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Newbury Dramatic Society - Love Begins at Fifty

Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th December 2000.

This is from the Newbury Weekly News.

Mid-life crisis

Love Begins at Fifty by Raymond Hopkins: Newbury Dramatic Society, at New Greenham Arts from 7th to 9th December

Clive Debanks is approaching his fiftieth birthday. Stuck in a long but dull marriage, he decides to have a final fling before settling down to old age. He responds to three lonely-hearts ads in the local paper, and arranges to meet them all at his house on one night, while his wife is away. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, and the stuff of which classic farces are made.

Clive, played by Alistair Parry and looking a very youthful fifty, is abetted by his friend Jack (Alan Wheeler). His wife Anita (Daphne Outwin) meanwhile enters them for a 'happily married couple' contest, while slagging off Clive to Claire, the friend from hell played by Rebecca Girdler. To complicate matters, their daughter Tracy (Gemma Oakley) arrives home, having split up from her husband.

Clive's first date is Annabel, a cheekily nonchalant performance from Sarah Hart, and she finds him wearing a Roy Orbison wig and glasses (don't ask). Next to come is vitamin-pill sales-lady Mavis, a very funny caricature by Rachel Flynn. These two are soon dispatched, but Clive is smitten with the final one, Emily, played by Isobel Davies. Julian Dickins, as the photographer from the local rag, adds to the confusion.

Anita and Clive are fundamentally not very nice people, and Daphne Outwin portrayed this particularly well, not trying to gain sympathy as the wronged wife. Alistair Parry had a very expressive face and had excellent timing, but he was a bit too likeable.

The standard of the acting, by all the cast, was very high, the timing was good and the pace was fast (although one of the cast needed too many prompts), so why did I come away feeling that it could have been better? I think that the fault was not with Sally Fenwick's production but with the play itself, which never really turned itself into the farce that it promised to be.

This was Newbury Dramatic Society's first production at New Greenham Arts. The audience on Thursday was disappointingly small – let's hope that this talented group gets more support for their next production.