REVIEW: Denry’s a real card

THE cast of The Card at Greenbrook Operatic and Dramatic Society. (S)
THE cast of The Card at Greenbrook Operatic and Dramatic Society. (S)

IF Burnley is ever short of a town mayor there is a real card down Lowerhouse way who fits the bill.

Denry Machin is the wily washerwoman’s son who uses his guile to rise from a lowly clerk to become a successful businessman and Mayor of Bursley in the Potteries.

And Daniel Bend in the lead role of Denry “The Card” plays the part to a T in the musical comedy version of Arnold Bennett’s novel of the same name. He is funny and theatrical and a real crowd pleaser – in fact he’s a real card!

But it isn’t only Daniel who stars in this production being presented by Greenbrook Operatic and Dramatic Society this week. Heather Nicholas, as his mother, gives an outstanding performance, with her asides and comic timing absolutely spot on.

The church group have chosen something different with this production and were disappointed by the small audience at the first two performances. Because a show is not very well known does not mean it is not worth seeing and Greenbrook do a really good job with “The Card” which has a better storyline than most shows you will see.

The songs are not popularly known, but again that does not mean that they are not good, and the Greenbrook chorus do a splendid job with them, although some of the soloists struggled to reach the top notes, despite Brian Townend being on top form accompanying on the piano.

In my youth, I remember being fond of Arnold Bennett’s books about the five towns of the Potteries and still have a collection in my bookcase, so it was good to see this story being brought to life.

And I must say director Mick Dawson does an excellent job of it. His experience shows throughout making great use of the stage, bringing the actors to the front and largely having the cast making their entrances and exits from the auditorium rather than the wings. It was very impressively staged throughout and although the sets are drab they are representative of the era in which the story is set.

There is humour throughout and the pace is fast and slick, but it needs a much bigger audience to appreciate it so let’s hope this improved in the week. You can see it until Saturday night, at 7-15 p.m. each evening, and you can pay on the door.

I must mention Rachel Barrowclough who carried off the part of Denry’s patron the Countess of Chell expertly and is also an accomplished singer. Helen Pollard was delightful as the likeable Nellie who loves Denry unconditionally but it takes a while for the penny to drop in his heart. And Debbie Hargreaves plays a fine role as the gold-digging dance teacher Ruth Earp in this tale of “The Card” and his ambition to get on in life and not work in the potteries like most of his contemporaries. Thrown in is a good measure of love, friendship, greed, the class system and motherly love. Author Bennett manages to get them all into the mix and director Dawson manages to portray them well.

Praise too for Michael Smith for his excellent charaterisation of the outraged Councillor Duncalf who Denry “the upstart” always manages to outwit, even beating him to the role of town mayor as the story progresses. But well done to all the cast and backstage team.

The wardrobe department too, headed by Sandra Catterall, have obviously worked very hard because the costumes are excellent.

This should have been Greenbrook’s 2011 production, but had to be postponed and it was a blow as they were well into rehearsals. However, they were determined to try again and despite being beset by problems and obstacles, with cast members having to drop out in the late stages because of illness and other reasons and stage manager Mick Tighe recently breaking his wrist and continuting to work one-handed, they have succeeded in putting on a very watchable show.

This is typical of the commitment and determination of everyone involved and Greenbrook, who have tried to offer something a little different in “The Card”, deserve supporting tonight and tomorrow. Ring Wendy on 01282 426889 or 0778 960302 to book, or pay on the door.

Margaret PARSONS