17 July 2023
The second of Alan Ayckbourn’s ‘Damsels in Distress’ trilogy is a play where nothing is quite what it seems. Called upon to tend to a smart apartment, out of work actor Rosie Seymore finds herself propositioned by a handsome neighbour who seems convinced she is the owner of the property; something which Rosie plays along to….the consequences of which lead to the story taking on an altogether different tone. Suddenly the comedy moves to comedy/thriller territory with a nod to Alfred Hitchcock – the innocent person caught up in the middle of intrigue!
Unlike ‘GamePlan’ (reviewed last week) this has a much move even structure to it and provides plenty of laughter amidst the machinations of the plot. Andrew Beckett’s well-appointed, Thames-side apartment set remains – as it will next for the final play in the trilogy. The same cast of actors play completely different characters; the trilogy is fast becoming like a little repertory season within the overall season itself – and it is this which makes it ever more fascinating and encouraging to return.
Laura Mead takes on the pivotal role of Rosie and is superb – making absolutely everything of the frustrated character (she needs work and a man!) as she embraces the role within the role; her comedy timing is spot on. When the neighbour Sam invites Rosie to help him make gnocchi, you are very likely to be reminded of a potter’s wheel and the film ‘Ghost’ – it is very funny. Owen Landon brings great charm and a degree of mystery to Sam; is he really as perfect as he appears? James Pellow, playing it straight this time, has exactly the right amount of authority, complete with sharp tongue and sharper wit as the mysterious Maurice Whickett and Liv Koplick relishes the chance to showcase her thuggish side as Tracy. Julia Main (with a hint of the vocal depictions of Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice as portrayed in ‘The Windsors’) is hilarious as the ghastly property agent and Claire Louise Amias clearly enjoys herself as the very sinister Edna Stricken. Dominic McChesney provides another gloriously funny cameo as the hopeless ex-SAS soldier, Tommy; the scene where he exercises his muscles as Rosie warms her vocal chords is a joy. This is an ensemble offering such a breadth of performance and working in perfect harmony together.
Anton Tweedale (director for the whole trilogy) knows exactly what to place in front of the audience and crafts as much from the script and the actors as he can; it works like a dream.
This is a much better play than ‘GamePlan’ and, though not typical Ayckbourn-land, it is very entertaining in its own right. Seeing the first two plays of the trilogy, presented as they were conceived to be, is a developing treat. All those who have witnessed ‘GamePlan’ and ‘FlatSpin’ will very much be looking forward to ‘RolePlay’.
The play runs until 22 July and tickets are available at www.manorpavilion.com. Next week the Alan Ayckbourn trilogy continues with ‘RolePlay’ from 24-29 July.
CAST & CREATIVES
ROSIE SEYMORE – LAURA MEAD
SAM BERRYMAN – OWEN LANDON
MAURICE WHICKETT – JAMES PELLOW
TRACY TAYLOR – LIV KOPLICK
EDNA STRICKEN – CLAIRE LOUIS AMIAS
TOMMY ANGEL – DOMINIC MCCHESNEY
ANNETTE SEFTON-WILCOX – JULIA MAIN
WRITER – ALAN AYCKBOURN
DIRECTOR – ANTON TWEEDALE
DESIGN – ANDREW BECKETT
LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION & DESIGN – STAGE TECH SERVICES
COSTUME SUPERVISOR – JAN HUCKLE & PHOEBE FLEETHAM
SET BUILDERS – HENRY HAYWARD, JAMES PRENDERGAST
SET ASSISTANT – DOMINIC MCCHESNEY
DEPUTY STAGE MANAGER – DANIEL SAINT
PHOTO CREDIT – ANDREW BECKETT
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR – PAUL TAYLOR-MILLS
SEASON ASSOCIATE PRODUCER – ANDREW BECKETT