Comedy Double Bill

April 16, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩    Well timed

Saughtonhall Church: Wed 15 – Sat 18 April 2015

Staged with real care and featuring more than the required number of laughs, Saughtonhall Drama Group’s double bill of one-act comedies provides an enjoyable evening.

Alan Robinson’s Erica & Me features Simon, who has hired an escort to pretend to be his girlfriend in order to impress his boss – and, of course, things do not go as he plans. 22 Hardcastle Court by Gary Diamond is the story of Emily, whose attempts to become independent from her mother are hampered by the previous owner of her new flat.

Standing: Murray Petrie, Scott Kerr, Bethany Laing and Estelle Cross; Seated Gill McEvoy & Daria Renka. Photo: Saughtonhall Drama Group

The cast of Erica & Me. Standing: Murray Petrie, Scott Kerr, Bethany Laing and Estelle Cross; Seated: Gill McEvoy & Daria Renka. Photo: Saughtonhall Drama Group

The first play is more tightly constructed, while the second is more inventive and absurdist. However, there is little to choose between them in terms of originality – frankly, neither piece would win any awards for plot or character development. In this production, however, both are attacked with energy and gusto.

Each half benefits from a strong central performance. Scott Kerr’s Simon is a well-timed comedy performance, and we can almost see his mind whirring as his schemes collapse around him. Elizabeth Swinburne, as Emily, manages to provide a calm and believable anchor to the ridiculous events that take place around her.

Director Colin Mitchell establishes a pleasing comic rhythm in Erica & Me that extracts full value from the humour. Murray Petrie and Gillian McEvoy, as Simon’s boss Mr Collings and his wife, make an impressive double act with Petrie’s spluttering incomprehension and McEvoy’s effective use of malapropisms.

a real ensemble feel

It would spoil much of the humour to explain in too much detail who the other characters turn out to be, but Daria Renka also gets a great deal of mileage from a role with the most minimal of dialogue, while Estelle Cross, Bethany Laing and Eleanor Watson keep the momentum up as the various visitors to Simon’s flat.

There is a real ensemble feel to the piece. This, added to the pace and energy supplied by the cast and director, means that it hangs together far better than it might.

Callum McLennan and Bethany Laing in 22 Hardcastle Court. Photo: Saughtonhall Drama Group

Callum McLennan and Bethany Laing in 22 Hardcastle Court. Photo: Saughtonhall Drama Group

22 Hardcastle Court has a far bigger problem in structure, being comprised of several short scenes and featuring more characters than dramatically necessary. This could be a recipe for disaster, but it all hangs together pleasingly, thanks once again to John Webster’s considered direction and some energetic comic performances.

Betty Meston, as Emily’s somewhat bizarre mother Mrs Sinclair, relishes the non sequiturs and ludicrous ideas of her character. Bethany Laing and Estelle Cross both appear again to great effect, while Gavin Watson’s George is pitched carefully to maintain his character’s air of mystery.

Perhaps the evening’s most impressive performance, however, comes from Calum McLennan, whose hormonal, crisp-munching teenager Colin is comically exaggerated yet immediately recognisable.

clever dressing

Keith Wilson’s set cleverly serves for the three locations needed across the plays, with some clever dressing and the aid of the plays’ directors moonlighting as removal men.

The two plays are perhaps too similar in subject matter. They also share of a certain old-fashioned cosiness that is a little at odds with that subject matter and is not dissipated by the odd contemporary reference. This might have made for an unsatisfactory evening. However, the amount of effort put in by all concerned ensures that the double bill as a whole provides an entertaining evening with a large number of laughs.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (including interval)
Saughtonhall United Reformed Church, 85/87 Saughtonhall Drive, EH12 5TR
Wednesday 15 – Saturday 18 April 2014
Evenings Wed-Fri: 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat: 3.00 pm
Details and tickets at http://www.saughtonhall.com/dramagroup.html
ENDS

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