Silly Cow

Date 28th April 2022
Society St Neots Players
Venue The Priory Centre, St Neots
Type of Production Play
Director Mel Wilcox
Musical Director N/A
Choreographer N/A
Producer N/A
Written By Ben Elton

Report

Author: Julie Petrucci

Written by Ben Elton and set in the 1990s Silly Cow was a brave choice for St Neots Players and Director Mel Wilcox particularly in the politically correct era of the 2020s.  The sensible decision was taken to perform the play unabridged with a specific content warning in the programme.

The Priory Centre looked very different from my previous visit, as this production chose to use cabaret style seating, giving the venue a warm social atmosphere. The stage design used the floor area in front of the stage as the main acting space with the bedroom and hall actually on the stage.  Personally I felt having the front door off-stage left, although giving actors something of a ‘grand entrance’ down the steps into the lounge was rather incongruous, but I could also see that using one of the side doors into the hall would have created lighting problems.   Whilst talking of staging, high praise indeed must go to Penny Lusha and Kathryn Duncan for sourcing the enormous number of excellent props.  The 1990s theme was carried through with costumes and furniture.  Lighting and sound were good and did all that was necessary to enhance things.

Doris Wallace, bitchy queen of the tabloid press, is on the verge of a glorious venture in TV and has everything she could want: a toy boy with a regular supply of Colombian, and a pretty personal assistant who might share her sexual preferences. She’s not going to let anything get in her way, not even the silly cow suing her for libel. Any skeletons she may have in her cupboard are, like her bondage gear, firmly locked up — or so she thinks. Doris has made her reputation and fortune by destroying the reputations of others and as her career is set to rise to even greater heights, she little realises that the people with whom she has surrounded herself are hell bent on revenge and none of their personae can be taken at face value. 

The play relies heavily on the capabilities of the actress playing Doris. In a bravura performance Anna Crompton proved from the start this role was in extremely capable hands. Her characterisation was excellent and had us all appalled by Doris from the start  — in fact one couldn't wait for her to get her comeuppance.  

Stacey Callier played Peggy, Doris’ downtrodden PA impeccably and was a perfect foil for Crompton’s Doris bearing the brunt of Doris's acidic humour with dignity.  Switching between her two roles with aplomb, she really came into her own when her true identity was revealed giving a superb performance of the wronged actress.

Ian Dorrington, as Sidney the sleazy editor who Doris has promised to work for, initially didn’t project as well as he maybe could have done with his delivery needing more light and shade.  However, he settled well and really came into his own in act two changing his persona well and taking charge jointly with Callier in implementing Doris’ downfall.

Eduardo, Doris’ toy boy was extremely well played by Tom Monkhouse.  He appeared to spend most of his time stoned but again appearances were deceptive when he showed he was actually acting. I loved the vision he created of being half-mime trained!

Ian Francis as Douglas, Doris’ long suffering accountant, desperately trying to keep her business in order was pretty impressive — not least as a corpse. He kept so still it gave the audience a real surprise when he came back to life.  I think Francis managed the double persona extremely credibly.  His transformation from accountant to classical actor was great — and all without a touch of Nöel Coward! 

The humour in Silly Cow is saucy, but not too offensive, the first act is all about setting up how awful Doris is and one wonders, by the interval, where it is going. Everything changed after the break. Writer Ben Elton, having established his characters, unleashed his surprises.

This was a well directed production from Director Mel Wilcox, who, together with her talented cast and production team, did St Neots Players proud.  Thank you for inviting me along and for the warm welcome and hospitality from Clare Payne and the front of house team.  Congratulations to all involved.