Colin Lawrence reviews Nobody's Perfect

Nobody's Perfect
by Simon Williams
presented by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Stephen Smith

Simon Williams' comedy, or perhaps a better description would be farcical comedy, NOBODY'S PERFECT, is very much a one-trick pony in terms of plotline. However, it's a trick which works extremely well and is sustained long enough to avoid wearing thin and losing its audience.

Stephen's Smith's production for WCP suffered initially with a rather static first act which left the cast playing most of their lines directly out front rather than to each other. The result was that we were treated to a succession of, for the most part, very funny one-line gags which would have worked better if we had seen more face-to-face action between the characters.

Fortunately, we did eventually get the necessary personal inter-action, and a much improved pace in the second act which really enlivened the proceedings. The farcical situation of the dull statistician Leonard inadvertently winning a feminist publishing house literary competition and then having to take on the persona of his fictitious aunt Myrtle Banbury was a clever device. The situation became a personal nightmare for Leonard as he struggled manfully and womanfully to stay one step ahead of the feminist publisher, his surly teenage daughter and his irritating father, all of whom presented him with problems of varying complexity.

James Dowson as Leonard gave a convincing performance in his portrayal of both Leonard and his alter ego, Myrtle. When forced to take on the full Myrtle character in order to persuade his publisher of the author's existence, he neatly avoided the trap of presenting us with a camp caricature. Instead he played the writer with a degree of naturalism which was totally plausible allowing for the far-fetched situation. Leonard's relationship with his family members and the publisher also worked well as James deftly illustrated both sides of his character(s).

I don't have a problem with nepotism; neither does director Steve Smith, who cast his daughter Kattreeya as Dee Dee, Leonard's teenage offspring. In a small cast an essential ingredient is good teamwork and Kattreeya proved her worth alongside her more experienced colleagues. Her scenes with both Leonard and her grandfather, Gus, worked better in the second act when all three characters really were on the same wavelength. I've no doubt that we will be seeing more of this young actress in the future.

Ken Eason as the rascally Gus made the most of Leonard's discomfort adding fuel to a fire which was rapidly going out of control. In the early part of the play the director's out-front style didn't give him any real opportunity to effectively react to either Leonard or Dee Dee, but this didn't detract from a strong performance which exploited every comic opportunity. Pacing is everything in this type of play and the director can do much to elicit this; snappy dialogue requires snappy responses and reactions.

Completing the cast was Rosie Wilson as Harriet, the publisher. The character's dialogue is peppered with smart, sharp opinions, particularly during her telephone conversations with her unseen friend Lindsey. These lines, to be really effective, need to be attacked with a vengeance, we didn't always get this. But when we saw the softer side of Harriet's character, Rosie's delivery was much more credible. Her scene with 'Myrtle' was nicely handled and we were left wondering (as we should have been) whether the penny had dropped.

The four-way telephone conversation towards the end of the play was another scene where we had to suspend our disbelief given that Leonard was only outside the front door. It was moments like this, and there were many others, where farce rather than comedy raised its head. Generally this was all very enjoyable and much appreciated by the audience. Playing this style of comedy requires great skill. Timing, which is everything in good comedy/farce, although not all it should have been in the first act in was thankfully well in evidence the second act. We need to see the characters really react to the situation and more importantly each other.

Technically the production was well up to the standard we've come to expect from WCP with a warm inviting set representing Leonard's basement flat, the main front door and Harriet's office.

This was a production of a funny play in the hands of a competent team who knew what was required to deliver a good evening's entertainment. If this team manage to come up with that photograph of Leonard, Myrtle, Lord Lucan and Shergar, please send me a copy!

Chris Avery reviews Nobody's Perfect

Nobody's Perfect
by Simon Williams
presented by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Stephen Smith

There's a lot of am dram about - the good (most of it) the bad (very rare) and the ah - interesting. Just occasionally I'm lucky enough to see the outstanding, and that was certainly the case with WCP's production of "Nobody's Perfect" by Simon Williams.

It's a classic will-they won't-they romantic comedy, featuring Leonard (James Dowson), a rather frumpy statistician, single parent and part time romantic novelist, and Harriet 9Rosie Wilson), a publisher of feminist fiction and reluctant connoisseur of, in Bridget Jones-speak, emotional fuckwits. Their fledgling relationship is complicated by the fact that Harriet remains in ignorance of the true identity of her star new author, Myrtle Banbury, and further complicated by the presence of Leonard's teenage daughter, Dee Dee, (Kattreeya Smith) and his ageing hippy father, Gus (Ken Eason).

The set was a clever mix of Leonard's sitting room, Harriet's office, and the front door of Leonard's flat. This apparently complex arrangement worked well, and it was always clear to the audience where the action was taking place. The set was well dressed, with careful attention to detail - the cluttered family sitting room, the smart and functional office, and the front door with amazingly realistic brick wall surround. The costumes told us all we needed to know about the characters before they even opened their mouths - I particularly liked (if that's the right word) Leonard's terrible sloppy washed out cardigan, and Dee Dee's amazing assortment of glittery tops. Leonard's transformation to Myrtle in the second act was a tour de fore in drag (nice legs, James! and well done for managing the high heels so well.) Direction was excellent - slick pacy dialogue throughout, but with the speed stepped up still further in a few exchanges. All the movements were entirely natural and convincing - there was none of the purposeless pacing which can often mar amateur productions. These actors moved when their characters needed to and weren't afraid to stand still when they didn't. One very small criticism though - Kattreeya has a habit of standing with one hand on hip, which can appear a little artificial. True, she was playing an occasionally stroppy teenager, so it could be argued that it was in character - but it seemed a little overdone.

This tiny criticism aside (and every reviewer has to justify their existence by finding something to carp about!) I have nothing but praise for all four actors (five counting the director, Stephen Smith, in a Hitchcockian cameo as a visiting vicar.) Rosie Wilson played with touching realism the part of an efficient businesswoman who, despite her high intelligence, can't seem to get it together in matters of the heart, while James Dowson ranged from poignant sincerity in describing his continued love for his ex wife, to high farce in his attempts to impersonate his alter ego, Myrtle. Kattreeya Smith and Ken Eason represented the opposite ends of the age scale in a warm and cohesive grandfather/granddaughter relationship, with a shared interest in nurturing Leonard and Harriet's stuttering romance. The final scene, involving the four of them swapping from one conversation to another on mobile phones and the flat's entryphone, was hilarious, especially with Leonard having to switch rapidly between his own persona and that of Myrtle, supposedly in the Outer Hebrides on a mobile phone, at times coming perilously close to having to be both of them at the same time! All four actors worked excellently together, whether in constantly changing combinations or as an ensemble. Many congratulations to them on an excellent performance, with not a single missed cue or fluffed line. This was a truly professional production, and I look forward to the next one.

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