Writer: Ernest Thompson
Director: Ria Parry
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
From the gentle sounds of the welcoming birds to the black flies flitting around in the morning sun, Salisbury Playhouse’s current production of Ernest Thompson’s On Golden Pond directed by Ria Parry takes the audience on a tender journey into old age. The auditorium is delightfully transformed into the Maine summer house, Golden Pond, belonging to ageing couple Norman (Christian Rodska) and Ethel (Annabel Leventon). As the couple open up their house for the summer the audience is drawn into their world of awkward relationships and thoughts of mortality. This is not a morbid play but one that tackles difficult issues between fathers and daughters and how growing old affects the memory.
Norman, played superbly by Rodska, is a prickly character who in spite of his slightly fading memory has an acerbic wit delivered in a cantankerous way. Despite his curmudgeonly manner, his exasperated wife Ethel, the delightful Leventon, runs around after him encouraging him to do more than just sit around the house. It is only when Ethel insists Norman takes a walk to pick strawberries near a road he has walked over a thousand times, does he return empty handed and distraught at being unable to remember the way.
Although it is clear that Norman’s relationship with his daughter Chelsea (Emma Pallant) is tense, it is only when she arrives with her new boyfriend Bill Ray (Ian Porter) and his teenage son Billy Ray (Harry Emerson) that Norman gets a new lease of life. Billy Ray and Norman show a genuine affection for each other and when Billy is left with Norman and Ethel for a month while Bill Ray and Chelsea travel around Europe, the relationship Norman did not have with his own daughter manifests itself through Billy Ray.
Norman most certainly takes centre stage, he has the funniest lines which Rodska delivers with impeccable timing. His interactions with Charlie (Duncan Wisbey) the mailman who has held a torch for Chelsea for many summers are extremely amusing showing the audience Norman is not the grump he appears to be.
A special mention must go to James Button the designer who creates a splendid visualisation of the summer home; the fireplace, wooden stairs and braided rugs imported from America all add to the detail and authenticity.
This show has warmth and a real heart which gently draws the audience in. There are poignant moments, knowing moments and moments of sheer hilarity. For a gentle, wonderful escape there is nothing better than to sail away On Golden Pond for a few hours.
Runs until Saturday 5th October 2013