REVIEW: On Golden Pond, Connaught Theatre, Worthing

IF there’s one thing that Middle Ground Theatre Company has done for Worthing, it is to bring Hollywood stars to the town.

Having already attracted Kelly McGillis and Dirk Benedict to the Connaught stage, they can now add to the list Stefanie Powers, who appears in On Golden Pond this week, alongside National Theatre leading man Richard Johnson.

Another thing the company has achieved for the town is to bring large audiences to the Union Place theatre, perhaps because of its focus on touring classic dramas.

On Golden Pond certainly never seems to age, because its themes of growing old and family can be understood by all generations.

Writer Ernest Thompson intended the play to be funny but not overly sentimental, which Middle Ground achieves well.

Johnson is masterful as Norman, a difficult man who is not relishing his forthcoming 80th birthday. Powers is perfect as the ever-understanding Ethel, who, after a long marriage, has learned to live with his faults.

There’s a line where she points out he’s really rather sweet, and only she knows it. And it is there that we realise people aren’t always what they seem – they are driven by fear, memories, maybe even guilt.

There’s much to enjoy here and it is also nice to see Elizabeth Carling in Worthing, after she had to miss her last planned visit in 2009 at the last minute due to injury. She plays the daughter, Chelsea, who, like most people, I’m sure, reminds me of members of my own family - never forgetting the effects of her childhood, despite being in her mid-40s.

On Golden Pond runs until Saturday (March 17), at 7.30pm daily.

By Elaine Hammond