Lighted Fools 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.