Once again I made my way to Bishopstoke Memorial Hall to watch Bishopstoke Players latest offering. As usual, there was a large crowd of their regulars waiting at the doors to get the best seats. Bishys, as they are known locally, have a large following with many people coming from various other areas of Hampshire just to see their performances.
The show opened to typical 70s music, but why did they chose Hot Butter’s Popcorn, it didn’t sum up any part of the play whatsoever? However, I am not here to review their music choice, but the play itself.
The curtains opened on to a decently constructed set that summed up the flat above a bank perfectly, although there were a few odd wobbles here and there. Kate Robbins in her role as Frances Hunter entered, shortly followed by her husband Peter (James Gould). Peter and Frances were soon joined by Peter’s mother Eleanor (Maggie Allington) who had come to stay, and the play started in earnest.
Robbins and Gould are both very capable actors and played their parts beautifully, I have seen them both in previous shows and they are very enjoyable to watch. They blended together admirably and really seemed to gel. Both of them used accents that suited their roles as an up-and-coming future bank manager and his wife from mid-Berkshire.
Bank employee Brian Runnicles, played by Colin Carter, was full of pep and he certainly bought pace into the production, but throughout the performance, his voice, ideal at first, gradually morphed into a camp version of Frank Spencer. By the end of the play he sounded like a cross between Michael Crawford and Kenneth Williams. However, his acting couldn’t really be faulted. He just needs to stick with his chosen voice and keep to it right through the play.
Of the rest of the cast, I like Tim Ponsford’s portrayal of Mr Needham the visiting accountant, he played the part beautifully right through with all the required actions from pomposity when he first arrived, to nervous wreck when he was being set upon by two nubile girls, in fact he got over his nervousness with the girls so well, he looked as though he was starting to enjoy it (perhaps he wasn’t acting that time).
Abbi Jeffery and Olivia Clarke in the small roles of Susan and Barbara, the afore-said pair of nubile girls that somehow or other, arrived at the flat were played brilliantly. Barabara (Olivia Clarke) didn’t really have much to say apart from a few excited squeals, but the girls were both very believable right through – especially for a pair of 70s party girls with an added agenda. Abi Jeffery played the role of Susan to a high level and had the command of her words and actions right through her small role.
All the other players in this classic British farce played their parts well although there were areas that certainly needed a little more pace.
The lighting (Owen Pugh) was just right, and the sound (JJ) was spot-on.
Costumes were ideal for the time period, and a lot of thought had gone into them, including the right period of underwear for Frances, although they overlooked the up-to-date version of boxer shorts worn by Brian Runnicles for a few moments in Act 2.
It was well directed by Barry Kitchen, but as a director of a period piece he needs to make sure all the actions and props relate to the 70s – there were a few property foo-pahs, one of which was a translucent plastic lighter that wasn’t available on the market for at least another twenty years – I won’t mention the others. But all that aside, it was word perfect and ran almost smoothly, although a little more pace throughout wouldn’t have gone amiss. Most of the pace seemed to be lost during actions on stage rather that during the dialogue - it just needed tightening up a little. Apart from that, it was one of the best Bishy productions I’ve seen.