Confusions

Date 11th February 2022
Society Tenterden Operatic & Dramatic Society
Venue Tenterden Town Hall
Type of Production Play
Director Heather Barnes and Aaron Birks
Written By Alan Ayckbourn

Report

Author: Anne Lawson

Four exceedingly funny interconnected one-act plays played by nine actors portraying eighteen characters, with each director taking on two plays. 1970s' scenes take place in a living room strewn with playthings, a restaurant, a tea tent, and a park, using curtains as backdrops, with appropriate lighting and effects. An underlying common theme of isolation, desire for companionship together with human frailties is reflected through comedy and farce with sad undertones. The actors in their various roles were convincingly characterised with a naturally funny script, excellent timing, facial expressions, accents, mime and natural movement.

Mother Figure’: Lucy is a stressed housewife tied to her home, finds it difficult looking after her children whilst husband Harry is away. Clad in blue negligee, she never answers the phone, or the doorbell. Concerned neighbour Rosemary calls to check all’s well and with a message giving the number of worried husband not getting replies to his calls. Enter Rosemary’s chauvinist husband Terry, who clearly has little respect by the tone of his conversation with the two women. Lucy treats them in the only way she knows how - as she would treat the children. Put in his place the couple depart hand in hand. Natalie Heath played the frazzled mother, with Michael Fitzgerald as Terry with real life wife Kay his stage wife. A fine performance by all three actors, with particularly good body language and facial expressions.

Between Mouthfuls’:  Two couples are at adjoining tables. Young couple Martin and Polly portrayed by David Richardson and Susanne Buckley and the Pearces, well paired Gillian Davis and Michael, being assisted by an overzealous, waiter convincingly played by Tom Foley managing drinks, dinner trays and his patience. Pearce is Martin’s boss. Mrs Pearce accuses her husband of having an affair after spending three weeks in Rome! It seems that it’s Polly that Pearce was having the affair with! Precision timing with an interesting ending, including a thrown dinner.

‘Gosforth’s Fete’:  It’s Village Fete day and it looks like rain. David now portrays local publican Gordon Gosforth, overseeing the event. Rebecca Woollard plays her debut role as Milly Carter, schoolteacher with ‘neighing’ laugh takes control of the tea tent. Regretfully the pa system is on - she is pregnant by him, the conversation is inadvertently carried near and far! Scoutmaster Stewart Stokes, Milly’s fiancé aghast downs a bottle of sherry with Tom performing a steady tottering. Gillian, as upright Councillor Mrs Pearce, complete with huge hat arrives to officiate with bumbling Vicar, performed by Colin Barnes, clad in summer suit and Panama hat to escort her. He forgets her, she gets lost, falls in the mud, gets soaking wet, goes gallantly to the platform and is brilliantly electrocuted! This action so very well done is  hilarious and slick. The fete is a complete shambles.

A Talk in the Park’: Four strangers sit on separate park benches each suffering with their own troubles. Clad in his raincoat, card collecting, women observer Arthur played by David sits next to Bev portrayed by Susanne and commences a conversation that understandably disturbs her. She moves next to Michael playing Charles, a worried businessman studying papers and she tells her story and starts to read a letter from her ‘bastard’ husband.  Charles then moves next to man-hating dog loving Doreen now thinks he is a pervert, moves over to join happily relaxing Eddie. After Kay as Doreen relates a story of her dog’s visit to the vets for the snip, he then removes himself to Arthur who is still moaning. All resulting in five ignored miserable people. Perfectly choreographed moves with lines rapidly fired.

Particular attention was given to detail with the large number of props. However, the change of action sites, although choreographed felt intrusive and personally would have preferred to see stage crew dressed uniformly in black with perhaps less light. Costuming for the period was appropriate throughout, even down to rain-soaked outfits and mudded stockings.

John Sewell produced some well cued ring tones, with the piece de resistance the setting up of the village fete with pa problems - rain and lighting effects, reds giving the restaurant a plush look, leafy backdrop to the park, brass band together with the electrocution of Councillor Pearce. A smart line up curtain call from each cast and then a collective final bow. A successful debut production ‘Mother Figure’ & ‘A Talk in the Park’ for Aaron, with Heather as Executive Director steering ‘Between Mouthfuls’ & ‘Gosforth’s Fete.’