NORTH WEST ESSEX THEATRE GUILD ANNUAL PLAY FESTIVAL

 

 

TRIVIAL PURSUITS by FRANK VICKERY

 

 

LITTLE WALTHAM DRAMA GROUP APRIL 1991 The Play

 

This play is fairly recent and must have been in London at the end of

the eighties, however it doesn't appear to have been very well known and after seeing it one can understand why. I think this must be one of the worst plays I have ever seen. I am not talking about the acting or the production, dust about the play. Not only was it very long with a plot that revolved certainly around trivia but the dialogue and actions that are meant to be funny and witty were merely vulgar and trite. The author had taken every opportunity to use the crude and rude and the humour was _ behind the desk, schoolboy, dirty yoke level. I could hardly believe that the stage directions tell Joyce' to go for Teddy's privates' on the word horn, or that we actually found Derek's prostrate body farting at all funny. I suspect that the play was an attempt to cash in on the success of Ayckbourne's Chorus of Disapproval, but it failed lamentably, not only in content but in style and wit.

 

The Presentation

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The set was very good indeed. Not only had the maximum use been made of the small stage and the set created so that the stage looked like a big one, but the dressing and design of the garden area and patio were most convincing. The back of the house was realistic and well presented and the careful touches of net curtains and dressing in the areas of house that were visible were very good indeed. I liked the touches of real greenery as well. The roof worked successfully and was steady and convincing, although I'm not too sure of the geography of the house and couldn't work out whereabouts Derek fell. The painting of the set was also very good.

The patio furniture was well chosen and had been squeezed into the space available with a credible look of reality. The whole decor successfully mirrored the type of people that Roz and Nick seemed to

be. It was a good idea to use the downstage left area to isolate Derek to begin with and putting him out on a limb underlined his isolation and his 'problem'. The doors at the centre back also made for dramatic entrances and certainly helped Joyce in her last drunken bid for a leading role! The props were in keeping and although the barbecue was of necessity hidden away, we were well aware of the problems it was causing.

The costumes were suitably evening barbecue with a sense of the ladies trying to outdo each other. Teddy's colourful shirt tended to dominate the stage and Derek was suitably boring in his attire. Eddie

 

looked like every T.V repair man I have ever seen (I realise that he wasn't one) and although Teddy's drag outfit was quite an eyeful, the hair and makeup needed to be more flashy. I do realise time for changing was short, but the impact made at the end is very important. The glitter curtain gave the right air of razamataz and was most effective.

The lighting did its job well and the stage got gradually darker as the evening drew on, again good attention to detail.

There was plenty of pre show and interval music and this certainly helps to get a production off to a good start and put the audience in the mood while setting the atmosphere of the play.

 

The Production

 

The play itself presented all sorts of problems for a director that are very difficult to overcome. The sections where everyone is participating fully, such as the opening, or the barbecue on fire or Derek threatening to dump from the roof were all well done and with a good sense of pace and life. However, the general run of the mill dialogue was very difficult because the stage was full of people but only two of them were talking, and to each other Thus the other members of the cast were left trying to amuse each other convincingly. This also meant that a lot of the dialogue tended to be at the front of the stage with the participants standing facing each other downstage. This made for some very static periods but I feel that much of the fault was in the writing. The Director showed that she could use the whole stage well and could get the company moving along at a fair pace. There were slow periods, however, and then the play did drag because neither the dialogue nor the action had much to offer. There were certainly moments of farce and slapstick as the cover of the play suggests, but I didn't find any drama or pathos. I think that this is overstating the play's scope and subject matter.

The characters had been well delineated, but didn't always achieve the same style or size, so that while Teddy was larger than life, one or two others were very low key. It is important to establish an overall style and mode to start with and then try to encourage all the members of the cast to reach the same pitch at the same time. I feel that the only way to get away with this play is to take it as fast as possible with everything slightly exaggerated. The end, although looking quite spectacular, needed greater musical volume and a bit more punch in the singing. This size stage will inevitably lead to masking, especially when there are so many places to sit and so many people sitting around. This does need to be born in mind. I thought the cast and director dealt with all the pieces of crucial 'business' very well indeed.

 

The Cast Teddy

 

Glyn had a very lively part here and made the most of it. He was lively*, used both body and voice to suggest the character and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. He brought lots of vitality to bear on the stage and never gave the audience a dull moment. Glyn does tend to look at the audience directly, especially when he is saying something funny and this does spoil things. This is quite an acceptable pantomime habit

but not in a play, however funny it is. You are not a stand up comic but one of a team. This sort of invitation to the audience to participate directly is not in keeping. Glyn made the most of the bandaged hands and the flaming barbecue and worked hard at the humour and fun in the part. A most consistent characterization

 

Joyce

 

Marea gave a bouncy, fun filled performance, and was a lively partner for Teddy. She kept her part moving along at a fair pace, and showed enthusiasm and involvement on stage, Karen has a good face and uses it to advantage. She was very good as she gradually became more and more tiddly and dealt with the tears and breakdown quite well, although it struck me and the rest of the audience as funny rather than pathetic. Again, perhaps a touch of the pantomime approach. The audition for Sweet Charity at the end was done with panache.

 

Mona

 

Mona is the club gossip and bitch and if looks could kill, Penny would have done a good job. She looked the part and spent some time posing to advantage on the stage. However, Penny was rather heavy handed in her approach and over deliberate and slow in her delivery. These lines have almost to be thrown away to have the most effect. Some of them could have had a more wicked touch as well. Penny had a reasonable grasp of the part but needed to develop more size in her overall portrayal.

 

Pearl

 

Pearl was the treasurer and was suitably engrossed in the lack of funds and the impact this would have on the society. Jayne gave a positive performance and created quite a lively little character study. She wasn't given an awful lot to do by the writer, nor' an awful lot of help character wise, but Jayne managed to turn in a competent performance.

Roz

 

Linda gave the play a very good opening and certainly put her all into the charades. She had a certain amount of standing as the hostess and the wife of the most important man around in the drama society. Linda was careful with her characterization but never let her imagination develop it just a step or two further into a more individual approach. Linda moves well and has a knack of wearing her costume to advantage.

 

Jessica

 

Cathy was brash, abrasive and almost overloaded with the confidence of youth. She looked good in the part and was sullen and pouty to order, More could have been done with the other women's reactions to her and her opinion of them. We needed to see Just a little bit more of the flirting side of Jessica.

Derek

 

Martin looked grey and boring and you knew that before he opened his mouth he was going to be a disaster. Martin worked well on his own self pity and his attitude and tone of voice were destined to bore anyone to tears. He was very good when he told the joke he couldn't get right and we got a clear picture of an inept and inadequate man, rather too full of his own importance. Martin looked lugubrious but did need more variety of tone and colour so that he could be described as boring, while still managing to keep the audience on its toes.

 

Nick

 

Paul had a hunted air about him throughout. He moved in and out and around the stage at an admirable pace, but he did lack the size and importance for the autocratic sort of character that he was playing. The slight uncertainty over the words didn't help him to build up to the almost manic pace necessary.

 

Deidre

 

I thought that Derek and Deidre made a very good pair, they were certainly made for each other. Jaqui had some good reactions to other people, but needed more life in the part. She wanted more energy in her fairly brusque attacks on Derek, and the matter of factness that developed, although lust right, needed to go that little bit further. Jaqui was good at the end when she began to get very much more concerned for Derek.

 

Eddie

 

This could have been a rather thankless part, but Tony invested it with all the neurotic dedication of a fanatic. He was very good on timing with his ladder and aerial and his complete disregard for any other person or topic was very well delineated. A good little cameo performance.

 

In conclusion

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A very good set, some talented players and a very weak play. The cast

deserved much better material. As it was, characters, story line and

dialogue rather hampered than promoted success.