Improbable Fiction

Date 11th June 2022
Society The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow
Venue The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow
Type Play
Director Victor Hassan
Written By Alan Ayckbourn

Report

Author: Steph Niland

Improbable Fiction is a play of two halves, not just in the traditional sense – yes there is an Act 1 and an Act 2 and an interval – but in this case there is an immense difference between the acts. To compare the characters, atmosphere and energy in both acts is almost to compare two different plays.

The action takes place in the home of Arnold, who lives with his bedridden mother, who is never seen but talked about. A winter evening meeting of a writer’s circle is taking place and Act 1 basically allows us to be a fly on a wall at this meeting and gather all the personality clues about the would-be writers. The tensions and passive aggressive relationships and the kindness and insecurities. During Act 1, it is hard to decipher where the story is going; was it merely a study of frustrated creatives and their egos and self-doubt? But the very end of Act 1 suddenly answers that question and leaves you gripped with the promise of what Act 2 may bring.

Act 2 was a cacophony of character. It was fast paced, funny and clever. The quick changes, not just of costume, but roles and accents were tremendously entertaining – even the telephone turntable gag (going wrong!) was hilarious.

The direction by Victor Hassan was terrific. A director who understands this theatre and its multi-sided audience. The first act was by its nature a more static affair, but the action was still very well executed, and Act 2 was mapped out brilliantly. The characters, tone and relationships were also well developed and detailed – congratulations!

Ian Fensome as Arnold, the host, was instantly likeable. He was the constant throughout the whole play. His diplomacy in Act 1 when he is required to navigate through the writers circle’s personality clashes was very genuine as was his confusion and astonishment throughout Act 2 when he somehow manages to stumble into the literary minds of his guests. A solid and enjoyable performance, and a huge script to learn too! Well done.

The other 6 actors in this piece got to have fun swapping and changing characters ranging from Victorian romance through to futuristic sci-fi and they all did this brilliantly.

A particular favourite was Charlie Cook’s transformation from grumpy and sarcastic ex teacher Brevis, who was so supercilious and disparaging about the other writer’s ideas and works to the spritely, futuristic agent mis-using vocabulary so seriously and striding about the place. Great fun.

It was also great to see Josie Harrison as Grace become the sister of the deceased in the Poirot-esque 30’s mystery drama, a really entertaining performance.

Victoria Johnson never disappoints in any role. Her Jess, the farmer, was so watchable and the delivery and reactions in Act 1 were so amusing. She pitched her narrator in the romance just right too.

Alex Newman as Clem was played with a watchful eye and a haughty air which belied this actor’s age. The spouting of poetry as the 1930’s detective was humorous in the deadpan delivery.

Jessica Trimble as Ilsa was lovely and her interpretation of the Victorian heiress having seen a ghost was fantastic.

Carys Jones’ expressive Vivi had a great energy, and her monosyllabic sci-fi character was a pleasure to watch as was her love struck police officer.

The set design, lighting and sound were spot on and the costumes were well thought out and appropriate – the audience couldn’t understand how the quick changes occurred!

Much lighter than a lot of Ayckbourn’s comedies, as they usually have some serious connotations or themes, Improbable Fiction was frivolous and fun and this team executed it brilliantly, with energy and flair. A thoroughly enjoyable evening.