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Compton Players - Three Short Comedies

14th to 16th October 2010.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

The funnier side of Chekov exposed in three short works

Compton Players: Three Short Comedies, at The Coronation Hall, Compton, from Wednesday, October 13 to Saturday, October 16

Perhaps it was the name Chekhov which resulted in the audience for the opening night numbering only 50 or so souls. As producer Eric Saxton wrote in the programme, he is a playwright associated with rather serious works. Nevertheless, the three plays which the Compton Players chose were both funny and entertaining.

The Proposal started the evening, with Paul Shave as dithering suitor Lomov asking Chubukov for the hand of his daughter, Natalya. Even though Lomov was required to be hesitant, the dialogue was slightly stilted to begin with, but soon got into full amusing flow as Shave with Rob Bell (Chubukov) and Mary Warrington (Natalya) fell into arguments rather than pursuing romance. All three carried off their characters well, Mary Warrihgton as the over-keen would-be bride - loved the drumming of the heels - Bell as the father who's fed up with the whole thing and Shave excellent as the hypochondriac suitor.

This was followed by The Bear. No furry suits, it was the story of Popova (Helen Saxton) grieving for the loss of her husband. She is, she tells her servant Luka (Nick Roberts) determined to grieve for ever, instructing him to give her husband's horse, Toby, an extra measure of oats.

When young and lusty Smirnov (Phil Prior) comes to claim a debt, he reluctantly finds himself falling for the dimpled widow, but she resists - a bit - and the final brilliant instruction is that Toby should have no oats at all today. Good performances from Helen Saxton and Roberts though while Prior acted well, his dialogue was occasionally rather gabbled.

Finally Eric Saxton showed exactly why his performances have delighted audiences for so long in Drama. When Naomi Read as servant Luka (another one!) ushers would be playwright Murashkina (Ruth Burton) into her master, Vasilyevich's study, Vasilyevich (Eric Saxton) is compelled to listen as she insists on reading her new play.

Ruth Burton made a wonderfully infuriatingly over-dramatic playwright while Saxton with minimal gestures, words and facial expressions made the audience aware of exactly what was going through his mind up to the final, fatal, end.

An entertaining trio of plays translated by Michael Frayn which provided an amusing evening of comedy for those willing to give Chekhov a try.