Double delight

First published in CD reviews

Ranging from the quirky to the bawdy: Teddington Theatre Club's Double Take, in the studio of the Hampton Hill Playhouse last weekend, illustrated that humour can take many forms.

Here were two plays from diverse parts of the comedy spectrum, each cleverly written in its own way.

A piece of The Theatre of the Absurd, Alas, Poor Fred was described as A Duologue in the Style of Ionesco by its author, the late James Saunders (who lived and wrote locally for The Questors and The Orange Tree theatres).

At one level it is a study of the minutiae of the sterile marriage of Doreen and Ernest Pringle, a middle-aged suburban couple.

As they clash in clichs over the differing details of their recollections of the deceased Fred, Saunders' astute humour dissects their pallid relationship.

Gradually through the surface of their musings, a dark undercurrent bubbles up. We hear Doreen's thoughts, which range from warm sexual fantasies to proto-paranoia about her husband. Fred becomes symbolic (and perhaps he was never more than a symbol) of the bond that tenuously still holds them together.

With the static studio setting of the play, it could have been in danger of dragging were it not for the engaging acting and fine characterisation in both roles. Nick Young showed great skill in his portrayal of the pre-senile Ernest, distracted by the past, absent-minded in the present.

His comic timing was well honed and the details such as the nervous pressing of fingertips enhanced the body language. Merlyn Lowther's interpretation of Doreen was equally well studied, and shrewdly characterised. Visual jokes, such as her continual knitting of a bizarre scarf, came across well, but she was ill served by the use of voiceover for her soliloquising,which would have connected better with the acting as a spoken aside.

Director John Baddeley struggled unsuccessfully with the difficult sight lines in the Noel Coward studio, but nevertheless both the plays pleased the audience in widely different ways.

The second offering, for the delectation of the deltiologist, was Terence Frisby's Seaside Postcard. Frothy as a pint of stout on the pier, it is the art of Donald McGill's saucy postcards cleverly recreated in dramatic form with all its stock characters. So we saw pert cheesecake (Emma Connor),perky beefcake (Max Wilkinson), the old soak (Keith Collins), the(soon-to-be) mother-in-law (Diane Easterbrook), the sexy housewife (Denise Truscott) and the hen-pecked husband (Dave Dadswell). Deliciously non-PC, the energetic cast worked as a well-oiled (so to speak) ensemble, giving their all (so to speak!). With sea, sand, sun and sex, and its mix of schoolboy scatological humour, triple entendres and homespun philosophy, it was as robustly forthright as a pint of whelks, but stacks more fun!

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