that Esme, a glamorous actress in the twilight of her career, disapproves of Dominic, and their continual conflict provides the focal point for the drama.

Declaring the “theatre is dead”, cultural sceptic Dominic immediately locks horns with Esme, who is rooted in her traditionalist values, swiftly exposing their more general political viewpoints and social values.

Meanwhile, in the sensitive relationship between Esme and Amy, the author paints a vivid portrait of the ever-changing views – and roles – of women in 20th century Britain, as Esme repeats: “there are no roles for women.”

As the play progresses, the tension and drama reaches a new level, yet it is the poignant final scene which carries the most impact, as tragedy and loss ultimately lead to unity and solace…

The beautifully-decorated set depicts Esme’s sitting room in Pangbourne, where the majority of the action takes place, before the final scene is played out in a London theatre dressing room. With both, the Players have done themselves proud.

Ryan Watts grows into the role of Dominic, whose dominant nature and cynical views do little to endear him to Esme – or indeed the audience.

Cindy Graves and Ed Sheehan appear assured in their roles as Evelyn and Toby respectively, while John Edwards - in his first stage play with the Winton Players - proves a strong casting as Esme’s companion Frank, a seemingly straightforward character who seems too good to be true…

Yet it is Francesca Williams (Amy) and Eileen Riddiford (Esme) who are at the heart of this show’s success, both showing great energy, composure and stage presence throughout, portraying two highly-charged and complex characters.

This was certainly a brave decision from the Winton Players, in opting for a play with such strong social messages, yet overall this is a triumph for a local group who punch above their weight, time and time again.

Amy’s View runs at the Petersfield Festival Hall until Saturday 16th April, with performances on Friday and Saturday nights (7.30pm) and a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm. Tickets available on the door. 

The Directory Group covers the following areas within Hampshire and West Sussex: Petersfield, Clanfield, Hayling Island, Cowplain, Waterlooville, Denmead, Purbrook, Widley, Farlington, Cosham, Drayton, Havant, Rowlands Castle, Emsworth, Southbourne, Westbourne, Bosham, Portsmouth, Alton, Alresford, Bentley, Four Marks and Meon Valley