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New Era Players - Twists in the Tales

29th to 31st October 2015

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Unexpected turn of events

New Era Players: Twists in the Tales, at New Era Theatre, Wash Common, from Thursday, October 29, to Saturday, October 31

New Era Players' latest production, Twists in the Tales, was an evening of three one-act plays, each with an unusual denouement.

Tom Stoppard's Another Moon Called Earth appropriately started with the Sinatra song Fly Me to the Moon.

Georgie Gale played the vain wife Penelope who had taken to her bed ill. Her husband Bone (David Tute) was studying history and writing a history of the world but had only got as far as the Greeks.

He was excited about the parade organised to celebrate the safe return of an astronaut – which Stoppard calls a lunanaut – from his mission to the moon.

The couple's relationship becomes strained, particularly by the frequent and long visits from doctor Albert (Graham Hewitt). Irrational Penelope demanded and screamed for attention like a petulant child and wanted to play childish games such as noughts-and-crosses and battleships.

With the arrival of the sleuth hall porter Crouch (Graham Salter), this surreal plot took an unusual turn as he investigated the identity of the woman who had fallen out the window, raising the question of what happened to Pinkerton the nanny? I won't spoil how it was resolved.

A Little Box of Oblivion by Stephen Bean was an intriguing absurd comedy. Set on a park bench on a lovely spring day, Cool Guy (Tim Oldham) sat reading his paper when a woman with green hair arrived with a box and asked him to look after it, not to shake it or move it or knock it or indeed open it. So what could the box contain?

Pam Hillier Brook was splendid as the Neurotic Woman, convinced that the box contained a bomb, particularly since she read the latest government leaflet delivered to her home. She phoned the police but they were too busy with a cat up a tree.

When the Doom Merchant (Neil Dewdney) arrived, he was convinced that the box contained semtex or anthrax – after all, he had worked in an abattoir.

A further police call informed them they were dealing with a flasher and a threatened suicidal 'jumper' in the local apartment block.

The amateur detective (Richard Colley) dismissed their theories and suggested it contained a severed head... and so the mystery continued.

This was a funny production that the audience enjoyed.

Finally, In By the Half, by Jimmie Chinn, was a touching and moving play focussing on Madam (Janet Bennett), a fading actress looked after by Doris, her housekeeper who used to be her theatre dresser – beautifully realised by Sally Scrivener.

They were living on past memories, with Madam, who appeared to be approaching dementia, being prepared for her stage performances.

She was visited regularly by her doctor (Keith Phillips) and elocution student Sylvia (Charlie Babbage) who was proving quite a challenge and unlikely to make it in the theatre.

When Madam's estranged daughter Ursula (Almona Choudhury) made a surprise visit, tensions between mother and daughter rose to the surface, with some fearful, sad outcomes.

Madam's final realisation about her career and relationships left a poignant and heartfelt message.

The inspired contrasting choices of play made for a highly-entertaining evening and directors Neil Taylor, Roger Follows and Nancy Jane Danks are to be congratulated.