Players up to the challenge

FIGHTING FIT: Chrissy Broughton and Paul Black in a scene from Up and Running
FIGHTING FIT: Chrissy Broughton and Paul Black in a scene from Up and Running
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Comedy is the hardest form of theatre to put across to an audience, requiring larger than life personalities and split-second timing.

Fortunately Dronfield Players have been going long enough to have both down to a fine art.

They set themselves a doubly difficult challenge with their production of Up and Running, by Derek Benfield, which was staged at the town’s Civic Hall last week.

Not only did they have to make their English supporters laugh, and it took a while for the chuckles to kick in, but next month they will also have to amuse the Germans in Dronfield’s twin town, Sindelfingen, when the show transfers across the water.

This production milked the best elements of farce - mistaken identities, leggy lovelies in shorts skirts and doors slammed in faces.

Much of the comedy fell to Paul Black in the role of telly presenter fronting sleep-inducing shows who was given the chance to revive his flagging career. But first the fading star had to impress his new boss, who insisted on taking the moral high ground and found his employee seriously lacking in that department.

In one of his finest portrayals, Paul really went for the burn in this production, pedalling frantically on an exercise bike as the wheels of misfortune turned for his hapless alter-ego. He hopped around the stage, pulled hilarious facial expressions and grew redder by the minute as his injury-prone character became embroiled in embarrassing situations.

Paul was aided and abetted by some of the players’ finest performers, particularly Bridgette Rouse who matched him laugh for laugh in her hilarious portrayal of the crocked cutie who wound up on the television presenter’s sofa and developed a major crush on him.

Amid the comical mayhem, the show’s director John Pashley maintained his reserve as the unflinching, serious telly executive, although he struggled to remember some of his lines at the performance I saw.

This heady cocktail of comedy was really shaken up by Ginny Priestley playing the dolly-bird wife, Daniel Roberts taking the role a sex-mad neighbour and Chrissy Broughton as discarded girlfriend.

Dronfield Players return to the Civic Hall on Friday, June 10, when they present an Evening of One Act Plays, together with 53 Theatre Group and Ecclesall Theatre Company. Tickets cost £5; to book, call (0114) 2891626.

– Gay Bolton