Community of Hungerford Theatre Company - Love Begins at Fifty
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Community of Hungerford Theatre Company - Love Begins at Fifty

6th to 7th June 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Plot hots up in this cautionary tale of mid-life crisis

Community of Hungerford Theatre: Love Begins at Fifty, at Croft Hall, Hungerford, on Friday, June 6 and Saturday, June 7

After 28 years of faithful marriage, Clive Debanks decides to have a final fling before settling down to middle age.

He takes the unusual step of responding to three lonely-hearts ads at the same time, to give himself some choice but, owing to a timing error, the three hopefuls arrive at 10-minute intervals.

Matters are further complicated by a press photographer, who turns up because Clive's wife Anita has cynically entered the pair into a happily married couples competition for a Caribbean cruise.

What ensues is a hilarious cautionary tale for speed daters, and an excellent plot for a farce. Raymond Hopkins' script, packed with superb one-liners and comic twists, was expertly directed by David Clayton for the Community of Hungerford Theatre Company

The players had had to relocate from John O'Gaunt School at the last minute, and it had clearly taken a feat of engineering to reconstruct Charlotte Shanahan's large set 'in the round' in the Croft Hall. However, the players, unfazed, gave a superb performance, with Paul Hyde relaxed and very entertaining in the lead role.

Tessa Brown performed Clive's wife Anita with great confidence in Keeping Up Appearances style, supported by Chrissy Marsh who, despite a few wobbly lines, came across well as best friend Claire.

Clive's sidekick Jack provided an excellent opportunity for a deadpan performance from Rob Chicken, while Hoffi Munt brought out both the hysterical and sympathetic sides of daughter Tracy with great skill.

The play offered some excellent cameo roles for the 'lonely hearts' -the young Annabel (a peach of a performance from Roushka Munt), the eccentric vitamin freak Mavis (a part handled with great gusto by Helen Bonner), and the timid Emily (Sarah Fradgley) who ultimately won Clive's affections. Stove Home rounded off the cast as the photographer Henry, not to forget the goldfish, who was word-perfect.

A great night out, despite the heat, and a very appreciative audience. According to the programme, the company's various busy performing groups will also be performing a children's musical and a Victorian musical hall for HADCAF next month.

MARK LILLYCROP