REVIEW: The consequences of courtship laid bare

The cast of Courting and Consequences by Alnwick Theatre Club at Alnwick Playhouse.

The cast of Courting and Consequences by Alnwick Theatre Club at Alnwick Playhouse.

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Courting and Consequences – Alnwick Theatre Club, at Alnwick Playhouse; Wednesday, August 20, to Saturday, August 23

Oh, the consequences of courting! Judging by Alnwick Theatre Club’s latest production, they are many and varied.

The eclectic pastiche of four one-act plays by an illustrious band of writers were poignant, revealing, incisive and, above all, amusing.

They offered a range of situations and genres to test the acting skills of these local amdram-ers, some that worked, some that didn’t quite.

But, ultimately, as a first-night effort, I was impressed and entertained – you can’t ask for more than that.

My favourite was first up – The Proposal, a farce penned by Russian Anton Chekhov in 1888. The cast of Daniel Watkins (as landowner Ivan Vassiliyitch Lomov), Trevor Hughes (Stepan Stepanovitch Chubokov) and Lisa Gladstone (Stepan’s daughter, Natalia Stepanovna) handled the complex, tongue-twisting script, complete with lengthy Russian names, with aplomb and very few slip-ups. A great effort, worthy of the loudest applause of the night.

Ivan’s plan to propose marriage to Natalia gets lost in vehement arguments over ownership of oxen meadows and whose hunting dog is superior – a perfect recipe for happy wedlock!

They created a tense, believable atmosphere, with shards of spot-on comic timing, particularly concerning Ivan’s many ailments – palpitations and foot numbness among them.

Next was Knightsbridge, by Sir John Mortimer, which tells the more flippant tale of a daughter (Lisa Kelly) and her fiancé (Matt Bush), who overhear her mother’s (Catherine Hughes) telephone conversation and believe that she is ‘on the game’. There are plenty of rib-tickling double entendres, as the mother’s smokescreen is an antique furniture business.

There was plenty of door-slamming and noises off and the cast (completed by Tony Neale as one of the mother’s ‘customers’) did well to keep the momentum going throughout, delivering some quickfire puns well.

Resting Place, by David Campton, brought the pace down a notch or two after the interval, as an elderly couple (Robin Lewsey and Margaeret Neale) talk life, death and supper-time on a cemetery bench. This provided a touching interlude between the madness of the farces.

Finally, Maggie Wallace and Peter Biggers took on the huge challenge of playing several parts (complete with different voice tones, accents and costumes) in Michael Frayn’s Chinamen. It is set at a 1970s dinner party that goes horribly wrong when a jilted husband gets invited along to the same occasion as his departed wife. It was a brave attempt and one that will improve as the week goes on.

If it were me, I would reverse the order of the plays to end the show on a high with the Chekhov masterpiece.

It was a shame that more people hadn’t turned out to support this hard-working theatrical group, but hopefully the audiences will grow towards the weekend finale.

All performances start at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £10, £9 concessions and £6 for children and students; call 01665 510785, visit alnwickplayhouse.co.uk or go to the Playhouse box office.

SEE THE FULL REVIEW IN NEXT THURSDAY’S GAZETTE