Pat Hamilton reviews Fast Food and Small Talk

Fast Food and Small Talk
by Stephen Smith
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Stephen Smith

It is very special being able to attend a premiere and even more so when it's given by WCP. They surely must qualify for being one of the most welcoming and friendly groups in the area - and they have so much talent too.

"Fast Food and Small Talk" is two inter-linked One Act Plays, "Eight Seconds" directed by Stephen Smith and "Barbecue" directed by Mark Easterfield, the latter having already had a couple of outings at local Drama Festivals and coming away with awards and nominations in several categories.

"Eight Seconds" is set in a doctor's surgery - a split stage with consulting and waiting rooms both suitably furnished with obvious attention and detail given to the decor. The play's title suggests the time a patient has to discuss their ailments before the doctor interrupts with his diagnosis. Stephen has skilfully crafted his characters to illustrate the difference between an old fashioned concept and the new approach to treatment. Representing the old way is Gordon, a visiting locum, with apparently little interest in moving into the 21st century. It took me some time to realise that the actor playing this toupeed and moustached character was Chris Shinn - a splendid creation from both actor and make-up team. In opposition to his methods was a new doctor to the practice, Lydia, sensitively and serenely played by Christine Easterfield. Lydia believes that the first thing a patient reveals is rarely the real purpose for their visit - by listening and gently probing the truth could emerge - but trying to convince Gordon was never going to be easy. At the Friday morning surgery Gordon glibly dismisses his two lady patients giving them no reason to feel they had been satisfactorily treated - the third had fled from the waiting room in tears whenever death was mentioned. Come Monday morning, Lydia is taking surgery and the same three patients are waiting - after gentle persuasion the truth comes out and, with their amusing (to us) and confidential confessions, we see the reasons behind and contributing to their individual ailments. Delightful and believable performances from Liz Beeson, Wendy Croft and Alison Ash as the patients - all very varied in their personalities and displaying a real mix of emotions.

"Barbecue" - linked by reference to the forthcoming house warming BBQ in "Eight Seconds"- is set in the kitchen at the home of Lydia (Christine, again on top form) and psychologist hubby Edward (mindfully played by Stephen Smith). This set was the most amazing construction - totally convincing as a solid fitted kitchen complete with Aga and Fridge Freezer (you felt you could quite easily prepare a three course meal right there on stage) and again with all the right dressings. An absolute winner. Many congratulations to Mark Easterfied and his team - it almost upstaged the performers! This play echoed the theme of "Eight Seconds" in that lack of communication and understanding can result in all sorts of problems. Neighbour Trevor (Chris surpassing himself again - but easily recognisable this time), is a property developer always on the look-out for a business opportunity and hoping to persuade his host to invest in a good deal. He has little concept of how his wife Jenny (beautifully downtrodden by Jane Stewart) really feels. Valmai Furness's performance as Kate was flawless - after her initial denial of alcohol she became a really convincing inebriate. No surprise she took Best Supporting Actress at Sawston. Another talented member of the Smith family, Kattreya, gave a lively performance as Taylor - a green-fingered teenage neighbour. Amid burnt sausages - fortunately off-stage- and general barbecue chaos, Lydia once more unobtrusively uses her professional expertise to sort out the fragile relationships and situations to everyone's satisfaction.

Stephen's stories and characters are an entertaining mix - comedy, giving rise to genuine belly laughs, and pathos showing the fragility of human nature.

This was a truly delightful evening. The audience were well entertained and I believe the cast had a lot of fun too.

Well done everyone at WCP for yet another success.

Pat Hamilton

Waterbeach Theatre Company
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Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023

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