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2007 Productions:-

Trivial Pursuits by Frank Vickery - directed by Gwen Peplow and Chris Wright

Critic's Comments

"The play takes place on a patio, where the society is meeting for a barbecue, waiting to hear what Nick [Paul Dogra] has chosen for the next production, and who will play the coveted female lead. This is a limbo of past, present and  future, when Jan Leeming and Bergerac rule the airwaves, mobiles are state of the art, and Phantom is available to amateurs. Derek, [nicely played by Geoff Hadley] taciturn, boring, suicidal, successful businessman now expanding into condoms, is offering to rescue the bankrupt society as long as his ex-wife can play Charity. Mona [Emma Beckett] choreographer and 'old cow' wants to do West Side Story. Disgraceful old queen Teddy [a well sustained turn by Reg Peters] has been offered Lilac Time. But there's no indication that the society has any actors capable of doing these shows, and, though I could tell a few tales of the Green Room, none of these shenanigans were remotely recognizable. There were several promising performances - Tricia Childs' flirty, thirsty Joyce, for one - some amusing, if predictable, lines and situations, but the pace occasionally flagged, and the play was not really worth the effort.
Phoenix, still in exile at Christ Church, was directed by Gwen Peplow and Chris Wright."
                        Michael Gray-Weekly News
Front of House  Thank you for another warm welcome, to which I am becoming accustomed, and another excellent programme. Well done.
Set  I don't know where else to put this, so I will mention it here. I liked the set being on view before the start, and you had managed to use more subtle auditorium lighting so as to make the low stage lighting more effective.
Props & Stage Management  The main props were, of course, the drinks and other bits associated with the barbecue. I thought the supply of drinks and the drinks table was done extremely well, but I thought that a little more attention could have been given to the barbecue table. It all looked a little cramped. Wouldn't Roz & Nick have had a purpose built barbecue area? I also noted that, although Nick said that he only had one firelighter, it was obvious that the box was nearly full! All in all, though, I felt that props and stage management worked very well, except for some very shaky starts and finishes to the acts.
Lighting and Sound  Having persuaded the Guild to make separate awards for Lighting and Sound, you confound me by combining the jobs! Ah well.
Lighting  I hope that the improvements in this production were influenced in some way by my comments on your last production. The lighting was perfectly adequate and my only comment, bearing in mind the fact that you have to use the equipment provided, would be that a) a slightly more "evening" effect would have been nice and b) when lighting an outdoors setting there should be an indication of the main direction of the lighting, but this was not noticeable.
Sound  Not a lot of work to do, here, apart from incidental music. This was very quiet, but I liked the music used as the cast arrived on stage at the start.
Costume  I note from the programme that the cast were responsible for their costumes, and I did not feel that anyone made any wrong choices.
Direction  Despite the fact that this play has no more merit than its title, nonetheless the characters are rather well drawn and the many of the situations, whilst trite, have the ability to create an empathy with the audience. It also had a large cast, but unusually, virtually all the parts were of equal importance, if not of equal size. All plays need a good start and to engage the audience as soon as possible. When I read this script, I foresaw problems with the start, as stage "party games" are notoriously difficult to do, even when the cast has warmed up. The  problem with this play was not only that it started with a game in full swing, but also that the method of writing, with the dialogue switching from one pair of characters to another is also extremely difficult. Combine the two, and you have a recipe for disaster and this is to some extent what happened. The idea of the cast wandering on one by one was excellent, but then there was that awkward point where they were all waiting for the house lights to go out and when they did, the spot was left on, and then when the lights came up there was a large amount of inertia to overcome before everyone got into the swing of things. Very slow cues, uncertainty of lines and a slow start to characterisation meant a very slow and ponderous start to the play, which should have been light and frothy.
Things did brighten up after a while and there were some very good performances and nicely played scenes. I particularly liked the early scene with Teddy, Derek and Joyce on the seats DR. (The only problem was that these three chairs needed to be splayed more, as there was much talking upstage in this location). I also like the scene where Deidre and Eddie arrived and then Derek and Deidre's scene - all in Act 1. Derek's collapse scene in Act 2 went very well.
On the downside, I was disappointed with the lack of depth of characterisation in several parts, including the failure (in some cases - not all) to establish the relationship between characters and the resulting emotions, the very quiet delivery of several characters and in general the very slow pick up of cues (making the whole play drag) and several seriously late entrances.
I have to reinforce the comment about slow cues. It is, unfortunately, quite prevalent among amateur societies. Every play has a rhythm and for the play to succeed, this rhythm has to be adhered to. This play required an almost machine gun delivery to keep the interest up. It all centred around what Nick was going to do about the next production, but there was no tension, no excitement. The whole play needed a frenetic bang, bang, bang delivery. Here, of course, I am not referring to the pace at which lines are delivered - all too often gabbled - but to the pick-up of cues where even a microsecond too long between speeches can drag a production down.
This play presented a particular difficulty, as I mentioned before, of the dialogue bouncing from side to side of the stage; this needed to be done with no pause, but unfortunately too often there was a delay.
However, please do not be too despondent. I am a perfectionist and if my remarks help in the future, then that is all I can hope. Overall, I laughed, the audience laughed and I feel you made a reasonable success of a mediocre play.
Cast  Reg Peters (Teddy) This was an excellent performance. I have considered whether I was unduly influenced by an over-the-top camp performance, but I have come to the conclusion that this was a highly controlled and deeply thought out characterisation by an extremely competent actor who acted as much when not speaking as when he was. Your volume, delivery and stage presence should be studied by all. Well done.
Tricia Childs (Joyce) If I were a woman, this is the part I would have wanted. A really great character whose drinking problems had to be sustained throughout. I felt that you carried the part off virtually perfectly and maintained the character's development throughout the play. My only criticism is that your lack of volume and some poor diction at times tended to detract from your performance. On the whole, though, an excellent sustained effort.
Emma Beckett (Mona) After your performance in the last play, I was a little disappointed with this one. I thought you got the aloofness right, but there was some fire missing. You also gave the impression of being unsure of when to speak, which tended to pull the character down. I am sure you will do better in the future - and PLEASE keep control of those things on the end of your arms, which you will keep waggling about!
Maisie Tunbridge (Pearl) I thought that you were cast absolutely correctly and if it were not for the prompts, I think you could have made quite a success of the part. You also have a very quiet voice, which was very difficult to hear, and I would have liked to see you really angry and upset over the finances! Never mind - do try again.
Leila Francis (Roz)  Leila - I am afraid that you were one of my disappointments. You have a lot going for you - a good stage voice and presence and a lot of experience, but I feel you just failed to get to grips with the character. I didn't get the impression that you were the confident lady of the house and party organiser perhaps because you didn't have a house!) and neither did I get any sense of a relationship (however dodgy) with Nick. I wrote in my notes "Needs oomph". Just a final point, don't be afraid to look other characters in the eye when talking to them, if you don't, you lose the impact.
Vikki Gordon-Gee (Jessica) A tricky part, this, but I think you carried it off very well. You do have a tendency, when in conversation with another character, to sound as if you are reading the words off the page without putting any feeling in them, but a good competent performance and plenty of promise for the future.
Geoff Hadley (Derek) This is another character which needs to be sustained strongly throughout the play and I was delighted that your excellent brief appearance in the previous production has been followed by this. I knew that you were capable of more and I was proved right. This was a beautifully crafted characterisation which I feel truly moved and involved the audience, and provided a superb foil to Teddy. Apart from a slight tendency to drop your head and also speak upstage at times, I could not fault it. Thank you.
Paul Dogra (Nick) I think that Nick's mind must have been difficult to get into, because what he has been given to say does not always tie up with the type of person he is supposed to be. In the circumstances I think that you made a good job of a tricky part. I would, however, have liked to see more of the tensions between you, Roz and Jessica, and generally to have tried to get deeper inside Nick's skin. Where was the agonising over your problems? Nick says, "This is beginning to become a nightmare"; I noted, "No, it's not", because there was no tension. Comedies need moments of stress in order to bring out the humour. On the whole, however, this was pretty good for a first appearance. Finally, don't forget to act when not speaking, do learn to control your arms and don't keep bobbing forward from the waist to emphasise points! Apart from that, well done, and good luck for the future!
Helen Langley (Deidre) This is another lovely part. You made a good attempt at this and very nearly succeeded. I think that it was only your very quiet delivery, which lessened the impact that you ought to have made. I believe all the feelings were there - they just didn't come out in a very positive manner.
Syd Smith (Eddie) When I read the script, I absolutely loved this character, which is introduced as a complete distraction. I thought you carried it off very well, but you could have easily made him an even greater TV "anorak" and even more of a nutcase!  I noted, "A missed opportunity".


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