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The BIG Drive Home

2:00 pm 6:00 pm

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The BIG Drive Home

2:00 pm 6:00 pm

‘The Card’ – Written by Arnold Bennett – New Vic Theatre

Written by on 25 May 2023

‘The Card’ – Written by Arnold Bennett – adapted by Deborah McAndrew and Directed by Conrad Nelson

New Vic Theatre and Claybody Theatre

Photo credits – Mark Douet

A simply joyous production!  ‘The Card’ was written by Arnold Bennett in 1911, made into a film in 1952 starring Alec Guinness and Petula Clark, and visited a few times over the years for Stage and Radio.  Last year, ‘The Card’ was taken up and adapted so beautifully by local group, Claybody Theatre.  In this area, we love anything associated with Arnold Bennet, in fact anything associated even the tiniest bit with the Potteries in general, and this play is, of course, full of it.

A wonderful combination of great actors, most playing multiple parts and instruments, plus actors from the Claybody Community Company made sure that the stage was always busy and exciting.

Gareth Cassidy plays Denry Machin, a washerwoman’s son who becomes the Mayor of Bursley,  he is ‘a Card’ ‘a character’, and the story is about Denry’s life.  Gareth is a firm favourite here at the New Vic. The expression ‘once seen never forgotten’ was made for Gareth – his ability to engage and amuse with just a facial expression is priceless.  The whole cast were superb – moving expertly from character to character – Howard Chadwick went from Councillor Barlow to a wonderful, hilarious Mrs Machin, Molly Roberts from the glamourous Countess of Chell to the withered Widow Hullins, and Jessica Dyas was a fabulous Ruth Earp … and of course an equally fabulous mule … coconut shells, equine sounds and a very ‘mule-like’ bite of a carrot .. priceless!  The very dapper Christopher Glover had very strong stage presence and worked very well with the lovely Eddy Westbury who I recognised immediately from Tom, Dick and Harry – both had ‘Dash’ in abundance.  Isobelle Chadwick and Jenny Murphy completed the cast – again both moving beautifully from character to character.

Gareth Cassidy (Denry), Molly Roberts (The Countess of Chell) and Jenifer Dyas (as the Mule)

The complete cast played their parts to perfection, but the thing that made this play such a wonderful experience for the audience was the obvious on-stage fun and delight, packed with visible energy and chemistry between the cast …  and of course ……  the music.  Hats off to Rebekah Hughes the musical director … The wonderful ‘Acceler8’ Brass Band, the beautiful singing, the harmonies, the instruments expertly played by the cast … for me the music was the absolute highlight!   The complete scene leading up to the interval – the stage filled with the cast, the boat lit up, the sound of beautiful voices singing in harmony coupled with the instruments was absolutely magical – filling the New Vic with complete joy.

Denry on the Boat

The stage set, the costumes, the choreography, the casting – every detail was done to perfection, all making great use of the fabulous round stage here at The New Vic.

Eddy Westbury and the Acceler8 band

We all loved ‘Marvellous’ and anyone from this area will appreciate ‘The Card’ for the same reasons – we identify with the local references – the five towns (Bennett thought it sounded better than six), Bursley, Hillport, Chell and many more.  We all love a bit of Stoke and this is a bit of Stoke with a whole lot more thrown in for good measure.  Denry Machin identified with the great cause of ‘cheering us all up’ – and Claybody Theatre have most certainly done that at the fabulous New Vic Theatre.  Once again – a 5 STAR performance!

‘The Card’ is a feel-good play full of music and fun and it will be at the New Vic right through until Saturday 10 June 2023. For more information and tickets visit