Ad Hoc Players at Brentwood Theatre
Ad Hoc Players chalk up twenty years in 2017, and this quirky comedy, written for them by Eddie Coleman, was one of the first they brought to Brentwood Theatre.
So this revival is a celebration, with veterans joining the playwright in a warmly receptive audience for the opening night.
The play centres on Martin [Liam Mannix], whose love for his new-found girlfriend, “Miss Gorgeous Adorable” Carol, baffles his friends and family. “A man, a midget or a transsexual” they could have accepted, but this ??? Their reactions, and ours, vary uneasily from mockery – sexist banter and tasteless joshing – to sympathy. Most successful in the former is Andrew Spong with assured comic timing as work-mate Jason, and in the latter Candy Lillywhite-Taylor as sister Alison, who vows to follow her brother to the edge, and in the final scene, as the story comes full circle, prepares to introduce her own controversial lover to family and friends …
Hilary Martin is the formidable mother who dares to say that the emperor is naked, and there's a nice cameo from Paul Ganney as the shrink who sees Martin's predilection as his ticket to psychiatric fame and fortune.
Ayckbourn it's not, or Orton, though the play has moments of both. Wendi Sheard directs, as she did in 2000; the set is impressive, with a fitted kitchen, two lounges and a dinner table set for six. There are some neat comedy moments – the rugby tackle, Martin Wilderspin's Dave appearing from behind the sofa. The characters step into the spotlight to share their thoughts – Ganney has some of the best of these monologues, including one with Martin's hands tightening around his throat. There's a tender heart-to-heart in the deserted street, leading us to hope that Alison and Jason might find happiness together. And so they do, but not quite as we might have expected.