Compton Players - The Promise and Murdering at the Vicarage
14th to 17th November 2018
Review from Oxfordshire Drama Network.
These plays were written for Compton Players and the first was also directed by the author.
A simple, but effective set portrayed the bungalow which was the Prices’ former home and latterly of his daughter Stacey and Adam Nash.
The tone of the play was set with the opening revealing the father, Eddie Price (Christopher Kendrick) snorting cocaine from the coffee table. His mood and manic behaviour was well portrayed with effective staccato mannerisms. He is visited by the ghostly appearance of his late daughter, Stacey Nash (Naomi Read), soon after her funeral. She came back to rebuke him for his cocaine use and for not making peace with Adam, her estranged husband. This was sensitively played by Naomi Read whose ghost-like presence effectively appeared through the walls.
Eddie’s unsurprising failed attempts at social climbing are laid bare in the ensuing row with Adam, (Andrew Alexander) his ex-son-in-law, whom he accuses of having an affair and causing the break-up of his and Stacey’s marriage. A similar accusation is then thrown back at Eddie when his ex-wife, June (Ann Griffiths) appears. The bickering and name-calling between the two men was well handled. Adam could have been a little harder, he was far too nice when being pushed to the limits by Eddie. The fight and rough and tumble were very effective. There was an overload of expletives, not all of which were entirely necessary and it appeared merely thrown in for effect.
June, the calm voice of reason, expertly played by Ann Griffiths, manages to stop Eddie shooting Adam and himself. When the police are called it is June who manages to conceal the weapon, thus thwarting Eddie’s promise to Stacey that he would kill Adam then kill himself to join her in death.
Murdering at the Vicarage
This play depicts the pitfalls of a drama group performing an Agatha Christie-esque murder play. It was great to see Ann Griffiths in contrasting roles in these two plays. This play within a play was slightly confusing, as cast members were in and out of their characters like fury. In the ‘play’, Ann is Jane Delaney, the ‘flapper girl’. She had good comedic timing and held the play together. Brian, (George Buckland) played Howard, the corpse, discovered on the floor with a menacing bread knife sticking out of his back. George had good timing, or as good as a corpse could have. His talent was evident later when it appeared that his part in the murder play had been expanded and rewritten and he was no longer killed off in scene two. Howard is revealed as the gay lover of Godfrey’s character, Hornblower, in the announced re-write of the final act. The author of the murder play, Godfrey, was played with quiet conviction by Paul Shave. The re-write threw Clive, (Nick Roberts), whose character was the scatty vicar, into complete confusion. Suzy (Brenda Prior) the long-suffering tea lady and prompt was convincing in her pottering about but is cajoled into standing in and reading a part which finds her gagged and taped to a chair! All this chaos is witnessed by Brenda, the bossy stage manager played authoritatively by Mary Warrington, who desperately tries to maintain order in the chaos and rebellion, which ensued against the author’s re-write. The hilarious and clever moment was the model in furs, created by Dave Hawkins, operated with some skill by stage hand Ian Hickling.
Both plays were well performed and enjoyed by the enthusiastic first night audience. Congratulations to all.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Home-grown double bill
For their autumn production, the players chose two short one-act plays by one of their own members, H Connolly, often seen treading the boards with them.
The Promise was an unusual little piece about an errant father trying to come to terms with his past bad behaviour and not doing a very good job of it. Christopher Kendrick did very well in presenting Eddie, a taut, wound-up character, full of nervous energy – not surprising, considering he was being given an accusing lecture by the ghost of his dead daughter Stacey, Naomi Read conveying the pain of a woman deserted. Andrew Alexander, as Stacey’s ex-husband played a provocative, angry young man and Ann Griffiths was calm and controlled as June, Eddie’s deserted wife. Well-structured, the play was both serious but with comedy elements surfacing occasionally.
Connolly directed the first play, leaving the second, Murdering at The Vicarage, to friend and colleague Eric Saxton, who provided some neat comic touches, particularly the broomstick puppet figure of Missing Marbles, the spoof detective.
Ann Griffiths, George Buckland and Nick Roberts all had great fun hamming it up as amateur performers in a play-within-a-play situation. You have to be careful with that though – when you stop performing as inept actors and revert to straight performance, you must not repeat any of the ‘hello here she comes in her car’ as the offstage sound- track plays a horse running or run stage left to greet an actor entering right – but it was no problem for Compton Players.
Paul Shave was believable as the writer/director, well-supported by Mary Warrington and Ian Hickling. The play was sort of Agatha Christie meets Alan Ayckbourn, with the latter providing the main inspiration. It made a very funny, well-performed second feature.