|Date||1st August 2021|
|Venue||The Village Hall, Hardingstone|
|Type of Production||Play|
Author: Alex Wood (for Keith Loynes)
Summer Shorts! No less than six one-act plays presented by Hardingstone Players at their local village hall, their original inspired intention to put this on outdoors sadly being scuppered by grey clouds on the day. No matter. What a smashing idea from a company clearly determined to tread the boards at the earliest - but safe - opportunity.
Driving Mr Diddy is a quirky, funny piece of work by Mandy Bannon in which respectable Brian and Margaret find their drive to line dancing class interupted by Darren, an apprentice gangster who hijacks their car in order to get himself and a bag of money to a meet with his colleagues, waiting at the motorway. Two worlds collide in a very comic way as Brian proves himself as a getaway driver and Margaret shows she can carry on regardless, even with a gun to her head - and Darren (aka Mr P Diddy) has to be sick after Brian goes too fast on a particularly bendy piece of road. Ken Roberts (Brian), Jill Colston (Margaret) and Joel Dobb (Darren) worked hard on their characterisations to very good effect, giving the audience plenty to laugh about.
The next three plays were written by Jean McConnell.
Shoppers is a two-hander in the style of Victoria Wood in which Rosemary (Alison Roberts) and Angela (Esther Poulus) chat about the day’s shopping, bargains bought and missed, respective partners and the attractions or otherwise of shops visited. I enjoyed some of the wordplay and the running gag about Angela’s mother and her ‘words of wisdom’ but I felt more pace was needed to bring out the comedy of the piece.
Early Blight begins with a sort of monologue as Helen (Chris Hobson), an elderly and infirm woman, berates her daughter June (Rhiannon George) for various faults without reply. The reason for June’s lack of response becomes evident when she reveals that she has found some 40-year-old letters from a man she loved, inviting her to join him in Australia - and instead the time has been spent being a dogsbody for her mother who, of course, insists that she hid the letters for June’s benefit. Not an entirely original idea but a well-written play which drew us in to this awkward and now fractured relationship, Chris Hobson turning in a nice performance as the wheedling and genuinely needy mother and Rhiannon George totally convincing as the put-upon daughter, full of indignation at the way she has been treated. (My only issue here - which I feel worth mentioning - is how did the letters remain unopened in a vase for so long? I find it hard to believe that June took 40 years to have a peek, regardless of her mother’s firm command not to.)
Dancers is written in very much the same style as Shoppers, but this time the comedy worked much better. Rachel Dobb (Betty) and Alison Roberts (Wyn) portray a couple of ladies from a dance club having a gossip about the various characters at the club, relationships (mostly Betty’s), the unquestionable power of the cleavage over men, and so on. Lots of cattiness and a very satisfactory number of double entendres, coupled with some nice comic timing made this a very funny piece. Well done.
School Reunion was a home-made piece by Esther Poulus of Hardingstone Players. A clever idea in which Paul and Mary turn up at a primary school reunion. Both are single and have fond memories of childhood friends. Paul is seeking a woman called Mary and Mary is seeking a man called Paul. They are delighted to meet up again and have what they think is a very friendly catch up … until they realise that they have, in fact, never met before! It isn’t that Paul and it isn’t that Mary. But no matter, in a sweet conclusion to the piece they realise that this comedy of errors could work to their mutual advantage. I felt that this was a little too contrived but I liked the idea and doubtless Simon Wolfenden (Paul) and Esther Poulus (Mary) worked well together to give the audience plenty to laugh at.
Tony Cottrell’s surreal play A Load of Bull gives the audience an insight into what two cows might say to each other in the milking parlour. Comparing opinions about manual versus machine milking (compressed air - nasty!) and the amorous but perhaps rather clumsy attentions of Gordon the bull versus artificial insemination. The long black glove proves surprisingly appealing to Frieda but Daisy isn’t so keen, mainly because you didn’t know what would come out at the end - it could even be, horror of horrors, a Belted Galloway! Resplendent in very attractive hats and the necessary yellow ear tags Chris Hobson as Daisy and Vikki Morton as Frieda created an excellent bovine stand-up double act and a fitting finale to a very entertaining afternoon.