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East of England
posted/updated: 18 May 2019 -
Three One Act Plays
Knightsbridge by John Mortimer; Two Ronnies Sketches; Curses, Foiled Again by Evelyn Hood
society/company: Henlow Amateur Theatrical Society (HATS) (directory)
performance date: 16 May 2019
venue: Henlow Camp Theatre,Henlow,Beds
reviewer/s: Alex Wood (Independent review)

This is the occasion of the annual one-act play show which HATS put on as part of their preparations for their entry in a RAF drama groups’ competition. Normally a mix of comedy and serious, this year’s offering was an all-comedy package.

Knightsbridge, by John Mortimer (a lawyer and writer of the popular television series Rumpole of the Bailey as well as the celebrated autobiographical play A Voyage Round My Father) is quite a funny play but, written in the early ‘70s, it has not aged well. Nicely written with lots of double entendres, the theme is a fairly tired one.

Francesca Stokes, a young researcher for the Epilogue has found a sugar daddy in the form of radio producer, Henry Bulstrode. They pay a visit to her mother, Muriel, in order to announce their intention to wed but Muriel is not there and when Francesca answers the phone she is puzzled when the caller says he is enquiring after a ‘large bow-fronted chest’. But the more worldly Henry begins to see his prospective mother-in-law in a new light.

Bethany Winfield gives Francesca the ‘innocence’ required and Lee Masters does a good job of portraying ‘man of the world’ Henry. Muriel is played with a good degree of the necessary confidence and sophistication required for this pivotal role by Liz Stevens. Sue Kennedy entertains as the daily help, Mrs B, and Geoff Fagg is worryingly convincing as Man in Mackintosh.

The simple set and costumes appropriate for the date meant that the audience were able to identify immediately the period in which the play is set.

In Two Ronnies Sketches, Arthur Jackson and Gavin Nicholson take on quite a challenge with Fork Handles and one of the Mark My Words dialogues. Fork Handles is deceptively difficult – especially for the shopkeeper character who not only needs to know his lines but also be able to remember where all the bits and pieces on the infamous shopping list are kept. Arthur and Gavin do a good job with this but, somehow, the spontaneity seems to be missing. I suspect the problem lies not with them but with the fact that so many of the audience would have seen this sketch quite a few times. That said, the punchline, ‘Right Sir, what sort of knockers are you looking for?’, delivered perfectly by Shopkeeper’s wife Elsie (director Carly Jackson) got a huge laugh, probably because, like me, they had forgotten it.

Conversely, the quick fire wordplay of Mark My Words, was greeted with gales of laughter from the audience, who , apart from anything else, must have appreciated the pace and very good comic timing with which the lines were delivered.

Curses, Foiled Again! Was something very different, which I imagine will be the society’s entry for the RAF competition. I hope it is because with a little more pace and polish it looks like a winner.

The play concerns the eventful dress rehearsal of a Victorian melodrama, written and directed by cast member Henry, who also plays villain of the piece Jasper Rotten; the perfect role for Jamie Ward who takes on the part with his usual enthusiasm. His foil is Sandra as Nurse – onstage critic of her pretentious partner’s efforts, and only too aware of the attention he is paying to young Stephanie who plays Jenny and has yet to learn her lines on the eve of the performance. Linda Forster shows an excellent sense of comedy as Nurse and Jessica Good portrays the naive Nell to very good effect. Shayn Dickens is just right as the way-over-the-top Peter (Victor Pureheart) and I loved Linda Winfield’s interpretation of Anna, playing the haughty Lady Flawless, in the true style of Lady Bracknell. Strong support was given by Stephanie Allen as Kate (Lucy the Maidservant).

My first ever review for Sardines was for HATS one-act plays in 2012 so this, their final production at the Henlow Theatre – I am assured that this really is the last one before their move – was quite an occasion for me.

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