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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 ...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Key for Two - Dunstable Rep

I seem to remember reading somewhere, many years ago, that comedy was abnormal folks in normal situations and farce was precisely the reverse. The folks were straight, the situation crazy. I can go along with that. Lazy beast that I am, I like my theatrical reference points. Certainly suits this one. John Chapman and Dave Freeman’s Key for Two had its fair share of normal people, even if an obsession with fish and eggs ranked almost as high as extra marital bonking. But playing away from home carries lots of baggage and the best farces pile on absurdities with devastating effect. You laugh your socks off and go home wondering what all the fuss was about. With this latest from Dunstable Rep I went home thinking these were actually quite nice people who had just got in a bit of a tangle. The socks stayed firmly on in mayhem more suggested than realised.
Trouble is in such situations you are never quite sure where to lay the blame. Honesty or ignorance compels me to say I don’t know if it was the script or production. I liked the set, good and solid suburban house, and I liked the ludicrous premise. When unwelcome wives intrude, pretend it is a nursing home. A rich seam for numerous visual and verbal jokes. Hardly thinking man’s theatre but should be very jolly. But some characters were shoe horned in from abroad for no serious narrative reason and drinking habits dominated throughout. If the cast had given it energy it may not have mattered but, nice as they were, they and their equally nice director (this is a blog so I am allowed to be personal) rarely injected even a smidgeon of quicksilver pace. And in farce that is just about as vital as thwarted sexual couplings.
Clare Tozer Roodt did a competent job as a woman who collected other people’s husbands to pay the bills. Nothing wrong with that, have you seen the price of gas? But skilled as it was, her Harriet never really left the page. Julie Foster, playing one of those shoe horned foils, had much more fun. As long lost friend Anne she too readily embraced the shenanigans but, in the second half, did a nice turn as a most inappropriate nurse. Alan Goss showed fine comic timing as a philandering husband slowly losing the plot and the use of his legs and Philip Davis, rich in Grimsby fish, gently delivered the unlikely second lover. But it was all a bit too predictable and it took the introduction of wives Magda, a delightfully confused Jenny Dean, and Mildred, the quintessential fishwife of Penny Scales, to give it a short and much needed lift. Barry Pain completed the septet as a drunken husband come vet and if he didn’t impress I blame the script rather than his performance. Drunks are a sod to play at the best of times. When you have no particular reason for being there it is even worse.
So I was seriously underwhelmed. I reckon it was because I was allowed to think too much, cue picking rarely fired, and in farce that is fatal. You should listen to the pictures not the words. And pictures were slow and words were heavy. Only my opinion of course and I shall give it a couple of stars because I reckon this cast were capable of better. Maybe, like snow covered cars on icy roads, I picked a slow night.  Roy Hall

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Dunstable Rep - Key for Two (Preview)

John Chapman and Dave Freeman’s farcical comedy ‘Key for Two’ needs quicksilver pacing and gathering urgency to make its extra marital bonking plot truly work. Director Anne Davis serves up a competent cast for Dunstable Rep’s latest offering but controlled and serious portrayals meant early scenes verged on the tedious and later, well crafted, mayhem only briefly fired. On an excellent domestic set Alan Goss gave us touches of astute comic timing as one of the philandering husbands and Jenny Dean and Penny Scales turned in nice cameos as unwelcome wives. But the situation, led by Clare Tozer Roodt as a duplicitous mistress, never suggested a descent into welcome and pleasing chaos. And on my reflective, snow strewn, journey home I reckon it should have. Roy Hall

Full review to follow

Little Theatre, High Street South, Dunstable.

To Saturday 26th January 2013


Tickets £9 - £13

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Did I ever tell you I once met Superman?

Been around I have. Mainly because of my thirty six years in horseracing. Working for a chairman (Woodrow Wyatt) at the tote. A man who knew everyone. Explains why I once had lunch with Bernard Levin, twice met Prince Michael of Kent  – nice man who never forgot a face – and had tea at York races with Robin Cook. Leading labour politician for the ignorant. He wasn’t, but those who ain’t heard of him might be. I also avoided shaking hands with Margaret Thatcher at Ascot, delved fingers in chips with Lord George Wigg (Harold Wilson’s Postmaster General), and chatted with the Old Duke of Devonshire when he sold off some of his Canalettos. All true, as was my non horseracing brushes with the famous, most notably spending a day with Alan Ayckbourn in Scarborough as he rehearsed a first production of Confusions, and a week with Bob Hoskins in a health farm. I didn’t go with him, merely met him there, but we had lots of fun. Great chap and not snobby. But eclipsing them all, and the only one that may one day impress my grandson, was that I once met Superman. Christopher Reeves. At Towcester racecourse. I adjudicated on a horseracing competition in which someone won a car. A prize of at least £10,000 and, for some reason, the powers that be thought I was the right chap to scrutinise it. Superman (Christopher Reeves) was the man who presented the prize. So I met him. So polite and unassuming. He queued up at a tote window to place a bet on one of the races and caused a stir  on both sides of the window. I felt very sad when I read of his horse riding accident which paralysed him. It could not have been too long after his visit to Towcester. That wasn’t mentioned in the paper. As another film actor would say, ‘Not a lot of people know that.’ They do now.

This leads me on to other things a lot of people don’t know, mainly what I have been doing or looking forward to over Christmas. But somehow ‘How I met Superman’ reads much better than ‘Roy Hall’s Christmas activities.’ If it doesn’t you must be a sad and nosey lot. I saw Harpenden High Street Players ‘Tons of Money’, good directorial debut from Lewis Cox and excellent performance from Nicola Preston, took in St Andrews latest ‘Christmas is a Coming’, and screamed like mad when my 20/1 shot, Captain Chris, nearly won the King George V1 Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. Pity nobody told the favourite, Long Run, he couldn’t possibly get back up on the line after such a gruelling race. Juicy winnings snatched from my greedy grasp. On the telly I enjoyed a riveting drama on Joyce Hatto (google her) by Victoria Wood and revelled in the last episode of Homeland. Not usually into such things but this gripped throughout. Claire Danes was amazing in a cast which batted very long. And now, as the festive trimmings return to the loft and snow settles on pot holed streets and roads, I wallow in the Archers Radio Four tryst of Paul and Lillian (Matt will win out in my opinion) and anticipate future local theatrical offerings. None will excite like meeting Superman but, hopefully, the following old favourites will tickle a few of my jading senses.  Given a blog that my severest critic, her indoors, says is merely a filler those whisky laced senses clearly need uplifting. Perhaps I should call Superman. Happy New Year. Roy Hall


Key For Two – Dunstable Rep
 Fri 18th January – Saturday 26th January Little Theatre, High Street South

Calendar Girls – Wheathampstead Dramatic Society
Wednesday February 13th - Saturday February 17th
Tickets £8.00
01582 629594 for details

And further ahead

The Female of the Species – Dunstable Rep   Fri 15th March – Saturday 23rd March

An Ideal Husband – High Street Players (Harpenden)   Wednesday 10th April – Friday 12th April

Into The Woods – St Andrews Players Wednesday 22nd May – Saturday 25th May (St Andrews Church – Luton)