16 THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2007

Makars offer an am-dram

Separate Tables
Adam House Theatre

www.edinburghnews.com  EVENING NEWS
Cast photo
THEATREPERHAPS they have a good fairy or they've found some kind of lucky charm, but The Makars have recently seemed unable to produce a bad show. Their current offering, Terrence Rattigan's Separate Tables, is no exception.
Rattigan's play, set in the 1950s in a hotel in Bournemouth, presented a range of stereotypical characters in what were, for the time at least, controversial circumstances. A former junior minister-turned journalist hiding a dark secret in the first act, and a pompous army Major with an equally dark past, trying desperately to maintain his respectable facade in the second, formed the framework for the cast to springboard from.
At its worst, am-dram or community theatre involves a group of enthusiasts gathering together and more or less agreeing on a play that they'd like to perform. Once a semi-consensus has been agreed, the cast is chosen. The loudest get the best parts, leaving the dregs for the rest.
The Makars may not be a fully professional company, but you wouldn't know it from their performances. The odd rough edge aside, they bore no resemblance whatsoever to the traditional idea of amateur theatre in their delivery of this particular period piece.
The set - sparse yet accurate and evocative, the lighting - basic, but appropriate - and the music - reminiscent of the pot-throwing interludes of early television - all contributed to the atmosphere and the overall conceit of the play.
Irene MacKenzie's fluid storytelling sense of direction gave the actors plenty of room to breathe and inhabit their characters.

The actors, for the most part, seemed completely involved in the story, each of them relishing the roles they had been given.
While it would be true to say that this was an ensemble piece, there were several performances that stood out,
if for no other reason than that the actors successfully portrayed characters entirely opposite to previous roles they had played.
Anne Ritchie's Mrs Railton-Bell was superb in her snobbery and prejudice. Despite her dislikeable, almost fascistic qualities, there was a hint of frailty to the character that rendered her at least slightly sympathetic and three-dimensional, for which Ritchie deserved complete credit.

Amy Fraser's second Sybil in recent times, Miss Railton-Bell was an almost perfect emotional performance. The character's weak and submissive posture, never over-played, made for uncomfortable watching. The emergence of the strong Sybil at the end of the play was both inevitable and satisfying.
Stewart Auld as John Malcolm was agitated and almost desperate, yet suitably maudlin. Giving the character a pathetic veneer, this covered up his vulnerability and romanticism and gave Auld plenty of room to work. Equally, Eileen Burgess' Mrs Meecham and Marianne Drennan's Lady Matheson may have been secondary characters, but they were infused with enough depth to make them compelling and fun.
Jo Barrow came close to stealing the show with her quietly passionate, zen-like calm as Pat Cooper, the hotel manageress. Even when the character's emotions were being tested, they never broke. Barrow convinced completely as a kind of den mother or counsellor to the hotel's residents.
Emotional stories are always relevant and Separate Tables was no exception, particularly given this outstanding performance by this committed cast.
Runs until 31st March

`There were
some great

Mike Alderton, 45, lab
technician, Gilmore Place: "I've seen the Makars once before and I was surprised then. I wasn't this time. I think they're one of Edinburgh's best kept secrets. They're a great wee theatre company. They choose off-thewall plays a lot of the time and they make them really watchable. A good play and a great cast."
Gerry Burke, 47, interior designer, Cralghall Road: "Stewart Auld was fabulous and I thought the play was witty and I thought they all acted well. I thought it was great to see amateur dramatics making such an effort. They obviously don't have a huge budget, but they do so well with it. There was a great interaction between the actors, too. I'd definitely come back and see another show."
Robert Rae, 65, retired, Essex Road: "I hadn't seen the Makars before, but I'd seen the play and I really thought they did it justice. I asked someone if the cast were all ex-professional, they were that good. They were a great team, not just individual actors, though there were some great performances in there. It's easily comparable with things at the King's Theatre."