22nd April 2016
Lancing Parish Hall
Type of Production
Author: Jose Harrison
Starting with the story, a group of thugs and petty thieves are assembled by criminal mastermind “Professor Marcus” (Samual Cocozza) to plan a big robbery. They pretend to be a group of classical musicians and a room is rented in the house of widow Louisa Wilberforce (Sue Duncan) close to the location of the robbery, to plan the event.
Sue as the “dear old lady” gave a legendary performance, seldom off the stage for more than a few minutes at a time, being the perfect busy-body offering cups of tea, talking to her parrot and generally driving the ‘quintet’ close to heart failure. Samual’s part was the lynch pin, planning everything down to the finest detail, preventing the others in the gang, all very different personalities, from falling out or giving the game away. It was an outstanding performance but so were the rest of the team.
The nervous, slightly paranoiac Major (Mark Oliver) was ideal in his role twittering around the place, hiding at every opportunity, basically afraid of his own shadow whereas Ian Black, as “One Round”, was hilarious, thick as two short planks and constantly putting his foot in it. George Lake as Eastern European thug Louis gave a characterisation that was genuinely frightening. His acting off-focus was tireless and his facial expressions put him in a class very nearly of his own. Very nearly? Well, then along came Ruben Pol as spiv Harry who just blew me away with a performance I will not forget in a hurry. To those of us who aspire to amateur dramatic greatness, you need to see a performance like Ruben’s once in a while to remind you never to take yourself too seriously, as there is always someone as good. It is difficult to explain exactly how much top quality acting they put into this production, but it was a joy to watch them all.
A well-judged opening and closing cameo from Philip Martin as the policeman, Constable McDonald, set things up nicely and helped in no small part to deliver the final punch line.
The overriding comment I have to make is that the casting seemed so perfect. The set was a masterpiece, with a great two level vista using a small stairway going to the upper rooms and the window to the railway track and even incorporated an area of roof which was actually used a number of times, a front door and hall way and part of the auditorium became the railway station. Lighting was busy but completely appropriate with complementary costumes that perfectly recreated the feel of the original film and a wonderful selection of props. The most imaginative extra was the incredible sound effects, which were quite mind blowing considering we were in a village hall.
My heartfelt congratulations to Linsay Oliver for brilliant direction.