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Henfield Theatre Company

Review by Dee Sharpe  - Area representative NODA

Director Trevor Hodgson should be congratulated for his understanding and
interpretation of the 5 playlets that make up ‘Confusions’ and their interlinking
themes of human shortcomings, loneliness and miscommunication explored
through the vehicles of comedy and farce.

The play depends on convincing characterisation and perfect timing and I was impressedwith the cast who delivered in spades, presenting compelling well-rounded characters.

The playlets are Mother Figure, Drinking Companions, Between Mouthfuls,
Gosforth’s Fete and Talk in the Park.

Mother Figure depicts Lucy, a mother so caught up with the demands of her
offspring and left isolated by her travelling salesman husband that she lives in
her dressing gown,no longer relatingto the outside world. When neighbour
Rosemary, pops in to check she is okay, followed by husband Terry, she treats
them as children and they respond by behaving like them. Lucy Walker’sgave
a superb performance as distracted, overworked, absent-mindedmother Lucy
well supported by Heather McFarlane-Cryer as neighbour Rosemary, and
Ian Henham as bolshychauvinistic Terry. Their deterioration from woman to
girl and man to boy was excellent, and the bittersweet ending of being made
to hold hands to go home together, leaving Lucy in her isolated world once
more, was well played.

Drinking Companions had Graeme Muncer as a wonderfully cringeworthy
Harry trying unsuccessfully to chat up Paula (August Porter) and lure her
to his hotel room. He became increasingly drunk and desperate, which was
excruciating and hilarious to watch. His inane laugh, body language andfacial
expressions were exquisitely done creating a believable but ludicrous character.
August managed to depict a kind, tolerant Paula, eager to escape but too
polite to do so, unlike friend Bernice, competently played by Tracey Bates,
who had clearly encountered many versions of  Harrybefore, and had no
compunction about being rude to rescue her friend.

Between Mouthfuls has couples Martin (Nick Cryer) and Polly (Nikki Dowd)
at one table and Mr and Mrs Pearce (Peter Ingledew and Liz Gibson) at another,
in the same hotel restaurant. Martin works for Mr Pearce. Polly has just been
on a holiday fling with him and Mrs Pearce is suspicious of an affair. The waiter
(Malcolm Harrington) flits back and forth, serving each couple and eavesdropping
on their conversations. This was cleverly timed so that the conversation snippets
alternated. There was excellent characterisation from the actors in this but
waiter Malcolm stole the scene with his comic facial expressions, perfect timing
and body language as well as the drying of Mr Pearce’s trousers!

When Gosforth’s Fete opened I was hugely impressed with the set which
included a marquee with bunting. It was fabulous down to the last detail,
exactly as though a country village fete was set up on stage. Well done set
design and building team!

Gosforth (Graeme Muncer) is getting stressed as he tries to orchestrate the
fete schedule and get the PA system working. VIP Mrs Pearce, ladylike and
autocratic turns up to be shown around by the Vicar (wonderful vicarisation
by Ian Henham). As Gosforth fixes the loudspeaker Milly (Lucy Walker) breaks
the news that she is pregnant by him and this news is broadcast widely with
the aid of said loudspeaker. Milly’s fiancée cub scoutleader Stewart, ably played
by Josh Martello hears the news and confronts them both before getting drunk
on sherry and neglecting the cubs who cause mayhem and send Mrs Pearce on
a wild goose chase. On top of this the tap of the tea urn refuses to turn off,
torrential rain becomes a thunderstorm and Mrs Pearce is electrocuted.
The cast in this excelled themselves with their acting, interactions and flawless
timing.

There was a change of gear for ‘A Talk In The Park’where five characters sit
on different benches.  One by one each pours out their woes to their neighbour
who escapes by moving tothe next bench to pour their own woes out, and so on.
There was a funny twist to my evening’s experience when after the interval
I returned to my seat to find it taken – little realising this was by an actor until
the scene started. I’m relieved I didn’t ask him to move. Having the actors start
in the audience was a good touch as well as the cyclist bringing his bike onto the
stage and the background projection of a park. This play summed up ‘Confusions’ overarching themes and the blend of humour, realism, and pathos of the piece
was perfectly portrayed by the cast, Tony Westwood as Arthur, Isabelle Cryer as
Beryl, John Coit as Charles, Tracey Bates as Doreen and Nick Cryer as Ernest.

Once again I have enjoyed a memorable evening with this hugely talented
theatre company.

Thank you.

 

 

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