The Chipstead Players, an amateur local theatre group, present seven productions each year, drama, comedy, musical theatre and pantomime are all covered. The whole enterprise is run by volunteers so even if you do not fancy treading the boards, there are technical and artistic roles for you to try your hand at.

Their first play of 2020 is Anne of Green Gables. An adaptation from the classic and much loved novel by L.M Montgomery. Our heroine Anne is an orphan, sent in error to the homestead of Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert an elderly brother and sister who were hoping for a boy to help  on their farm.  A mischievous dreamer, Anne with an ‘e’ soon endears herself to the couple and to the village of Avonlea.

The book was adapted by Sylvia Ashby and follows a four- year period. We meet the waif like Anne waiting patiently at the station – outside as there is ‘more scope for the imagination’. Olivia Thynne –  surely a future star plays Anne perfectly: poetical, whimsical, clever and charming albeit with a sassy temper if you cross her. Some may remember Megan Fellowes portrayal of Anne in the 1990’s mini-series based on the Anne books, Olivia is up there with her performance. She is Anne to a T.

Jenny Bardwell making her Courtyard debut plays Marilla and Chester Stern portrays Matthew. Both give excellent performances. Marilla is determined not to let the red- haired orphan pierce her stern armour whilst Matthew is enchanted from the start. We see Marilla’s frustrations at Anne’s never ending scrapes, underpinned with a growing tenderness and Matthew discovering parental love late on in life.

The supporting cast of young actors ranging from Anne’s nemesis Gilbert Blyth to her school chum Ruby Gillis are superb and all the young actors do credible Canadian accents.  A special mention to Edilia Stones as Diana Barry, Anne’s bosom buddy. She perfectly captures Diana’s gentle manner and is a perfect foil for the chatterbox Anne.

Anne of Green Gables is funny and touching and always believable. The many laugh out loud moments are provided by Anne Gregory as Rachel Lynde, arch gossip and busybody (with a heart of gold) whilst my own red-headed daughter laughed out loud at the scenes where Anne humorously and always from the heart decries her colouring and freckles.

It isn’t easy for a small theatre company (capacity 90) to produce a play which covers a 4-year period and many settings. The book gives many rapturous descriptions of the scenery and landscape around Avonlea which captivates the young Anne. It is testament to Miss Thynne that her musings and observations delivered with warmth and wit to the audience are always believable. The school scenes played out at the front of stage are artfully done. The Chipstead Players should be very proud for putting together a technically adept show. Well done and congratulations to all concerned.

This production of Anne of Green Gables is directed by Ian Brown and assisted by Simon Kennedy. This was my first visit to the Courtyard Theatre and it will not be my last.

The play runs until Saturday 18th. Website for details.

Reigate and Banstead Writes is part of local groups and venues putting on the first RH Fringe in June 2020. This has been made possible thanks to Andrews Estate Agents, Redhill and support from Reigate and Banstead Council.

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