Harburn Village Hall - Drama


As a regular at The Theatre Royal in Margate a year or two ago, I took for granted that the actors I watched would appear week after week in different guises. Now I find myself full of admiration for those seasoned members of the Harburn players who can transform themselves from pantomime dames to out and out baddies, from fairies to villagers and in this year's Spring Play, stretch themselves in very different and demanding roles.

combe play 16

Black Combe was a brave choice by Director Maggie Gray. It depended on the strength of the three pairs of characters in three seemingly unconnected scenes. An astute move it was to cast two of the scenes to be played by real life husband and wife pairs who would presumably have plenty of opportunity to line rehearse the lengthy dialogue written by John Peel. I hope conversation in the Stott and Tuxworth households has now returned to normal. David Dobson, as landlord Jimmy, with a pretty impressive north country accent, linked the story while the storm clouds of Black Combe gathered. In the final scene, Jimmy, now an old man, very movingly brought to the audience the final outcome of the three situations we had witnessed earlier.

It is sometimes difficult to separate comedy from tragedy and Morag and George Stott skilfully guided us through this conflict of emotions. Of course we laughed at the revelation that Harry (George) was a flasher and streaker and at Gladys's (Morag) naive interpretation of what this meant, but quickly we stopped laughing when it became obvious that both led desperately lonely lives. In the next scene there was a palpable silence in the audience while Phil Tuxworth as Richard, the policeman and war veteran, struggled to explain to his wife Fliss (Fay) how he came to be facing sentencing for murder. This was genuinely moving and Phil's timing and changes of pace were immaculate.

After this I found it more difficult to empathise with the relationship between Zorro and Fairy, played convincingly by John Bowman and Dee Affleck. I was not sorry to find they had been discovered in flagrante in the cellar. And so it was left to David/ Jimmy, to round off the story, a man who had lost his aunt to the streaker, his friend and surrogate son to Her  Majesty's Pleasure, his wife to her lover and his livelihood to recession. Not a cheerful ending to a difficult play but congratulations to Maggie and her cast for bringing it off and navigating calmly round some of the inevitable hazards of amateur productions.    For the second half of the evening we were royally entertained firstly by David D, Harburn's Wandering Minstrel, in his usual charming and relaxed style and then by newly formed "Boy Band", Cairnpapple.  We enjoyed (and even dared to join in at times) a selection of mainly Scottish songs brought to us by Richard Drysdale Wilson on guitar, John Wilkinson on the Bodhrán and Joe Ross - vocals. This trio was joined by Heather on loan from Tryst and it was a lovely way to end another amazing evening demonstrating that Harburn talent is continuing to go from strength to strength.


Distraught train drivers and their traumatised passengers were reported to be receiving counselling at Haymarket last night (Thursday) after the main Carstairs-Edinburgh line was obstructed for two hours outside Harburn Hall by a warm cloud of vapour carried on sudden Gusts of uncontrollable laughter. ‘It wis awfie! It wis like a group o’ Sid James impersonators let loose in the Monkey Hoose o’ Edinburgh Zoo wi a couplae donkeys thrown in,’ said Mrs Effie McGuffie (56) of Wester Hailes, sipping a cup of warm sweet tea. ‘I’ll hear it fer the rest o’ ma days.’

Inside the hall, Maggie Gray’s top-class production of ‘The Steamie’ was breaking box office records along with the sound barrier and several ribs. The minimal set suggested an oasis of cleanliness in the general squalor of the 1950s, and, a few prompts apart, the actors without exception gave a flawless and hilarious performance in it, enjoying themselves almost as much as the audience. From the young, innocent and earnest upwardly mobile Doreen (Nicola Tuxworth) to the gallus and flighty self-styled skivvy Magrit (Dee Affleck) to the blethery yet gullible busybody Dolly (Morag Stott) to the inconsequentially lugubrious and lonely Mrs Culfeathers (Sandra Dobson), each one gave the performance of their lives, counterpointed by the bit part of Andy, janitor and local hunk-become-drunk (played totally out-of-character by the ever-sober David Dobson). Yet amid the comradely banter and laughter, all the graphic Weegie humour, there was also pathos, and this was movingly played.
erhaps the highlight was the surreal non-telephone conversation, but even the potentially boring ‘stupit conversation’ about mince and tatties was brought to life by an ideally cast cast. Congratulations to them, and to the lighting and musical directorial duo (Denise & Jerry Tracey): without them it wouldn’t have been seen and heard; and to all the technical staff, listed in the programme. Lastly, Maggie couldn’t have pulled it off without the superb script, written by Tony Roper of Scottish comedic TV and panto fame, rather than by Hugh Trevor-Roper (aka Baron Dacre of Glanton), once Professor of History at Oxford University, two-thirds-credited in the programme, who is turning in his grave even as we write, one way in annoyance at being associated with the production, in another way in disgruntlement at not being able to be associated with it, and in a third way in amusement at the convoluted confusion of this sentence and the misascription of a Glaswegian comedy play to a seriously controversial and sarcastic English academic and intellectual. Oh how we laughed! jgw