Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Latchingdon Arts and Drama Society at the Tractor Shed

Paxton and Hoile were once names to conjure with in our villge halls and our weekly reps. My colleagues and mentors Peter Andrews and Gilbert Sutcliffe cut their critical teeth on the kind of pot-boilers that are now all but forgotten.
Maiden Ladies is a classic example, snatched from oblivion by the enterprising Peter Jones and his LADS.
We're straight back to the old am-dram days here, when cues were missed, corpsing was rife and the prompt worked harder than some of the cast.
This particular farcical comedy needed a deal of concentration at the start, when names are dropped and schemes are laid. All to do with what is coyly called a “romantic weekend” in a lovely cottage in deepest Surrey, threatened by the untimely arrival of the mother [Beth Greaves] together with the awful Eric [David Hudson]. Decency must be preserved, so the Maiden Ladies of the title must be impersonated, giving Reggie [a very enjoyable performance from talented farceur Daniel Turnbridge] a chance to slip into several sets of female attire, variously aided and thwarted by his valet Martingale [Arthur Barton], as they make a couple of Charley's Aunts of themselves.
Jamie-Leigh Royan's Calerie looked and sounded a woman of the period in her 30s slacks; Jemma Walshley's blonde Sylvia seemed closer to Essex than Surrey.
Robert Strange did his best with the rather thankless Heath, and I enjoyed Moir Gunfield's formidable vicar's wife.
Bill Wright was the city spiv sent to plunder The Cedars, but the plum cameo here was Robin Warnes' district dick, a prototype Truscott with a nice line in physical comedy and a disconcerting tic which made his name a strangulated “Crutch”.
I admired the impressively massive beam across this late Tudor cottage, and there were many nice moments of pure farce – the whisky bottle, the moving table, for instance. But elsewhere we were in Farndale country, with some prime examples of coarse acting, my favourite perhaps the unglazed door.
As John Folkard remarks in his excellent programme note, this kind of play is almost pre-history to today's young actors. All credit to Latchingdon for bringing it back in all its ghastly glory.

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