Pat Hamilton reviews RolePlay

by Alan Ayckbourn
performed by Waterbeach Community Players
directed by Mark Easterfield

RolePlay was the last in Ayckbourn's trilogy Damsels in Distress, proving to be the most popular to the extent of ousting the other two (Gameplan and Flatspin) to Saturday performances only, during their West End run. As director, (Mark Easterfield) says in his programme notes RolePlay was very much suited to WCP and how right he was - this company goes from strength to strength.

The action takes place in a London dockland apartment. The staging was compactly designed providing a downstage lounge area with a functional kitchen on the upstage raised platform. As we now expect from WCP the furnishings, fixtures & fittings were just right with particular attention to detail. It looked lived in.

The story is seemingly straightforward - young couple entertaining their parents to a meticulously planned dinner when they intend to announce their forthcoming wedding arrangements. But with Ayckbourn, nothing is simple. The opening scene signals looming problems. Julie-Ann (newcomer to keep an eye on Angela Newman) has dreams of fairytale nuptials and now plans to withhold her previously given favours until the wedding night, much to the displeasure of fiance Justin (burgeoning talent Iain Renfrew). It is obvious that the pair is from quite different backgrounds - Julie-Ann's parents, garden centre owners Derek & Dee Jobson, have disowned their two elder daughters for non-conformity to family values and will also be expecting to hear her double-barrelled name being used rather than Justin's pet version. Telephone calls from Justin's mother, Arabella (to be accompanied by toy-boy Olaf - luckily he gets ditched on the way), alert us to her predilection for drink. So, warning signs of impending disaster from the outset.

The apparently minor hiccup of a lost fork sends Julie-Ann rushing out for a replacement and almost immediately order descends into chaos as a bruised and tattered lap dancer, Paige Pettite, lands on Julian's balcony having escaped from the penthouse and is hotly followed by her minder Micky bursting in through the front door. The situations which ensue may be far fetched (and sadly, too numerous to record here - you really should have gone to see it) but the story is, as expected, well written and really funny - wickedly so at times.

The characters are a delicious mix of opposites:-

The neurotic and comparatively frumpish Julie-Ann to hard faced, foul-mouthed but vulnerable Paige (tart supreme Jane Stewart). Derek and Dee Jobson (the ubiquitously comic Chris Shinn and delightfully laid back Christine Easterfield) the south's perception of typical northerners - provincial bigots with a penchant for bad jokes - to Arabella (controlled inebriate Rosie Wilson) a drink soaked potential socialite. Justin solid and reliable to Micky (wolf in sheep's clothing David Morris) inept and gun happy.

So how did WCP fare with these challenges - first class. No need to single out individual performers for they were all exceptionally good, blending into a tight, disciplined and well rehearsed team. It was evident that they were comfortable in their roles and enjoying the occasion - the Thursday night audience certainly did too.

Many congratulations to Mark Easterfield and thank you to all involved at WCP for an excellent evening entertaining us with a thoroughly engaging piece of theatre.

Waterbeach Theatre Company
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Waterbeach School
Cambridge CB25 9JU

Phone: 01223 880023

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