Dear CharlesAutumn 1966
Dear Charles - by Alan Melville
Performed - Autumn 1966 at Blenkin Memorial Hall, Boston
Denise Darvel has three children but she has never had a husband. Everything is all right, until Denise’s elder son. Walter, and her daughter, Martine, decide to marry members of the same family, the wealthy Duchermin family. Denise knows that the Duchermin family will frown on the fact that her children have no “father,” so she decides to get her three ex-lovers together to decide which one will be the best father to her children.
Playgoers hit jackpot with sparkling comedy
Comedy, the joy of many an amateur dramatic society, has often been their downfall. For in comedy the producer must work day and night to make his players appear natural in an unnatural situation – that of being on stage in front of an audience. Too often spontaneity is lacking and the audience is left feeling embarrassed for the actors. When this happens funny lines are no longer funny, and the result is a flop.
Boston Playgoers’ producer, Honor George, faced this problem when “Dear Charles,” the Alan Melville three-act comedy was chosen for Playgoers’ 68th production.
But, as an almost capacity first night audience will tell you, in Blackfriars on Wednesday evening hours of hard work paid off, and the result was an enormously funny success.
The story of the play is funny in itself. Denise Darvel has three children, two boys and a girl. But she has never had a husband. The picture above the fireplace, accepted by the children as their father, is nothing but a “bargain” picked up in England for a mere £4. Everything is all right, until Denise’s elder son. Walter, and her daughter, Martine, decide to marry members of the same family, the wealthy Duchermin family.
Denise knows that the Duchermin family will frown on the fact that her children have no “father,” so she decides to marry. Next step is to bring the three fathers to Denise’s Paris home, and let one of them marry Denise. The outcome of the meeting is that Denise marries none of them, but decides to remain a “widow”. All the planning has, however, been unnecessary, for Madame Duchermin, in tears, confesses to Denise, that although she has children, she too has never been married.
The story is amusing, but it nevertheless needs actors to make it live. It is perhaps unfair to single out just a few from a whole cast, but mention must be made of the excellent performances turned in by Pam Broughton, as Madame Darvel, and John Cammack, whose portrayal of Jan Letzaresco, the Polish pianist and father of Denise’s daughter, had everyone laughing throughout his appearances.
Pam Broughton, is on stage for almost the whole of the play, but never once did her assumed French accent waver, never once did her cheerful good humour flag. Her facial expressions so often the only way of communicating to the audience what really lies behind the words were superb. Above all she seemed at home. For all the audience knew, this might have been her home, and the situation not an uncommon one. The result was that the play and the situations came alive and were credible.
John Cammack must surely rate this performance as one of his best. His accent had the audience helpless with laughter, and although the character of Letzaresco called for numerous outbursts and waving of arms, never once did these actions become “theatrical”. His arms, though used extensively, were always a part of him and he the controller of them. They did, therefore, enhance his performance, instead of making it ridiculous.
Martha, the maid, called for a controlled performance from Margaret Dobney. Her funny lines, spoken as if she really meant them, became funnier. Similar touches were added by Edward, the family doctor and the long-standing friend of Denise, played by A. B. Stephenson.
Other members of the cast were Colin Clark, Michael Barton and Sharman Hall, as Denise’s three children. All stuck to their task well and gave commendable portrayals. Sir Michael Anstruther was played to perfection by Fred George. Never has an Englishman looked more like a “typical English gentleman.” Dominique Lecler, one of the three fathers, was played by C. L. Hoffrock Griffiths.
Hilda Adamson made an all-too-brief appearance as Madame Duchermin. Julie Wilcox portrayed her daughter Lucienne, and Chris Baker her son, Jean Pierre.
The play was also presented last night (Thursday) and will continue its run tonight and tomorrow (Saturday) night.
R.P. – Boston Standard
Actors names on right:
Madame Darvel - Pam Broughton
Jan Letzaresco - John Cammack
Martha - Margaret Dobney
Edward - A. B. Stephenson
Children - Colin Clark, Michael Barton and Sharman Hall
Sir Michael Anstruther - Fred George
Dominique Lecler - C. L. Hoffrock Griffiths
Madame Duchermin - Hilda Adamson
Lucienne - Julie Wilcox
Jean Pierre - Chris Baker
Producer - Honor George
Stage Manager -
Set Design -
Set Construction -
Stage Crew -
Furniture & Properties -
Make Up -