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A triumphant return to stage for St Nicolas Players with 'Spirit Level'

Spirit Level,performed by St Nicolas Players

At Spalding Services and Social Club

Friday, November 5, 2021

Spirit Level rehearsals with Dominique Spinks, Linda Smith and Adam Patman
Spirit Level rehearsals with Dominique Spinks, Linda Smith and Adam Patman

How I've missed evenings like this during the last 20 months.

Many of us have taken a careful look at the habits we were forced to abandon during the pandemic, such as Friday night at the pub, Sunday lunch at a restaurant or even a weekly cinema visit - but live theatre is something that I've craved the return of.

And I'm sure it's been the same for the small but talented cast entertaining us on Friday evening. While we enjoy a night of escapism, they get to live out their dreams on stage, put their day jobs behind them and do what they really love.

Glen Barker, Jules Jones and Laura Harwood during dress rehearsal
Glen Barker, Jules Jones and Laura Harwood during dress rehearsal

Director Martin Tyrrell chose a great play to come back with after so long, touching comedy Spirit Level being that special type of production that makes you laugh out loud, perhaps shed the odd tear, and think carefully on the way home about any lessons learned.

Pam Valentine's plot is delicious and the cast of seven ideal for the small stage at the Services club given the district council's slow start in reopening the usual South Holland Centre venue after lockdowns.

Famous crime writer Jack Cameron (Glen Barker) and his wife Susie (Laura Harwood) drown in a boating accident but are refused entry into heaven because Jack is an atheist – so they return to haunt the country cottage where they once lived.

While there, the only pleasure they have comes in spooking the estate agent (Nick Fletcher) and frightening away any would-be tenants, but when Susie persuades Jack to allow a young couple to move in, the ghosts become drawn into the couple's life.

Linda Smith and Nick Fletcher in rehearsals for Spirit Level
Linda Smith and Nick Fletcher in rehearsals for Spirit Level

The chemistry between Barker and Harwood is superb, touching and absolutely spot on, their comic timing and movement adding much more to an already hilarious script. Fletcher hams it up brilliantly as poor estate agent Mark Webster goes out of his mind with fright.

As the new couple settle into life in the cottage, aspiring writer Simon (Adam Patman) struggles with writer's block, his wife Flic (Dominique Spinks) is pregnant and can sense the presence of Suzie, while Flic's mother Marcia (Linda Smith) is intent on splitting the couple up.

With little expectation of success, Susie calls up her Guardian Angel (Jules Jones),who tells Jack he can help Simon write his book, but in a strange and hysterical way which causes much confusion.

Christmas arrives, so does the baby and the climax to the show, which is both funny and poignant.

I've enjoyed Spinks' performances since she was a teenager and once again she is superb, even treating us to a small sample of her beautiful singing voice as she decorates the Christmas tree. Patman excels as dopey Simon and Smith is every bit the nightmare mother-in-law, and had the audience in stitches during a fantastically funny scene with Fletcher.

Jones too was on top form as the Guardian Angel and was the catalyst for some of the plays funniest parts.

Several people have said to me over the years that they love a trip to the West End but draw the line at local theatre. Don't do that. Give it a try and I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Finally, kudos to the Services and Social Club for providing this setting, and to Reeves Tyre Centre, Calthrops Solicitors and Coun Angela Newton for supporting the show.

As has been well publicised, South Holland District Council has been slow off the mark,to say the least, in supporting local theatre since the Covid pandemic struck, so a new venue was needed for this show, although I do hope to see their Spring 2022 show back at the Centre.

  • The show returns this evening (Saturday) and some tickets are still available.

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