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

New Era Players - The Whole Truth

1st to 10th December 2022

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Double bill of trouble at New Era

Billed as ‘Two one-act plays about truth in marriage’, this was a highly enjoyable evening of contrasting dramatic experiences.

In The Collection by Harold Pinter, Neil Taylor gave a strong performance as Harry, a cultured, imperious figure. Gareth Croft played Harry’s protégé Bill with more than a hint of having been groomed into the role of his companion. The veneer of their not wholly platonic relationship is fractured by the appearance of outwardly blithe yet somewhat minacious James, played by David Tute, who accuses Bill of having had a liaison with his wife Stella.

Has Stella, the unfulfilled and troubled-looking housewife (Jacqui Trumper), made up the whole story of a night of passion at a fashion show in Leeds? It seems so at first. Until Bill confesses to it. But later, under the manipulative gaze and touch of Harry, he retracts the confession saying he was just playing a game with James.

And that’s what the play is all about: the way people play power games with each other in relationships to the point where truth disappears down a myriad of rabbit holes.

As with so many of Pinter’s plays, what comedy there is comes in the form of absurd contradictions and random comments which are infused with menace and incipient violence. It’s a rather discomforting play requiring subtlety in the acting and direction. For the most part, this production had both.

The Extraordinary Revelations of Orca the Goldfish by David Tristam was a very different kettle (or bowl) of fish! In order to escape from the ennui of their marriage, Henry and Alice play games with themselves by daydreaming.

Henry, an archetypally unreconstructed male, sees himself variously as US president, celebrated actor, American football star, tycoon, secret agent and more.

Meanwhile, Alice withdraws from the humdrummery of housewifery by casting herself as the object of desire of a French waiter while on an exotic vacation in Kenya.

As the play unfolds, their Confucian confusion regarding what is real and what is a dream is exacerbated as their fantasies start to interweave. Henry becomes a police inspector, Alice the low life subject of his investigation into murder by nagging.

The only witness to the alleged offence is Orca, who until this point has been blissfully swimming around his bowl downstage. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, poor Orca appears to have floated off to an angelic aquarium.

However, his passing serves as a catalyst for Henry and Alice to admit to their reveries and realise they play a significant part in each other’s fancies. Chris Billingham and Pippa Higgins bounced off each other brilliantly in this fun-filled 45 minutes. Shame about old Orca though!