The Spring of 2019 saw Simon Bolt take in the funny (but very topically complex) production of Entertaining Angels. Audiences were not only blown away by the impressive set (consisting of a stream, greenhouse, garden lawn, patio and the back of a house!) but also were amused and moved by the characters as the story unfolded.
The story of Entertaining Angels tells the tale of Grace Thomas (portrayed by Lyn Dunning). Grace is the wife of the recently deceased Vicar, Bardolph (or Bardy) (portrayed by Rob Hatton). Not that Bardy being dead stops Grace from putting the world to rights about her current situation. The back and forth of witty banter, ferocious arguments and heart felt conversation was portrayed brilliantly by Lyn and Rob, making it impossible for you not to like the two characters.
Outside of the world of her memories she shared with her husband, Grace is choosing to spend her time in the real world being exceptionally “difficult”. The demise of Bardy means that she will have to leave the vicarage, an event she keeps changing her mind about, much to the frustration of her Psychotherapist daughter Jo (portrayed by Rachel Feeny-Williams) and missionary sister Ruth (portrayed by Pat Cusa). Grace’s difficult mood is further worsened by discovering the Vicar who is to replace Bardy and “evict” her is a woman, the kind-hearted Sarah (portrayed by Rebbecca Roach).
Looking at the mess the characters start with you would imagine things can’t get much worse, but you would be wrong. Scandal and secrets flood through this production more so than in a soap opera.
A bonding moment by the stream sees Sarah reveal that she had previously had an affair with a young French polisher, much to Jo’s amazement. Sarah then further reveals she doesn’t think she’s cut out to be a Vicar but rather than explain she disappears from the house swiftly, leaving Jo entirely baffled.
However, the ultimate “bombshell moment” for our characters comes at the end of Act One where Ruth reveals that 30 years ago she had a “dalliance” and that has resulted in her being the mother of a 30 year old son called Jeremy. And the father? Her own sister’s husband, Bardy! It is understandable that the audiences audibly gasped at this reveal and Act One closed leaving them on the edge of their seats.
Despite the seriousness of the ‘confessions’ Sarah and Ruth reveal in Act One it was the funnier of the two halves of the production.
Act Two opens two days later with the sisters still at each other’s throats and refusing to stay in the same room to discuss it. This all becomes too much for Jo who emotionally breaks down to Sarah. Sarah then in turn drops another bombshell, that as a result of her affair she’d fallen pregnant and had a termination. This particular scene was one of raw emotion and despite the comedy that had come before and would come after, this scene held tension very well.
Jo, not put off by her mother and aunt’s stubbornness, is determined to get them together to talk. Initially this starts off with the catty remarks and the arguing that you would expect (as well as an additional angry explosion from Jo).
The situation is then further complicated when Grace decides to “test drive Sarah’s pastoral skills” by asking her opinion on the situation. Not put off, Sarah further questions Grace in regards to her choice to only have only child despite her advice to “have plenty”. This leads to another emotional reveal that Grace lost another child. While Ruth does try to console her sister, the anger Grace feels that Ruth not only kept this secret from her for 30 years but she also knew about the child Grace lost.
This emotional reveal from Grace prompts a further declaration. That she was there when her husband died and in her mind, was the one who drowned him. A heartfelt and sorrowful speech from Grace brings her true feelings about her husband and their marriage to light (along with the fact that she was not responsible for his death). This moment of closure then ripples outwards as the two sisters reconcile, leading to another beautiful heartfelt moment that make up this emotional half of the play.
The final moment of closure is seen in the following scene, set a year later. Sarah (now heavily pregnant) has taken her new role as Vicar in her stride (even though she finds it difficult to get a moment of peace). One of these moments is interrupted by Grace who asks if she can sit in the garden “one last time”. This allows the audience to see the closure between Grace and Bardy before Jo and Ruth enter and the family reveal they are on their way to the airport to meat Ruth’s son. However, before they can go Grace can not help but comment on Sarah’s bump not really going with a Vicar’s collar. Not to be put off Sarah reminds Grace that Christ himself fought through all kinds of adversities but Grace has the last word stating he could have been more disadvantaged by “coming as a woman”. Seeing the family leave and Sarah settled in her new home provided a lovely moment of closure despite all the secrets that have rocked the worlds of the characters throughout.
The three nights of this production were the 4th, 5th and 6th of April and feedback from the audiences was exceptionally positive. There was much thanks offered by Simon to the cast & crew of what was a very well put together production! Please enjoy the pictures below!