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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Liz Harvey (1967-2016)

With the tragically early passing of Liz Harvey, known as Liz Caswell in my Luton News reviewing days, the local acting scene has lost a major theatrical talent. From my first seeing her in Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dunstable Rep- 2002) to watching her rehearse in Neighbourhood Watch (St. Andrews -Toddington 2015) I have been enraptured by her depth and sensitivity. My wife once told me that I could watch this lady on stage creosoting a fence and still be captivated and she was not far wrong. When 2002 ended I had also seen her at the Rep as a definitive model cum aspiring actress in Ben Elton’s savagely comic Popcorn and as the sexually frustrated Belinda in Ayckbourn’s Seasons Greetings. These performances ensured she figured on my list of best actresses of 2002 (Luton News – Review of the Year) but it was her portrayal of Shakespeare’s daughter in Alan Goss’s exceptional staging of Peter Whelan’s The Herbal Bed (Dunstable Rep – 2003) that firmly launched her, in my mind, as one of the outstanding female talents in the area. Her acutely sensitive Susanna Hall, deftly moving from maternal love to sexual awakening, absolutely mesmerised. None who saw this performance could begrudge my giving her an emphatic 2003 Best Actress award. I gave up reviewing for the Luton News in 2006 but not before I had taken in her performances in Sweet Charity (DAOS) and Little Shop of Horrors (The Rep - 2004), the former evoking the fence creosoting comment, and her wonderful portrayal of Anastasia in Royce Ryton’s The Anastasia File (Dunstable Rep – 2004). If I only quote one review I did on this exceptional actress it has to be this. 'Alistair Brown owes a considerable debt to Liz Caswell’s wonderful portrayal of Anastasia. One of these fine days this actress is going to disappoint but judged on her recent performances it is going to be a long wait. Even doing nothing it is impossible to take your eyes off Miss Caswell. The harrowing voice, the fluttering movements, and the frightened childlike expression totally convinced. Her reactions to an unseen film of the Tsar and his family depicted an actress at the height of her emotive powers.' - Luton News 11th February 2004. I took a break from reviewing for a few years but, getting technologically confident, I started my own theatre blog in 2011. One of my first reviews, and still one of the best productions I have seen, was ACT’s staging of Noel Coward’s Still Life (Dunstable – July 2011). Made famous by Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in the Brief Encounter film, Elliott Lawrence and Liz Caswell were perfectly cast as the ultra respectable Alec and Laura with the doomed desire and Ms Caswell ‘rivetingly painted a picture of a fragile woman drifting perilously out of her depth’. In complete contrast she was a superb and sexually frustrated Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (The Rep – 2012) bringing out the best in Dave Corbett’s brooding Brick and a cow of consummate depth and artistry as Ruth in Ayckbourn’s Table Manners (The Rep – 2014). I only directed Liz once but it is a theatrical experience printed indelibly on my mind. In 2011 Dunstable Rep invited me to direct with a play of my choice. I knew the play I wanted to do and I knew who I wanted to play the main part. Alma Rattenbury in Terence Rattigan’s Cause Celebre is a sexually frustrated, sensitive, and artistic woman trapped in a nightmare not of her making. Based on a real life famous 1930’s murder case the play grips for slowly emerging narrative and claustrophobic courtroom drama. Liz relished and consumed the part in a performance that still lingers in my mind. Her talent, hard work and professionalism did not surprise me, I had seen it so many times in other productions; her modest and gentle manner, her fun loving personality, her generosity with other actors did. Never a tantrum, only smiles and a wicked sense of fun. I saw all that again when we both were late replacements in what, sadly, turned out to be her last stage performances in Toddington last year. It was then that I also saw her immense and inspiring courage. A super, super, gifted actress taken from the stages on which she so brilliantly shone much too early. She will be sadly missed for a long time. Roy Hall
Liz Harvey 2nd December 1967 to 8th August 2016. (Aged 48)
She leaves a husband, Simon, and a son, Max. Sincerest condolences to both.