The U3A Playreading Group

U3a Wroxham playe reading group
Choosing a suitable play for a small U3A group, most of whom are women, is a challenge in its own right.  The number of dramatis personae needs to be considered (fewer than 5 or 6 proves awkward), the length of individual characters’ dialogue should ideally be balanced, and the content shouldn’t be too challenging (this isn’t an Open University option!). Equally important is the number of available copies of any one play: in this last consideration, the Drama Playset section in the Forum is very well stocked.

Above all, the play reading sessions should be enjoyable.  We have found that each play takes 2 sessions to complete, and is generously supported with refreshments from our host, Ann Wilson.

For our first choice, we played relatively safe with Hapgood by Tom Stoppard, a play centring on cold war espionage, with the principal character being a British female spymaster, impressively juggling her career with motherhood while engaging in the occasional remote game of chess. It being Stoppard, an elaborate discourse on quantum mechanics figured largely, expounded by a Russian scientist, (read by Jane with a magnificent Russian accent!). 

Derek Benfield’s light comedy Caught on the Hop was our second choice, which most agreed would have ranked highly with a Brian Rix Whitehall farce.  The dialogue was short and pithy with so many double-entendres and deliberate misunderstandings, the plot lurched from amusing to incredible to plain ludicrous.

As an antidote to capricious absurdity, we threw ourselves into the Arnold Wesker play Roots, a kitchen-sink drama set in 1950’s rural Norfolk and written in a style to support the Norfolk dialect.  A play about a young girl’s struggle for self-discovery, her family is rooted in a traditional farm-labouring life devoid of any meaning other than the daily grind of humdrum routine, though an undercurrent of dissatisfaction is ever present.  We warmed to the Norfolk dialect, becoming more confident in applying it, and appreciated the rhythm of the dialogue with its myriad of emotions.

11 of us went to the Playhouse to see Pocket Dream, an edited presentation of Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed by Propeller - a provocative troupe of all male actors.  For 20 years this troupe has been interpreting and performing Shakespeare plays in a style which is accessible to exam students and adults alike, and is imaginative, outrageous and fun!

We have ear-marked 2 future plays: the classic Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and Rebecca, the stage play of Daphne du Maurier’s great romantic thriller, adapted for the stage  by du Maurier herself.  Both offer challenges to the group, especially the former, with its 38 characters!