Never ones to shirk a challenge, High Tor Players have rounded off their company’s 75th year with a little-known play overseen by a novice director.
Old Actors Never Die…They Simply Lose The Plot seems an inspired choice given the length of time that the amateur theatre company have been entertaining the residents of west and north Derbyshire
While it’s always a treat for a theatre critic to see a play that hasn’t been performed around these parts before, not everyone is a fan of the unfamiliar judging by the audience of just 30 which greeted the play’s launch at Ashover Parish Hall last night (Thursday, November 15).
The players didn’t let the sparsity of spectators knock them off their stride, putting heart and soul into entertaining the audience. Sharply-drawn characters and laugh-out-loud comedy scenarios reflected the hard work put in by the 11-strong cast and fledgling director Bryce Glithero.
The storyline in Lynn Brittney’s farce may have been far-fetched but it enabled the company to play to their strengths and utilise some of the veteran members.
Set in a retirement home for retired theatricals, the farce involved a philanderer on the run from the Russian Mafia who sought refuge in the sanctuary where his three ex-wives were residing. His arrival was the cue for a Bond-style villain, a kidnapping and a resident to return to theatrical roots as a typecast law-enforcer.
The tone of the play was evident from the opening scene in which the three performers playing the ex-wives had their faces buried in racy, fluffy reads such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Hello magazine.
Joyce Renner, Liz McKenzie and Lesley Kraushaar continued to milk the laughs as the three Mrs Sullivans, sharing stories of current acting commitments ,which included incontinence pads, and crippling ailments such as arthritis.
All three brought different personalities to their roles: company veteran Joyce played the quietly-spoken, rational thinker, Liz the fearless and outspoken ex-spouse and Lesley, the youngest of the three, portrayed her character as smartly dressed with a terrific sense of humour.
Male residents of the home were well portrayed by company stalwart Dennis Todd, who raided the dressing up box to portray three different characters during the course of the play, and Martin Devaney, playing the one-time Master of the Universe actor whose world collapsed when his dominatrix wife died.
Top performances from Simon Brister as the cocky philander masquerading as Frenchman complete with dodgy accent, and Nic Wilson as the menacing Russian Mafia boss on his trail were fine examples of how entertaining amateur dramatic productions can be in capable hands.
Supporting players Susan Devaney playing the chatterbox domestic, Jane Small as matron, Christina Hague as Russian aide and Chris Kraushaar as mute henchman added to the fun of the piece.
While the actors never fulfilled part of the brief, i.e. losing the plot, there were the occasional stumbles over the script and one incident of forgetting lines - but neither made a bit dent in the enjoyment of the production.
Old Actors Never Die….They Simply Lose The Plot will have a second showing at Ashover Parish Hall on Saturday November 17. It’s well worth a look.