Chipping Norton.

by Michael Frayn.

Chipping Norton Theatre Spring Street To 12 March 2014.
Mon-Wed 7.45pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 01608 642350.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 March.

Alarmingly funny and well worth an excursion to the theatre.
If the other master of intelligent modern comedy, Alan Ayckbourn, hadn’t snaffled it first this piece might have had the umbrella title Confusions. Like the Ayckbourn, Alarms and Excursions is a compilation, consisting of five short pieces, one tucked-up substantially for the night between two slices of another.

Frayn veers more to farce, Ayckbourn confining it to one of Confusions’ five sections. Here, it’s everywhere. Sometimes, as in the vignettes Pig in the Middle and Finishing Touches, in the dialogue, where “thing” substitutes for clarity, or characters can’t help ending each other’s sentences.

And sometimes in the path towards panic as people try coping with devices meant to help them communicate, human minds set against the relentless inevitability of an unidentified ‘ping’ from a household device, or the limited length of a telephone answe-machine tape.

In these scenes, either end of the evening, Sound operator Fergus Nimmo needs the precise timing of the people onstage. Elsewhere, the actors admirably supply the mounting anxiety, irritation and abstraction of middle-class characters imagining life in an adjacent hotel bedroom, or repeatedly getting netted in gossip as they attempt, with Godot-like inability, to leave the scene.

These are first-rate, spot-on pointed and lively performances. Sudden surges of interest, attempts to restore reason, moments of physical conflict are all caught, as are the facial expressions indicating a mind elsewhere or a state of feeling unmatched to the words being spoken.

There again director (and Chipping Norton Theatre boss) John Terry spent a year early in his directing career at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre, where Artistic Director Sam Walters developed a way (also giving sound effects an important role) for doing farce in-the-round. Not that this former Salvation Army Citadel’s raised stage is like that, but Georgia Lowe’s minimal set, providing simply four of the doors so important to farce, supports the acting’s swift, yet detailed economy.

At the 1998 premiere, the show was somewhat overshadowed by Frayn’s other new play Copenhagen. Terry and his fine company have brought the farcical comedy into bright light, in a production which richly deserves to be seen more widely.

John: Charlie Buckland.
Nancy: Kate Copeland.
Nicholas: Eliot Giuralarocca.
Jocasta: Kali Peacock.

Laurence: Charlie Buckland.
Lynn: Kate Copeland.
Miles: Eliot Giuralarocca.
Melanie: Kali Peacock.

Pig in the Middle:
Alan: Charlie Buckland.
Lucy: Kali Peacock.

Finishing Touches:
Victoria: Kate Copeland.
Edward: Eliot Giuralarocca.

Chris: Charlie Buckland.
Mother: Kate Copeland.
Dietrich: Eliot Giuralarocca.
Nikki: Kali Peacock.

Director: John Terry.
Designer: Georgia Lowe.
Lighting: Amy Southeard.
Sound Designer: Andrea J Cox.
Sound: Fergus Nimmo.
Assistant director: Sophie Hazell.

2014-03-09 10:02:28

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