Reading University Drama Society
Date Night by Maisie Welch
60 minutes – no interval
Cormac Richards – 22 November 2018
My recent visits to the University of Reading to see their Drama Society (RUDS) at work have never been less than inspiring and Maisie Welch’s ‘Date Night’ keeps up the high standards. New writing is always fascinating to come across. No pre-conceived ideas. Just sit back and, hopefully, be entertained. For an hour I and the packed auditorium were entertained royally.
Date Night has the simplest of plots. A bored waitress – wishing her career was rather more exciting – oversees the comings and goings of 4 groups of (fairly awful) people at a restaurant. Within the 60 minutes duration, not a huge amount has happened, but there have been laughs and cringeworthy moments aplenty.
The play kicks off really well with Kate Brown as waitress Nancy setting the tone in a very funny monologue. Disenchanted with her lot and wanting something more in life, this is a great start to proceedings. Nancy spends the rest of the play toing and froing, taking orders and delivering food and drinks. Kate Brown is utterly in charge, assured, confident and delivers her acerbic views and comments with precision. A perfectly pitched performance.
First guests into the restaurant are middle-aged gay couple, Harry (Conor Field) and Roger (Sam Bunn); after 25 years together they bitch away with abandon and still have things to find out about each other. Conor Field overdoes the jacket-fiddling a little but does a great line in supercilious sneering whereas Sam Bunn is more laid back and cool. I have met a couple like this – several!! So well observed.
Teddy Turpin is a complete bag of nerves as Adam who arrives with a pot of flowers to meet his blind date. He has no control over his body and mouth and is utterly clumsy with both. His date is Jess played by Zoe Cooke who is likewise as awkward. These are two are very funny performances and will equally make you laugh and cringe. You can’t imagine there is a second date.
Tilly Hale and Cameron Swan are the most boring couple, Sally and Simon, who dress the same, speak at the same time, think the same and are hideous – they play them to perfection. These dullards have invited brash American, Abbey, to come and spice up their sex life. Alice Underwood is utterly hilarious. This threesome hit the ‘outrageous’ button a number of times – loved them!
Living the Insta(gram) life and treating their existence as one long catwalk and social media event, Natasha Hall and Matthew Warburton completely nail their characters Lucy and Dean. Neither can speak more than a couple of words at a time and their ‘conversations’ just stop in mid-air. They are hilarious and there is even an Instagram account in their name. Sublime performances.
The setting is simple and effective. The lighting is exact and bang on and the sound is also very well put together – cue perfect. Huge credit to Gareth Morgan and his team for making it all so effortless. Costumes were well chosen and totally appropriate to the characters.
Maisie Welch has not only written the play but directed too with the assistance of Thomas Sparrow. Their work is exacting and imaginative. The movement from table to table is seamless and the one hour running time flashes by. The audience’s interest never falters and the pace never drops. This is a play directed with great assurance.
The characters may be fairly broad-brush, but they are wonderfully written and developed. To find an hour long play with 10 great characters and a huge bundle of laughs is like striking gold. Maisie Welch is a fine writer and has created an hilarious play performed with energy and full commitment from a fine cast.
RUDS continues to produce theatre of the finest originality and quality. A total treat.
NANCY – KATE BROWN
HARRY – CONOR FIELD
ROGER – SAM BUNN
SALLY – TILLY HALE
SIMON – CAMERON SWAN
ABBEY – ALICE UNDERWOOD
JESS – ZOE COOKE
ADAM – TEDDY TURPIN
LUCY – NATASHA HALL
DEAN – MATTHEW WARBURTON
WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY – MAISIE WELCH
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR – THOMAS SPARROW
PRODUCERS – ERIN CAITLIN KARN, BETHAN AMEY
STAGE MANAGER – IZZY CARNEY
HEAD OF TECH – GARETH MORGAN