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.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Agonising and farce well balanced

Two Faces of the Mask

Lapworth Players, Lapworth Village Hall


THE unavoidable feeling is that they are presenting the two one-act plays in the right order. If Syrinx, by Kate Mosse, had closed the evening, the patrons would have departed in an inescapably sombre mood. 

The action is a sort of informal inquest following the death of a young girl, killed in a car crash, with somebody saying they all feel pretty responsible for stuff. It's not the sort of thing to send you out into the night with a whoop and a holler. 

The three who are feeling pretty responsible do in fact share the action with Julie, the dead girl – downstage and all in white. They do not know that she's there – and it does not take the rest of us long to latch on to the general mood. We are aware that things could have turned out better – particularly as there's the added complication that she was with her teacher when tragedy struck. 

It's one of those plays that don't really come under the heading of Entertainment, though it will doubtless have a profitable future because it has a women-only cast of four and there's always a case being made for plays that give women the opportunities they deserve. 

Susan (the head teacher, played by Liz Toy), Sarah (the dead girl, Sally Clarkson), Julie (Sarah's mother, Lynne Fisher) and the disenchanted Marion (Helen Worster) take us through a fortunately brief interlude of mutual misery. Sally Clarkson is at times rather difficult to hear, but at least she spares us our full ration of pain and anguish. 


So, indeed, Simone Bentley's production would not have been the ideal ending to the evening, particularly if Caught on the Hop, by David Foxton, had raised our spirits beforehand and left us totally unprepared. But they got it right: agonising first, farce last – a running order that works a treat. 

This one is set in a Paris apartment at the end of the 19th Century and it is a happy romp. True, it breaks the rule that says if you're in your own country, even if you're French, you don't put on a comic French accent. For French people in France, French is the accepted way of communicating. To other French people, you sound normal – so if you're playing French and have an English audience you don't go all Monsieur Clouseau, you speak normal English. 

True, this would have deprived us of the beguiling approach adopted by Becca Tallentire (Sophie) – which is why it is not difficult to forgive Monica Byng's production for allowing her to sound like a refugee from ‘Allo, ‘Allo. In her, we have an elegant charmer, just back from one of her strategic visits to her great-aunt and delightfully amusing. We don't mind at all that she declares, “My ۥusband is not in ۥis rum.” 

Sue Wall, complete with nightie and curlers, is the admirable foil Clothilde, Richard Middleton is the long-suffering porter who has staggered in with four suitcases, Huw Cooper is the husband who is probably somewhere beyond the PC pale because he has the effrontery to have a humped back, and Claire Hill is Esmeralda, the lady who is no better than she should be. 

It is a delightful team, well-primed to lift us out of the unhappy hole that the excellent cast of Syrinx has so expertly dug for us. A well-balanced evening. To 14-05-11.

John Slim 

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