Paul Johnson | 13 Jul 2014 00:50am
Sedos presented the second of its 2014 Summer Festival offerings this week with Melissa Reeves’ play about the Australian Brownie movement, In Cahoots, and in doing so, gave the Bridewell Theatre audience the play’s Northern Hemisphere premiere. Pretty impressive until you consider there might be good reason why it’s taken 25 years to bring this quirky and slightly mystifying one-act comedy to the UK market. This is only one person’s opinion, of course, but I’ll be surprised if it goes much further than July’s outing in the City of London.
Director, Emma J Leaver, wrote in her programme notes: “…we want to leave you with the satisfaction of saying ‘well, I didn’t see that coming’.” Well, that’s exactly what I went out saying to myself – I’m just not sure it was in the intended context.
While I’m in no doubt, from the quality of the performances, the cast had a wonderful time throwing every ounce of energy they had at this slice of ’80s nostalgia, I suspect the reality is that only a small portion of the audience (press-ganged into taking on the role of parents and friends) replicated their onstage enthusiasm and commitment to this somewhat disjointed and mediocre Brownie cause.
There’s more to the First Cardwell Street Brownies than first meets the eye. When the District Commissioner turns up to inspect the group she discovers all the Brownies are well over the maximum eleven-year-old age limit and running riot. What’s more Brown Owl seems to be turning a blind eye – as supposedly are all the ‘friends and parents’ in the audience who have turned up to the annual evening of entertainment and demostrations.
In Cahoots was definitely not written to be taken seriously, rather the opposite, but you can’t hold an audience on nostalgia alone. And the problem with this play is, despite the bucket loads of frenetic fun and (terrible) songs on offer, it lacks any real form of cohesion and substance – even at a madcap comedic level. As soon as you get over the basic premise, and you await the next step, you soon discover it has virtually nowhere to go.
You’ll realise it’s the play I’m having a go at rather than the production itself. Leaver and her cast handled the material available to them with pace and skill. Stand-out performances worthy of special mention include Fran Pilcher as the cheesiest possible Brown Owl, complete with a perfectly gushing Australian accent (I trust you detected my Australian question intonation at the end there? …and again there? …and again?). Of the excellent over-age Brownie ensemble Fran Rafferty tended to be extremely watchable as ever, demonstrating her natural acting ability and impressive skill for comedy.
Stuart Massey’s scout-hut-style set was pleasingly authentic as was Clare Harding’s excellent costume design.
Third up in Sedos’ 2014 Summer Festival is The Government Inspector, where I hear the writing is second to none! Fingers crossed.
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- : 08/07/2014