The Belle of Bonavista Bay

Philip Goulding
Forest Forge & touring
(2004)

Such is the warmth of Philip Goulding's latest work for Forest Forge Theatre Company, The Belle of Bonavista Bay, and the commitment of the four singing players under director Sean Aita, that taking to any sort of task might seem ingratitude.

Yet read Goulding's own programme confession and you have the route of a fundamental weakness in the play - he didn't want to write about Newfoundland at all!

The warmth stems from the writer's palpable affection for Hampshire folk and their tales. If it is to capture our imagination, however, The Belle of Bonavista Bay must explore much more deeply the Newfoundland links with Poole and Ringwood that inspired the muse in the first place.

To be honest, without prior intelligence, I was not sure on which side of the ocean we were supposed to be. By virtue of David Haworth's flexible set, we might have been almost anywhere.

A little sound, in this case perhaps the hoofs and chatter of Poole streets, would have helped innocents like me. Or the often-engaging dialogue might have done more to set the changing scenes and less on conversational minutiae.

Amanda Maude, who plays the enquiring traveller and lecturer Daniela with spirit and charm, suffers especially from the wordiness. "I talk too much," she declares candidly. True - but she is not entirely to blame for that!

James Morley would benefit from being a more enigmatic figure, except that for obvious reasons he is as garrulous as Daniela, which does not make for mystery.

Much delight and colour is to be found in the many supporting roles played by Morag Brownlie and especially the ubiquitous Mark Carlisle, both of whom lend their musical talents to save us all from drowning in the ocean of words.

Look out for "The Belle of Bonavista" at :

Swanage Mowlem theatre (26 February),
Christchurch Regent (27th),
Waterlooville Com Centre (28th),
Dorchester Corn Exch (3 March),
Fontmell Magna VH (4th),
Toller Porcorum (7.30),
Morgan's Vale & Woodfalls (6th),
Poole Lighthouse (8-9th),
Fareham (10-11th),
Bramshaw VH (12th),
Littleton MH (13th),
Gussage All Saints (15th),
Test Valley Sch (16th),
Bere Regis Drax (17th),
Fordingbridge Burgate (18th),
Phoenix Arts (19th),
New Milton WI (20th),
Ringwood Meeting Ho (22nd),
Nottingham Touring Th Festival (25-28th),
Ropsley, Sleaford (30th)
Helpringham (31st),
Horncastle (1st April),
Witham-on-Hill (2nd),
Ibsley VH, Ringwood (7th)
Cranleigh Arts Centre, Guildford (8th).

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole