It was a windy night, the summer had been taken over by autumn when we all arrived at Landguard Fort for a performance by the Woven Theatre Company of Philip Thicknesse: Friend or Foe?
Landguard is a perfect location. Thicknesse was Lieutenant-Governor at the fort from 1753 until 1766, a controversial character brought to life by this play set in the central courtyard at Landguard.
His third wife, Anna, well portrayed by Clare Hawes, added her lovely voice to the show, as did Eloise Kay, who was a puppeteer, the Clerk of the Court, the Innkeeper’s wife and a Barge Woman. Her cheekily expressive face was a delight, and her voice was clear and bright as she sang, especially when playing the scenes in France.
Steve Gallant was impressive as the sergeant who opened the play, and the goaler, and even featured after death as Thicknesse carried his skull everywhere. Richard Blaine, as Philip Thicknesse, held the play together well, with his strutting figure using the space at Landguard. It’s a perfect stage although the audience would have welcomed a warmer summer evening.
Adrian Cave has a strong voice, showing no emotion as he told of the Sergeant’s execution, which was a true story. The Sergeant’s Portuguese wife was accused of stealing a handkerchief, and ran away. The Sergeant went to find her, only to be accused of desertion and shot when he returned.
The principal parts were supported by dancers from the On y Va, a French/Breton dance club from Saxmundham who meet at the Riverside Centre, Stratford St Andrew. Lord Orwell, cast as the villain, played by Jamie Symons, was also the defence lawyer at Thicknesses’ trial. Pauline Dent came across well as the Judge, seated up high on the walkway looking down into the well of the court, much like the the number one court at the Old Bailey. She was also responsible for costumes.
A fine play written by Peppy Barlow and Sally Wilden, directed by Anna Birch, I can see this staged during any summer weekend, with the public playing their part as the public.