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South East
posted/updated: 14 Feb 2019 -
Alan Ayckbourn
society/company: Banbury Cross Players (directory)
performance date: 13 Feb 2019
venue: The Mill Arts Centre, Spiceball Pk Road, Banbury, OX16 5QE
reviewer/s: Alex Wood (Sardines review)

I was very impressed by this, Banbury Cross Players' latest production.

It's impossible to go further without making a comment about Alan Ayckbourn; to describe his playwriting output as 'prolific' seems inadequate. Given that, it is a source of wonder that the quality of his work is so outstandingly and consistently good. Whenever I come across an Ayckbourn paly that's new to me I wonder - will this be the one that disappoints? I has not happened yet and I am beginning to think it never will.

Game Plan is one of those 'new' Ayckbourn experiences. Clearly a comedy but with the darker undertones that are the master's trademark.

Lynette is a harassed mum, left to do a 12 hour shift cleaning offices after the business she ran went bust and her husband duly left for sunnier climes with her business partner. She lives with daughter Sorrel in a Thameside appartment which they can no longer afford. Sorrel has the typical preoccupations of an older teenage girl but when she finds that they may have to move, she takes matters into her own hands, advertising her 'personal services' online. Best friend Kelly is dragged in to be her 'maid'. Sorrel (aka Randy Mandy) 'entertains' her first client, Leo, with what might be called a moderate degree of success. Unfortunately, preparing to leave, he drops stone dead, leaving the girls with an unexpected disaster to sort out...

At the centre of this play is role of Sorrel Saxon, played with great skill by Clare Primrose. Clare captures Sorrel's character perfectly - her impatience with her mum, her fairly shameless exploitation of Kelly and a sort of combination of worldlywiseness combined with niave confidence in the way she approaches life's problems. All in the script of course but it needs talent, hard work and good direction to make it work. 

Almira Brion, is Sorrel's best buddy Kelly Butcher. Almira plays this understated role to perfection, bringing to the fore Kelly's simplicity and  genuine niavety and her puzzlement with the finer aspects of Sorrel's new enterprise. This requires some clever acting and good comic timing and Almira  totally nails it.

BCP regular Tara Lacey plays Lynette Saxon with great confidence and empathy - expressing her disappointment about a situation which is none of her doing and her anxieties about Sorrel and her future to perfection. Another smashing performance.

Yet another totally believable performance is that of Roger Riley, whose portrayal of the sentimental, respectable but very dull Leo, who is looking for 'something' after 5 years of widowhood is excellent. For me Roger had the best line in the play when he explained that his key factor for choosing Randy Mandy was because her online advert was perfectly punctuated!

Quite right!

Dave Candy, another BCP regular, is super as the (only) slightly menacing but also flawed detective Dan Endicott. Ayckbourn sometimes includes a totally off the wall character in his plays - this time that is PC Grace Page who punctuates her colleague's questioning of his suspect with judgemental bible extracts. Hilary Beaton approaches this role with exactly the confidence necessary, making the most of her role with lots of nice non-verbal stuff alongside her pronouncements of doom.

And James Murray does a fine job as the persuasive journalist Troy Stephens.

The whole is presented on a very classy, superbly dressed set which captures the look of a posh riverside appartment in London. Scene changes are efficiently managed by a very capable back stage staff.

Congratulations to Liz Riley, her cast and crew, who made this an evening to remember.


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