The Madam by Gwen Cherrell, Hecate Theatre Co.
The Alma Tavern, Bristol
Hecate Theatre Company immediately stands out from the crowd as a company who pride themselves on producing plays with an all-female cast, and The Madam is no exception. Performed in one of Bristol’s better known pub theatres, the play is beautifully staged to draw an audience straight into the living room of the Davenport family.
The play centres around four sisters, three of whom are living in the family home. With no parents or other relatives to speak of, the sisters rely wholly on each other; but we soon see that their lives are steeped in mystery and murder. Seemingly normal (if slightly dysfunctional) family life is soon turned on its head with the arrival of the fourth sister, Paula, who has recently been released from prison and is now out to make the truth about her imprisonment known.
The sisters are played by Ruth Peterson, Nicola Phibben, Maia Ayling and Hannah-Marie Chidwick. Gwen Cherrell’s writing is crafted to create four very distinct characters, each with their own personality quirks and flaws. The four women weave their way through the script with natural ease and a certain charm that at times provides a welcome touch of comic relief to an otherwise heavy subject. Nicola Phibben (Anna Davenport) seemed the most confident with some of her funnier lines, while Hannah-Marie Chidwick (Paula Davenport) provided us with the most convincing and well-rounded performance of the night. Karen Payne and Emma Keaveney delivered strong performances as family friends Molly and Sandy.
This team of six women have been well guided by Director Ed Browning, whose vision was clear and well executed. Louise Swindell’s technical touches beautifully compliment the simplicity of the staging. This production was slick and smooth; it’s definitely worth heading over to the Alma before the end of the run!
The Madam runs until Saturday 20th April. 8pm, tickets £10. Call the Box Office on 0117 973 5171
Reviewed by Grasey Mayes
**** – 4 Stars