It always amazes me that a small town can produce such good-quality theatre, but Chapel Players have impressed again with their latest production, Alan Ayckboun’s comedy, “Improbable Fiction”.
The play tells the story of a group of writers who’re struggling to get started, get past their writer’s block, or get their many novels published. Then in the second act, things become increasingly more bizarre, and just get funnier, with the audience building up to some major belly laughs.
The cast was superb – playing so many parts must have been a real challenge, but they really pulled it off. Special mention has to go to Andy Hearfield-Hodgson, (Arnold) who carried the audience through the comedy and chaos of the second act, playing it straight but delivering some very funny lines.
John Gilberthorpe (Brevis) had some wonderful rants (and occasionally fruity language), playing a retired teacher who feels he’s wasted his life – and at one point, going so red in the face I was worried for his health!
While Harry Goddard (Clem) made the character transitions look easy; from benign writer, to evil schemer, then to womanising detective.
The female cast members too, were exceptional; for a young actress, Debbie Simpson (Ilsa) showed remarkable versatility, flipping quickly and confidently between characters. Becky Simpson (Vivvi) made an excellent moping, lovesick sergeant, and a spectacularly surly languages expert.
Players regular Angela Buttrill (Jess) wasn’t your average farmer, with her Christmas socks and red wellies, but she got plenty of laughs – and brought an urgent sense of drama to her story-telling in the second act.
And last but not least – Helen Bates (Grace) was spectacular as an anxious illustrator, and got one of the biggest laughs of the night with little more than a funny facial expression (while making an all-too-brief appearance on stage as a Victorian cook); she was a joy to watch.
The set is well-designed, and transports you straight into the home of the central character, Arnold, who’s hosting the writers’ meeting. Lighting and special effects were well-executed; they weren’t intrusive, but they helped tell the story and move the action on in the second act. Similarly, the costumes were diverse and showed a clear difference between all the different characters.
Chapel Players have done several stage adaptations of TV series recently, and it was lovely to see something I’m not familiar with, that really made me laugh out loud. I left the theatre with a huge grin on my face, and I can’t recommend this highly enough!
Improbable Fiction will be performed again at The Playhouse, Chapel, tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) at 7.45pm. Tickets are available at Halls Mica Hardware, Reading Matters and The Royal Oak.