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What they are saying


A Roller-coaster of subtle and raw emotion was on show in the premiere of two new one-act plays by new local theatre company Talking Stock Productions at the Viaduct Theatre on Tuesday, part of the Halifax Festival.
This night of tense and achingly poignant drama kicked off with ‘Deathwatch’: two men sat in a prison cell with one facing the gallows. Fears, hopes, dreads, dreams and the complex psychologies of the human mind floated to the surface and then suddenly twisted, shifting everything and everyone into question.
Alistair Cheetham and Steve Marsden kept the audience gripped and Cheetham’s voice, singing a random Christmas carol, was outstanding, playing to the strengths of the Viaduct’s splendid acoustics.
In ‘The Last Memory' Lynne visited her father in a care home specialising in dementia. Her adored father Ernest exists in a repetitive loop of conversation about his past as his short-term memory constantly evaporates and his life rug slowly rolls up. In a charming and uplifting fashion, however, he always seems to remember his boyhood hometown football team.
Alzheimer’s is a tricky subject and everyone’s story and circumstance is different, The two actors, Keith Royston and Catherine Pasek, dealt with it tenderly and compassionately picking out the humour, the positives, the memories and the ‘Carpe Diem’ moments in a beautiful and truly touching way.
As Ernest’s memories melt from under his feet Lynne explains how father and daughter got to where they are now - and how they both cope. This is all the more remarkable when you discover Catherine, the actress, is actually living the same situation with her own father who has just moved into a local care home. A brave move to bare such raw and contemporary emotions. The music (piano arrangements of old hymn tunes) works seamlessly, supporting the emotions and making the audience laugh, cry and consider.
Both pieces are beautifully written and constructed by local writer, director and actor Alan Stockdill who also directed these two 45 minute playlets with measured sensitivity and aplomb.
(KATE HARWOOD, Halifax Courier)

Audience response:

“One of the most moving and inspirational pieces of theatre I have ever experienced. Thank you for bringing it to us; and so beautifully performed! It should be published and given the universal plaudits it deserves.” GH
“What can I say Catherine but 98.4?! You portrayed as Lynne, the sheer love a daughter has for her ‘Daddy’ who is struggling mentally to remain with his beloved family. Keith Royston played Ernest to perfection. Not 98.4 at all. 100% for both performances.” DB
“I just wanted to say congratulations on last night’s performances - it was brilliant. You should all be very proud of it. There was not a dry eye in the house.” RM
“It was amazing, brilliant. So strong. I cried the whole way through.” SK
“I was completely moved.... couldn’t stop the tears. A massive well done to you all. Just brilliant.” DS


Little boy who has lost his way, fighting his own demons of a violent childhood - or child and wife-abusing monster? That was the question faced by the 140-strong audience at the Viaduct Theatre on 4 February when local company Talking Stock performed the hard- hitting drama, ‘Five Kinds of Silence’ by Sheila Stephenson.
This profoundly powerful play is unsettling and morally complex. It takes a gritty issue of how the cycle of family ‘abuse’ can sow its shocking seeds to root into the ground and insidiously strangle the growing plants beneath. They then flower above the earth and the cycle begins again. It is all they know; to them it is ‘normal’. And so the blight continues.
Alan Stockdill took the idea of physical theatre to an impressive level bringing a magical and powerful energy to the role of psychopathic Billy. He veered between little boy lost, locked in a cupboard, abused by his own mother - to the scary, crazy, controlling husband and father. You could see how his fate to abuse and obsession with order was sealed. Brilliant acting indeed.
The rest of the actors were also very strong, with Pam Asling poignantly playing the shy, resigned, controlled Mary, who had also experienced abuse and mistreatment and loss as a child. The two daughters, Susan (Sharon Kelly) and Janet (Rebecca Heneghan) gave some touching and shocking monologues. At times members of the audience could not meet their eyes some of the experiences relayed were so excruciating.
Completing the cast were Catherine Pasek and Kerry Fennelly who played various characters from the outside world interviewing the mother and daughters about what events had taken place in their distorted, ‘Billy dominated’ world. A true ensemble piece, the movement and pace was seamless and slick, the set simple and symbolic. The choice of music was impeccable. The poignancy of Einaudi’s i Giorni at the end brought emotion and colour to the bleak chill.
This was an outstanding portrayal of the twisted love of a violent man for his family and the scars of abuse that form between the women under his control. It proved just how disturbed, distorted and terrifying life on the other side of that door can be. Things are not always what they seem.
All money raised from this production is going to NSPCC ChildLine’s ‘Now I Know’ campaign which aims to put trained counsellors in every primary school in the UK.
(SIMON COLLIER, Halifax Courier)
Audience response:

“Thank you. I can't put into words what I gained from watching the play last night. I cried during the performance and my partner cried in the car outside. The play struck many chords with both of us. Please congratulate the cast on their excellent performance.” AB
“What an amazing production. All the actors were wonderful but the man who played the very damaged Billy will stay in my mind for a long time. I felt very moved and privileged to have the opportunity to see it.” SA




The two short plays in this double bill from West Yorkshire-based Talking Stock Productions, both written in the last year or so by Alan Stockdill, could hardly have differed more in their setting - a veteran cricket umpire getting his chance to officiate in the big leagues and a group of former schoolgirl Bay City Roller fans meeting up decades on – but they were linked by their crowd-pleasing compassion, humanity and humour.
In ‘Godfrey’s Last Stand’, Godfrey Shackleton (Keith Royston) has been a cricket umpire in the Yorkshire Dales league for half a century. But, even as his last match looms, his impossible dream remains to officiate at an England-Australia match in his tiny hometown of Scuddleswick. Unexpectedly, his chance to do exactly that comes, thanks to a £3.2m lottery win. His daughter Donna (Sharon Kelly) is less than impressed by his scheme, and even his lugubrious umpire pal Freddy Fitton (Stockdill himself) advises against it.
It’s a well-played, gentle comedy about family, forgiveness, responsibilities, hopes and dreams that you’d be exceptionally hard-hearted not to be moved, if not actually bowled over, by.
Unobtrusively, the piece weaves in mention of the splendid work of the evening’s beneficiaries, MacMillan Cancer Support, as did the rather different second piece, ‘Give A Little Love’. Thirty years ago, Karen Williams (Catherine Pasek), Debbie Worsnop (Pam Asling), Bev Atkinson (Maria Sykes) and Liz Barker (Helen Forsyth) had been schoolgirls, united by their adoration of The Bay City Rollers. But their lives have taken very different paths in the years before Karen arranges for them all to meet up again at a Bay City Rollers tribute concert, as revealed in unfolding personal stories in which it soon becomes apparent that, like a Russian doll, we all have different versions of ourselves within our outer selves.
Whatever your feelings about the tartan terrors or cricket, this is an entertaining, thought-provoking double-bill, well worth seeking out.
(KEVIN BOURKE, Manchester Theatre Awards)



Compelling theatre with a loving heart and a loud voice!

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