6th October 2016
Library Theatre Leighton Buzzard
Type of Production
Author: Les Roberts
Not being a great Alan Ayckbourne fan I arrived at Leighton Buzzard drama group’s performance of Communicating doors with some trepidation. First I found the actual theatre delightful and was made to feel very welcome. The curtains opened to a well-lit and complex set of a hotel room with surprisingly many doors, some of which were only half doors. There were two entry doors to the room (one on each side), one to the bedroom upstage centre, balcony doors and two to the bathroom upstage right. Memories of Bedroom farce were flooding back but how wrong I was to be. The play is described as an absorbing murder mystery with elements of dark comedy which is exactly how it turned out to be.
The performance started slowly but within minutes the audience were spellbound trying to work out what was going to happen as the complex plot unfolded. A prostitute, an elderly sick businessman, his menacing business associate and a time machine are soon introduced to the audience and the plot unfolds with events not appearing as they first seemed.
After the first revelations in the production the businessman collapses and the prostitute flees for her life from the nasty associate through the exit door stage right into which she believes is a second room. What we now find out is that this contains the time machine which whisks her back in time to the same hotel room twenty years earlier which is occupied by the businessman’s second wife. The two women must now work together to change time and prevent the murders that are to happen. Ruella , the second wife, has an interesting view of the romantic possibilities of going back in time. “Don’t be ridiculous,” she says. “No woman in her right mind would want to revisit her honeymoon.”
Poopay ( the prostitute) and Ruella (the second wife) are the main characters in this play and I would say the play succeeds or fails on whether they convince the audience of the bond they build between each other and the real affection they grow to have. Emma Stone as Poopay and Kim Aguilar as Ruella were simply wonderful in achieving this and never lost the audience for a moment. Though the plot is a little absurd (and perhaps even singular) I found myself completely taken in by their characters and always wanting to know whether they would succeed in righting the course of their lives and preventing all the bad things that could happen. Genuine warmth exuded from their exchanges as they worked together to save each other and the tycoon’s first wife from their grizzly fates and for good to triumph over evil. Ruella’s ‘jolly hockey sticks’ approach to problems and Poopay’s absolute fear and yet courage to all that happens were a joy to behold. They managed to create genuine drama whilst also creating many comedy moments.
The other four characters in the play must not be forgotten and Andrew Meadows as the businessman was very convincing and mastered the changes in his age very well. Not only did he alter his voice and bearing for his different ages but also portrayed the different nuances in his characters. I particularly liked the changed elderly character at the end of the play when his life has been altered by the way time has been altered by the two ladies. (Shades of J B Priestly appearing here). Ben Clarke was convincingly horrible as the murdering business associate and we were glad to see him disappear over the hotel balcony at the end to meet his fate. I do feel he could have been more sinister though rather than threatening but that is a very small comment. Trish Turner as first wife Jessica leant able support and convinced us of her disbelief of the facts she was being given to believe. She portrayed genuine affection for Ruella even though she believed her to be mad. Her portrayal of Julian’s mother was also a shock to the audience and gave the character some depth. Russell Bennett’s performance of the world weary Hotel security man was also a joy to behold. He probably had some of the funniest lines in the play and his delivery was near perfect. His dead pan acceptance of some of the extremely odd events was very well played. As director, Mike Ward can be very proud of himself for extracting from his actors some excellent performances. A very good ensemble who worked very well together and played off each other. It was very apparent that they actually were listening to other characters rather than just waiting for them to stop speaking.
I have only as yet mentioned the set in passing but this also needs to be applauded. The set design also by Mike Ward was very well thought out. The time machine with its flashing lights and revolving geared turntable was very impressive. The half doors were effectively used and the changing of the central light chandelier was sufficient to indicate the changes of twenty years in the hotel room. Though I do not know of any hotel room which kept the same decoration for forty years the central light change was a good compromise. Convincing artwork of the London scene seen over the balcony by Tomasz Szpakowshi added to the production as were the complicated lighting changes and sound by Dave Miles and Tom Davies which cannot have been easy. Costumes, wigs and hair were convincing with some stange costumes taking us back to the nineties. A shame there was not a chance to show off shoulder pads from the seventies. One line at the end of the play sticks. Ruella says something like “But I will be ancient then, I will be in my sixties”. There was an audible gasp from the audience who did not, I think, associated being in your sixties as ancient .
LBDG can be very pleased with themselves by an excellent performance and if I get the chance again will certainly attend other productions.