My interest in amateur theatre continues thanks to some very good friends of mine so we ventured out again by visiting (after another carvery you understand…) the very good Theatre 62 who perform out of the Wickham Theatre Centre in West Wickham, Kent.
As I have blogged before, Theatre 62 is the kind of theatre that gives amateur dramatics a very good name indeed. Whilst its surroundings are modest, everyone involved in the enterprise is welcoming and passionate about what they do- from the box office staff, to those serving in the bar, to the actors on stage.
This time we were watching Comfort and Joy- written by the ‘Rochdale Cowboy’ himself Mike Harding (you must remember him from his hit ‘Rochdale Cowboy’ which managed to get to No 22 in the charts in 1975) and although best known as a folk singer, has written a number of very good plays-including this one in 1997.
Describe as ‘a chaotic Christmas comedy’ it was great pre Xmas fare to watch and the best thing I have seen at Theatre 62 (so far!). It is set in a North of England household over a 3 day xmas period and when I tell you that in the play we are introduced to a verbose dog called Trumpton, two cats who have had an accident in a car, stick insects who are confused with a bowl of Twiglets, and a turkey that ends up halfway down the outside path, you will realise that we are in British Farce territory.
Martin is perhaps the richest character on stage who is a Irish philosopher of sorts but also a keen Marxist and thinks he is a dab hand at repairing anything on the cheap- in playing him Howard James does not waste the great material he is given . Not far behind him is Goff (Bernard Hariss) who is a kind of pre Victor Meldrew- cantankerous, a perpetual moaner and reactive to the core. They are very well supported by an ensemble cast who occasionally fell over their words (but this was the first night). Highlights for me were Sharon Hawkes as Fiona (Goff’s daughter who relocated to Australia with the man he did not approve of-mainly because he thinks he stole his saw….) and Diane Carters as Kathy who has relocated ‘down south’ and has returned as a very ‘sloane ranger’ Joanna Lumley type. In fact Bernard Harriss is almost upstaged by the performance of Crispin (Paul Newton) as Kathy’s equally posh ‘friend’ who enters the living room with rather a lot of ‘doo doo’ and is the brunt of many a joke at his expense.
But the loudest laugh could be heard from the visit of locals Monica (Christine Lever) and Chapman (Tony Skeggs) who are less neighbours from hell but more like residents of ‘weirdsville’, with their penchant for angels having been kidnapped by the ‘mother ship’.
Overall, it is a very funny play with no pretensions of being too clever for its own purposes. It is a very broad farce using Christmas and fraught relations as its backdrop. It may be clichéd in places (Crispin and Kathy are the kind of posh fools who it is easy for working class characters to make fun of ) but if you do not take it seriously then there is a lot to laugh at and be happy with.
A great pre Xmas tonic that went down very well thank you!