Friday, 24 July 2015

"Imaginary Lines" by Zodiac Theatre Company
Create Theatre, Mansfield.

You can always tell when a theatre group have been together for any length of time because the relationship between the actors when on stage shows through. There's a comfortableness there and a sense of natural timing and trust, as well as an appreciation from actor to actor. That is what I saw in this production.

"Imaginary Lines" is a play written by Reggie Oliver and is a wonderful piece of comedy. Written to break the fourth wall in order to engage the audience with the characters and the story and creates its' own comedy moments in the same way that "A Man Of Two Guvnors" does. It lets the audience into secrets that the cast on stage are "unaware": of as the actor takes them under their secretive and protective wing.

This is a dotty look at life and love, which was originally directed by Alan Ayckbourn. The "imaginary lines" are the things we wish we could say, or had said usually to the opposite sex. The asides in the dialogue provide amusing counterpoints to what the characters are really saying to each other. Will Sir Michael get Wanda to go off with him for a weekend frolic? Will Wanda decide who she wants? Will Howard win Wanda or get stuck with Carol? Will Mrs. Burlap ever find a copy of Snow ed Up with a Duchess by Mrs. Arnold Frogmore?

Howard, the book shop owner, is a typical geek who is uncomfortable around strangers but would love to be the man to get the lady and be the romantic lead role. Simon Ward plays the role as a Mr Bean/Rowan Atkinson character with plenty of comical looks, shrieks, grunts and gurnings. It's the first time that I've seen Simon in any role and hopefully he will slip into the acting role more often as it was a joy to watch this geeky and comedic character revealed under Simon's capable comedy acting ability.

Wanda, played by Anna Sanderson is the confident single woman who is looking for some male company and although she is escorted home by Howard and Sir Micheal, she is in total control of the situation, or so it seems. We see later in the play that she turns to chasing Sir Michael with her little love notes, but does a fine job of blowing hot and cold. Another lovely comedy character who I'm sure that you've come across in your own life at some stage.Anna looks so at ease and natural in this character that you sometimes forget that she's acting!

Michael is the MP who thinks he has struck it lucky with Wanda after driving her home. He's married so has to keep the prospective affair very low key. He gets off on the wrong foot with Wanda's friend Carol though when they are all meet up at Wanda's, and this makes for yet another funny but embarrassing scene for the two characters as Carol blames Sir Michael for the loss of her job. Carol doesn't hold back but shows a softer side as she takes a shine to Howard when she takes a part time job at Howard's book shop. Michael is played by Daniel Smith and Carol by Katie Richmond-Ward.

And then there's the local children's writer who is just a little bit loony. Mrs Burlap is another wonderful character-driven role with some amazing face pulling and clever words, expertly delivered first class by Lindsay Foster.

This whole team are just so tight and the comedy is timed to perfection. It's fast moving, which is helped by the lighting of the piece, which I'd love to credit to someone, but I don't know who that mystery lighting designer is. Whoever you are, you did a brilliant job.

Directed by Craig Foster, there was not a foot put wrong, which is what I've come to expect, and they didn't disappoint. The last three plays the Zodiac Theatre Group have done have all been on the dark side of drama, but as a group they proved that they can do comedy just as well as they can do suspense, drama and serious thrillers. This group are consistently good and deserve to be supported in all that they do because there's some serious (and comedy) talent here.

"Invisible Lines" is on at Create Theatre, West Notts College, Mansfield for one more night, Saturday 25 July 2015.

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