A constant feature of Henlow Amateur Theatre’s annual programme is their presentation of three one act plays – partly in preparation for the RAF drama festival which, as a theatre company whose home is on an air force base, they enter every year.
There aren’t many one act play productions and I always enjoy coming to see what HATS are offering.
The first play this year was Housekeeper Wanted by Phillip King and Falkland L Cary. The writers of the classics See How They Run and Sailor Beware have come up with a story involving Victor, whose wife has left him, and his search for live-in domestic help. The three candidates are hardly suitable.
The first candidate is a grumpy dipsomaniac, so desperate for a drink that she swaps her ‘empty’ for something fuller from Victor’s drinks table. Played very straight and as a result very effectively by Sue Kennedy. The next candidate the agency sends is a nymphomaniac, who expects to entertain gentlemen friends from all four corners of the British Isles on each weekend of the month. Just right for Emma Masters who played her role with seductive confidence. The final candidate is only too happy to tell Victor about her previous employers – all now sadly deceased and, incidentally, leaving her money. I was very impressed by Linda Winfield – clad totally in black with an excellent and consistent Russian accent. Lee Masters played Victor with the amount of gaucheness and male inadequacy required and Chloe Williams completed the circle with her portrayal of his irascible returning wife.
In Red Wine and Ice Cream by Karen Ankers, Louise and Tarquin are waiting for a taxi after a night out. The couple have been together for six months and after a visit to the theatre the unpleasant Tarquin makes it clear that he is seeking a return on his ‘investment’. A row ensues which leaves Louise alone, frightened and wondering how she will get home. In fury she throws her purse after Tarquin – a photograph falls out of it which is picked up by the rough sleeper Christopher (unnoticed till then) who recognises the picture of a mother and child. Louise is his mother, who gave him away when he was two. She explains how he came to be; her up-and-down life and her regret at having to give him up. Christopher talks about his life – of the sadness of loss, abuse and bolstered by various delusions with no ‘happy stories’ to provide relief. Put simply, the play is about their conversation – and its shocking denouement.
Impressive acting from the trio involved.
Director Gavin Nicholson’s small but important role as Tarquin expressed the insistent unpleasantness of Louise’s would-be suitor. Sue Summan played the part of Louise with great understanding and sensibility. But the major role in the play is of the young vagrant Christopher. I was very impressed by Shayn Dicken’s acting in this part. He had clearly thought very carefully about the character and, as a result really got into his skin clearly demonstrating the character’s tragic and damaged nature with great empathy and skill. Because I visit this group regularly I have seen Shayn in many guises – but this was quite a revelation. I hope he won’t mind me saying it marked an important milestone in his development as an actor. Really well done.
Three Tables by Dan Remmes is about just that – we are watching three couples at different stages in their relationships dining in a restaurant. Originally an American play it was ‘Anglicised’ for this production – though some Americanisms did get through the net (‘pissed’ for annoyed for instance) which I found disappointingly inconsistent.
Mandy and Paul are the young couple, celebrating their fifth anniversary. Various niggles emerge, culminating in Mandy’s admission that, while her husband thinks they are trying for a baby, she is still on the pill. Beth Winfield and Keiran King portrayed this tense pair very well. Barbara has agreed to meet Michael in order to get divorce papers signed. Not wanting them to part Michael inveigles her into taking a meal with him in spite of her vehement protestations and as the meal progresses she gradually realises that he has been making the changes to himself and his life that she has yearned for him to make for years. Keith Lander portrayed Michael with wit and understanding. Hazel Jacobs put in a fine acting performance with some admirably sharp comic timing.
Doris the lawyer and Todd the psychiatrist are on a computer date. It takes them a while but they eventually agree that they might be compatible. I thought this table had the funniest lines – the revelation that Todd’s photo on the dating site was not only of him but also his ex and his attempts to explain this had the audience in stitches. Well done to Liz Stephens and Jamie Ward who ensured that all the comic possibilities they were gifted by the writer were exploited to the full.
And Arthur Jackson, as the waiter, did his unobtrusive and professional best to ensure that, as far as he was concerned, the diners would enjoy their night out. Nicely played.
Still a little work to do – not least on some very noticeable fluffed lines and the pace of the first piece but, in all, a very entertaining night out with an excellent mix of plays. (Interested drama groups should certainly take a look at Three Tables and Red Wine and Ice Cream.)