Potential for laughs realised
Old Rep. Birmingham
UNLESS you can’t manage it in the half-light, read the programme note before curtain-up. I omitted to do so, with the result that for the first few minutes of my first sighting of this Alan Ayckbourn comedy I was thinking that the acting around the hospital bed was a bit on the slow side.
I did work it out for myself before too long, but a few words here may help anyone planning to see the show on Saturday, its second – and last – night.
The point is, the action is in the future and actors are androids – or, indeed actoids, as became apparent from the terminology surrounding them. They are creatures of wire circuits, nano-serbas – or something like that – and bits, and those involved in a daytime soap now being shot are worth £1.7 million.
These nuggets of understanding, plus the fact that the nephew of the owner of the television station falls in love with an actoid, are sufficient to provide a basis for enjoying the action.
Apart from one unplanned extended first-night hiatus, Iain Neville’s production coped well with the three scenes before the interval and the ten that followed it. When furniture and props had to be shifted, they were shifted swiftly. Efficiency was in the air.
INNOCENT AND IRRESISTIBLE
Efficiency was treading the boards, too. Michael Nile came lugubriously but alertly to his duties as Chandler Tate, director of the epic that was unfolding before our eyes, and Leigh McCarroll scored as Adam, nephew of the owner of the TV station and would-be author of his own drama.
This was centred around Jacie Triplethree, the innocent and irresistible actoid with an unpredictable tendency to shriek without warning, to speak intermittently at a rate of knots and to switch accents between Brummie, Yorkshire and the Deep South without pausing for breath.
Jacie is delightful. In her bleaker moments, she manages to tug the heartstrings. She is played by Anna Downes, who has fashioned for her a piping voice, a walk of tiny steps and a wide-eyed matter-of-factness in the face of life’s little problems. One of these inconveniences is that she needs to be emptied every so often.
She is very amusing when she performs Here Comes the Hot-Stepper, and hilarity peaks again in the restaurant scene which finds her anxiety about being emptied being met by Mr McCarroll by dint of diving under the table and following her instructions to turn something one way or the other, while fellow-diners look on with ill-concealed interest, compounded when he eventually emerges with a half-filled plastic container.
CUSTARD PIE MOMENT
Interestingly, the actoid innocence is set in a play in which Ayckbourn abandons his customary high standards of language a couple of times. This is another surprise in an evening that is not exactly short of them. There is even a good old-fashioned custard pie moment, superbly executed by everybody’s favourite actoid and received nobly and with the requisite consternation by Patricia Hands in the guise of Carla Pepperbloom, regional TV director.
Gemma Harris and Samantha Broome are a good pairing as the television show’s backroom girls, Leon Salter is Marmion, who acts as the larynx of Lester Trainsmith (Tony Nock), the station owner who eventually finds his voice to deliver a substantial speech from his wheelchair.
There are vigorous cameos from Tracey Bolt, as a prostitute, and Iain Neville, as the man who discovers an actoid in the seedy hotel which he regards as his own for his girls’ purposes. There are lively lines: “What do you know about anything at all? You’re an accountant.” There is laughter galore, particularly in the second act. There is an abundance of honest endeavour. It’s fun. To 29.5.10.