Friday, 26 May 2023

 Duets by Peter Quilter.

Round Hill School, Beeston.

Three sets of characters, three crucial moments in time; Jonathon and Wendy are on a blind date and hope their bad taste is only in their clothing and not in a prospective partner; Shelley and Bobby are divorcing on a holiday in Spain but drunk on emotion; Angela is about to marry for the third time and brother Toby hates the dress, the groom, the party and only wants the best for her—really?
Well, that's a very quick summary of these three very funny playlets.

The first playlet is entitled "Blind Date" and features Jonathan and Wendy, played by Gary Frost and Alison Parnham. I love the awkwardness of this initial meeting in the story line where you try to say all the right things, but end up saying the opposite. And by some strange magic this pair of characters actually hit it off! Gary and Ali really set the mood for the three duets, and while the comedy arises from the awkward situation and stilted conversation, there's a lot of Alan Bennett seriousness to the story.
Duet number two is called "The Holiday" featuring Bobby and Shelley, played by Tom Jenkins and Liz Austin. This play takes the comedy up a notch due to the comfortable feeling of a pair who know each other very well; an opposite from the first story line. To start with you think it's just a couple on holiday in Spain, and then you discover that they are there to say goodbye nice and civilised; well, that's the plan anyway!

Tom and Liz create the fire in these characters, and there's a nice series of bitter explosions between the pair, which makes for good viewing, but you do get the feeling that Bobby and Shelley still have feelings for each other.
I loved the way that Liz didn't go over the top acting tipsy on all that Spanish plonk which added that realistic feel. Bobby's barbed comments hit their target and you could feel the vitriol in the script, brought out by Tom. I know that this is a comedy, and I've seen Tom perform comedy very well over the years, but in this role, I saw a dramatic actor wanting to burst out!

The final Duet is called "The Bride To Be" and features Toby and Angela, played by Gary Frost and Laura Burke.
Siblings Toby and Angela between them battle wedding day nerves and superstitions in the most comic of the three plays; the previous two ramping up the comedy situations to explode with this one. Everything that can go wrong or can be said wrongly, does. We all know how fragile and tightly wound a bride's mind is on her big day, and the last thing you need is the brother to pour oil, or coffee, on troubled waters!
Gary has always been wonderful with comedy roles, and this is no different at all. He knows how to create that natural feel to his characters, and so it doesn't look as if he is acting at all.

This is Laura's first role since she broke into double figures, age wise, but you would never believe it. Laura is a perfect match for Gary's acting style. It was almost as if the audience were not there. No nerves on show, and the flow of the action and script delivery indicate a natural actor who clearly enjoys every minute she is on stage. I can't wait to see what next Laura has in store for us as she is certainly a valuable discovery in the world of local theatre.
Directed by Nicola Adkin and Paul Langston, both of which know their way around a comedy play. They build up the comedy through the three plays allowing the few serious moments, mainly in the first two, to gleam like diamonds secreted in comedy sawdust. A lovely choice of actors who all played to their thespian strengths.
The Set Designs for all three were designed by Sam Williams, who with just a few adjustments to props and backdrops, created three very different images for the three scenarios.

Sound Design and effects are also by Sam Williams.
One thing I paid close attention to was in the second play regarding sound. There are several openings of doors where on the other side of the door is a party, no sorry, a Fiesta in full swing. As you know when you open a door, the sound floods into the room and when you close the door, it muffles the sound. Every opening and closing of the door was excellently cued so there were no sound bleeds. This shows that a very keen eye was kept on the stage at all times, also in the first play with the stereo player.
Lighting Design is by Nina Tunnicliff who comes into her own in the third play regarding lighting effects, but I won't give the game away why. A dynamic duo production team.
I also feel the need to mention the props. I think I counted about fifty odd props just in the first play, which then were moved about, added to and some removed from the stage for the next two. Props management is an extremely important job and a lot of onus is put on the prop manager, not least from the actors themselves. Gwen Murray and Sue Frost were in charge of this area.

I know that I've said this before with Beeston Players but even before you get near to the auditorium, you feel like family because of the wonderful Front Of House team. Nothing is ever too much trouble for them as they make your visit even more special.
This triple decker of plays is something different for Beeston Players but I can categorically say that the risk paid off big time. I can also categorically say that I can't wait until November for their next production. Now, I need more coffee!!
"Duets" has one more outing as a Saturday matinee at 2.30 at Round Hill School by the Beeston Players.

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