An Afternoon at the Seaside

Date 6th October 2017
Society Compton Little Theatre
Venue Compton Village Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Rhona Wilkie

Report

Author: Pauline Surrey

Passing through the delightful village of Compton, I have often seen the posters for a Dinner and Drama production by Compton Little Theatre, but as I can now say with regret, I never managed to get there.

An Afternoon at the Seaside though, complete of course, with a Fish and Chips supper, just as the summer was ending, plainly couldn’t be missed!  We arrived to be greeted by Front of House folk in very appropriate headgear – boaters, sunhats galore, and were directed to our tables. We were on ‘Bucket and Spade’. Others were on ‘Beachball’, ‘Deckchairs’, ‘Sandcastle’ etc. Various other seaside accoutrements were to be found about the hall – a board of postcards, naughty and nice ones, was on the wall near the bar, and one of those ‘pop your head in here for a jolly seaside snap’ stands too, stood at the back, plus the sounds of beach laughter and sea gulls calling. Wonderful! The tasty fish and chips, very efficiently served on place mats which were pages from 1960s newspapers, added yet another reminder of days gone by. 

Thus the mood was set for this light-hearted piece by Agatha Christie, ably directed by Rhona Wilkie, a fond depiction of the typical British Day Out at the Seaside, the Hiring of Beach Huts, and so on. I really wouldn’t know how American Agatha-Christie-Performing groups would carry this off, the whole thing was so quintessentially British, right down to the seldom exposed whiter than white legs! A day on the beach, with cups of tea, sandy sandwiches, buckets and spades, is of course a marvellous chance to people-watch. And people-watch we certainly did!

We began with the arrival of the two of the Beach Hut folk, George and Mrs Crum, (Stephen Pugh and Mandy Scully). Mrs Crum had obviously delighted in kitting out her colourful beach hut with all the latest bits and pieces, knick-knacks, contraptions. The hen-pecked husband George – or was he?- put up with his wife’s constant comments on everyone and everything she observed, with a wry sense of humour, and a far more tolerant and worldly-wise attitude.  We also had a harassed mother with her two unruly offspring (we heard, but didn’t see them, but were only too aware of them though!)

Along charged the intensely annoying young lad bashing his beach ball into everyone and kicking up sand as he raced about. The wonderfully grumpy Beach Attendant (Robin Matthews) took the 4d fee for the deckchairs, philosophising on human nature all the while. All this on a gloriously sunny sandy beach – great set and lighting.

Arthur Somers (Gordon Ayshford) stayed put doggedly in his deckchair, overcoat and cap on, while his much younger and, sorry Arthur, much more attractive wife Noreen (Lucy Watson) flirted very visibly with the handsome young Bob (Andrew Payne).  Poor Noreen then reminded us all of our youth – trying to change from a wet swimsuit under the ever-too-small beach towel!

Then Mrs Gunner, ‘Mom’, turned up with a flourish, followed meekly by Percy, her downtrodden son. Mom was played to perfection, complete with Hyacinth Bucket type ‘posh’ accent, by Jane Turner, who I am told played the same role at CLT’s previous production of this seaside extravaganza some 30 years ago! Poor Percy (Hugo Wilson) was at his mother’s perpetual beck and call, and seemed destined to remain so forever. His situation was immediately spotted by George Crum, who determined to help the lad on the road to manhood and liberty if, in any way, he could!

Enter the Girl in the Bikini, who livened up the scene at Little Slippying-on-Sea considerably with her slinky walk, sophistication, and sexy French accent! Amy Aiello made the role her own, and must have had great fun doing so. The liberation of Percy had begun!

This being an Agatha Christie play, there was obviously a crime involved. No murder this, but a stolen emerald necklace. The plodding Inspector Foley (Noel Ruddy) put his mind to the task of solving it.

So, there were revelations, transformations, liberations, arrests, a twist in the tail, and of course marvellous character cameos – all human life was here!  A superbly jolly evening in convivial surroundings – well done, Compton Little Theatre,  I look forward to the next one!