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On Golden Pond

On Golden Pond directed by John Evans. Photo courtesy of The Priory Theatre.

On Golden Pond, Priory Theatre, Friday 12 April - Saturday 20 April 2024

Review by Ashley Hayward.


Ernest Thompson’s 1979 play tells the story of Ethel and Norman Thayer who for the 48th consecutive year spend the summer in their home on Golden Pond in New England.

Norman is very sensitively portrayed by Kevin Coughlan as the irascible old man about to turn 80 and showing the early signs of dementia as well as experiencing heart palpitations. He can be quick tempered and rude but has retained his dry sense of humour as well as having a tendency to try and wind people up with sarcastic remarks.

Nicky Main gives a delightful performance as the pleasant, peace-making and devoted Ethel who is quite content to be back at Golden Pond where she can enjoy all its memories, pick berries, listen to the birds and talk to her doll Elma who she has kept from her childhood.

Ethel and Norman (Nicky Main and Kevin Coughlan) Photo courtesy of The Priory Theatre.

The couple are visited by their estranged daughter Chelsea, nicely played by Shelly Strelluf. Chelsea’s relationship with her father has always been difficult as he has often shown his disapproval of her life choices and she has never felt able to get close to him.

The tension between the two is intensified as she has brought along her latest partner, Bill, played with credibility by Mark Randall. Bill knows the old man is trying to play mind games and provoke him but manages to hold his own.

Chelsea played by Shelly Strelluf. Photo courtesy of The Priory Theatre.

The couple are accompanied by Bill’s 13-year-old son, ‘Billy’. William Strelluf gives a mature performance as the rather mischievous teenager with many endearing qualities. Chelsea and Bill announce that they would like to leave Billy with the elderly couple whilst they go touring in Europe.

Billy seems quite happy to spend the summer in this rural and tranquil setting and his relationship with the old man grows stronger as they learn about each other’s world. Norman takes him fishing and introduces him to ‘good’ books whilst Billy introduces the old man to modern terminology including the definition of the word ‘bullshit’!

We are left wondering whether this relationship was what Chelsea always wanted with her dad and perhaps Billy was the son that Norman always wanted. Billy certainly became the grandchild that the couple longed for.

Billy (William Strelluf) and Bill ( Mark Randall)

The themes of the play are ageing, family dynamics, tolerance and love and includes several quite moving scenes.

There is an ingenious and well-structured set which enables the audience to envisage the serene lake and picturesque scenery even though all the action takes place inside the house.

The production is enhanced by some appropriate and atmospheric music and evocative sound effects. The cast certainly do justice to the script with its clever and often humorous dialogue, and it is to their credit that under the direction of John Evans they hold the attention of the very appreciative audience.


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