site search by freefind advanced

 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Mortimer Dramatic Society - Comic Potential

30th April, 1st, 7th and 8th May 2004.

From Newbury Theatre.

Ayckbourn's comedy is set in the future, in a world where TV daytime soaps are created by 'actoids' - androids specially developed to replace human actors. Chandler Tate, played with force and panache by Tom Shorrock, is the cynical American director of the soaps; once a famous film director, he is now well past his sell-by date. He is assisted by the actoid operators, Prim and Trudi. Adam Trainsmith, the nephew of the studio owner Lester Trainsmith, is an admirer of Chandler and comes to watch an episode being filmed. He starts to interact with one of the actoids, Jacie Triplethree, and that's where all the problems start. He falls in love with her (think Pygmalion meets the Stepford wives) and it all ends in tears.

Jacie is the main character, and the play's success depends on her. This was a brilliant performance from Helen Sharpe, who had to 'act' in a wide variety of styles, as well as singing and dancing. Even sitting down in her standby mode, wide eyed and with a slightly inane smile, she dominated the stage. Darryl Manners played Adam, her hopeful lover. I felt this part was not quite right for him - his style and body language didn't give the authority it needed.

Sarah Clark was suitably unpleasant as the bossy studio director who got her come-uppance, and she also had a nice cameo role as a prostitute. Cathy Bowman gave a lively performance as Prim, and interacted well with Chandler. Lucy Chopping was Trudi, but she had more scope as the girl in the dress shop and the restaurant, where she was a good foil to Chris Boott, her long-suffering husband.

Graham Jerome was very impressive in his two small roles as the camp Marmion and the polite but superior hotel desk clerk. All the other smaller parts were very well done, by Megan Bush, John Burbedge, Neil Johnson and Kirsty Johnson.

This was a complex play to stage. As well as the TV studio, there were scenes in a hotel foyer, the hotel boutique, the restaurant and two different hotel bedrooms. Presumably they would originally have been done with a revolve. On the Mortimer stage, Jane and Andy Hodgson's set worked very well, and the scene changes were slick and effective.

It's a long play, and the pace slowed at times, often because the actors seemed to be struggling with the lines. But the quality of the acting shone through, and Carol Burbedge's production gave us a very amusing and entertaining evening.


From the Newbury Weekly News.

Comedy programme

Mortimer Players: Comic Potential, at St John's Hall, Mortimer, on Friday, April 30, Saturday, May 1, Friday, May 7 and Saturday, May 8

Remember last Friday night? It was pouring, the sort of night all you want to do is stay indoors. Had I done so I would have missed the best performance by an amateur dramatic society that I have seen.

The good news is that it's not too late to get tickets since Mortimer Dramatic Society split their productions over two weekends.

Alan Ayckbourn's Comic Potential is not an easy play to perform and in the hands of lesser actors would have been a disaster. Director Carol Burbedge produced a triumph.

The play is set in a future where actoids (robot machines programmed to react to certain situations) are being used to film a TV soap by director Chandler Tate (Tom Shorrock) aided by Prim Spring (Cathy Bowman) and Trudi Floote (Lucy Chopping).

Adam Trainsmith (Darryl Manners), the boss's son, wants to write his own script using one of the androids who seems more human than the rest, Jacie Triplethree (JC333, you understand). I am loath to single out anyone from this superb cast, but a special mention must go to Helen Sharpe, the actoid in question. Her ability to stand motionless (an ability shared by all the actoid/actors) and then spring into life as her 'memory' prompts her to produce excerpts from past roles is amazing.

Jacie is thrown into confusion when Adam falls in love with her and in typical Ayckbourn style the play ends with poignant dialogue as she decides whether to be 'melted down' or risk the strange new emotion.

Naturally, it's hilarious too and the cast make the most of every word, every expression to produce laughs. When you are an actoid the disposal of food and drink becomes very important and as Adam and the lovely Jacie are dining in The Grand Hotel Jacie suddenly sits bolt upright and demands to be 'emptied'. Diners watch with amazement as Adam crawls beneath the table to achieve this function by pressing the right button.

Subsequently Jacie breaks the news that she is only programmed for simulated sex - something which Adam has already realised during the emptying operation - and remarks, rather wistfully, "Once a man has seen your trapdoor he doesn't respect you any more!"

Go to Mortimer and treat yourself. You'll love it.