What they are saying
REVIEW, DEATHWATCH AND THE LAST MEMORY, JULY 2013:
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
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
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)
“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
“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.”
“I was completely moved.... couldn’t stop the tears. A massive well done
to you all. Just brilliant.” DS
REVIEW, FIVE KINDS OF SILENCE, FEBRUARY 2014:
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
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
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)
“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
REVIEW, GODFREY’S LAST STAND & GIVE A LITTLE LOVE,
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)