Grand night out – Saddleworth Players return to stage is memorable

A FIRST night standing ovation and two visits already from playwright Alan Stockdill are testimony to the triumph of Le Grand Return – Saddleworth Players’ latest production at Delph’s Millgate Arts Centre.

High calibre material capable of leaving audiences tearful from laughter and poignancy is one facet of a success story; having a cast capable of bringing those emotions to bear is another.

So, when the two fit hand in glove as they do in this tale of three pensioners’ attempts to leave their nursing home to attend the 50th anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landings then it is must see, with only three performances remaining on February 6, 7 and 8.

Tommy Hardaker, played masterfully by Ian Park, is the only one of the trio to see active service during World War Two.

The ‘gimmer with the zimmer’ is desperate to escape Coldrick (see what the author did there!) old folks’ home to visit France to pay respects to former comrades, in particular the buddy who saved his life.

Aided, abetted and occasionally stymied by fellow ‘inmates’ ex Bevin Boy Alf (Ian Crickett) and initially snooty former Pay Corps captain Edwin Cooper (John Tanner), the threesome plan an unlikely trip to Europe.

Obstacles include Tommy’s frail health, Alf’s apparent gormlessness and Edwin’s incontinence.

On opening night, there was also a rogue butterfly flying in from the wings, enjoying the actors’ efforts so much it evaded virtually all attempts to capture it!

The intruder led to some hasty ad-libbing, especially in one second half scene when it landed on Ian Park’s head.

Butterflies aren’t guaranteed every night; first rate performances definitely are.

The cast is completed by versatile Alayne Whitworth’s portrayal of nursing home matron, Belgian customs officer and French landlady.

Directed by Verity Mann, Le Grand Return is a humorous, thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

Tickets, albeit a few, remain available for the final three nights from the Millgate website or by telephoning the box office on 01457 874644.

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