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On Golden Pond (Salisbury)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Salisbury Playhouse production of ON GOLDEN POND by Ernest Thompson directed by Ria Parry
Keith Pattison
This remarkable, timeless play was written by Ernest Thompson in 1979 and set in the late 90's. It tells the tale of a dysfunctional family which is both humorous and sad. Norman and Ethel Thayer, played sympathetically and totally believably by Christian Rodska and Annabel Leventon are a retired couple in the autumn of their lives, who visit their lakeside cabin every summer.

As with many families there are tensions and unspoken strained frustrations, and this story demonstrates a striking portrayal of so many mixed emotions. This particular summer their daughter Chelsea, played expressively by Emma Pallant visits with her new Dentist boyfriend Bill (Ian Porter) and his 13 year old son Billy - Harry Emerson, who is making his professional debut here. The volatile relationship between father and daughter is painful to watch at times and one's heart is touched by their clumsy attempts to tolerate each other. The mother, naturally, tries to quell the raised emotions, as is so often the case in family undercurrents. Charlie (Duncan Wisbey) is Chelsea's old flame and long serving postman who pops in and out introducing more humour into the proceedings.

The arrival of the 13 year old brings another wonderful dynamic into the complicated equation as one muses at the heart warming relationship that flourishes between the old man and the teenager.

The set is magnificent, designed by the hugely talented James Button and built by the incredible workshop team at Salisbury Theatre. It draws the audience in, immediately transporting them to ‘Golden Pond' where the eerie sounds of water birds and even a downpour of rain pattering on the roof of the log cabin can be experienced.

Atmospheric lighting adds to this gentle piece of theatre and the sound technicians ensure every word can be heard. It is almost as if the audience are sharing the intimacy of each emotion and conversation that emerges in the lounge area of the cabin.

This is a nostalgic and thought provoking play, wonderfully drawn and portrayed. It will touch the hearts and possibly the consciences of all who see it.

Veronica Crowley