SIDMOUTH – SIDMOUTH SUMMER PLAY FESTIVAL
MANOR PAVILION THEATRE
TOM, DICK & HARRY
2 hours 25 minutes – 1 interval
Manor Pavilion Theatre Box Office – 01395 514413
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 12 SEPTEMBER 2019
Entering the auditorium, one is greeted with the strains of music from the ‘Carry On’ films – beloved of many, decried by others. To me, the tunes conjour up ludicrous plots, extreme characters, mad capers, campery, innuendo and saucy dialogue – this is not an accidental choice to set the scene for the eager audience in this, the last play in the Sidmouth Summer Play Festival 2019. Between them, veteran farceur, Ray Cooney, and his son, Michael, have cooked up all these elements in one of the more preposterous plots ever committed to the stage.
So, married couple, Tom and Linda are preparing for a visit from an adoption agency representative to further the process of them taking on a child. Their plans are put to the sword by Tom’s idiotic brothers – one a career criminal and one with good but outlandish intentions. Throw in some illegal immigrants, an East European mafioso character and a very persistent policeman and you have convolution upon convolution.
Farce is one of the most tricky genres to pull off, it requires a precision of timing and pacing that can leave you breathless and wondering what on earth is going to happen next. To rehearse such a piece inside a handful of days, smacks of madness, but to arrive at the first night in this state is something of a miracle.
I can only take my hat off to all involved, who throw themselves into this production with such abandon; it’s performing by the seat of the pants. Director, Stuart Burrows, knows his farce and with so little time to make refinements he has created a production which patently will bed down and become slicker and funnier as the run progresses.
Andrew Beckett has a set with 4 doors, a window (used as both an entrance and exit) and a suggestion of a staircase – on a small stage, this is a masterly achievement – all farces should have as many entrances as possible; there is no room for more! Phoebe Fleetham has sourced an excellent selection of costumes – not least the rather lovely dress for Katerina.
Alec Fellows-Bennett has previous in Cooney’s work, but here he is at the top of his game. The straight man surrounded by madness – thinking on his feet and always making matters worse for himself. It is a credit to the actor that we all feel for his utter helplessness at times. Daniele Coombe is wonderful as the frustrated wife; oblivious to most of the machinations created in her absence; she has the most expressive of faces which she uses to perfection here. James Parkes is the rather too stupid (to the point that he irritates a little) brother Dick, while Patric Kearns is enormous fun as Harry who deals in body parts; this is a quirkily comic performance with an element of camp which is very funny. Ellen Butler and James Pellow – a drunk, comic clown of a performance – appear to have enormous fun as the immigrants, Katerina and Andreas – talking in East European gibberish it seemed. Paul Lavers squeezed great comedy out of his turn as an ordinary copper and Erin Geraghty managed to keep her cool as the stern Mrs Potter from the adoption agency. Christopher Lyne cameoed impressively as the worryingly convincing Boris, before being bundled into a wheelbarrow to the strains of ‘Misirlou’.
The whole is utterly mad. But it is a fun madness with little to upset or offend. Yes, it is too long, but should speed up – I am sure it will as the cast become more confident in what they have. Cooney’s writing is often dated and unfashionable, this more recent offering has less clunks and a few topical additions to the dialogue brings extra laughs.
This is a fine production to bring to an end the Paul Taylor-Mills Summer Play Festival at Sidmouth in 2019. I have reviewed all the plays and can honestly say I have had a wonderful time and I tip my hat to every single person involved and for the theatre staff for their hospitality. This event is a huge achievement and is a showcase for all theatrical skills which are offered to the audiences at a very high standard. The Manor Pavilion Theatre has an absolute gem in this Festival and British Theatre should be looking to Sidmouth to see what can be done when you harness skill, creativity and imagination. A theatrical jewel.
TOM KERWOOD – ALEC FELLOWS-BENNETT
LINDA KERWOOD – DANIELE COOMBE
DICK KERWOOD – JAMES PARKES
HARRY KERWOOD – PATRIC KEARNS
KATERINA – ELLEN BUTLER
ANDREAS – JAMES PELLOW
CONSTABLE DOWNS – PAUL LAVERS
MRS POTTER – ERIN GERAGHTY
BORIS – CHRISTOPHER LYNE
WRITER – MICHAEL COONEY & RAY COONEY
DIRECTOR – STUART BURROWS
DESIGN – ANDREW BECKETT
LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION & DESIGN – STAGE TECHNICAL SERVICES LTD.
COSTUME SUPERVISOR – JANET HUCKLE
COSTUME ASSISTANT – PHOEBE FLEETHAM
PROPS SUPERVISOR – JAMES PRENDERGAST
PRODUCTION CO-ORDINATORS/BUILDERS – TOBY JOYCE, ANDREW BECKETT, CHARLIE EARL
SEASON PRODUCERS – PAUL TAYLOR-MILLS, STUART BURROWS, JONNY CLINES