Stars explained: * A production of no real merit
with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not
enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real
life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A
good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely
achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a
great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major
flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic
which lifts theatre to another plane.
Debra Attwood as Susannah, Flora Deeley as Kate, Phil Sheffield as Malcolm and Ray Curran as Trevor. Picture: Nigel Espley
Dudley Little Theatre
Netherton Arts Centre
Despite the name Alan Ayckbourn’s 1975 comedy is not a farce. For a start there are not enough doors, no men caught in compromising positions without trousers, or attractive young ladies running around in underwear, and not a hint of infidelity – the very lifeblood of farce.
But there are plenty of laughs, and, plenty of bedrooms – three to be exact – with the action taking place simultaneously in in all three.
It means the set looks a bit like a bed showroom, hardly surprising as Dreamland Bedding Centre in Brierley Hill loaned the main props.
So to the bed occupiers . . . first we have Ernest and Delia, the older couple, readying for an anniversary dinner, with their idea of boudoir naughtiness being eating sardines on toast in bed. The pair are parents of Trevor, whose marriage to Susannah is, should we say, rocky, and they would have preferred him to have married Jan, or the other one as Ernest put it.
Maurice Fenton gives a lovely, deadpan performance as Ernest, a man a little vague, with a grip on things that is rather relaxed. His main concern, above all else, is a damp patch on the wall and loose guttering.
Mary O’Toole’s, no nonsense Delia, asking him both questions and then providing him with answers, knows his vagaries of old and the pair seem to have reached an understanding of each other’s ways, managing to live through or around them.
Trevor is everyone’s nightmare and Ray Curran shows why. He is a real nut job analysing, badly, his life and his relationship with Susannah, who has about the same level of mental stability.
He questions his role in life incessantly, always looking for find excuses, totally self-obsessed and burdening anyone who will listen with his situation and problems such that anyone he speaks to for more than a couple of minutes wants to kill him or themselves to end it all.
Back: Maurice Felton as Ernest, Phil Sheffield as Malcolm, James Silvers as Nick; middle: Mary O'Toole as Delia, Debra Attwood as Susannah, Becky Picken as Jan, Ray Curran as Trevor and, front: Flora Deeley as Kate
Susannah, played in wet blanket style by Debra Attwood, seems to have no self-esteem and goes around chanting a mantra about being confident, which she clearly isn’t, being attractive, and that people do not frighten her, which they clearly do.
They take their problems, like two nuclear clouds, to a party hosted by friends Malcolm and Kate, a couple who still have fun in their life, playing jokes on each other, and are showing off a new house. They are a happy, contented couple – for now . . .
Phil Sheffield is a Dudley regular, and, as usual, is responsible for the accurate costumes. His Malcolm is confident, self-assured and a genial host, as long as you don’t mention Trevor, although, if we are honest, he is to DIY what King Herod was to child minding.
Kate, played with delightful charm by Flora Deeley, is young, enjoys their silly jokes and has the perfect marriage, until she happens to mention that occasionally during their moments of passionate love making she wonders about whether a stair carpet or stained floorboards would look the best. Now the average bloke can laugh off pretty well any insult, but, boring in bed? . . . that’s a dagger to the heart.
Then there is Nick and Jan, who are invited to the party but sadly Nick, played with a rather noisy, grumpy far from resigned acceptance by James Silvers, has done in his back and spends the entire play in bed in agony and moaning loudly, apart from when he struggles out of bed to get his book and has to spend several hours alone unable to move on the floor. As one who once spent three months of agony with disc problems I can attest to the fact it was an excellent piece of acting . . . unless he really had done his back in of course.
Jan is the ex-girlfriend of Trevor and feels that if she can only talk to them she can sort out their differences. Becky Picken gives us a rather confident matter-of-fact sort of sort, a homely woman with the sort of digs at Nick that pass as affection in a wife.
The party starts well then steadily goes downhill under the Trev and Susannah effect. First Susannah unburdens herself to Kate, revealing lesbian thoughts for some reason that doesn’t seem to have any relevance while Jan, solving the problems of Trevor ends up with the pair of them in a compromising situation in Malcolm and Kate’s bed, which sees Susannah in tears, the party ending in disarray and once happy couple Kate and Malcolm at loggerheads.
So in the early hours Susannah heads off to mother-in-law while Trevor sets off to explain to Nick and the disruption of everyone’s night’s sleep – and happy life is complete.
Delia can get her own tea in the morning, Malcolm is suffering a wounded manhood while Jan and Nick marriage is a little shakier than before.
Oh and Trev and Sus decide on a reconciliation – a night to remember . . . or forget depending upon which bed you are in.
Directors Lyndsey Ann Parker and Tony Stamp have kept up a cracking pace from a cast who don’t miss a cue as the action switches from bedroom to bedroom.
The cast also keep up the laughs, not by jokes, but the foibles of human nature that Ayckbourn distils into his scripts.
And all that relied heavily on Andrew Rock and Caroline Mulhall on lighting who have to switch from bed to bed all night long and they got it spot on.
And as for the staging, at the danger of sounding like an estate agent, it was a well-appointed, three bedroomed set.
The result is an amusing and highly entertaining evening. To 13-05-17