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2005 Productions:-

Guests, Gasps & Cleavage - directed by Tricia Childs

Critic's Comments

"This was an evening of three comic plays, directed by member Tricia Childs.  The first was 'A Fishy Business' by Margaret Wood, the second a Jim Sperinck melodrama 'The Runaway Perambulator', and the third 'Last Tango in Little Grimley' by David Tristram. They were all different and the combination worked well. Firstly, 'A Fishy Business' backed by an extremely effective set this short play had good pace and all the characters were well acted. The comedy and timing were well executed and I have to say that yet again Daniel's Vicar stole the acting honours. Secondly, 'The Runaway Perambulator', was in complete contrast, and acted out on a bare stage giving it the required impact, and again the characters all performed well. Lastly, 'Last Tango...', I had seen this comedy before and on that occasion it was set as the village where it was performed. However, Phoenix kept it as written and this worked just as well. Again on a bare stage with minimal dressing the four characters extracted every last drop of humour from the script and again the combination of Daniel and Liz, together with Jenny and Geoff was perfect casting for this piece which could apply to so many Amateur Dramatic Societies. 'Only one thing sells tickets!'"           
     Colin Butcher-National Operatic and Dramatic Association
is always good at Moulsham, these days. Getting together an evening's performance in a very short space of time, didn't dampen the enthusiasm from the stalwarts of this company. The plays chosen contrasted well from the melodramatic to the amusing and although I do prefer a full length drama as this allows actors to develop characters, the snapshot performances conveyed on this evening were all highly commendable and funny.
As usual the FOH was lovely and so friendly. The programme deserves special mention for its layouts, interesting fonts and clipart, photos, biographies, quotations as well as the expected information linked to the plays. The floral arrangements were lovely; sound and lights cued in appropriately.
The set for 'A Fishy Business' gave a good choice of seating and furnishings. It certainly matched Mary and George, I do like to see attention paid to hallways only seen for a glimpse as this conveys the feeling of rooms beyond those visible which was important for this play. The chandelier was good and very much
in keeping. Using tabs to cover these flats for the other two was sensible and the last set was dressed with a clothes rail that was utilised during the action. An efficient labour-saving composite set that was clearly low budget but acceptable. Margaret had created a most realistic salmon Costumes were fine, I especially liked Mary's gold blouse. George raised a smile with the highly colourful boxer shorts and Felicity's erratic hair was true to type. The Victorian outfits in 'The Runaway Perambulator' were lovely; Charlotte/Emily's wig was particularly outrageous and gorgeous. He managed to run/totter extremely well in those shoes though! Pongy looked as his name suggested. Syd's stubble looked very realistic and Geoff impressive as the Victorian hero. I was very impressed with Liz's costume change in the final play as she peeled off one blouse to reveal another layer.
Throughout all three plays, I was particularly taken with the confidence with lines from all the cast; each character has a different pattern of language and in a full length drama an actor learns that and settles into this with time on their side. This type of evening demands abrupt changes for some, to give each part individuality. I
particularly compliment Daniel, Liz, Jenny and Geoff.
All three plays were slick and fast. Tricia had created some lovely stage pictures with the grouping of actors and the action flowed energetically. Throughout all the plays the attention to reaction and overreaction had been considered superbly which gave them
all polish. In 'A Fishy Business' I felt that the noises off made by the guests in the dining room should have been more evident throughout. These actors became audible when mentioned in the script but a distant murmur of conversation would have been more realistic. The 'Runaway Perambulator' was performed using all the overstated mannerisms commensurate with this genre, it was timed to maximise the laughter and establish the ridicule. It was good fun. My favourite was the 'Last Tango'; the rapidity of the action was excellent, the speed of the page problem scene was remarkable and the confidence in role from all the cast was striking. All four were convincing; the tensions and rapport noteworthy and they made the ludicrous believable.
Helen, in 'A Fishy Business' gave her characterisation just the right balance of fussiness and worry and I thought she was very credible. She started off with some splendid facial reactions and the tension she created was contrasted superbly by Ron's relaxed manner. The relationship between these two was marked. Her agitations throughout the proceedings were funny to watch, her dismay at Felicity's presence and the way she looked Nigel up and down were particularly apt. As stated, Ron's ease with this character was good and realistic, I especially enjoyed his inputs into the fishing dialogue- here, his timing was immaculate. He coped with the unexpected with a hint of sarcasm and irony and he was clearly enjoying the events both in character and as himself. This he continued as Chairman in the Melodrama, and then as stand up comic used to cover the scene change. Daniel gave a super if very stereotyped cameo performance as the vicar whose teeth belonged elsewhere! He said little but made his presence felt enormously. There was a great moment as he reacted to the first sip of sherry and later created a splendid laugh with the line 'I do nothing to excess.' Daniel makes the most of every opportunity, stressing words/phrases for maximum humour and enunciating everything immaculately. It would have been easy to go over the top as the two heroines in the next play but Daniel made them funnier by holding poses and ensuring the audience were clear about his dilemmas. The affected positioning of his hands, the cocked leg, the fixed smile all demonstrated the melodrama rather than a character. He gave super reactions when asked to change role yet again and had the audience in his grasp. My favourite role of the evening though was as Gordon in 'Last Tango' where he was far more realistic but again it is his reactions to the moment that were so good. His dealing with Joyce's desire to perform a musical was splendid, you could feel the frustrations and pent up anger and his command of the whole situation was most impressive. His reaction to and quarrel with Margaret over lamp and not limp was a glorious moment in this comedy. It's always enjoyable to listen to the different stresses, inflexions and pauses that Daniel uses to create mirth and this play gave him ample opportunity to revel in this. Jenny gave two super performances. Her dithery wife of the vicar who could be forceful at times was most effective and one could empathise with her plight; but I so enjoyed her playing of Joyce whose fixations are a torment as well as a Joy. Jenny used super facial expressions at the start of the last play, her eyes lit up so often over the mundane, this inner happiness was quite moving. Her flapping actions were hilarious and such a contrast to her gentleness. Angela, in 'A Fishy Business' was effective as Emmeline; her first entrance was especially impressive. She arrived with terrific energy so that her simpering reactions to the flirtations from Richard were unexpected, alien to the earlier impression and so, funny. Syd worked hard with the vivacious exaggerator, Richard, but he was far more imposing as Father in the melodrama and his drunken dialogue that was full of Spoonerisms was delivered in a most arresting way. He reacted well; I especially liked the manner in which he was knocked off the chair and he fell to the floor. Syd was much more relaxed in this part and despite the genre, more realistic. Maria was lovely as Felicity although there are times when I found her accent hard to understand and she should be aware that our ears need help. I think that if she tried to speak a little slower and point more of her lines, this would help. But, she created a clear portrayal of a quarrelsome awkward student who enjoyed creating mayhem but getting her own way. Her jerky mannerisms and hyperactivity were a splendid contrast to Nigel's inactivity although having said that, his eating was hilarious! They created another superbly funny moment when the difference in character was reflected in their dancing; hers flamboyant, his static. His monosyllabic manner of delivery suited this role and contrasted well to his part as Pongy, in the melodrama which was overstated and exaggerated. Carol and Carole looked and sounded good as the paramedics. Liz equally was outstanding in her two performances. As Mother in the melodrama, she posed
and exaggerated fantastically and gave special attention to overemphasised facial reactions- so we were given excessive amounts of time to view the fluttering eyelids or the woeful position of a lamenting parent. Her excessive actions created much humour, her clipped speaking added more and helped demonstrate how well, Liz can portray a comedy role. As with the others, I enjoyed her performance in Last Tango the best. I thought that her portrayal of Margaret, a bossy, self-opinionated, quarrelsome character was hilarious. She gave her just the right balance between domineering and appreciating, so creating a warmth that we could sympathise with. The tensions between her and Bernard was most marked so that the running battle between these two was stimulating, the constant jibes very typical and funny. I loved the misreading moment and Liz's exaggerated 'limp,' I found the moves linked to this, splendidly bizarre. Liz phrases her lines immaculately and her final line 'I intend to follow it up' brought this play to an uplifting end. Geoff also demonstrated how well he could cope with the contrasting characters allotted to him. His superiority and aloofness in 'Runaway' was exactly right and served the plot well. His accent for Bernard was very sound and suited this character. He quickly built up his character, blunt, relaxed, one who revelled in speaking his mind. His enjoyment at egging Margaret on, or sniping at her was fun and his timing immaculate. His reactions to having to perform and then seeing him in role were executed well and all added to the humour.
Thanks for another enjoyable evening, I went home still giggling at the antics that I had seen."         
              Tricia Stephens-North West Essex Theatre Guild


"Phoenix opted for three unlinked one-act plays as its Spring offering - difficult as there is little chance to build up momentum.
Tricia Childs directed all three with pace and discipline, though on the first night it took a while for the cast to settle. The first concerned a gourmet evening with a motley group of guests, a greedy dead cat and imagined poisonings. The cast worked hard at the script and an extraordinary, memorable and off-the wall performance by Maria as the teenage daughter lifted it.
'The Runaway Perambulator' was a stylised melodrama played out like an early talking film. The evergreen Daniel excelled as a pair of adopted twins and had the audience in fits. Best of the three concerned a moribund amdram group resorting to sex to boost its ailing audiences.
These are difficult for amdram groups to play, as they are familiar
with the subject, but with strong characters, an ensemble of Daniel and Liz, Geoff and Jenny it avoided all the nudge and wink pitfalls to produce a very funny end to the evening."
                        Jim Hutchon-Weekly News

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