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2009 Productions:-

Caught On The Hop by Derek Benfield - directed by Chris Wright

Critic's Comments

"Phoenix chose this pot-boiler to mark its 50th anniversary as a continuing theatre group - a remarkable record.
Directed by Chris Wright, the play, a simple saga of suburban sofa-swapping, has little to commend it, and relies entirely on the cast to bring character to the proceedings.
Phil (Andy Millward) strikes up a new love on a 49 bus, and moves her in next door to his marital home. His wife (Joan Lanario) invites 'the new couple next door' to dinner, and Phil's friend has to sort out the highly improbable ensuing confusion.
The character of Liz Curley produced a very funny performance, and Syd Smith's comic timing was convincing and funny, playing the hapless put-upon friend."
                        Jim Hutchon-Weekly News
"This extremely funny play was given full justice by Chris Wright's production. The set was well-conceived with three exits/entrances and a couple of windows in the solidly-constructed flats. The walls were decorated with paintings and a calendar, as the plot required and the overall effect was of a functional if not plush living room that had enough furniture to be credible without compromising the acting area. Perhaps the boundary between the top and bottom halves of the colour-matched walls could have had a dado rail for even more authenticity. Introductory music could have been a touch louder to demonstrate more purpose rather than being merely ornamental and signalling the start of the play. However, the oven explosion was definitely too loud and more appropriate to a roadside bomb; I am surprised that anyone survived! The lighting plot was simple but effective and the contemporary costumes were presumably the actors' own clothes. Andy Millward is a welcome addition to the company. He had a likeable stage presence and good rapport with George, although occasionally he did anticipate other characters' dialogue or actions a fraction early. His gauche moments when stage whispering to George belied what must have been, by comparison, a spectacular pick-up technique on the No 49 bus. Phil perhaps could have displayed more agitation all the way through the play, especially when he was so close to being rumbled.  The prospect of being able to go through a whole evening without his wife or girlfriend knowing about the other was so absurd and yet so tantalizingly possible with George's help that we should have been on the edge of our seats. But we needed to know that the stakes were high if he was found out.  Unless we feel there will be fireworks or perhaps even hand to hand fighting if his affair is discovered we feel no suspense. This may seem strange since the notion of living next door with his girlfriend and being able to remain on close speaking terms with his wife is so ridiculous as to be laughable; exactly so, this is a comedy but there should still be suspended belief as long as possible.  Nevertheless, this unlikely Lothario still played a strong central character around which the play revolved. George, played by Syd Smith, had most of the best lines (the rest belonged to Mrs Puffett) and he delivered them superbly, without overplaying or deliberately playing for laughs. This was admirable restraint and came across the better for it. Maggie, played by Joan Lanario, appeared comfortable in her role as Phil's wife and elicited strong empathy with the audience. There were occasional hesitant moments, which may have been due to late entries from other characters but here it is better to continue the energy of the dialogue or action rather than stop altogether. Angie Gee's Julie was suitably romantic and was able to play the role completely straight, without foreknowledge or suspicion throughout. The lesser principals, Greta (Leila Francis), the fireman (Reg Peters) and Alan (Geoff Hadley) were well characterized as was Liz Curley's Mrs Puffett. Liz Curley created a hybrid between Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques and Les Dawson's Gladys. The Birmingham accent coupled with her indignant prudery made her unintended double entendres all the more delicious. This was a lovely performance that squeezed the maximum humour from what could so easily have been throw away lines. This was an entertaining evening that had the whole audience laughing.  Congratulations to all."
     Stewart Adkins-National Operatic and Dramatic Association

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