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

Box Theatre Company - The Good and Faithful Servant and Alternative Accommodation

12th to 15th March 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Contrast of attitudes

Box Theatre: The Good and Faithful Servant, at New Greenham Arts, from Wednesday, March 12 to Saturday, March 15

Joe Orton wrote The Good and Faithful Servant in 1964, about what happens when a man retires from a soulless corporate job. Attitudes to retirement and old age have changed enormously in the decades since, and Pam Valentine’s 2005 play Alternative Accommodation neatly contrasts these attitudes.

In The Good and Faithful Servant, George Buchanan’s retirement plans, after 50 years loyal service, go awry when he meets Edith, with whom he had a brief fling 50 years previously, and he discovers that he has a family. Orton’s construction of the play at first seems rather naïve, with the unlikely meeting and rapid reunion of the couple, but this can be explained by its elements of farce and a nod towards the theatre of the absurd (N F Simpson came to mind).

Paul Isherwood was superb as George; diffident, slow and hesitant, with his initial optimism spiralling into depression and despair. Tracey Donnelly’s Edith was a good match for George, never quite getting to grips with what was happening to him.

Sanna Nobbs as Mrs Vealfoy, the egregious personnel manager, was thoroughly unpleasant but, for me, too much of a caricature. Laura Hamblin and Jon Harding were convincing as the two almost normal young people falling foul of the moral climate of the early 1960s.

Alternative Accommodation, on the other hand, gave a much more positive slant to growing old. Anna’s husband has recently died, and her three children have come to her house to sort out her future. For them, this means that she sells the house and moves into a retirement home, but Anna has other plans.

This short play zipped along with a very strong cast. Laura Hamblin, as Anna, was in control of her family all through. Adelina Miller was the workaholic business woman, too busy to care for her mother. Neal Murray as brother Peter was a delightfully pompous financial consultant, and Sanna Nobbs gave an impressive performance as the homely vicar’s wife with no opinions of her own.

Gavin Slaughter directed this well matched pair of plays, which deserved a bigger audience.