Monday, May 03, 2010

Theatre at Baddow

The impressive set [David Saddington] is unmistakably a villa on the Costa del Crime. The high walls, the wrought-iron bars on the window cleverly hint at the old lag within: Vic Parks, bank robber turned media star.
Jill Rillington [Joanna Poole] has brought have-a-go hero Douglas Beechey to meet the man who shot his girlfriend seventeen years ago. She needs a successful series [“Their paths crossed”] to save her career – and this is the first programme - a confrontation seething with envy, revenge, “hopefully hatred”.
Pauline Saddington's hugely enjoyable production boasted two memorable performances: Mike Nower as the villain-turned-hero, Essex Man with neanderthal attitudes, tan and shades, full of smiling menace, every bit as scary as a Pinter hard man. And contrasting beautifully with him – there's no real conflict here – is the mild-mannered bank clerk [“laminated chipboard”] of Kenton Church. Perfect comedy timing, as he reveals why the crew took 35 takes to film him back home in Purley, and a superb extended riff on celibacy in one of the plays many reflective moments.
Strong support from the rest of the cast, too, especially Vicky Wright as the hapless nanny from Huddersfield, who is instrumental in the improbable dénouement [ the ending was a disappointment - I was expecting some sort of twist … ] Matthew Jones was Vic's long-suffering manager, and John Mabey played the Spanish gardener, condemned like Sisyphus to carry the same stones time and time again. Vic's second wife [whatever did she see in him?] was Helen Quigley, who had her best moment when she shared her understandable frustrations with young Sharon.
In this untypical Ayckbourn [not set in England, no staging gimmick, not a mirror held up to the middle class], it's the media who are the real villains of the piece, and in the twenty or more years since it was written we've seen the cult of celebrity, and the humiliation of the meek, mushroom beyond the wildest dreams of the cynical Vic or the ruthless Rillington.

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