September is undoubtedly my favourite month. The sun, when it shines, is rarely too hot and the days still have a little life in them before the onset of winter gloom. I go on holiday and take in some plays in far off places and the horseracing gives a steady diet of quality. My two loves combine in a veritable feast. Why are feasts always veritable? Discuss.
Can't say the horses have shone though. Or the ones I studiously selected. Ran like drains most of the time. My humour not helped by the fact that my distant brother, who I love to bits, has been knocking them in with an ease that is almost unseemly. He just missed out on the Doncaster St Leger (England's oldest classic) but Ayr Gold Cup - 11/1 winner - and Newmarket's Cambridgeshire were a doddle for him. Prince of Johannes (40/1). Easy. All I get is a 6/1 scrubber in a Class 5 staying handicap at Chepstow or somewhere. But I love it and visiting the unfamiliar payout window a couple of times recently has eased my September racing gloom. I love it when other folks win, especially that brother, but I love it more when I find them. Especially the big races. And they don't come bigger than the Arc this weekend at Longchamp. Will let you know how I, and him in Leicestershire, do.
And they also don't come bigger, in theatre terms, than a new play by Alan Ayckbourn. Saw his latest, 75th, at Scarborough last week. Neighbourhood Watch is not vintage Ayckbourn, too formulaic for me, but it was served up by a super cast who were rich in quirky characterisation. And very topical. Middle class fears of working class, did I say feral, estates twisted to absurdity. Its strengths were how the actors on stage coped with the unseen fears. Its weakness the fact that much of the angst was directed offstage. I like all my Ayckbourn angst locked in the middle class setting of a Season's Greetings, a Table Manners, or an Absent Friends. This play didn't have that attraction but it was still a rewarding couple of hours. But if amateurs are tempted to do it they will need some very skilled actors to make it work.
I am hoping for some of those when I set off for Dunstable Rep's Plaza Suite next week. This is the first play in their film season and, set in a specific hotel room, we get three for the price of one. Neil Simon has frequently been referred to as America's Ayckbourn and it is easy to see why. He has a sharp ear and eye for the idiosyncratic middle class folks of God's favourite country. Should be a treat but, whether it is or not, I shall post something here. Barbara Morton and Julie Foster direct and they have some of those acting heavyweights who, hopefully, will get them off to a good start in my handicap stakes. Didn't get to their season launch so in no postion to suggest the likely winners of this six play theatrical race. Not that it matters. My brother, if he had attended, would have done a better job on the pre season selections. And he only likes horses.
Plaza Suite by Neil Simon
Friday 30th September to Saturday 8th October
Dunstable Rep (High Street Little Theatre) - 7.45pm