Bawds present: Waiting for Lefty
“Nowadays is no time to be soft. You gotta be hard as a rock or go under.”
(Irv in Waiting for Lefty)
New York, 1934. Five years after the crash of the stock market, America is still in the grip of the Great Depression. A group of taxi drivers gathers for a union meeting. The decision they face? To struggle on as they are. Or to strike and risk losing the little they have.
In Waiting for Lefty we meet the men who have to make that decision, and the women who have to share the consequences.
Clifford Odet’s heartfelt play was first presented by the Group Theatre of New York in 1935. It’s a landmark of American drama which still speaks powerfully to audiences today.
Bawds was founded in 1981 in Cambridge and has since staged well over a hundred productions using many different types of venues ranging from traditional proscenium arch theatres and studio spaces to college gardens. Now recognised as a leading Cambridge amateur dramatic production company, Bawds presents three major productions a year and several studio productions, many of which have been toured as far as The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Having never seen or read the play before I had no idea what to expect or indeed what a treat I was in for. From the moment the audience entered the theatre the cast were in character, handing out programmes and creating the all important atmosphere of what was to come. The set, by Barry Brown and Cathy McCluskey, was minimal and exactly what was needed. The costumes and props were spot on as were the hair styles. The opening prologue was direct and engaging as each character delivered their piece, but the play really took off when the lighting changed as we switched to the Cab Drivers’ Union meeting and Harry Fatt, excellently played by Colin Lawrence, burst onto the stage. From then on the play never lost momentum. Cue bite was so good at times it left me breathless. Atmospheric lighting by Martin Avery, and New York street sounds by Barney Brown added to the production in a lovely understated way; the incidental music and sound effects were perfect. All the actors gave fine beautifully judged performances and there was no weak link in the production, with lovely performances by Sandra Birnie as the world weary stenographer, Helen Holgate as Edna, Peter Simmons as Fayette and Andy Waller as the quietly menacing Henchman. I just have to single out the third ‘episode’ – The Young Hack and His Girl - for particular praise, with Florrie played by Alex Ciupka and Jonathan Totman as Sid. This was a beautiful scene directed and played with great sensitivity that was exceptionally moving. This was a wonderfully directed ensemble piece by Nick Warbuton who certainly knows how to get the best out of his cast with each actor making the most of their parts. If I lived nearer Cambridge I would certainly come to see it a second time.
Reviewed by Suzanne Jones
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Duration: 1 hr
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