News‎ > ‎

A Long Awaited Play (and a party, too)

posted Apr 15, 2012, 5:57 AM by Tibba Stoutfoot   [ updated Apr 16, 2012, 3:57 AM by Peppy Bristlebrush ]
by Nimelia Stoutfoot 

(With a repeat performance of the Grand Order Acting Troupe's second play "An Apple a Day" planned for this Sunday, I thought it might be a good time to submit to the Gazette my review of the performance of their fourth play I wrote a few months back.)

See the stage?

The lights are set up quite thoughtfully, with a row of footlights along the front, each a pair of two candles with a suitably adorned reflector, just enough to soften the natural shadows on the stage, without irritating the audience.

The backdrop is made from loosely-woven cotton fabric, specially crafted to be robust yet flexible enough for the many changes it will go through, while receiving well the paint used by the artist to create the scenery.

It is a good, a solid stage, and was made so by the fine craftsmen of the Shire, who commit a good part of their lives to providing us with a vast array of commodities, to make our lives more manageable, or even possible.

And the stage is ready ...

With the premier performance of their third play some months past, the Grand Order Acting Troupe finally presented their fourth and latest play, entitled 'In Search of Hope'. This time, the performance was to take place on the Grand Order's own stage, in lovely Songburrow.

The scene of the play, however, was a village up in the Northfarthing. The first act started off with what this reviewer considers the centre piece, the monologue by the village's Shirriff, played by Miss Lina. She pulled all registers in order to frame every sentence with meaning over and above the spoken words. On the surface, it was established that the village folk were in a precarious situation, with the crops failing after a long and hard winter, and the youngsters failing to step up and do their part. The issue hinted at was a problem threatening the very foundation of our communities - the loss of familiarity, a decay of trust between village folk.

For most of us, this may seem profoundly strange. After all, how would we erect a new barn, or build a new burrow, if not by getting together neighbors and friends from near and far to help out, in exchange for no more than a few pies and a merry celebration of the finished work? We know all these people - we roamed the forests and fields of our childhood with them, we learned our letters from them, we enjoyed good harvests and faced failed crops together, we were at their wedding ceremonies, and at the wake of their beloved.
Yet, imagine a world where those ties - woven from familiarity, shared experiences, and obvious mutual dependency - are faded; where you have your plough fixed, your pony shoed, your mail delivered by complete strangers; where you turn for help to a scant few close relatives, and behind them a mass of strangers staring at you, wondering who you might be, and whether you are one to return a favour.
What a strange world this would be.

At this point, one of the heroes of the play enters - young Marlo, whose genuinely open and honest disposition could not be portrayed any better than was done in this case by Master Simbo. He enters the Shirriff's office with that cheerful ambition which seems innate to the young, and also with the best intentions to help out the village by joining the Bounders. And yet, in a downbeat change of mood, he is met with cold distrust and rejection, and thrown back out with a determination seemingly intended to expulse him from the community entirely.

The desperation is intensified still when we meet Marlo's sister Pia, portrayed by Miss Patula, in a heart-wrenching scene which finds her driven by sheer hunger to steal some windfall from Farmer Grump's apple trees. She is confronted by the farmer and, like her brother, ends up being thrown out.

Of the further development of the story, we shall only reveal this much: The two youngsters find themselves driven to an even more desperate act than just stealing a few apples, before a dramatic turn of events provides our heroes with the chance to prove themselves in an exhilarating final act.

Now, one might ask: Why is the gloomy proposition of the piece not corroborated by a befittingly fatal ending, why is there even comedy in the script? It is, we believe, because the artists understand that among the many agents of change, despair is one not to be invoked lightly.
If the play ends on a high note, it does so in order to raise your spirit - for when your spirits are high, you will see farther, should you be ... In Search of Hope.

After the final curtain call, the actors joined the audience in a merry celebration of the performance, the stage being taken by bards performing new songs and old favourites, with folks singing, dancing, and enjoying good food, as is the way of us Hobbits. At this point, we should applaud not only the performers, but also the good people in the audience, for their spirit and their willingness to be part of such events is making it all possible in the first place.

And as the theatre stage falls silent again, the audience is released onto the roads leading them to their homes, until the only remaining sound is the somewhat chilly whisper of the wind - and an occasional slight creak from the stage's floorboards, like a sigh of relief for not having to support the weight of a certain famous actor anymore.

See the stage?

The lights, with their flickering, cast fleeting patches upon the surroundings, as if to draw from the trampled grass the shadows of audiences past, and those yet to be summoned.

The backdrop is moving in the breeze, bringing to life the scenery painted upon it, as with every flutter and snap of the cloth it seems like the sight spellbound to its surface wishes to burst free, perhaps to hint at scenes yet to be imagined and written.

It is now a living, an inspiring stage, and was made so by the efforts of our fine writers and actors, who look at our world with eyes open for the most subtle shades, and commit a good part of their lives to entertaining us, to sharing with us their insights through their art, to make our lives more enjoyable, or even elevated.

And the stage waits ...