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"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have
lighted fools
The way to dusty death. "
(Macbeth: Act V Scene V)

'On Golden Pond' by Ernest Thompson

October 2018

Directed by: David Hemsley-Brown
Design by: David Hemsley-Brown
Lighting by: Alex Lyon
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: Richard Parish, Sue Pollard, Polly King, Nick Lund, Eddie King and Harry Jarvis

For a direct link to the GALLERY of PHOTOGRAPHS of this production CLICK

In this funny, endearing and touching story, Ethel and Norman Thayer return to their summer home on Golden Pond for the forty-eighth year. He is a retired professor nearing eighty, but still as tart-tongued, observant and eager for life as ever. His spirited wife, Ethel, delights in all the small things that have enriched and continue to enrich their long life together. Changes are on the horizon when their daughter Chelsea and her fiancé Bill visit and leave Billy Junior with Ethel and Norman to care for over the summer. A bond is created as the generations learn from each other. As the summer wanes, so does their brief idyll, and in the final, deeply moving moments of the play, Norman and Ethel are brought even closer together.

“A work of rare simplicity and beauty” (The New York Daily News)

As we left the Mill Studio last night my companion was saying “much better than the movie!”, and said it more than once.
I remember the movie as being a bit slow and forgettable, but the play wasn't. It was gentle, certainly, but funny and engaging too.
As always with the Lighted Fools, one's first experience of the play is the set design, and as always it was lovely. David Hemsley-Brown was the designer as he has often been before, but this time while taking on the duties of Director too. And what a classy job he and his team did.
The lighting was the next thing to catch the eye, as a subtle effect of reflected water began to play upon the scene. That, combined with the fishing-rods on the wall set the scene beautifully for a visit to a lakeside holiday home.
Richard Parish entered and began to set the scene with Sue Pollard, both excellent as the cranky but loving couple making their fortieth-odd visit to Golden Pond. Laughs came quickly and easily for both of them while they held the stage alone for the first ten minutes or so.
Then the other characters began to arrive – Polly King as their daughter Chelsea, Eddie King as her long-unrequited admirer Charlie, Nick Lund as her latest flame and Harry Jarvis as his son (who did a really great job, well done Harry).
Between them they made a festival out of the piece, and it really was better than the movie, funnier, better paced, more interesting, just great.
All the crew contributed – the arrival of Charlie was heralded by the growing sound of an approaching motor-boat which gurgled and sputtered to a stop at the house jetty. The lighting was subtle but very effective and the scene changes were slick and unobtrusive.
The director, cast and crew of Lighted Fools are to be congratulated once again for bringing a very effective and I want to say “professional” presentation of On Golden Pond to the Mill Studio. I've said it before, and I say it again – Lighted Fools is a company whose shows one should see simply because it's them.

On the very weekend the clocks go back signalling the goodbyes to another summer and plunging us into the winter gloom, Guildford's Mill Theatre, courtesy of The Lighted Fools Theatre Company, offers up ‘On Golden Pond’ reminding us of the passing of time and the inevitability of the future.
If that sounds all rather depressing this production certainly is not! Ernest Thompson's play, better known perhaps from its award winning screen version with Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn, is full of shade and light, humour and pathos, joy and sadness and ‘The Fools’, under David Hemsley-Brown's assured direction, neatly explore the fragility and perception of life.
Norman Thayer Junior - was he the original Grumpy Old Man? - is back with his long-suffering wife Ethel at their summer vacation log cabin on the lake that is Golden Pond.
He's about to celebrate his eightieth birthday and there's not much right - even the telephone, the family photographs on the mantelpiece and the mosquito door screen are bones of contention. And to make matters worse Chelsea, the daughter Norman always wanted as a son, is about to arrive with soon-to-be new husband Bill Ray and equally soon-to-be stepson Billie Ray. And lurking in the background is Charlie, the local postman who always wanted Chelsea for himself.
And so the plot thickens as do the biting mosquitoes from the lake and the wailing loons on the water.
You have to feel sorry for Norman as his faculties desert him, cross with him for wasting his life seemingly not loving his daughter and delighted that, in his dotage, he perhaps comes good with an enduring relationship with his step grandson Billie.
Richard Parish is, as one would expect, quite outstanding as Norman. Did the Fools founder choose ‘On Golden Pond’ with himself in mind for the part? No one could have played it better.
And for those of us who know Sue Pollard from elsewhere the only question is - why has it taken her so long to make her debut with the company as Ethel? Sue shines through with all the skills she learned as a professional actor and dancer in a former life. Ethel is the long suffering wife and Sue beautifully brings that characterisation to life. May Sue return time and again to The Fools.
Also debuting is thirteen years-old Harry Jarvis as Billy. An assured performance from a teenager who could also do no wrong with a longer attachment to the company but sadly there are probably not so many roles for young actors in this genre.
Polly King never lets the side down and her Chelsea is no exception whilst real life husband Eddie as Charlie, the postman, and Nick Lund as Bill Ray complete an exceptional cast making for an equally exceptional evening's entertainment.
So, is everything all too late on golden ponds, or elsewhere for that matter, or is that quite simply life and aging? Enjoy it whilst you can!

The Lighted Fools Company returned to the Mill Studio last week with On Golden Pond. For me it was a surprising and arguably safe choice. On Golden Pond is a meandering, languid, play which makes few demands on an audience but that can be misleading; the direction has to be measured, confident and detailed because ostensibly not a lot happens.
Fortunately director David Hemsley-Brown acknowledged the intimacy of the piece which transferred effectively to the closeness of the Mill Studio. He moulded mannerisms, asides and vocal emphasis into tensions and 'moments' effectively heightening a script that isn't overly dramatic but suggests everything.
The plotline is layered with back-story; elderly Ethel and Norman have spent many summers at Golden Pond, their New England hideaway but a visit from their daughter Chelsea, reveals the ageing Norman has had a fitful relationship with her and his irritability stresses Ethel. Tension increases as Chelsea introduces her new partner Bill along with his young son, Billy.
As Norman and Ethel, Richard Parish and Sue Pollard are the central characters, holding pauses, touchingly patient if sometimes scratchy, that encouraged a believable sincerity.
Polly King as Chelsea ratchets up the atmosphere and her scene with Ethel taking issue with bitter resentments long past was timed to perfection. Both actors squared up to each other but with an underlying respect that was tangible. The audience was silent.
Slowly Norman alters too. Richard Parish calibrated the adjustment effectively, acknowledging the effect of Billy's friendship and apparent vulnerability.
Delivering persuasive performances were Nick Lund (Bill), Eddie King (Charlie) and Harry Jarvis (Billy).
I initially pondered over the set design. Was this Maine, New England or somewhere more local? It looked suspiciously like Merrow, Old England! Some rapid interval research confirmed it was a thoughtful and accurate representation of New England interiors but the sound effects tarnished an otherwise professional gloss and meticulous attention to detail - the lakeside Loons were so 'assertive' they might have escaped from Jurassic Park and what was powering Charlie's motor boat - Lewis Hamilton needs to know! A discreet looped-tape that underpinned lakeside life would have served better.
It was a full audience that offered the production a warm response and only I seemed to care about the sound effects but for me they allowed 'daylight in on magic' and that was a shame.


Another wonderful production

All the cast were brilliant bringing the play to life

I didn’t know the story so it was a shock when Norman keeled over rather too realistically for me but I was relieved by the happy ending

The set looked very ‘holiday home’

What a triumph!

Thank you so much for making us laugh so much despite our recent tragedy

I became so immersed in the whole atmosphere created by you all

How much I enjoyed On Golden Pond last night - really good, very bucolic and some lovely performances

Much enjoyed the play thank you

Richard Parish’s incipient dementia as Norman was wonderful as was his unfolding relationship with the boy

Poignant telephone calls

Sue Pollard as Ethel was great and quite emotional

Excellent performances all round

Well done - loved it!

Richard Parish and Sue Pollard as Norman and Ethel Thayer really interacted brilliantly

Congratulations to you all on a very entertaining evening - thank you

Congratulations to all concerned in the current play On Golden Pond. It was very well acted

All the characters were totally believable and it was very entertaining

A very good evening, a very amusing play and the ice creams were very good!

Harry Jarvis who played Billie was really excellent

The best Lighted Fools’ play so far!

Richard Parish and Sue Pollard as Norman and Ethel were particularly good

We enjoyed the play last night so very much

I was wondering how you would present the lake and the set was brilliant - and believable

We were particularly impressed by Richard Parish as Norman’s opening pause and general stillness around the clutter

All in all another triumph!

Another gem! We really enjoyed tonight

Congratulations - it was excellent - such a good production - loved every minute!

Yet another memorable evening! We really enjoyed the production - hearty congratulations to all involved.

Thinking about it afterwards I think I should have given it the Daily Telegraph *****!

I very much enjoyed On Golden Pond yesterday evening and got the real feeling of what getting old is like and having to cope with all the young ones

Thought the set, programme and design were excellent

It was BL**DY good ......!

Thank-you for a great evening - we are now looking forward to the Pinter and seeing how it has survived the decades

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