Friday, November 30, 2012


The New Venture Players at Brentwood Theatre

An everyday story of death, benefit fraud and cross-dressing by Michael Cooney, son of the more famous Ray.

Not a new play – we have a mobile and a trimphone in uneasy coexistence – but seems much older, with Carry On jokes and the sort of farce Orton, Bennett and Frayn had mocked years earlier.

A perky brass theme, torrential rain, and ten minutes of solid plot-laying before we're into a morass of mistaken identity, improbable twists and manufactured mayhem typical of the genre.

I've never seen this professionally done. But it seems to me you need two things to make it work, to have the audience helpless with laughter. "Solid oak doors", rather than passageways, and a frantic pace, built and sustained through the set pieces. It only takes a moment's hesitation or stumbling to kill a scene.

There were some strong performances in Fred Sampson's uninspired production: Roy Hobson's fussy little Mr Jenkins understood his character and its function, as did Phil Foster as Dr Chapman. Richard Spong, as the young lodger who's the unwitting centre of the scam, had commendable energy, and Chris Wilkins did what she could with the one-dimensional wife. And Vernon Keeble-Watson, as the "sweet old man" Uncle George, gave an outrageous performance, and got the biggest laugh with his perfectly placed pocket handkerchief.

Butter for the fish, it's called in Dutch ...

At Brentwood this week, Arsenic and Old Lace - with the all-important window seat under the actual window, this time ...


Anonymous said...

Is there a review for Arsenic and old lace coming? Or is this at the end here a glitch?

Michael Gray said...

Hello, Anonymous [sorry, anonymous messages often get moved into spam by the bots]
Yes, there will be a review of Arsenic - published Thursday to coincide with the Weekly News press day. But I couldn't resist the happy comparison; and though the window seat was well placed this time, it did seem a little cramped for the average corpse ...

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