9 SEPTEMBER 2021
‘SAILOR, BEWARE!’ is one of those plays which, having been a huge hit when first produced in the West End of London, may make the occasional appearance on the amateur stage and the film version may crop up of Talking Pictures TV. It can be deemed old-fashioned and full of stereotypes. Irrelevant maybe. Unlikely to succeed. But – and it is a big but – it’s success in the mid-1950’s wasn’t just a stroke of luck. The writing of Philip King and Falkland Cary is clever and in the right hands can be incredibly effective.
The day before the wedding of her daughter, Emma Hornett, bickers and battles with anyone in order to keep her home and family intact. Well, something along those lines. In Mrs Hornett, King and Cary created a monster – the archetypal battleaxe – a role made famous by the redoubtable actress Peggy Mount. It is a hugely demanding part at which Daniele Coombe excels; the scowls, the glares, the bellowing – a memorable character and a tremendous performance. Mrs Hornett manipulates all those around her including her sister-in-law – the dottie Edie – played to the hilt with great comic skill by Bridget Lambert. The opening scene between Edie and Emma engages immediately with its pace and business! Also subject to the sharp tongue of Emma is the original hen-pecked husband, Henry; James Pellow uses his considerable experience to squeeze every ounce of humour from the role – he offers a master class in the art of the short comic interjection. Emily Outred gives a wonderfully funny turn as the nosey neighbour, Mrs Lack, who won’t turn down the offer of a cup of tea even if she doesn’t want one – her angular performance is a joy. As the groom, Albert Tufnell, Matthew Hartley is tremendous; a wide-eyed, caring, cheeky chappie; it is a warm, engaging performance with more depth than one might initially imagine. He is matched by Gwithian Evans – complete with a wonderfully sonorous Scots accent – as fellow sailor, Carnoustie Bligh – a performance of great humour and accomplishment. Lexi Powell imbues the bride, Shirley, with a delightfully carefree innocence, torn between her love for her Mother and her fiancée and Holly Ashman plays the bridesmaid, Daphne, with a naughty twinkle in her eye and great charm. Bringing the whole story to its conclusion is Christopher Lyne as the Reverend Oliver Purefoy who received a round of applause as he pushed Mrs Hornett out of the room so he could reconcile the bride and groom.
It is a cast working in great harmony to bring the most out of a play which has become dusty on the shelves. Rob McWhir directs with pace and has encouraged his cast to take their characters as far as they dare without removing some of the pathos within the story. It is assured direction and utterly essential to the production which, in Andrew Beckett’s detailed and well-presented period set, reeks of class.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable production and shows what can be done when artistic skills meet to revive a script which may be written off as an old ‘warhorse’. Quality will shine through and with ‘Sailor, Beware!’, the Sidmouth Summer Play Festival has a fitting climax to its season this year. In a time when some theatres are struggling to open and stay open, it says a great deal that the Manor Pavilion in Sidmouth has provided 12 weeks of great theatre to the local community. Here’s to the 2022 season.
CAST AND CREATIVES
EDIE HORNETT – BRIDGET LAMBERT
EMMA HORNETT – DANIELE COOMBE
MRS LACK – EMILY OUTRED
HENRY HORNETT – JAMES PELLOW
ALBERT TUFNELL – MATTHEW HARTLEY
CARNOUSTIE BLIGH – GWITHIAN EVANS
DAPHNE PINK – HOLLY ASHMAN
SHIRLEY HORNETT – LEXI POWELL
REV. OLIVER PUREFOY – CHRISTOPHER LYNE
WRITERS – PHILIP KING & FALKLAND CARY
DIRECTOR – ROB MCWHIR
DESIGN – ANDREW BECKETT
LIGHTING & SOUND OPERATION & DESIGN – STAGE TECHNICAL SERVICES LTD.
COSTUME SUPERVISOR – JANET HUCKLE
SEASON PRODUCER – PAUL TAYLOR-MILLS