Two 1-Act Plays

Date 27th October 2021
Society Hardingstone Players
Venue The Village Hall, Hardingstone
Type of Production Play
Directors Rachel Dobb and Rhiannon George


Author: Alex Wood (for Keith Loynes)

Murder at Dress Rehearsal by PaulMatthews

I am not sure that this play really worked at any level.

The Piffling Players, led by their fiercely ambitious director Valerie Stickler (Chris Hobson) are having a dress rehearsal before presenting their play 'Ich Leibe Dich' at the county play festival. The players meet up and their minds are not really on the play. Clinton Starr (Ken Roberts) , a local businessman, is checking that Councillor Nessa Parker (Alison Roberts) has squared matters with fellow members of the planning committee concerning his new venture's premises; having paid her off he expects nothing less. Deborah Sharpe (Rachel Dobb), Starr's ex-wife and business rival is anxious and bitter, feelings only made worse with the arrival of Talulah Ferrero (Esther Poulus), Clinton's new 'squeeze'. Moving grumpily between stage and wings is stage manager, Kevin Grey. They rehearse the aforesaid play and all goes well until - in accord with the script - gunshots are heard and Clinton finishes up on the stage, dead, which was not in the script.

The incompetent Inspector Harry Hollywood (played by Ken Roberts - Harry is meant to be an uncanny double for the murder victim with only a rather mobile moustache to differentiate them) enters the scene with the intention of solving the crime...

I can see that the play is meant to send up amateur dramatics (those names!) but, as presented, 'Murder at Dress Rehearsal' doesn't do it very well. There are some funny lines about am-dram and I thought Alison Roberts and Esther Poulus put in confident performances but a lack of pace and the need for several prompts limited the comedy in the show. Ironically the best part of the play was the rehearsal itself which seemed to run quite smoothly. That said, this was first night and I really do hope the cast got into their strides as the week progressed.

(Perhaps I'm too fussy so I must say that the audience enjoyed this play - which is the joy of a village hall production!)

(It would not have helped that the central incident in the play - the shooting of Clinton Starr - mirrored real-life events in New Mexico. The show must go on but I accept that this may have been difficult for the cast to deal with.)

The Worst Day Of My Life by Alan Richardson

Like the first play 'The Worst Day of My Life' treads a fairly well-trodden path but this time with a lot of style and sharp writing. Charlie Brown (Simon Wolfenden) is in a hospital bed waiting for the results of his tests and as the nurse leaves his wife arrives for the start of afternoon visiting time. Charlie is a businessman and his wife, Joanne (Jill Colston) has papers for him to sign. He is relaxing after he has done this when a woman comes into the room. Evelyn (Rhiannon George), it turns out, is another wife, Charlie's first. Largely ignoring Charlie the women are working out the jigsaw of their lives with him when Melissa (Vikki Morton), blowsy and uninhibited arrives to reveal that she has been married to him for 14 years - 7 years more than Joanne and 7 years less than Evelyn. Samantha arrives to see how Charlie's 'sisters' are getting on...and more mayhem ensues.

I liked this play very much. Witty and fast-paced it rolled along. All the wives were very convincing - Jill as the 'secretary wife', Rhiannon as the 'homemaker wife' and Vikki as the mistress with a marriage certificate all played their parts with considerable skill. There were quite a few prompts but in general lines were delivered sharply with a good sense of comic timing. Movement round the stage was good.

Making a major contribution to the fun was Simon - not much chance for other movement and not much of a right to reply but a whole range of facial expressions showed his reactions to everything that was going on.

And Rebecca George - joining the cast this week - put in a very nice performance as Nurse Samantha.

Overall a very pleasant night out. My thanks to Hardingstone Players for their hospitality.