Theatre review - The Graduate, Thwaites Empire Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:44 20 May 2016 | UPDATED: 17:04 20 May 2016

The Graduate

The Graduate

Archant

“The Graduate” – Blackburn Drama Club – Thwaites Empire Theatre – Thursday 19th May 2016

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me.” Perhaps one of the most memorable lines ever heard in cinema and it was the immortal line that Dustin Hoffman said to Anne Bancroft in the 1967 film, The Graduate. It was the film that propelled Dustin Hoffman into the limelight and went on to become one of the most successful of our generation.

The stage adaptation opened on the West End in 2000 and is still running to this day all over the world, including Blackburn where the wonderful Blackburn Drama Club performed their version at the Thwaites Empire Theatre.

With the storyline restricted to a minimalistic, but effective set, the action is often set out differently to the film. The quality of the show, however, is not. Director Patrick Walsh has taken a well-known, popular story, translated it onto the stage and produced quite possibly the finest pieces of theatre on the amateur circuit. In fact, it is as far from amateur as it could possibly be.

The story is of Benjamin who returns home after graduation to a homecoming party held by his father who has invited his close friends round including his business partner and friend, Mr. Robinson and his wife. Ben is not in the mood for celebration as he ponders his next move in life when a drunken Mrs. Robinson stumbles into his room when he is undressing. The following fling between the two lasts for a couple of months before it ends and the complications arise when Ben meets and subsequently falls in love with the Robinsons’ daughter, Elaine.

Patrick Walsh definitely has an eye for direction. He has a way of showcasing talents and visualising the outline of a story to pure perfection with a series of quick, pacy changes of scenes, subtle lighting and a perfectly executed time lapse scene. The storyline of the play is risqué to say the least and warnings about the content are made clear to the audience prior to the viewing. It was handled wonderfully and tastefully without being too over the top. It was a brave and bold move to include it within the show and one that was pulled off with ease and without offense.

Walsh was lucky to be blessed with a wonderful cast and one he pays homage to in his directors notes in the programme. The story is an American set one and all accents were perfectly spoken flawlessly without a single word wavering. Praise goes to the supporting cast of Roy Washington and Sarah Nolan who played Ben’s parents as well as Andrew Smith as Mr. Robinson and not forgetting Heidi Needham who bravely added vital support to take on a plethora of characters to ensure the flow of the piece was stabilised. They all performed their roles beautifully. Neely Jillings was perfectly cast as the timid Elaine, clouded in uncertainty and innocence in a mesmerising performance. Elliott McNulty had the lead role playing Benjamin and he was truly phenomenal in doing so. Much of the first act was played alongside Mrs. Robinson, portrayed by Anita Shaw who deserves a special mention for her portrayal in the role. She wasn’t playing the role of Mrs. Robinson, she WAS Mrs. Robinson and should only be to referred to as Mrs. Robinson. Her performance wouldn’t go amiss in the 1967 movie.

Blackburn Drama Club keep pushing the bar higher with every performance they do. They are well educated, experienced, organised and determined. The quality of performances as well as the direction and the backstage just keeps getting better with every show that I have the absolute honour to review and will continue to do so.

All it leaves me to say is this…

This show cannot be missed.

Showing on Friday 20th May and Saturday 21st May at the Thwaites Empire Theatre in Blackburn. Curtain at 7:30pm

www.thwaitesempiretheatre.co.uk

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